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.
Android’s Dominance Doesn’t Tell the Whole Smartphone Market Story
The facts are clear. Android is beating all comers globally. But that may not matter to you if you have the freedom to use the smartphone of choice at work as well as at home. Apple has plenty of support in business and consumer areas for its devices. Meanwhile, the iPhone sells well in most developed nations, even if it’s not outselling Android.
For your business, what really matters is having access to phones that provide the app support, the security and the business integration you need. This is less related to the phone’s OS than it is to the manufacturer’s commitment to business and, specifically, your business.
At Apple the support is broad and it’s deep. Along with those millions of consumer apps, there’s support for a wide variety of verticals, there’s excellent security and strong manufacturer support for growth. This means that if an iPhone meets your needs now, it will probably continue to meet your needs in the future.
BlackBerry has settled into a niche that meets demands for the best security available in a mobile device. This means until some other platform comes along that has the strong level of protection that BlackBerry has, the company is guaranteed to have a place at the enterprise table. It may not be a big place, but it’s one that won’t be lost.
It’s not exactly clear what the future holds for Microsoft. Windows Phone—and to an extent Windows tablets—occupy a niche that seems solidly aimed at the enterprise, but without the level of security offered by BlackBerry.
On the other hand, Microsoft has its Office apps that are a selling point. But will Windows Phone continue to occupy a place in the enterprise? That’s an interesting question that doesn’t have a certain answer right now.
Android’s dominance isn’t as strong in the enterprise, however. Much of what sells with Google’s operating system are phones that are inexpensive and limited in their capabilities. They are phones for people who need essential communications, apps and entertainment, but they don’t have the vast array of features you see on today’s high-end Android devices.
It’s going to be hard for Apple and BlackBerry to aim for the bottom as Android vendors are doing. Microsoft is going to try, but who knows what its level of success will be. For Apple to make up for its relatively high price it must innovate in ways that go beyond a larger screen or a motion processor.
BlackBerry needs to hope it can retain the upper hand in security. The small three companies can stay relevant, but not without working hard to maintain and expand their market positions.