The goods news is that, year over year, Android continues to gain ground, especially in desirable markets, like urban China, where there is a lot of room for new customer acquisition. The data also showed that the field continues to narrow, leaving the race, at this point, to be primarily carried out between Apple and Alphabet going forward. The move to heads-up competition, so far, is playing better for Android, as Windows phone defectors are primarily moving to Google's OS in key markets.
The less-than-good news is that, while Android OS is growing, the growth is slowing and is beneath the record growth that it demonstrated during the previous three-month period. And as Android users are coming on board in key markets, Android users are defecting to iOS at a higher rate.
Strongest Growth Areas
Zones of particular strength for Android included the EU5 ( the European Union's top five markets: Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain), where Android phones represent 76 percent of all smartphones sales — a 5.8 percent increase from the 70.2 percent the year before. Android has a larger share of the smartphone sales market in China at 78.8 percent and a somewhat smaller share of 67.6 percent in the United States.
“Android’s gains continued in several regions, including the EU5, U.S. and China, but the rate of growth has slowed,” said Lauren Guenveur, consumer insight director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. “In the EU5, year-on-year growth between March 2015 and 2016 was 7.1 percent. For the April-to-April time frame, that number dropped to 5.8 percent. What’s more, we see only a 0.4 percentage point increase for the three months ending March 2016, up from 75.6 percent to 76 percent.”
The natural assumption might be that Android's gains were Apple and iOS' losses in this panel, but as it turns out, that is not quite the case. In the U.K., for example, both Android and iOS gained ground, though Android gained more. And while that is goods news for Android, iOS does have some comfort in that it has gotten its first increase in sales in the U.K. since October of last year, and one out of every five of its new users it took directly from its biggest competitor.
“In Great Britain, both Android and iOS had higher market share in the three months ending April 2016. Android represented 58.5 percent of the market in that period, a gain of 4.1 percent year on year,” said Dominic Sunnebo, business unit director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe. “And for iOS, this term showed the first increase since Oct. 2015, though modest at just 0.4 percent, from 34.7 percent to 35.1 percent. Android gains came from Windows phone owners switching, a trend that produced nearly 10 percent of new Android customers, while 21.8 percent of new iOS buyers switched from Android.”
Growing In Developing Markets
Android also demonstrated continued strength in the urban Chinese market, particularly in the all-important new customer pool.
Developed nations, by and large, have reached all the new users there are to reach. As of last year, 67 percent of American consumers carry a smartphone, around the same number as Japanese consumers, slightly more than the 66 percent of British consumers and slightly less than 71 percent of German consumers. There are certainly still people available to reach in these markets, but over the two-thirds saturation point, customers who simply aren't interested in owning smartphones become increasingly prevalent.
Developing markets — and urban China in particular — however, still have a significant number of consumers switching from "flip" phones to smartphones, and Android is dominating that sales market.
“In Urban China, Android share rose 4.8 percent year over year and 1.1 percent period over period to capture 78.8 percent of smartphone sales in the three months ending April 2016,” noted Tamsin Timpson, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Asia.
“While movement from feature phones to smartphones has slowed significantly in developed markets, like the U.S. and EU5, this still makes up a significant proportion of smartphone sales in urban China. Nearly a third of Android users during this time were purchasing their first smartphone, in contrast to iOS buyers, of whom only 14 percent were first-time smartphone customers.”
The U.S Market
While the playing field in other parts of the world is still consolidating, the U.S. market, according to Kantar, is increasingly becoming a two-man race. Android showed ground gained in the U.S. market but not, according to Kantar, a lot of evidence that it is persuading many customers away from iOS.
It is, however, doing a great job making sure its customers aren't persuaded by iOS either.
“In the U.S., Android share increased 5.2 percent, capturing more than two-thirds of smartphone sales in the three months ending April 2016,” Guenveur noted. “While growth in other parts of the world has clearly been a result of movement either from the Windows ecosystem or a feature phone, Android gains in the U.S. are powered by repeat customers. Among those replacing their smartphone, more than nine out of 10 (91.4 percent) of Android buyers owned a previous Android device.”
The Two-Man Field
The stakes in this race are getting particularly high, as an ever-increasing amount of functionality — particularly around commerce — is migrating to the smartphone. That extends past merely shopping itself. The devices consumers use are powering discovery, rewards, payments, social networking. The list could go on infinitely, but the numbers speak for themselves.
The average American spends 4.7 hours per day on their phone — one-third of the time they are awake. Consumers spent $20 billion on average in Apple's App Store last year alone and $40 billion since it was launched in 2008.
There is no almost no one who argues that the mobile phone isn't the future of commerce; which platform will end up being the dominant player, however, remains an active competition.
Android has a larger customer base, and more online hours per day are spent on Android devices than iOS devices. And that base, it seems, is turning out to be more loyal than perhaps previously thought, particularly in the U.S. And those users are arguably more active. According to App Annie's latest report, Android users download far more apps per month than their iOS-using counterparts.
But Apple has the bigger spending and more eCommerce-enthused users. They both buy more often and spend more when they buy.
That gap is narrowing, however, and the race is far from over.