Europe was initially slow to back Google's Android operating system, but the continent now accounts for some of Android's fastest growth and continuing domination, according to a new report from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.
Android use in Europe rose to 67.1 percent in the 12 weeks ending Aug. 5, up from just less than 47 percent a year ago, the firm reported Sept. 3. In the United States during the same period, Android support fell from 60.4 percent to 55.9 percent, while support for Apple's iOS rose-despite reports that rumors of an upcoming iPhone 5 have slowed sales-from 26.8 percent a year ago to 35.2 percent. In Europe, iOS support fell from 19.6 percent to 14.6 percent.
In Spain, a country deeply afflicted by the Eurozone crisis, Android phones have reached a high of 86.8 percent market share, up more than 29 percentage points from a year ago, while iOS support fell from 8 to 2.9 percent, the lowest in Europe.
Even in the more stable Germany, Android backing was at 72.2 percent, up from 50 percent a year ago, while in France it rose from 47.5 percent to 61.9 percent, in Italy from 30.7 percent to 58.6 percent, and in Great Britain from 48.3 percent to 62.4 percent.
Great Britain was the only country of the five in which iOS shares, as they did in the United States, rose during the last 12 weeks, compared with the same period a year ago.
Also helping to spur the platform's growth, said the report, are the increasing display sizes on the smartphones running the OS. Of the Android devices sold in the last 12 weeks, reports the firm, 29 percent have a display size greater than 4.5 inches-and these screen sizes are directly impacting how the devices are used.
"It is interesting to look at the impact a larger screen size has on how consumers use their smartphones, particularly as the line between tablets and smartphones becomes more blurred," Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel Comtech, said in a statement. "Consumers who own a smartphone with a larger screen tend to be much more engaged with their device across a whole array of functions."
For example, amongst owners of devices with displays smaller than 3 inches, WiFi was accessed by fewer than 60 percent, compared with the more than 80 percent penetration by devices with displays between 4.5 and 4.9 inches. Internet usage penetration was nearly 100 percent for users with devices with display of 5 inches or greater, while it fell to 80 percent for those devices with displays between 3 and 3.9 inches and below 70 percent for those devices with sub-3-inch displays.
When the display was 3 inches, fewer than 20 percent of users watched a video, though 65 percent of those with screen sizes of 5 inches or larger did.
"Bigger screens don't just lead to an improved consumer experience, they also play a key part in customer retention," said Sunnebo. "ComTech data shows that the more engaged consumers are with their device, the more likely they are to stay loyal to an OS/brand when they upgrade."
Apple, Nokia and Motorola are among the companies expected to introduce new smartphones this month, and no doubt their offerings will reflect such findings. Apple is expected to introduce a new iPhone with a display measuring 4-plus inches on the diagonal-a notable bump from all of its previous designs-while Nokia, according to the rumors, will show off a device with a 4.5-inch display.
Samsung has sold more than 10 million units of its Galaxy S III smartphone, which features a 4.8-inch display, and also 10 million-plus Galaxy Note devices, which feature a 5.3-inch display. On Aug. 29, at a trade show in Berlin, Samsung pushed the display envelope further, introducing the Galaxy Note II, a device it refers to as a smartphone with a 5.5-inch display.
Earlier this year, research firm IDC reported that 2012 will represent the peak of Android's popularity.
What remains to be seen, said Ramon Llamas, an IDC senior research analyst, is how the different operating systems "will define and shape the user experience beyond what we see today in order to attract new customers and encourage replacements."