As measured by ABI Research, in the third quarter of 2013, Android had 80.6% worldwide smartphone market share.

“It’s simply wrong, though, to extrapolate from that to think that four in five smartphones in peoples’ hands are Android-powered,” Charles Arthur reports for The Guardian. “Here’s the reality: at the time this was written, more than 40% of the smartphones in use in the US were iPhones. Only about 51% of the smartphones in peoples’ hands in the US are Android phones. The ratios are more in Android’s favour elsewhere, but nowhere outside of China (and perhaps India) would you find four in five smartphone owners using an Android phone.”

“Market share is a measure of sales [or shipments]. Only in the specific case where the market is saturated – that is, everyone who wants a Widget has one, so that now the market is essentially just replacements – does market share probably tally with ‘installed base,” Arthur reports. “But if the market share figure is so useless [for smartphones right now], why does everyone quote it all the time? Now we get to the key point. Because it’s easy to measure market share – much easier than measuring installed base, which requires large panels of people who you interview on a regular, repeated basis. (ComScore does this in the US, where it provides a picture of the installed base of smartphone users that is consistent back to the end of 2009. Its figures for the three months to September 2013 show a 51.8% installed base for Android – that’s 76.6m – and 40.6% for iPhone – that’s 60m. It’s not 80% Android; not even close.) “

“Plus ‘market share’ gives journalists who like nothing better than a metaphorical horse race something to write about – look at the preponderance of polls, especially in the US presidential election. Trouble is, it doesn’t necessarily give us useful information,” Arthur reports. “Market share does tell us who’s shipping the most of something. If you put it together with other things that matter to businesses – such as profits and revenues – it can be illuminating about who is doing business most effectively. And it can tell you how a market is changing, if you have a time series. Unfortunately some people don’t understand how little market share on its own tells you. Which leads them to focus on those figures alone, and to misinterpret them.”

Tons more in the full article – very highly recommended – here.

[Attribution: Daring Fireball. Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Digging in on the Church of Market Share – May 25, 2013
The Church of Market Share revisited – April 26, 2013
Android’s market share is literally a joke; Apple is winning the smartphone wars and winning them handily (interview) – May 29, 2013
Android’s market share is literally a joke; Apple is winning the smartphone wars and winning them handily – May 23, 2013
Yankee Group: iPhone ownership in the U.S. will top Android by 2015 – April 26, 2013