Apple, Android Own Smartphone Market

When it comes to the smartphone market, if it isn’t iOS or Android, it barely exists. The two mobile ecosystems accounted for 96.3 percent of all smartphones sold worldwide in 2014, according to a report by IDC released Tuesday (Feb. 24).

That was also the combined Android/iOS unit share for the last three months of 2014, although the launch of the iPhone 6 shifted the numbers. For the full year, Android had 81.5 percent of smartphones shipped, while Apple had 14.8 percent. For Q4, it was 76.6 percent Android, 19.7 percent iPhone. In effect, the big jump in iPhone sales — swinging 5 percent of all smartphone sales worldwide to Apple — came entirely from Android’s share. Apple also accounts for 88.7 percent of smartphone profits in Q4 of 2014, according to the data.

In practice, there was not much chance for Apple to steal market share from anywhere else. Windows Phone, the number-three mobile OS, dropped from 3.3 percent of smartphones sold in 2013 to 2.7 percent in 2014, while BlackBerry plunged from 1.9 percent to 0.4 percent. Other operating systems tripled their collective share, from a microscopic 0.2 percent in 2013 to 0.6 percent in 2014.

So it’s a two-horse race. “What will bear close observation is how the two operating systems fare in 2015 and beyond,” IDC Mobile Phone Research Manager Ramon Llamas said in a prepared statement. “Now that Apple has entered the phablet market, there are few new opportunities for the company to address. Meanwhile, Samsung experienced flat growth in 2014, forcing Android to rely more heavily on smaller vendors to drive volumes higher.” Llamas also cited strong end-user demand, refreshed product portfolios and availability of low-cost Android devices as sales drivers for the two giants — but didn’t mention mobile payments.

Still, the iPhone 6 models made a significant dent in Android share in the last quarter of 2014 — the Android-to-Apple sales ratio dropped from 5.5-to-1 to 4-to-1 — and much of the most visible promotion in the U.S. for the new iPhones came from Apple Pay partners.

The 5-point shift from Android to Apple also largely matches the trend reported by rival smartphone-market watcher ABI Research earlier this month.

In terms of actual unit sales numbers, IDC estimated that Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones in Q4 2014, a 46.1 percent jump from 51 million in Q4 2013. During the same period, 289.1 million Android phones sold, up just 26.6 percent from the year-earlier 228.4 million. For all of 2014, Apple sold 192.7 million iPhones, while Android sold 1.06 billion units, IDC said.