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Two's Company in Global Smartphone OS Market

Two's Company in Global Smartphone OS Market

With Google's Android and Apple's iOS operating systems running nearly 94 percent of smartphones shipped globally last year, there doesn't appear to be much room for Windows Phone to pick up steam, BlackBerry to make a comeback, or newbies to gain a toehold. The high-end smartphone market is heading for saturation, though, so other players may find opportunities for growth in emerging markets.

Google's Android and Apple's iOS led the global smartphone operating system market in 2013, a year in which worldwide shipments surpassed 1 billion units for the first time, according to IDC.

The two OSes accounted for 93.8 percent of global smartphone shipments for the year. Both still found room to grow: Together, they made up 95.7 percent of the smartphone shipments in the final quarter of the year. That was up 4.5 percentage points from the 91.2 percent share they claimed in the Q4 2012.

Android won the top spot for the year, accounting for 78.6 percent of shipped smartphones in 2013 and 78.1 percent of shipments in Q4.

Market Saturation Looming

Samsung led Android vendors, claiming 39.5 percent of smartphone shipments. The pending acquisition of Motorola Mobility by Lenovo could shake things up in the year ahead, IDC noted. If the deal closes, Lenovo could overtake Huawei, which took the No. 2 spot in 2013.

Apple's iOS experienced slower growth overall, claiming 15.2 percent of smartphone shipments in 2013 and 17.6 percent in the fourth quarter -- up 6.7 percent from a year earlier.

BlackBerry and Microsoft accounted for the remaining percentage points. With the help of Nokia, the Windows Phone OS grew 90.9 percent for the year. BlackBerry took a dip, however, dropping 40.9 percent for the year and 77 percent in the fourth quarter. The majority of its sales were of phones running its older BlackBerry OS rather than the revamped BlackBerry 10.

Overall, smartphone shipments totaled 1 billion, up from the 725 million devices shipped in 2012, a 39 percent increase from the year earlier. Double digit growth likely will continue for just a few more years before the market gets saturated, IDC noted, warning that vendors must capitalize on potential gains before sales slow.

Different Strokes

The strategies underlying the rise of Google's Android and Apple's iOS to an OS duopoly have been very different, said GigaOM analyst Colin Gibbs.

"Android has become the world's most popular smartphone operating system, thanks to a wide variety of handsets from many manufacturers and at nearly every price point," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Apple, on the other hand, has generated huge profits with a very limited portfolio of high-margin devices that maintain the company's high-profile brand."

It's unlikely that any of the major players will change their strategies, Gibbs added.

"Android's marketshare may continue to grow over the next few years as smartphone sales in emerging markets surge, but Apple may still be content with a smaller marketshare that produces big profits," he predicted.

Fighting for the Bottom

The pressure is on the laggards to try to claim greater marketshare, said Gibbs.

"Microsoft is finally taking aim at the relatively untapped mobile enterprise market with Windows Phone 8.1, which should come to market in the next few months," he said.

"Meanwhile, a handful of newcomers -- led by Mozilla's Firefox OS -- are targeting emerging markets with low-cost smartphones," Gibbs added.

That growth will continue going forward, but it's unlikely it will be at a level where someone can take on the duopoly, said Trip Chowdhry, senior analyst for Global Equities Research.

"Google and Apple have very different strategies, and other parts of their businesses will be different going forward," he told the E-Commerce Times, "but this is one area where they're going to continue to stay on top."


Rachelle Dragani is a freelance reporter based in Brooklyn, NY. She enjoys staying on top of e-commerce deals, reporting on what new gadget is coming your way, and keeping tabs on anyone trying to hack into your info. Feel free to e-mail her at rachelle.dragani@newsroom.ectnews.com. You can also connect with her on Google+.


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