Android, Apple Continue to Lead Smartphone Sales: IDC

While smartphone market growth remained strong in 2013, the report noted that the era of double-digit annual growth has only a few years remaining.

Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS smartphone operating systems accounted for 95.7 percent of all smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter of 2013, and for 93.8 percent of all smartphone shipments for the year, according to a report from IT research firm IDC.

The statistics marked a 4.5-point increase from the 91.2 percent share that the two platforms shared in the fourth quarter of 2012, and a 6.1-point increase from the 87.7 percent share they had in 2012.

In addition, the smartphone market passed an important milestone in 2013 when worldwide shipments surpassed the 1 billion mark for the first time, driven by continued momentum from Android and iOS.

While smartphone market growth remained strong in 2013, the report noted that the era of double-digit annual growth has only a few years remaining. In the meantime, handset vendors are doing all they can to capture demand while it is still present.

"Clearly, there was strong end-user demand for both Android and iOS products during the quarter and the year," Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's mobile phone team, said in a statement. "What stands out are the different routes Android and Apple took to meet this demand."

Llamas explained that while Android relied on its long list of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners, a diverse collection of devices, and price points that appealed to a range of market segments, Apple's iOS, relied on precisely the opposite approach--a limited selection of Apple-only devices, whose prices trended higher than the rest of the competition.

"Despite these differences, both platforms found a warm reception to their respective user experiences and selection of mobile applications," Llamas said.

Although it remains wildly popular in the smartphone market, iOS posted the lowest positive growth for both the quarter (6.7 percent) and for the year (12.9 percent), under-performing the overall market in both instances.

Meanwhile, Android finished the year as the clear leader in the smartphone operating system race. Samsung led all Android vendors with a commanding 39.5 percent share of shipments for the year.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system posted the largest increase for both the quarter (46.7 percent) and the year (90.9 percent), with each nearly doubling the growth of the overall market, with Nokia leading all vendors with 89.3 percent market share.

The report also noted that while worldwide smartphone marketing campaigns continue to stay focused on flagship devices like the iPhone 5S, Galaxy Note 3, and the HTC One, yet research shows that consumer buying is rapidly shifting toward products with significantly lower price points.

"In 2013 we saw the sub-$200 smartphone market grow to 42.6 percent of global volume, or 430 million units," Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, said in a statement. "While the market moves downstream to cheaper products it makes sense for Samsung and others to continue their marketing investments geared toward high-end products. These efforts build crucial brand perception while having less expensive alternatives that closely relate to these top products helps to close the deal."