Android takes the lead

The smartphone OS war continues to rage on with Android making serious inroads into Apple's share of the pie. Statistics supplied by AdMob. In December 2009, iPhone OS enjoyed an 11% lead over Android OS. Just three months later, and now Android enjoys a 7% lead over iPhone OS.

These above statistics only factor in web traffic to mobile ads served by the AdMob network which is currently the largest provider of mobile adverts and monetization. These statistics are unlikely to represent relative sales figures as Android phone users may spend less time in apps than iPhone users, but the statistics demonstrate the trend toward Android and from iPhone OS.

We can expect the current trend to continue as the HTC Desire and HTC Legend hit the market soon.

iPhone demand may be temporarily dampened by the expected upcoming release of the new iPhone model likely to be announced in June as customers wait to see what the new phone offers or waiting for a price-drop on the current models. This yearly release cycle is sub-optimal as smartphone customers in the market for a new phone often desire the latest and greatest and there is a new shiny phone every month for the tech-lovers, each of which shinier and fresher than the Apple phone from 6 months ago.

Android OS looks set to gain from Apple's lethargy by the continued monthly onslaught of new Android handsets with new form factors.

Unless Apple chooses to license iPhone OS to other handset manufacturers or simply announce quarterly iPhone hardware releases with new form-factors, there seems to be little that Apple can do to halt its diminishing market share.

That said, the market itself is growing and given the current deltas and the upcoming Windows Mobile 7 release, iPhone OS is likely to settle at around 10-15% of the market. This is approximately the same place that macs hold in the PC market. Android devices benefit from scaling up and down to cover the all segments of the market (value to premium customers) whilst Apple is only targeting premium customers at the moment.

The report also details that both iPhone OS and Android have yet to seriously penetrate developing nations with Nokia and Symbian being overwhelmingly the most popular choices. Developing nations do not usually offer subsidized phones so handset cost is the key factor in purchasing decision. Additionally the network infrastructure has not been developed to handle the data requirement of modern smartphone OSs meaning that smartphone use in these countries is usually to access non-connected apps on the move as well as 2G SMSs and voice calls. When at home or at a wireless access points, apps can be downloaded and the web can be browsed.

Given this usage model, Android looks to be in a favorable position to conquer these markets as value models arrive with 1st gen hardware around the $70-100 level in about 18 months time. Given another 18 months, a $50 handset is perfectly feasible without subsidy.

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