Apple iPhone is hurting Android

By Jonny Evans

Competition between Apple [AAPL] and Android devices has finally become more equal with the introduction of the Verizon iPhone in the US, driving Apple's market share and reach to climb at the expense of its rival. With new phone devices waiting in the wing for a likely September launch, competition between the two is set to intensify, with Apple taking on rivals in price, feature and reliability. Android hasn't won yet.

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Apple climbs

Take a look at the latest data from Strategy Analytics. Released overnight, it reveals that Apple overtook ZTE in Q1 2011 to become the world's fourth-largest handset maker, up from sixth position one year ago.

Strategy Analytics tells us: "Apple shipped a record 18.6 million handsets worldwide in Q1 2011, more than doubling from 8.8 million units in Q1 2010. Apple captured fourth place in global handset shipments, rising from sixth position a year earlier and leapfrogging rival ZTE. Apple continues to benefit from strong operator subsidies and co-marketing, enabling its global handset share to reach a healthy 5 percent during the quarter."

That's 5 percent of the market on the basis of what is now four types of phone: the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4 for Verizon, the white iPhone 4 (unavailable in the period) and the iPhone 3GS. But all four of these devices deliver a consistent user experience, which Android devices inherently cannot promise.

New records

Apple reported record iPhone sales in its last quarter, shifting 18.65 million iPhones in the quarter, which ended March 26. This was an increase of 113 percent from the 8.75 million phones in the same period next year.

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The only way (at the moment at least) is up, with rumors claiming Apple will introduce a new iPhone in September, expectation must also be there that the company will diversify its range more with the addition of phone features to its iPod range.

Consider this: an iPod phone wouldn't be an iPhone, lending flexibility in features -- but would likely be popular, would likely bring a little Apple 'innovation' to the feature phone market and would help Apple continue its clear strategy of building growth in the developing markets. In other words, Apple's set for growth.

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Compare the market

How did competitors do? Not so well. As I keep saying, it isn't Apple the Android manufacturers are competing with -- it's each other. It's a tough business to be in.

  • There's Nokia, which shipped 108.5 million handsets worldwide in Q1 2011, up 1 percent year-on-year -- a pattern of below average growth the company has maintained for eleven quarters. Apple overtook Nokia by revenue in the period.
  • LG shipped a lower-than-expected 24.5 million handsets worldwide in Q1 2011, down 10 percent from a year earlier. The vendor’s handset shipments grew below the industry average and its global marketshare dipped to 7 percent, the lowest level since Q1 2007.
  • Samsung shipped 68.9 million handsets worldwide during the first quarter of 2011, up 7% from 64.3 million units a year earlier. Despite the hype surrounding its market-leading Android devices, Samsung's actual handset marketshare slipped from 22percent to 20 percent. 16 percent of Samsung's handsets are smartphones, and the company is battling HTC "for leadership of the Android market," notes Strategy Analytics.
  • Big business in Africa and Latin America, handset maker China's ZTE shipped 15.2 million handsets worldwide during Q1 2011. The company plans to move into manufacturing Android-based phones this year -- and that's bad news for Samsung and LG in the Android space, more of a challenge for Microsoft and Nokia, and even more disturbance in the force of RIM.
A quick check on market conditions (from Strategy Analytics):

"Global handset shipments grew 17 percent annually and reached 350 million units in Q1 2011, driven by surging smartphones in mature regions and popular multi-SIM models in emerging markets. This year will be the first year ever when every quarter exceeds 300 million units. The first quarter of 2011 was marked by supply-chain disruptions related to the Japan earthquake tragedy and by ongoing mild component constraints in areas such as touchscreens, memory and cameras. We expect the global industry's select component shortages to continue for at least the next 6 to 9 months, causing restricted volumes or rising input prices for some handset makers. But at this stage, on the whole, the operational challenges posed by these parts constraints remain minor rather than major for most players."

So, we can anticipate product component shortages, but with Apple already commanding a huge chunk of capacity, don't be surprised to see competitors totter once the company really begins cutting iPhone prices in the current quarter.

Apples and Oranges

Listen, there is no such thing as a generic Android phone. There's only a plethora of different devices, all with different features, and all marketed as some dimorphous entity, called Android. Other than the OS, there's no reference point by which to consistently compare the plethora of Android devices to Apple's, at best you compare iPhones to specific Android phones, and the iPhone outsells any one of these.

With the move to Verizon, we now see a more equal competition between Apple and Android devices.

NPD claims Verizon iPhone sales have propelled Apple into becoming the third-largest mobile phone brand in the US, ahead of HTC, Motorola and RIM. The analysts claim iPhone took 14 percent of the US market in the first quarter of 2011, behind Samsung (23 percent) and LG (18 percent).

Apple's winning the mind share game, too. A comScore report claims that if you include all the devices in the US using iOS (iPhones, iPads and iPod touches), Apple reached 37.9 million people. Android reached 23.8 million on phones and tablets. Apple leads by 59 percent.

In Europe, Apple leads Android by 116 percent. As colleague Jim Dalrymple remarks, "That is the truth."

So, where next for Apple's smartphone?

  • Media services in the cloud via iTunes
  • iPhone diversity
  • Price discounts
  • Further concentration on developing markets
  • More feature and software improvements
  • Quad-core processors with ever-more advanced graphics.

Meanwhile competitors are in thrall to an online advertising firm they have chosen to trust with their busines. Google is now the mother lode for future software development and innovation for the world's handset makers -- but how long will that innovation last if ads revenues decline? 

Tell me, please, in comment below.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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