How big is the iOS ecosystem? Answer: Huge, and growing fast

Last quarter Apple was selling iPhones at the rate of nine a second. That works out at 818,329 iPhones a day, or over 74 million for the quarter as a whole. While this represents stellar sales, it is only the tip of the iOS ecosystem iceberg.

Last quarter Apple was selling iPhones at the rate of nine a second. That works out to 818,329 iPhones a day, or over 74 million for the quarter as a whole. While this represents stellar sales, it is only the tip of the iOS ecosystem iceberg. So, just how big is the iOS ecosystem?

Since its release in 2007, Apple has sold some 665 million iPhones, and around 260 million iPads, both of which are impressive numbers until you consider the fact that CEO Tim Cook confirmed during the company's Q1 2015 quarterly earnings call that the iOS ecosystem had crossed the 1 billion mark back on November 22, 2014 (the remains of the billion being made up by iPod touch sales).

Now, a billion devices sold doesn't mean the ecosystem is that big. Some of those devices will be dead, others will be lost or forgotten, and some will have been recycled into new devices. However, when you consider that 72 percent of all iPhones (approximately 482 million) and 78 percent of all iPads (some 203 million) have been sold in the last three years, then it's fair to assume that many of these are still in circulation.

Assuming that some 10 percent of the devices sold in the last three years are out of the equation permanently, and 70 percent of everything sold prior to that has now gone to Silicon Heaven, then the ecosystem consists of some 700 million devices (and that's excluding all the iPod touch devices out there).

The global Windows PC ecosystem consists of some 1.5 billion devices, but that ecosystem has been building for decades. Apple took the iOS ecosystem from zero to 700 million - roughly half the size of the PC ecosystem - in under seven years, with the bulk of those sales happening over the past few years.

And what's more, the bulk of these devices will be running the latest iOS 8, or its predecessor iOS 7. Only a tiny percentage of active devices are running anything older.

And given the current trajectory, the iOS ecosystem is growing at a rate of hundreds of millions of devices a quarter, and it's showing no overall signs of slowing. Even the iPad, which is experiencing wilting sales, pulled it its third best quarter.

While the Android ecosystem might be bigger overall, it suffers from much greater levels of fragmentation than iOS, and devices are being left by the wayside through being abandoned by Google of the OEMs. Apple is choosing to foster its ecosystem more carefully, and while it might not be growing as fast, the number of devices running the latest OS release is much higher, which is good for both developers and the third-party accessory ecosystem.

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