iPhone-killing Android reports are 'exaggerated'

A deluge of recent reports claim that Apple's iPhone is losing ground to Android, which makes some sense given that Google's OS is the new smartphone kid on the block, but let's face facts here people, some of this reportage is just some form of wish fulfillment.

Canalsys and the NPD Group both recently claimed Android devices have overtaken Apple's iPhone in US market share, also noting RIM and Microsoft are sacrificing numbers to the Google OS. Now even Comscore has jumped into the fray, telling us that Apple's iPhone 4 marketshare fell in the three months up to and including July, according to the research firm's most recent data.

The manner in which this is being reported is something else. One report goes so far as to point out that the iPhone 4 has failed to help Apple maintain marketshare.

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

With respect to reach that conclusion requires only a partial reading of the statistics. Philip Elmer-DeWitt over at Fortune points out the big flaw:

"Consider the dates. The iPhone 4 was launched in the U.S. June 24 and promptly sold out. Sales been limited by short supplies ever since."

The product was in short supply
and available for sale for only a few weeks within the data sample period.

Sales of the iPhone 3GS (the previous generation of the device) were almost certainly suppressed in the period covered by the report.


Because everyone knew the iPhone 4 was on its way, particularly following Gizmodo's purchase of a stolen iPhone 4 prototype, and subsequent publication of details of the device, which took place in mid-April.

With this in mind if you compare ComScore's April 2010 and July 2010 marketshare figures, in which Apple slips from 25.1 per cent to 23.6 per cent of the rapidly growing smartphone market, you have to consider just how well Apple managed to hold its own during three months in which iPhone sales will inevitably have been impacted by this product transition.

Now I'm a seasoned Apple blogger and I'm taking a generally pro-Apple stance within my AppleHolic blog here at Computerworld. But I'm also the former news editor (online and print) for a major UK Mac title, a position I held for ten years.

The great thing about a blog is it can be opinionated. I'm free to say what I want to say. I'm not claiming to be writing 'the news'.

However. I do know that there's a need when running a news desk to attempt to deliver objective, fair-minded reportage.

A dedication to balanced reporting is essential to any news organization, as once readers become aware that a news outlet is no longer objective, the organization's credibility gets whittled away.

A correct reading of the ComScore figures would reflect that Android added almost 50 per cent to its market share in the 3 months ending July 2010.

That is a remarkable achievement. Well done Android -- it will no doubt give Apple executives motivation to continue to improve the iOS for existing iPhones.

But to characterize this as meaning Apple's iPhone 4 has failed is completely untrue. It has only now hit the market. I'll be far more interested in October's figures, which I predict should shape up to more or less as follows:

  • Android, 19 per cent share.
  • Apple, 22 per cent
  • RIM, 37 per cent
  • Palm, 4 per cent
  • Microsoft, 10 per cent

I suggest Android phone have already scooped-up the majority of smartphone-desiring Apple haters and folk who can't get an iPhone on their network.

I anticipate Android's rate of growth will slow down slight, and Apple's share will decline slightly, but don't ignore this is a share of a market that's growing insanely fast -- that 22 per cent estimate should equate to around 9 million iPhone sales. Not bad, huh?

The focus in the coming quarter should be on RIM -- which has a huge market to lose, and, to a lesser extent, Palm and Microsoft.

  • Palm has held steady so far, but I'd anticipate it will lose share as the corporate replacement cycle begins.
  • Microsoft will continue to bleed market share until November's introduction of Windows Phone 7. And there's no guarantee the company will accomplish a turnaround then.
  • RIM share continues to decline, I'd estimate it will eventually shrink to become a peer player with around 20 per cent share overall.
  • Apple meanwhile will stimulate next quarter iPhone sales with the release of the next edition iOS, featuring AirPlay and AirPrint.

You can also imagine, if you wish, the introduction of an all-you-can-eat music streaming service via iTunes, which I'd predict will make iOS devices very popular. Particularly as it will be introduced with that fine Apple flourish.

To incorrectly cite Comscore's figures as reflecting the demise of Apple's fortunes in the mobile phone space is completely inaccurate. That battle has only just begun.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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