IDC: Android surges, opens gaping lead over Apple’s iOS in global smartphone unit share

Smartphones powered by the Android and iOS mobile operating systems accounted for more than eight out of ten smartphones shipped in the first quarter of 2012 (1Q12). According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, the mobile operating systems held shares of 59.0% and 23.0% respectively of the 152.3 million smartphones shipped in 1Q12. During the first quarter of 2011, the two operating systems held a combined share of 54.4%. The share gains mean that Android and iOS have successfully distanced themselves from previous market leaders Symbian and BlackBerry, as well as Linux and Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile.

“The popularity of Android and iOS stems from a combination of factors that the competition has struggled to keep up with,” said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC’s Mobile Phone Technology and Trends program. “Neither Android nor iOS were the first to market with some of these features, but the way they made the smartphone experience intuitive and seamless has quickly earned a massive following.”

“In order for operating system challengers to gain share, their creators and hardware partners need to secure developer loyalty,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker program. “This is true because developer intentions or enthusiasm for a particular operating system is typically a leading indicator of hardware sales success.”

Operating System Highlights

Android finished the quarter as the overall leader among the mobile operating systems, accounting for more than half of all smartphone shipments. In addition, Android boasted the longest list of smartphone vendor partners. Samsung was the largest contributor to Android’s success, accounting for 45.4% of all Android-based smartphone shipments. But beyond Samsung was a mix of companies retrenching themselves or slowly growing their volumes.

iOS recorded strong year-over-year growth with sustained demand for the iPhone 4S following the holiday quarter and the addition of numerous mobile operators offering the iPhone for the first time. Although end-user demand remains high, the iPhone’s popularity brings additional operational pressures for mobile operators through subsidy and data revenue sharing policies.

Symbian posted the largest year-over-year decline, a result driven by Nokia’s transition to Windows Phone. But even as Symbian volumes have decreased, there continues to be demand for the OS from the most ardent of users. In addition, Nokia continues to support Symbian, as evidenced by the PureView initiative on the Nokia 808. Still, as Nokia emphasizes Windows Phone, IDC expects further declines for Symbian for the rest of this year.

BlackBerry continued on its downward trajectory as demand for older BlackBerry devices decreased and the market awaits the official release of BB 10 smartphones later this year. In addition, many companies now permit users to bring their own smartphones, allowing competitor operating systems to take away from BlackBerry’s market share. Although RIM has not officially released BB 10, initial glimpses of the platform have shown improvement.

Linux maintained its small presence in the worldwide smartphone market, thanks in large part to Samsung’s continued emphasis on bada. By the end of the quarter, Samsung accounted for 81.6% of all Linux-powered smartphones, a 3.6% share gain versus the prior-year period. Other vendors, meanwhile, have been experimenting with Android to drive volume. Still, Linux’s fortunes are closely tied to Samsung’s strategy, which already encompasses Android, Windows Phone, and later this year, Tizen.

Windows Mobile/Windows Phone has yet to make significant inroads in the worldwide smartphone market, but 2012 should be considered a ramp-up year for Nokia and Microsoft to boost volumes. Until Nokia speeds the cadence of its smartphone releases or more vendors launch their own Windows Phone-powered smartphones, IDC anticipates slow growth for the operating system.

Top Six Smartphone Operating Systems, Shipments, and Market Share, 2012 Q1 (Units in Millions)
IDC: Top Six Smartphone Operating Systems, Shipments, and Market Share, 2012 Q1 (Units in Millions)
Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, May 24, 2012
Notes: Smartphone OS shipments are branded shipments and exclude OEM sales for all vendors. Unbranded phones, also referred to as “White Phones”, are included.

Chart: Worldwide Smartphone OS Market Share, 1Q 2012Description: IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker provides smart phone and feature phone market data in 54 countries by vendor, device type, air interface, operating systems and platforms, and generation. Over 20 additional technical segmentations are provided. The data is provided four times a year and includes historical and forecast trend analysis. For more information, or to subscribe to the research, please contact Kathy Nagamine at 1-650-350-6423 or Further detail about this tracker can be found at: Tags: Author: IDCcharts powered by iCharts

Source: International Data Corporation

MacDailyNews Take: Numbers like these make us wonder, is Apple’s destiny simply to get their ass kicked, at least in unit share, by inferior knockoffs of their own products forevermore?

Is Apple destined to always be the world’s free R&D shop?

The unit share drubbing happened to the Mac. It didn’t happen to the iPod. It certainly seems to be happening to the iPhone. We haven’t seen it yet with the iPad. To be blatantly copied, overtaken, and dominated in unit share or to be copied, but remain the unit share leader? Which situation is the anomaly and which is standard? (Note: Apple still dominates in smartphone profit share. See: Apple’s share of global mobile phone profits: 73% – May 3, 2012)

And what’s the sense of having patents if your IP can be appropriated and exploited for over half a decade now without any meaningful legal victories to stop the slavish copiers?

For first time visitors, Apple’s products came first, then Samsung’s:

Samsung Galaxy and Galaxy Tab Trade Dress Infringement

By the time you’ve read this far, Samsung alone just sold another 50,000 fake iPhones.

To be clear: What we’re lamenting here is the effectiveness of the legal system in combating slavish copying, patent infringement, and trade dress infringement in the fast-moving tech industry. Every customer that Apple loses to the iPhone-cloners is a more difficult customer to acquire in the future than if they had simply bought a real iPhone in the first place. Hopefully, the legal remedies, when and if they occur, will address this issue as well.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]


    1. In unit share, which the MDN Take is very clearly discussing, yes, Ferrari is getting their ass kicked by Hyundai.

      One thing: If Hyundai knocked off a Ferrari, do you think Ferrari would hire an effective legal team that would get the courts to stop Hyundai within the model year? You bet your ass they would.

      Apple’s lawyers have always sucked and they continue to do so.

      1. Actually, from everything I’ve read, Apple’s lawyers are following the best strategy they possibly can. It seems more like the legal process doesn’t swiftly and properly address things. (And it doesn’t help that companies are apparently being allowed to use FRAND-pledged patents as offensive weapons.)

          1. Apple’s lawyers are doing the best they can. Patents are a very technical and complex area of law, and there are so many patents issued which overlap or have parts of the same functionality, or describe such broad functions that they cover virtually anything someone would want to do with a computer (like receiving an email).

            The courts are tasked with examining all of the legal arguments, examining all of the patents claimed as applicable, and somehow determining which patent applies to what particular technical problem/solution, determining whether the defendant’s product violates that patent or has come up with some other method for including the same or similar functionality, and then determining whether the violation was intentional, unintentional, unavoidable, or even a violation at all. And you’re asking this of judges who are not engineers, computer science experts, programmers, etc.

            Add to this fact that the law is set up so that it is very difficult to win an injunction or otherwise prohibit someone from producing and selling a product or service. And that’s how it should be — if it were easy to go to court and prevent someone from selling something that happened to look like or provide similar function to your product, many inventors would be discouraged from making improvements to existing products for fear of being sued.

      1. Yet the world seems full of people that can’t tell the difference between a Ferrari and a Hyundai. The false comparison at IDC is that all Android phones are the same thing. There are only three variants of iOS that cover every iPhone ever made. I read an Android developer found over 3000 unique variants of the Android OS. If you discard all the outlier configurations, Samsung makes a few more smart phones than Apple, but it’s a small difference, not a “gaping lead”.

    2. Pointless comparison.

      I can absolutely guarantee you that no one considering a Ferrari is also considering a Hyundai. Or a Honda. Or a Toyota. Or a GM product of any make.

      Ferrari has never lost a customer to Hyundai for any reason (and I doubt Hyundai is infringing anything of Ferrari’s), and no one will ever mistake one for the other.

      Unfortunately, many people considering an iPhone are also considering one of the many rip-off, patent-infringing knockoffs that have stolen Apple’s PATENTED intellectual property.

  1. A few things, 1) They are giving away Droids for free, and always have been. 2) Apple gets 70-80% of the profits.

    So, it doesn’t matter what their market share is, they get the bulk of the money from it and that’s all that matters in the big scheme of things.

    The other thing most of these articles don’t mention is that while Droid is copying Apple left and right, it’s always copying 1 generation behind where Apple is. So, as Apple prepares to ship the iPhone 5, Droid is still copying the iPhone 4. Not to mention, I think almost everyone with a 4 is holding out for a 5 and didn’t upgrade to the 4s.

    Another thing to mention, I’ve owned every iPhone except the 4s. Apple users tend to upgrade their phones regularly, whereas Droid users don’t. So, even though I count as 1 person on a survey like this, I’ve made 4 phone purchases in that time.

    1. One easily-overlooked line under the chart: Unbranded phones, also referred to as “White Phones”, are included.

      Which means they’re counting a lot of non-Google “Android” phones as “Android”, which is a false comparison. They really ought to clearly break out the numbers on “Google Android” versus “open-source Android”, to more accurately reflect what’s going on.

    2. The fact that iOS is getting its ass kicked in market share by Android does make a big difference to Wall Street. Apple wouldn’t be modeled for $0.00 long-term growth if this weren’t so. The biggest weakness of Apple’s stock is that Android is going to over-run iOS on every mobile device in the future and that every Apple mobile device will be commoditized by some dirt-cheap Android device.

      So, although Apple’s lower market share may not be a real threat to Apple, it certainly is something that is weighing down Apple’s share price and harming Apple’s long-term valuation. Shareholders shouldn’t take this lightly. To Wall Street, market share still represents about 90% of a company’s value. Market share shouldn’t matter as long as a company is making the most money and still growing, but if that were the case, Apple’s share price would be much higher than it is now.

      Apple IS doing just fine, in fact, better than fine, but that is clearly not being acknowledged on Wall Street. In fact, it’s being made to look like Apple is struggling and losing the battle instead of being the clear winner all because of slipping market share.

      1. What concerned the ANALysts at wall street is that whatever Apple is making is not a sustainable model and not market share. They know Apple is making all the cash but what they are concerned with is they can be impacted,by outside forces such as the doing away with the subsidy for the iPhone and the FUD reports by fortune telling company like strategiy ANALytics.

      2. To LB,
        “The fact that iOS is getting its ass kicked in market share by Android does make a big difference to Wall Street. ”

        Which explains why Wall Street is run so upside down and backwards, why losing Billions is nothing but getting 100 Million $ bonuses is great,

        Anal…yst just count market share cause all electronics are like nails. Who sells the most wins. Except profit does not follow this curve. At least since Apple.

        PS, Undertrader, I like your post.

    3. What Undertrader said. Because Apple already has the lion’s share of profits, any increase in market share will have diminishing returns. Still, they’d be selling a lot more iPhones if Android didn’t exist.

  2. What is the lifespan of an average Android phone, compared to the iPhone? If the Android phone only lasts half as long (to pull a random number out of a hat), then it would need twice the market share, in order to have the same number of people using it.

  3. Apple is doing just fine. Apple makes money on their products and retains customers. The sky is not falling. People with disposable income buy Apple. You don’t see people lining up for Androids. Heck, even the thieves know enough to steal iphones.

  4. Since when does Apple have to be the dominant player?

    It seems that Apple has done their best even as the under-dog.

    I feel these numbers are fudgings, not necessarily in appropriate context.

    What do you want? A little bit of goodness, or a whole lot of garbage? Also if all products are insanely great, wouldn’t they no longer be insanely or great?

    1. Since when does Apple have to be the dominant player?

      Why shouldn’t Apple be the dominant player when they revolutionized the mobile phone industry, not Samsung? Why should Samsung get to ripoff Apple and outsell them 3-1?

      It seems that Apple has done their best even as the under-dog.


      I feel these numbers are fudgings, not necessarily in appropriate context.

      What you feel is meaningless.

      What do you want? A little bit of goodness, or a whole lot of garbage? Also if all products are insanely great, wouldn’t they no longer be insanely or great?

      WTF are you babbling about? Apple invented the “iPhone.” Nobody should be able to knockoff Apple’s patented IP and get away with it as Samsung and Google have done.

      1. Maybe I didn’t write it clearly.

        I didn’t say they couldn’t be dominant, they just don’t have to be, and we shouldn’t whine over it.

        Also the best product or best innovator does not deserve to be on top. The two things, best of class and top of class are mutually exclusive. You can be both, but not necessarily at the same time. I would rather Apple be best of class and not worry about the rest, or even us worry about it. Creates too much angst. Less angst, more zen… That’s what Jobs would do. 😉

        What I feel is meaningless, what everyone says is dribble, you don’t have to point it out, it’s uncouth.

        You need to read up on the original Hacker’s Ethic. I am not justifying Samsung. I am just making a point because there’s so much angst and I felt it necessary to point out it’s not so much a big deal, mostly among us who can’t do much more than, NOT BUY SAMDUNG products and keep silent vigil, occasionally supporting our POV and without anger or malice.

      2. Although I know what you mean, I have to note that the report is about Android OS, not Samsung. Only Apple makes iOS devices, while there are probably more than a hundred manufacturers of Android powered devices.

  5. I looked at the “Fragmandroid” map last week and was absolutely astonished to see how many manufacturers and models were shown therein! But that’s the story here: a zillion crapstastic knockoff phones competing with just ONE iPhone. That’s like comparing all of the car manufacturers’ units in the world (in total) with JUST the Aston Martin One-77. Doesn’t really make sense, does it?

  6. oy. sorry, but MDN’s “Take” is really shallow thinking. its effective premise that the test for Apple’s market leadership is to hold the majority of all global smartphone unit shipments is silly. that was never a possibility. no OEM will do it.

    in any market, being “#1” is to be tops in either unit sales or revenues. here Samsung leads in unit sales with Apple a close #2. but in revenue, and especially profits – certainly the most important business criteria of all – Apple is far in the lead.

    i get that MDN is harking back to the “platform wars” of the 1990’s for this perspective. but the key then was that Windows provided the first widely-available affordable computing (simple) ecosystem, where the same software worked on everyone’s equipment and all your files could be opened! absolutely nothing then except the web was cross-platform, nothing. that has long become totally irrelevant. and the web was in its infancy then and single purpose, whereas now it is vastly multi-purpose and totally dominant in our everyday lives.

    MDN, get over it. that analogy is totally out of date.

    1. As per your 1st paragraph: Great theory, except that Samsung is doing precisely what you say was “never a possibility.”

      Shallow thinking, indeed.

      MDN is not saying what you think they’re saying. In fact, in case you’re new here, they’ve consistently stated the opposite: The iPhone is not the Mac, so stop trying to compare them.

      It sounds like yo missed this part of MDN’s Take: “To be clear: What we’re lamenting here is the effectiveness of the legal system in combating slavish copying, patent infringement, and trade dress infringement in the fast-moving tech industry.”

      Superior Being, if they fail to hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 12th inning, Apple’s lawyers do indeed suck. Time is running out if it hasn’t already.

      1. waht are you talking about, Fred?

        Samsung’s 45% piece of Android’s 59% unit shipped share = 29% of total market. wheras 51% = a “majority” per my comment.

        and the MDN “Take” says, i quote: “The unit share drubbing happened to the Mac.” which cearly brings up the Mac/Windows history.

        i’ve been commenting here at least 5 years, who remembers?
        anwyway, let me be “clear”:

        There is nothing in this report/situation to “lament” at all. Apple is selling every iPhone it can make. its sales are booming. its profits are huge. it may become the biggest company in the world soon. this market compeition meme is a tangent.


  7. “By the time you’ve read this far, Samsung alone just sold another 50,000 fake iPhones.”

    Solution simple… everyone, DON’T READ THAT FAR! : )

    1. Oh, please. Unless you think shipments vs. sales and returns number in the tens of millions, your comment is nonsense.

      If it makes you happy, take 5 million off Samsung’s total for the quarter and they’re still kicking Apple’s ass in unit sales.

      1. “Bream” has a solid point: the issue of “shipped” vs “sold” is no small matter… I travel extensively throughout SE Asia and android is as rife as stick insects in these densely populated countries, but it’s ubiquitous for two reasons 1) It’s cheap 2) The markets here are flooded with the devices and a staggering number of the units sit behind glass cabinets, unsold, in the endless parade of mobile sales booths. This is no doubt why Samsung et al never break down actual “sales” in their quarterlies…

        1. when the numbers continue to increase every quarter and year, we can assume that more and more are being sold, not just shipped. It’s common sense…

          Shipped vs. sold has a large impact at the early stages of a product launch (e.g. Kindle fire). As time goes on it becomes less and less worthwhile even making the distinction.

          1. Not really. Any company, like Samsung, are like car manufactures. They pump out so much product that much of it will just sit in parking lots or on shelves and never get sold. I used to work at a car auction and the majority of cars that were brought in we’re manufacturers cars from the previous year. The lots would be packed with em. Samsung no doubt follows a similar process, by doing so it cuts down costs and it doesn’t matter if customers buy it. Just as long as retailers do.

    2. That’s the other thing. Supposedly Apple can’t make iPhones fast enough. So the market share problem is partly Apple’s fault for not contracting enough manufacturing capacity to keep up with demand.

      Samsung accounts for 45.4% of the 89.9 M Android shipments, so that’s 40.8 M Samsung phones shipped. That’s 5 M more iPhones that were shipped (and sold).

      How is Samsung able to crank them out so quickly? I suppose as a manufacturing company they have more assembly plants at their disposal.

      And at some point channel-stuffing shipments have to be cleared. If there was that much surplus sitting on shelves, retailers would have to stop ordering (they neither like keeping shelves of inventory, nor do they like selling at discounts just to move product) and we’d have to see Android shipments leveling off. But they’re not, so the sad conclusion is that yes, more people are buying Android that iPhone. But this has never bothered us before.

      1. Mossman,
        “And at some point channel-stuffing shipments have to be cleared” and Samsung does that all the time. Dump them to the third world on the cheap to clear channels. Apple matches demand to shipments. 100% sales.

        Now you know why Apple makes 70% of the profit and Samsung only makes about 12%. Just a thought,

  8. Apple doesn’t sell low-end phones. Many android phones are barely smartphones. If you compare android phones with equivelant hardware/capabilities to iPhones, the numbers are much different. And then there’s the whole profit thing…

    I’d rather have 1% marketshare and hold 90% of the profit then have 99% marketshare with only 10% profit.

    1. Until what happened to the Mac, happens to the iPhone and developers follow the unit share.

      As someone who lived through the near death of Apple and the Mac, I can assure you that you’d rather not have 1% market share. Your developer support will dry up faster than a Death Valley piss.

      1. developers will follow profits, not market share. Usually they go hand in hand but in this case I believe developers are still makin more on iOS than they are on Android. Until that changes significantly, iOS will be the first choice for most developers even if market share is a third that of Android.

        1. Android app developers still aren’t making much money as a rule.

          Android users tend not to buy apps. Piracy is a problem. And of course the fragmentation.

          It’s hard enough to develop for iOS (I am a developer) but if you have to target, say, 12 to 20 models, and some huge portion of them will never get to Ice Cream Sandwhich, it is a nightmare.

          There’s at least 2 market levels here, and then there’s domestic and overseas. Apple has never pandered to the bottom of any market.

          If this resembles the PC/Mac story, so what? I like the way the story has unfolded for Mac vs PC very much!

  9. Thanks to Verizon, I’ll be an Android sufferer for another two years.

    I was waiting for the 4G iPhone to come out, but VZW let us know that we’ll lose any chance for grandfathered unlimited 4G by going that route. I got my new 4G droid yesterday to put my foot in VZW’s door with unlimited 4G.

    Not as I had planned.

  10. Android share should be given in context, as in each variant, because generally they are not compatible with each other. Ask the developers that have to fork their applications a dozen times per iteration of Android.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.