The traditional gift for the fourth anniversary is fruit or flowers, and in this case, Android got exactly that for its own, in the form of a big old chunk of Apple – or at least its potential market share.
The International Data Corporation (IDC) provided the gift in the form of a recent study that revealed that three out of every four smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2012 had some version of the Android operating system running on it, representing one of the biggest growth drivers in the entire smartphone market for the last four years.
The IDC's report showed that there were 181.1 million smartphones shipped worldwide in the third quarter of 2012. Of that 181.1 million, 136 million were Android-powered devices, or right around 75 percent of total shipments. That actually represented a 91.5-percent year-over-year growth rate, which beat the growth rate of the entire market, which itself was 46.4 percent.
While Apple's system, iOS, is remaining comparatively static, and represents the only other iOS in the field to land double-digit market share growth for the quarter, it's clear that the losers in this situation are, mostly, every operating system not named iOS or Android.
BlackBerry, Symbian and Linux volumes were all in decline, while Windows Phone, which recently marked its second anniversary, is still struggling to get out of the gate.
The news is not all bad for these firms, of course – demand for BlackBerry devices is still strong, though a replacement for BlackBerry 7 won't hit until BlackBerry 10 in 2013, and several vendors are looking to at least experiment with Linux releases – but it's quite clear that Android is the king of the hill in market share, and iOS won't be going anywhere any time soon.
IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker analyst Kevin Restivo elaborated on the state of the market; "The share decline of smartphone operating systems not named iOS since Android's introduction isn't a coincidence. The smartphone operating system isn't an isolated product; it's a crucial part of a larger technology ecosystem. Google has a thriving, multi-faceted product portfolio. Many of its competitors, with weaker tie-ins to the mobile OS, do not.”
“This factor and others have led to a loss of share for competitors with few exceptions," he said.
Restivo's projections are quite sound, especially in regard to the "thriving, multi-faceted product portfolio" part. Let's face it: there isn't much call right now for Symbian app developers. While some might think that wide-scale HTML5 adoption would level the playing field at least somewhat for these developers, it's not quite up to the same level that Google Play and the Apple App Store are, giving Google and Apple a significant advantage in the market.
Unless Microsoft can get its struggling Windows Phone OS out in front a little harder, it's going to be a two-horse race before too much longer in every way that matters. Sure, BlackBerry devices will likely continue to be available for some time, as well Linux and Windows Phone (Symbian devices, however, may prove in short supply by some reports), but there will be progressively fewer takers until the ultimate end result.
That end result might be a lot less choice in the market for users, and that's seldom a good thing.
Edited by Braden Becker