Is Android unstoppable?
Canalys have published their quarterly report on the mobile market yesterday, this time focusing on the second quarter of this year. Statistics from other research companies such as IDG and Gartner, and even those from phone makers themselves can and probably will be different from these. That’s just how it always is. The following quick analysis is based solely on the numbers from Canalys, please keep that in mind. Also do understand that these numbers reflect global market shares.
What the numbers say
Chart via BBC
Android’s market share grew by an amazing 886% in the second quarter of 2010 compared to the second quarter of 2009. And as exciting as that sounds, it was pretty much to be expected. Back in Q2 2009 Android had 2.8% of the smartphone market. You can only go up from such a measly number, basically.
This time last year, Android was on just over a million of the handsets sold. And almost all of those sales were made up by the HTC Dream/G1. Android 1.5 was released during that second quarter of 2009, but by the end of June only two devices were running the new OS version, the Samsung i7500 Galaxy and the HTC Magic. Arguably, neither Android 1.0 nor Android 1.5 were anything close to final, stable versions of the OS despite their numbering. It was only with 1.6 that came out in September last year, when the OS started to look good enough for mass adoption, and that’s when many new devices started to show up, and Android’s growth rate started surging.
Today, Android is only 0.9% away from RIM’s BlackBerry OS, and if the current trends continue, will overtake it in Q3. Which is not a small achievement by any standard. RIM’s OS was holding that second position since Windows Mobile started to go down a long, long time ago (in mobile device years, anyway).
We’ve clearly not seen the peak of the Android platform yet. How much it can still grow from this point on is anybody’s guess, but it has absolutely grown up this year. My guess is that it won’t peak in 2010. In a slightly negative scenario for Google, that may happen in Q1-Q2 of 2011, if and only if the next big release (3.0 Gingerbread) won’t bring anything more to the table than incremental updates here and there. The rumors seem to suggest the contrary, and if 3.0 will indeed feature some kind of UI/UX redesign (let’s not forget, Goolge now has the man who designed webOS working for them) alongside the small updates that have kept happening with earlier releases, then it might be a full year or more before Android’s growth starts slowing down.
An interesting fact is that aside from Android, every other smartphone OS has lost market share in Q2 2010 compared to Q2 2009.
Every. Single. One.
What this means for….
Symbian has been losing a bit here, a percentage point there for years, so that’s no surprise. Nokia have delayed Symbian development by about a year with their “strategic” move of buying Symbian Ltd. and open-sourcing the OS under the newfound Symbian Foundation umbrella. A move they thought would bring in good PR and lower their development costs (if other companies started heavily contributing code to Symbian).
None of those things happened.
And the first Symbian^3 device is expected in September. Of 2010. When the high-end of Nokia’s lineup should have already been running Symbian^4, the ‘big’ upcoming release, that features a completely redesigned UI. We should have been seeing Symbian^3 only on midrange smartphones right about now, instead those still get Symbian^1 (the nicer name for S60 5th Edition). Which is an OS version that launched with the Nokia 5800, almost two years ago, in November of 2008.
As I said before, a full year wasted. So when you see the N8, please don’t compare it to today’s smartphones from the competition. No, instead imagine it was released a year ago. Because it should have been.
For the next year, I don’t see any big improvements in Symbian’s situation. Market share will probably continue to drop little by little. We need to have Symbian^4 devices (note the plural) on the market and Symbian^1 devices not on the market anymore before we can talk of a possible reversal of that trend.
BlackBerry OS has clearly peaked at this point, and if RIM don’t release something really revolutionary (perhaps today), I don’t know what will happen to their consumer market share in the future. They do have a rather strong hold in the enterprise space, so there’s no immediate danger of them disappearing completely from the smartphone space by any chance.
However, it’s clear that they haven’t been able to capture the consumer market in a big way, save for some teen/tween texting/BBM addicted niches. They just haven’t (yet?) managed to become desirable for the mainstream in a similar fashion to the iPhone.
iOS market share has peaked. It’s actually started to go down just a little, and whether or not that’s the start of a trend we’ll see. But more market share growth seems improbable at this point. The only possible exception here would be if there will be a CDMA iPhone soon. And I think Apple really, really need one to maintain the public perception that they are the company to compete with in this field.
Without a CDMA iPhone (for Verizon and/or Sprint in the US), the next iPhone will definitely need to be a lot more than an incremental hardware update.
If you’re amazed that WinMo still has some market share left, don’t be. See, in the real world things aren’t ‘killed’ just like that, over night. It takes time. Months, even years.
Microsoft’s corporate clients are surely making up most of the remaining market share here. I think very few consumers would consider a WinMo smartphone for personal use these days.
Windows Phone 7 and Bada
These are the two upcoming smartphone OSes to watch. They have the potential to change the market dramatically, but could also turn into gigantic failures.
They are both, in my view, aimed primarily at those people who want to buy their first smartphone. Users that previously had featurephones. And for that demographic, both perform adequately, with WP7 having the edge for its integrated nature. However, judging by the looks of Microsoft’s minimum hardware requirements for WP7, the average price of the smartphones it will power will not be low by any stretch of the imagination.
Which is where Bada comes in. If Samsung will continue to push it, and push it hard, those who own a Corby now may switch to a Bada device by December. And I think that was the plan all along. The high-end is made up of iOS and Android in just about everyone’s mind right now, trying to compete there takes time. Just look at how long it took Android to outsell iOS in smartphones. That literally just happened. But in the mid to low price ranges, where Nokia reigns supreme right now, there’s a market to be had. If Samsung move quickly.
Oh yes, the amazing super-high-end OS from Nokia and Intel. It’s just too early, way too early to tell. Only one device is planned for this year, and even that may be available in very limited quantities in the beginning. And if the hardware is nothing groundbreaking, I really don’t understand what MeeGo’s USP would be. Plus, it’s a new OS, so there will be a shortage of apps initially and all that. Nokia and/or Intel really need to throw money at developers (like Samsung and Microsoft are doing for Bada and WP7) to make sure it doesn’t ship with a store populated by 14 apps or something like that.
Of course, Nokia keep saying that Qt will enable apps to be written once and run on both Symbian and Meego, but I’ll have to see that to believe it. And be that as it may, current Symbian apps, almost all of which are not written in Qt, will still need to be rewritten to be able to take advantage of these synergies between Nokia’s two smartphone OSes.
MeeGo does have a lot of potential beyond mobile phones. The embedded space may be what will make or break it, but that’s all going to start happening next year.
At this point, Android’s growth is obvious to everyone watching the mobile space. And there’s nothing to indicate that it will stop anytime soon. With more and more device releases in the following months, it probably won’t.
I do think that Android will jump to second place and not go back below it for the foreseeable future. Overtaking Symbian is a matter of many manufacturers launching many well-priced (against Nokia) low-end and midrange Android-powered devices. When that happens, if the competing Symbian devices don’t all run at least Symbian^3, Android does have a solid chance to become number one.
Because that crown is gained not by having the most desirable handsets (though that certainly helps, indirectly), but by having the lowest average selling price. That’s how Symbian is doing it right now and that’s what makes a truly mainstream OS.