Smartphone and tablet duopoly - Android & Apple

The number of smartphones and tablets sold worldwide in 2012 is absolutely staggering. The sense of amazement is the same no matter how you measure it – number of units sold, growth year over year, spending, profits, comparison to declining computer sales. There is something profound going on in the world.

A couple of trends in 2012 are surprising. We’ve been accustomed to thinking of Apple as an unstoppable giant setting the bar high above competitors. In fact, the world is a duopoly, divided between Android and Apple iOS, and Android has taken a sharp lead in the number of devices sold.

Android is crushing Apple in the global smartphone market. According to Strategy Analytics, Android had a 70% share of the market in 2012; Apple’s share dropped to 22% by the fourth quarter.

That’s over 90% of smartphone sales in 2012 for two platforms. Everything else – Windows phones, businesses grimly clinging to their Blackberries, Nokia’s less expensive phones sold overseas – they’re all just rounding errors in the smartphone market.

There were 700 million smartphones sold worldwide in 2012, more than double the number of computers sold, with huge increases across the board from the previous year.

Samsung sold more smartphones in 2012 than Apple did. Apple is not even the leader when you break down the stats into individual companies making phones: Samsung ended the year with a smartphone market share of over 30%, while Apple was just under 20%.

Android tablets outsell iPads, which have fallen below 50% market share. Market analysts at IDC show Apple with a 43.6% market share in 2012, falling below 50% after huge growth in sales of Android tablets from Samsung, Asus, Amazon, and others. Apple still sells more tablets than any other individual company and its sales volume is rising fast, but Android tablet sales took off like a rocket in 2012, wildly outpacing Apple’s growth.

Android’s market dominance is not necessarily a reason to go out and buy an Android phone or tablet. An important reason that people buy Android devices is because they’re cheaper than iPhones and iPads, not because they’re better.

For obvious reasons, developers are going to be focused almost exclusively on Android and iOS, producing new apps for this enormous global market to make those devices more useful for work and play. Windows phones and tablets are off to a slow start and apps have been slow to appear – and with these numbers, that may never change. Businesses will start to buy Windows phones and tablets as they become more polished and the enterprise advantages become more apparent but there is little momentum at the beginning of 2013 to raise Microsoft’s hopes of taking more than a sliver of the market.

And for goodness’ sake, don’t be fooled by the hype into thinking that Blackberry has a ghost of a chance of surviving in this market. It’s not going to happen.

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