Why Android Is Still the Underdog to the iPhone

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-04-25 Print this article Print

Android fans bask in the glow of the platform's 33 percent U.S. market share, which is 8 percentage points higher than Apple's iPhone share, according to comScore.

But it's misleading. Everyone following this space closely knows there are well over 100 phones based on Google's operating system, compared to almost a handful of iPhones, only two of which are based on the current Apple iOS. I covered this last week.

Apple's and Verizon Wireless' earnings calls last week provide a telling snapshot of the iPhone/Android market dynamics.

Apple just sold 18.65 million iPhones. Contrast that to the latest hot Android device, the ThunderBolt, of which Verizon sold 260,000 units since its launch March 17.

So the ThunderBolt benefited from less than half a quarter of sales. Let's say for the sake of a level temporal playing field that the ThunderBolt launched the day Verizon's second quarter kicked off in late January, and that it sold at least 500,000 units over the quarter. Averaged out over a full fiscal year, that's 2 million ThunderBolts.

That's a successful launch in the mobile phone market. But if you average out the Q1 iPhone sales over four quarters, it could sell nearly 80 million units, smashing any individual Android sale.

No wonder no one batted an eye when Apple CEO Steve Jobs said this year that Apple sold over 100 million iPhones. Duh. With quarterly numbers like this, and iPhone 5 building buzz, we'll be seeing 200 million iPhones sold in the near future.

Android's U.S. share is predicated on sheer volume of phones. Apple counts its iPhones in one big bucket as it's the sole manufacturer, and through only AT&T and Verizon.

Android is harder to track. The ThunderBolt could do 2 million, which is fine, and the complete Droid lineup has probably sold 20 million since the November 2009 launch of the first Droid. We know the Samsung Galaxy S lineup has shipped more than 10 million units to date.

Android is the piranha gobbling smartphone market share, while iPhone as an individual phone or platform is the whale.

As a Droid X owner -- and I want a ThunderBolt now and probably a Samsung Droid Charge after I test it next week -- I'm pleased as punch the iPhone is kicking ass.

Because if the iPhone wasn't so popular, I wouldn't have my Droid. I'd probably have an iPhone 4, which I've tested and don't care for. Apple doesn't make a product that looks and works like my Droid X, and I'm just more comfortable with the Android ecosystem.

Fortune's Andy Zaky wrote a must-read piece for Fortune about "Why Apple investors shouldn't sweat Android."

The title is especially laughable to us after Apple's Q1 earnings bonanza, but Fortune published it April 11, almost 10 days before Apple posted earnings.

Aimed as a defense of Apple after some doom-saying from Henry Blodget, it's a nice preview of why folks with Apple stock shouldn't dump Apple because of Android. Zaky wrote with sound economics:

IPhone sales continue to far outpace the growth in the global smartphone market. In the December quarter, for example, while the global smartphone market grew at a pace of 70% year-over-year, Apple's iPhone grew by 87%. This point right here should end all discussion.

Zaky also argues that Google should worry because iOS dominates smartphones with the iPhone, tablets with the iPad and portable browsing devices with the iPod touch.

Actually, no, as long as Google and/or AdMob continues to be the leading ad provider on those devices, more iOS devices is great for Google. But I digress.

iPhone has more momentum than ever, and so does Android, thanks to the iPhone (yes, it's the whole competition engine thing).

Without the iPhone, Google wouldn't strive to make Android better and I'd be stuck with a far inferior phone because I won't worship at the temple of Apple when there's a choice that on balance is as good as the iPhone.

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