Android, Apple extend smartphone lead on Windows, BlackBerry

Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS strengthened their positions in the global smartphone operating system market in the fourth quarter of 2012 as the number of shipments grew 42% year over year, International Data Corporation (IDC) reported Thursday with the release of its Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

Android smartphone vendors and Apple accounted for 91.1% of the 227.8 million smartphone shipments during the three months ended December 31st, up from a combined market share of 85.9% in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Top Five Smartphone Operating Systems, Shipments, and Market Share, 4Q12
(Units in Millions)

Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, February 14th 2013.

Similar patterns held true in the full-year 2012 results. Total shipments grew to 722.4 million, a nearly 50% jump from 494.5 million in 2011. And the combined Android-IOS market share soared from 68.1% in 2011 to 87.6% last year.
Top Five Smartphone Operating Systems, Shipments, and Market Share, 2012
(Units in Millions)

Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, February 14th 2013.

“The dominance of Android and Apple reached a new watermark in the fourth quarter,” Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC’s Mobile Phone team, said in a press release. “Android boasted a broad selection of smartphones, and an equally deep list of smartphone vendor partners. Finding an Android smartphone for nearly any budget, taste, size, and price was all but guaranteed during 2012. As a result, Android was rewarded with market-beating growth.

“Likewise, demand for Apple’s iPhone 5 kept iOS out in front and in the hands of many smartphone users. At the same time, lower prices on the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S brought iOS within reach of more users and sustained volume success of older models.”

Shipments of phones running on Windows Phone/Window Mobile operating systems more than doubled in the fourth quarter, thanks in large part to Microsoft’s introduction of the Windows Phone 8 during the quarter. Even with that growth, however, the Windows platforms accounted for only 2.6% of the smartphone OS market.

While Windows was growing, BlackBerry was losing sales and market share at an alarming rate. The decision to delay the launch of the BlackBerry 10 to 2013 led to dramatic declines in BlackBerry shipments and market share (see charts).

The competition in the smartphone space is poised to heat up in 2013 with Microsoft continuing to push Windows 8, and BlackBerry trying to return to relevance with BlackBerry 10, which hit the market in January.

“With the recent introductions of two new smartphone platforms, we expect some ground to be made by the new entrants over the coming years,” Ryan Reith, programme manager with IDC’s Mobile Device Trackers, said the press release. “There is no question the road ahead is uphill for both Microsoft and BlackBerry, but history shows us consumers are open to change. Platform diversity is something not only the consumers have asked for, but also the operators.”

Smartphone OS highlights

  • Android more than doubled shipments in 2012, expanding its market share by nearly 20 percentage points to 68.8%. Among the innumerable Android vendors, Samsung stands as the clear leader after accounting for 42% of all Android smartphone shipments in 2012. Behind Samsung was a long list of vendors with single-digit market share and an even longer list of those with market share of less than 1%, as intra-Android competition has yet to dissuade the majority of smartphone vendors from building on Android as the top operating system.
  • Apple posted double-digit growth in iOS shipments for the year, but it didn’t gain in market share, remaining at 18.8% of the market. “The smaller volumes during 2Q12 and to a smaller extent 3Q12 underscore the possibility for a mid-year iPhone release in order to maintain market-beating growth,” the IDC report said.
  • The difficulty of BlackBerry’s year was underscored by the loosening of BlackBerry’s once viselike grip on enterprise users. “Now that BlackBerry has unveiled BB10, the company is faced with migrating current BlackBerry users to upgrade while persuading smartphone users of other platforms, including previous BlackBerry users, to switch,” the report said.
  • Nokia was essential to the growth in Windows Phone/Windows Mobile market share, accounting for 76% of all the shipments of smartphones running on Microsoft’s operating systems. Microsoft’s fate may rest with a small group of Android vendors that have begun experimenting with Windows Phone 8.
Chart: Worldwide Smartphone Market, OS Share, 2012 Q4

Author: IDCcharts powered by iCharts

Jeff Drew ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.