Nielsen: Apple iPhone drives U.S. smartphone growth as Android stagnates

Smartphones continue to grow in popularity. According to Nielsen’s May survey of mobile consumers in the U.S., 38 percent now own smartphones.

And 55 percent of those who purchased a new handset in the past three months reported buying a smartphone instead of a feature phone, up from 34 percent just a year ago.

Advertisement: Students, parents and Faculty save up to $200 on a new Mac.

38 percent of smartphone consumers acquired an Android device in the last 3 months. However, growth has abandoned Android as it’s numbers are flat in 2011.

It is Apple’s iPhone that has driven smartphone growth in the U.S. this year.

Nielsen U.S. smartphone market penetration and OS market share

Nielsen U.S. smartphone OS market share Feb-May 2011

Source: The Nielsen Company

MacDailyNews Take: As our own SteveJack explained two and a half years ago on December 23, 2009:

Google Android offers the same messy, inconsistent Windows PC “experience,” but without any cost savings, real or perceived… I’d call any Android device the “Poor Man’s iPhone,” but you have to spend just as much, if not more, to partake in an increasingly fragmented and inferior platform. There’s no real reason to choose Android, people settle for Android. “I’d have bought an iPhone if Verizon offered them.” Just look what’s happening in any country where iPhone is offered on multiple carriers. It’s a bloodbath.

Apple offers consistency to developers of both software and hardware. Just look at the vibrant third-party accessories market for iPhone vs. the Zune-like handful of oddball items for Android. If you make a case or a vehicle mount, does it pay to make 44 different Android accessories whose total addressable audience numbers under 1 million each, or to make one or two for what’s [now over 200] million iPhone/iPod touch devices? As Apple’s iPhone expands onto more and more carriers, Android’s only real selling point (“I’m stuck on Verizon or some other carrier that doesn’t offer the iPhone”) evaporates.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Brawndo Drinker” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
IDC: Apple becomes Australia’s number one mobile brand as Nokia plummets – June 27, 2011
40% of European smartphone buyers plan to next buy an Apple iPhone – June 24, 2011
Apple iPhone the top-selling smartphone at both Verizon and AT&T – June 22, 2011
Analyst: Android to continue to lose smartphone share – June 20, 2011
Multiple Android tablet peddlers give up, focus on 4- to 5 -inch smartphones – June 17, 2011
Analyst: Apple iPhone 4 still bestseller ‘by far’ at AT&T and Verizon; still outsells Android in U.S. – June 13, 2011
Nielsen finds decline in Android’s U.S. smartphone share – May 31, 2011
NPD: Apple iPhone 4 for Verizon best-selling mobile phone in U.S.; causes Android to lose share for first time since Q209 – April 28, 2011


  1. The conclusions are misleading. For the past year, Apple had a declining 10-12% “recent acquirer share”, so someone could claim that Apple had flatlined and Android was driving growth. (I don’t believe this, just saying that light blue Nielsen title is just as wrong.)

    1. Since mid-January, Android has been flat, while iPhone increased from 10% to 17%.

      iPhone on Verizon was announced on Jan. 11, 2011.

      Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

      1. iPhone went from 12% down to 10% between July 2010 – Jan. 2011. iPhone is now up 7 percentage points since Verizon iPhone was announced.

        Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

    2. You do realize that iPhone sales are seasonal, right?

      According to their SURVEY, not true sales data, they show “recent acquirers” as 7 to 8% in Feb thru May 2010. The increase towards 12% starts in July, after the launch of the iPhone 4. Duh! From there, it peaks in August, but they don’t give us the number, and then fluctuates in the 11 to 10% range thru the Winter, until another burst in February/March 11, for which they don’t give us the number, but that’s when the Verizon iPhone hit. From there, it seems to have held steady at around 17%. I would say that the trend is increasing over the year, with some flatspots due to seasonality.

      Of course, you are correct, Android has also been driving growth over the past year, but has in the last 3 months measured, flattened, most likely due to the intro of the Verizon iPhone, as expected. Of course, TMo and Sprint also sell lots of Android phones, in fact, they have a higher penetration rate for smartphones than Verizon.

    1. What doesn’t add up?

      500,000 could the the number required to keep share stagnant or you could realize that you’re comparing worldwide activations vs. U.S. smartphone acquisition share, so your equation is broken.

      Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

      1. What don’t add up are Rubin’s own claims: A mere six weeks ago, he claimed 400,000 activations per day; this week he is claiming it has suddenly increased 25% to 500,000 per day. Given today’s news from Nielsen, Rubin’s claims definitely have the unmistakable stench of bullsh!t around them…

  2. I’m surprised Android’s share of the smartphone market is as high as 38%. What are they basing their statistics on? What is the margin for error? How is it possible for Android to gain market share so quickly when I hardly see any in the wild. Where are the Android phones hidden?

    1. Because you had a lot of sales, and remember, if you wanted a smartphone on Verizon prior to February 2011, your best option was Android. Verizon heavily promoted Android because it had no other horse to ride. Now that Verizon has the iPhone, look how Android’s numbers have stalled.

    2. Just realize that 38% is of smartphones, and smartphones are 38% of all cellphones, so that is actually only 14% of all cellphones.

      Further, I’d wager most of those Android phones are in areas where TMo and Sprint have good coverage, as smartphone penetration on those two smaller carriers is higher than on Verizon, due to the lower voice/data/text costs. You probably live where Verizon and AT&T are stronger than Sprint and TMo.

      1. Must be a really dodgy restaurant since they hire people who write “way” when they should have written “weigh”. Not that spelling is a credential for being a wayter…..oops I meant weighter…..oops again……oh never mind.

  3. I love how MDN cut the most important information again. This is too funny. Android grew 2% while Apple grew only 1%. If anyone was stagnate it was iOS!

    It barely grew… even with the help of Verizon it should have grown more than 1% and it didn’t. Troublesome indeed!

    1. You should blame Nielsen. They are focussing on the most recent trend. While it’s true overall share increased more for Android from the previous Feb to March period, the point Nielsen was making is what seems to be happening now, in the last 3 months.

      1. Not really. BOGO offers are not exactly BOGO. When you ‘buy’ one for $200, and get one for free, that other one is not really free, just as that $200 one is not really $200. Subsidy on smartphones is between $300 (cheap Androids) and $450 (cheap iPhones). So, when you ‘buy’ two Androids for $200, the actual retail price you’re paying for each actually came down from around $650 (premium Droid) to about $550. The discount you got for those two phones is barely 15%. Very far from “free phone”.

          1. And the consumer pays for it in the end though the carrier subsidy charge, which never, ever ends. I hate that charge – I would rather pay up front. It reminds me of the underhanded car leasing practices in the 1980s and 1990s.

            The carriers ought to be legally obligated to disclose the subsidy fee in the contract and month invoice, and to automatically remove the subsidy fee once the contract has expired. The greed sickens me, and the carriers are colluding on this foul practice.

        1. But you wouldn’t have paid the actual, or discounted, retail price. So, how, for the consumer, is BOGO not BOGO? You don’t pay more for your service than one who didn’t take advantage of a BOGO offer.

  4. Many people are getting 2-3+ years out of their iPhones. Android phones with more moving parts are replaced more often, especially as certain handsets cannot be updated to the latest android.

    Churn statistics need to be added to better understand the meaningless comparison of iOS versus android growth.

  5. Read all about it… Verizon iPhone sales flat and poor in second quarter! Verizon to release sales soon! Long live Android!

    iPhone can’t even touch Android!

    1. It’s a quest really, isn’t it? A sort of proletarian movement. I mean, it has nothing to do with the quality of the phone, it’s beat Apple’s numbers, at any cost, by hook or by crook.

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