Android's Dominance Doesn't Tell the Whole Smartphone Market Story

NEWS ANALYSIS: Google's Android is far outselling everything else on a worldwide basis. But Android's dominance means less to people who need a secure and reliable smartphone for business.

Android Dominance

There's little doubt that the news from IDC on global smartphone sales was less than thrilling for smartphone operating system developers besides Google.

The IDC quarterly report on smartphone shipments revealed that Android phones now make up nearly 85 percent of total global smartphone shipments as of the second quarter of 2014. Shipments of Apple iOS smartphones were just under 12 percent. Everything else, including Windows Phone and BlackBerry, were around 3 percent.

There were some minor variations. The percentage of BlackBerry and Windows phones were slightly higher than they were in the first quarter. Those slight increases in market share mostly came from Apple, which dropped slightly.

The obvious question is, should you care? Obviously, if you're a phone maker, you should. If BlackBerry and Microsoft want their devices to remain relevant, they'll have to do something to increase market share. But if you're a business user in North America or Western Europe, those numbers are less important.

For example, Apple's iOS sells well in the United States and Europe, but those phones are too pricey for buyers in many developing economies. BlackBerry is aimed at enterprise and government users so sales to consumers are nearly non-existent, even though it maintains a respectable installed base among enterprise users.

Still, IDC says that more than 255 million Android phones sold in the second quarter, which is almost 10 times as many as iPhones sold in the same quarter. But in reality, this says more about Apple and the other makers than it does about Android.

The fact is that Apple has priced itself out of much of the global market while also offering little new these days that's sufficiently innovative to draw customers despite the price.

Microsoft and Blackberry are hurting in other ways. To some extent, the turmoil surrounding the Nokia acquisition is hurting Microsoft as it decimates the parts of the staff that came from the phone maker. Eventually, if Microsoft actually manages to ship a reasonably priced, well-designed, smartphone with global appeal, sales may pick up.

BlackBerry is also waiting for something new, which includes the new Passport device and the BlackBerry Classic, but those won't reach the market until later in 2014. BlackBerry is also planning to release devices at lower price points for those markets where its phone is still popular, including Indonesia.

But the long wait for devices continues to depress sales. Right now, BlackBerry's best hope is for buyers to realize that the phone can run some Android apps, which means that they're not totally at the mercy of the tiny BlackBerry app development community.

In some ways Microsoft is hurting worse than BlackBerry because there are relatively few apps available for the Windows Phone platform and it can't run apps from anywhere else.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...