Android outstripping iOS in ad impressions and device market share

By August 15, 2011Apple, Google, Mobile

On Friday I wrote about how I see the future for HTML5, native apps and Adroid vs OS.  The post stimulated a fair bit of debate which led me to check out how the operating system between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android is playing out in the market place.  Looking at the latest data in this fast moving market, the overall answer is that Android is doing well, and better than I expected, with around half the market depending on how you count it and whose data you trust.

For me the best proxy for smartphone market share is mobile ad impressions.  This metric captures internet usage of the devices which makes it the best indicator of where the mobile computing market is headed.  By focusing on internet usage it filters out low end Android handsets that are little more than feature phones and people who have smartphones because they are cool to own, but don’t use them as mobile compute devices.  My thesis is that this fashion brigade will quickly shift to the next new shiny phone when it emerges.  The trouble with looking at ad impressions is that it ignores some app activity, but all round I see it as the best metric to use.

And on an ad impression basis focused on smartphones only Android is running at a 54% market share, with iOS a distant second at 26% (courtesy of mobilemix and Digital Trends):


Using the more traditional metric of OS market share by devices sold Android is again out in front.  Gartner has them at 43% (table below) with the fast declining Symbian still holding second place ahead of iOS.  Canalys paints a similar picture with Android at a 48% market share and iOS taking the second place slot from Symbian last quarter at 19%.  All parties agree that the smartphone market continues to grow very fast and that within it Android is growing the fastest (i.e. gaining share).


The best Android phones still don’t match the iPhone (and as I said on Friday my next phone will again be an iPhone), but with the scale advantages Android now enjoys I think it will only be a matter of time before their phones are the best.

On the tablet front Android only has a 20% market share and is still some way behind Apple who has just about all of the remaining 80% (as per ABI Research), but this market is much newer and it was only 6-9 months ago that the first mass market Android tablets hit the stores.

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  • Jason Simanek

    So, by that argument: Windows, with the scale advantages that it now enjoys, is the best operating system? No, more likely it is the operating system most available on less expensive, more numerous devices.

  • Hmm – good point. Scale doesn’t necessarily beget success, but in the absence of other hindering factors (e.g. ageing and bloated code base) it is often decisive

  • But there are a ton of other factors. Most importantly, there is control of parts suppliers. As an individual manufacturer, Apple is the scaled contractor of advanced components, many of which are supply constrained. And, the supply constraints have thus far remained consistent generation to generation. I personally doubt that GOOG-MOTmob can overcome this challenge, though Samsung is a wildcard. Second, Apple’s proprietary processors provide a distinct scale advantage. Third, Google is doing a better job managing OS version fragmentation in the US and Europe but *not* in Asia where the volume is. Google is scaled in the way WinXP and IE6 are, speaking of code base problems. 

  • I struggle to believe that the components market will be supply constrained forever and that if it is Apple will continue to keep it sewn up. Their first mover advantage will wane, particularly in light of increased volumes elsewhere.
    Android fragmentation will need careful managing and could be there undoing.

  • As long as smartphone feature sets are advancing quickly, next gen parts will always be both constrained and locked up early. Apple takes a lot of financial risk in their parts orders, far more than the lower margin Android OEMs may be willing or capable of doing. And mobile communications device feature sets will be evolving rapidly for years after we cease to think of them as smartphones.

  • Interesting. Apple’s execution on their iPhone product line has been spectacularly good (although ‘flawless’ is clearly not an appropriate adjective…) and I can see how that might underpin supply chain management strategy which is more aggressive than their competitors can live with. I do wonder how long they can keep delivering jaw-droppingly good devices though.

  • I think the question is, “How long will they keep investing in delivering jaw-dropping devices?” They just have to lock up the parts with their $76B+.

  • The investment in jaw dropping devices will last just a little bit longer than their ability to deliver them 🙂

  • Excellent, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. Thank for this imformation.