Why Android doesn’t really own 80% of the worldwide smartphone market

“There’s a classic Seinfeld episode in which Jerry buys his dad a $200 Wizard organizer, but his dad can’t see the gadget as anything more than an easy way to calculate restaurant tips,” John-Erik Koslosky writes for The Motley Fool. “If that episode were written today, the Wizard would be an Android smartphone. Morty Seinfeld would see the handset as nothing more than a device to talk and text, and the commentary would be dead-on.”

“We read plenty about Android’s growing dominance in worldwide market share [80% vs. Apple’s 14% according to Strategy Analytics],” Koslosky writes. “What we don’t read a lot about is how much all these web-connectors get used as actual smartphones. Those stats tell a much different story. Apple’s iOS owns some 55% of smartphone web activity. Android, despite its overwhelming lead in market share, owns just 28%.”

“So, what story do these numbers tell? Apple users are deliberately buying handheld computers. Android users, on the other hand, are often just upgrading from cell phones and feature phones to smartphones because their carriers are offering a nicer device with more capabilities for no greater charge,” Koslosky writes. “This may help explain why more Android users switch to Apple smartphones than iPhone users make the switch to Android.”

“These are potentially troubling statistics for Google. Web activity is important to Google. The company has made its Android platform available for free, banking on increasing web use and web search, Google’s bread and butter,” Koslosky writes. “What these numbers also show is that the true smartphone market — the one where people actually use their phones as computers — may not be as saturated as device sales indicate. If Apple can continue to add customers looking to upgrade from a low-cost Android, investors could see market-share numbers begin to move in Apple’s favor as the market matures.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “David E.” for the heads up.]


  1. At this point, in the developed world, it is becoming rather difficult to even find a mainstream mobile carrier that even offers a feature phone — all of their offerings are now smartphones, starting from $80 Huawey (with cheapo pre-paid carriers), most offered free with plan.

    I had to pay almost $80 for a five-year old Sony Ericsson (long discontinued) because my wife simply doesn’t want a smartphone and will only use her old SE Walkman phone. The first one just broke down, and the second one is beginning to behave erratically as well. I don’t know what she will do when there are no more dumbphones out there.

    The point is, there is still a large group of people with similar mindset, and many migrate to Android without any desire to do so. They bring their mindset along and use the phones for talking/texting and nothing more. These people are of no value to Google.

    1. I’m thinking give her an old iPhone. Then one of three things might be the “killer app” for her: 1) iMessage, 2) Facetime audio or 3) Facetime. If you have little ones in your family, point an iPhone at one of them and watch a “feature phone” user’s face light up.

      Many years ago, my brother was anti-computer in his business. What was the killer app? 1) Spreadsheet? Nope 2) Accounting? Nope. It was a fax-modem. He didn’t have to get up and walk to the fax machine to get a fax. He was hooked when I connected his address book to the modem, so the computer would dial the numbers for him and all he did was pick up the headset. Within a year of this everyone in his company and some on the shop floor had computers on their desks. Within two years, some of his products were “phoning home” with diagnostic information. He made may sales of supplies and service calls, sometimes even before customer knew they “were out” or even needed service. He went within 24 months from being a Luddite to “cutting edge” all because of a fax modem.

    1. While yes on the surface, the point of the article is Androids are glorified “feature” phone used only for calls and texting. If that is the sole purpose, these people will never appreciate the iOS system because they will not really use it, and price is the sole difference to them.

      1. My iPhone replaces the following handheld devices:
        Cell phone
        compact camera
        handheld calculator
        satellite finder

        at a minimum. I have all of these with me all of the time, something I never did before.

        OBTW – that texting thing, never did it before I got the iPhone. Wasn’t worth the trouble. Now it’s just another tool.

        1. With an android you can do even more. All my colleques around with iphones can do nothing more than calls, sms, mms thats all
          and they believe that the retina display is better than my HD’s Android. iphone owner are so narrow minded and know so little about the other world.

    2. … they can’t tell the difference, it’s that – often – they don’t NEED the difference. Take my phone choice as an example.
      It’s a PHONE.
      I don’t send or read text messages. Or e-mails. I don’t surf the web. I don’t do “computer stuff”. Ever. Even if the phone CAN. I have a compact camera – better than the BEST phone-cam. Cost $100 and there’s no monthly charge. When did I use the phone’s camera? To take (and store) pictures of contacts.
      I know my phone is “limited”. But, it does EVERYTHING I want my phone to do. And I ignore most of the stuff it can do that I don’t care about. I DO know the difference. Why should I spend hundreds of dollars (life of contract) for something I know I won’t be using?
      You pay for one and I’ll use it … just like I use the one I have.

      1. And I’m sure there are still people out there like you. But I can’t imagine having my business without my iPhone: My calendar, thousands of contacts, navigation, email, etc. etc. all in the palm of my hand.

        Having a separate camera is great, if you remember to take it with you everywhere. I don’t want another item in my pocket, and my iPhone’s camera is pretty darn good.

        I also don’t have to carry my Starbucks card, or coupons for Costco, or a Palm Pilot or notebook to track my mileage, and I can track my teenager’s location and driving speed, and I don’t need a separate iPod, I get reminders, my grocery list is always with me and my wife, I have a magnifying glass with a light for reading a menu in a dim restaurant or teeny type on a bottle, I can check my bank accounts and transfer money as needed, I can adjust my Nest thermostats, all of my passwords are stored in one secure place, I have the news and sports scores and weather, all in the palm of my hand.

        And I can surf the web if I ever want to.

        1. … question your ownership or use of an iPhone (or other modern phone) for a second. Every one of your needs is important to you. I understand that.
          What ISN’T important to you is a higher quality camera. You are OK with the snapshots the best-ever phone camera will take. I am not. I don’t need a single one of those things you consider important. For one thing, I have retired – there goes half of them. My kids are all over 30, I owe no money … OK, I need to stop forgetting my passwords. The news and sports will be reported to me when I get home.
          Many valid reasons for owning a smart phone – for someone ELSE to own a smart phone. None negating the use of a much better phone instead of a snap-shot maker, when you have a real vision for a picture.
          BTW: the LAST iPhone – the 5? – was a better camera than your basic point-and-shoot a decade or two back. It’s all relative.

      2. “I have a compact camera – better than the BEST phone-cam. Cost $100 …”
        That gives you away. It is clear that you do not know much about cameras or photography.

        1. … go there.
          FYI: I was winning photo contests in the 60s. Before many posters here were born. Before digital!
          Just one of the things my camera has that even the best phone camera to date, the 5S, cannot match would be the lens. The 5S uses “digital zoom” – it dumps pixels. It starts with 8 MP, which is more than enough – until you start shucking them. The lens on my Camera starts out at “28mm” – likely wider than any iPhone lens – and Optical Zoom – no loss of pixels – takes it out to “224mm”. Digital zoom can take it even further, but serious photogs know better.
          In low light, the 5S wins with a slightly better aperture. And, in theory, the color balance in the 5S is better. These things can matter. Sometimes. These things can be fixed in post. Sometimes.
          The goodness of the zoom lens matters. MOST of the time. And leaves behind more pixels to work with. ALL the time.
          By the way … don’t talk to me about the f-stop or the shutter speed – things I, at least, can change … if I’m feeling picky.

          1. True, but lugging that stuff around all day, every day gets old and tired.

            iPhone cameras have a vibe and a signature crispness, combined with an incredible distinct color balance. They are so slim and robust and easy to point and shoot and carry in your shirt pocket, anywhere, any time, all the time. They take a great picture. Then there are some awesome camera apps that let you tweak stuff you could never otherwise and you have instant gratification.

            Anyway, It is all in the photographers eye. You make good valid points though…

            1. … sentence, everything you say is correct. My camera weighs less than my cell phone, though it MAY weigh more than an iPhone. Splitting hairs, there.
              My camera allows me to set its color balance. The snap-shots taken with an iPhone (I see many of my grandkids) are just fine. “great”? A question of judgement. Those apps, you speak of … are they better than iPhoto? That’s what I edit my images with. I’ve found precision to be a problem, even with my iPad. And I do have several photo apps on my iPad … don’t often get to use them. But … they are so tempting! 😉
              Yes … it’s in the photographer’s eye.

        2. … want to go there!
          I was winning contests with my pictures before most of the folk here were born. In the long-past ’60s!
          So, let’s just talk about what my camera has, that your phone/camera does not.
          Starting with a “28mm-224mm” lens. That’s just the OPTICAL zoom range, digital zoom – like the 5S? – brings it out to over “800mm”. Out there, you don’t have many of your 16 million pixels left. OK, a million isn’t much. Shutter speed from 15 to 1/2000 of a second, aperture starts at f:3 (if I’m reading that correctly. And it offers an Image Stabilizer.
          The information after the Optical Zoom may be matched by the 5S, I can’t access it right now. The 5S offers digital zoom, I believe, and if you think that equals quality, you aren’t in the same conversation with me. The f2.2 is certainly better, can’t deny that. The 8 mega-pixel storage is good, until you start to zoom in. (site froze again)
          And, yes. I do know that the iPhone 5S offers the best camera in a phone to date. It is, though, a PHONE-camera!

  2. Do you suppose they may buy Android because it is more customizable and the camera and the web stuff is not the main interest? Aren’t there a lot of apps that dont need the web?

    What I have heard is people like the customizability of Android and iPhone is too fixed (ie simplistic).

    1. Sure, you can FIND people who buy Android for that reason, but that won’t support the Android market at all. With all that one can do on an iPhone, it’s hard to make a case that it’s “too simplistic,” rather it makes it easy to do what you want.

    2. You need the internet in order to get the apps, so no, your question is incorrect. Anyone I know who has an Android phone has done very little customizing of it, and of my teenage son’s friends who have Android phones (all of whom bought them because they were cheap), they are buying iPhone 5Cs.

  3. Another way to put this is that iOS users typically buy into the entire iOS ecosystem (or at least a BIG part of it) while Android users simply happen to have an Android gizmo.

    This behavior is also why Google has a lot more to lose from Apple Maps than Apple stood to lose from the Maps fiasco.

  4. “Android” is more like a bunch of fragmented sub-platforms, so it shouldn’t even be considered as one platform that has 80%, or whatever the mostly meaningless number happens to be this week.

    iOS is one coherent platform. The small amount of fragmentation is mostly caused by aging hardware that no longer supports the latest version of the OS. And a very high percentage of users choose to upgrade to the latest supported version, keeping the platform even more unified.

    In contrast, Android is fragmented BY DESIGN. In many cases, a new device does not come with the latest version of Android, and cannot be updated, BY DESIGN. So even if the user wanted to use the latest version of Android, they cannot. And most don’t complain, because that’s the expectation for users who consider their smartphone to be just a “feature phone.”

  5. Great quote: “Apple users are deliberately buying handheld computers. Android users, on the other hand, are often just upgrading from cell phones and feature phones to smartphones because their carriers are offering a nicer device with more capabilities for no greater charge.”

    This is certainly true, but there’s more: Android users who want to upgrade to the latest Android OS version typically have to buy a new phone. iOS users just tap the Upgrade Now button. So while Android sales figures include OS upgrades, iOS sales figures do not.

    My company sells an app on iOS and on Android. Over 80% of its iPhone users are running iOS 7, which is now 3 weeks old. In contrast, only 17% of Android users are on Jelly Bean 4.3, even though it’s been out for 11 weeks. Why? Because most Android devices in use today aren’t compatible with the latest OS upgrade. It’s just not that well engineered.

    1. However, this article has a very U.S.-carrier subsidized bias that doesn’t fully explain the 80% (alleged) Android market share. Worldwide the vast majority of Android phones are significantly less expensive than iPhones, but a majority are also not really smartphones but simply run Android as the phone’s OS.

      We also have to remember that in many places in the world, internet access is not very amenable to web browsing if data is even available.

      The web browser stats are a much more accurate picture of the smartphone market, and that’s what Apple is really after — people who want a computer in their pocket that also makes communication easy.

  6. The figures are simlpy fake. If mobile Safari has 60% marketshare, while all Android browsers have about 39%, then the sales figures of Android devices are just lies!

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