Android sales surge, surpass iPhone (Updated)

Android sales surge, surpass iPhone (Updated)

Summary: Two different surveys released this week show the Android platform is gobbling up US and worldwide market share from other smartphone operating systems including Apple's iPhone OS and RIM BlackBerry.


Two different surveys released this week show the Android platform is gobbling up US and worldwide market share from other smartphone operating systems including Apple's iPhone OS and RIM BlackBerry.

The first survey, from the Nielson Company, shows that new sales of Android-based devices surpassed iPhone sales for the first time in the 2nd quarter. In the US, Android accounted for 27% of new sales, where the Apple iPhone accounted for 23%. RIM continues to lead the way with 33% of the market, according to Nielson.

Keep in mind that these figures do not include sales of the iPod Touch and iPad, which run the same operating system as the iPhone, because they are not phones. Also the 2nd quarter numbers reflect only a portion of sales of Apple's new iPhone 4, which started in late June. Apple is expected to get a boost from that in the 3rd quarter, so these stats could flip flop a couple more times before the end of the year.

Research firm Canalys also released a survey showing that worldwide shipments of Android-based phones in Q2 2010 were over 8 times larger than the same period a year ago. Nokia retained a substantial lead at 38% of the global smartphone market, with RIM at 18%, Android at 17%, and Apple at 13%. Interestingly, Canalys says that in the US, Android has surpassed both RIM's and Apple's market share (34% vs. 32% and 22% respectively). I sent in a question to Canalys to explain the discrepancy. See the update below for more info.

Numbers for new phone sales are important for developers because of the lead times for new apps and games. While a tiny app can be put together in a few days or weeks, substantial titles can take 6 months to a year or more to move from concept to finished product. Developers and publishers are always trying to guess where interest will be in the future so their product can reach the most potential users.

The uptick in Android sales is also backed up by anecdotal evidence of growing interest in the platform that shows no sign of slowing any time soon. Sources in the industry say that app submissions are up, book sales are up, and training classes are becoming more and more in demand.

Update: I asked Canalys to explain the difference between their study and the one by Nielson. Tim Shepherd sent me this response:

There are a number of possible variables that could lead to disparities. I cannot, for example, comment on precisely how Nielsen defines a smart phone, or on how they collect their data and how comprehensive it is. I suspect, however, that the difference in this case primarily stems from the fact that the Nielsen survey appears to refer to subscribers where as the Canalys data refers to shipments of devices into the channel. These numbers are unlikely to tally as there is clearly a variable time lag between different products shipping from the handset vendors, to being sold through to end users and subscriptions being activated and counted.

What I can also say is that Canalys has tracked quarterly smart phone shipments (sales in) since 2001 and are widely acknowledged as the leading analyst firm providing smart phone market data, forecasts and analysis to the global hardware, software and service provider communities. Our methodology involves obtaining feedback from vendors on their shipment volumes and extensively cross checking that information with other sources from the channel, from component suppliers, OS vendors and operators. The numbers we release are Canalys best estimates at the time of publication, but rigorous adherence to our globally consistent methodology allows us to be highly confident in our numbers.

Tim also sent me the following chart which was not included in the Canalys press release:

Worldwide smart phone market

OS vendor Q2 2010 shipments % share Q2 2009 shipments % share Growth
Symbian 27,129,340 43.5 19,178,910 50.3 41.5
RIM 11,248,830 18.0 7,975,950 20.9 41.0
Android 10,689,290 17.1 1,084,240 2.8 885.9
Apple 8,411,910 13.5 5,211,560 13.7 61.4
Microsoft 3,083,060 4.9 3,431,380 9.0 -10.2
Others 1,851,830 3.0 1,244,620 3.3 48.8
Total 62,414,260 100 38,126,660 100 63.3
Source: Canalys, Smart Phone Analysis, August 2010

Topics: Apple, Android, Enterprise Software, Google, iPhone, Mobility, BlackBerry

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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  • Here's the reason for the "discrepancy":

    Canalys' numbers are only about the second quarter, Nielsen's survey is about the first AND second quarter.

    Canalys' numbers are more accurate, because they are about only the second quarter and they include iPhone 4 sales.

    [B]The percentages are (of course) the average over the respective periods of time.[/B]

    Android sales have been climbing fast, that means the longer the time period, the lower the percentage.

    That's why Canalys' numbers give a more accurate picture of how the sales numbers stack up [B]today[/B].

    Nielsen has some other interesting numbers about usage share and satisfaction rates.

    The two survey combined can give you an idea of how fast Android market share is growing (if you do some maths):

    The average Android market share over six months is 27%, take only the last three months and it's already at 34%.
    • RE: Android sales surge, surpass iPhone


      Oh, and... yes, that means Android phones are outselling Blackberries and Android is indeed the #1 selling platform in the US.
    • That would be exciting, but...

      Android has proven to be a bit of a fraud. After it was touted as "open-source" and not purposefully crippled like Apple's SDK, people are still waiting around for individual vendors and service providers to dribble out proprietary versions of the OS. A new release of Android doesn't have much meaning when you can't download and install it at will.<br><br>People also have to "root" their phones to get what the platform promised from the outset: unfettered access to a device THEY OWN.<br><br>Consumer electronics have descended into a disgraceful and offensive state. People are spending vast sums of money on devices to which they are DENIED ACCESS. Who ever thought people would put up with this kind of rip-off?
  • One comment

    [i]Numbers for new phone sales are important for developers because of the lead times for new apps and games.[/i]

    Actually, it is numbers for the [b]platform[/b] that are important for developers. As you pointed out earlier:
    [i]Keep in mind that these figures do not include sales of the iPod Touch and iPad, which run the same operating system as the iPhone[/i]

    Unless you are creating an app that absolutely requires the capabilities of a phone, a developer would consider the size of the entire platform. That said, I still think the Android platform will eventually surpass the iOS platform in the relatively near future.
  • One more comment

    I also have to laugh at those zealots who look at first day sales of an Apple product and then extrapolate as if sales will remain that strong every day of the year. It doesn't happen folks, just look at Apple's graph. It [b]plummets[/b] while people are waiting for the next product to be released. That is one thing you don't see with Android since there are many products being released all the time. While iOS's line will bounce up and down based on the time of the year, one would expect that Android's line will continue on the same path no matter the time of year.

    I laugh with the iPad because first it was:
    [i]iPad sells 3 million after 1 month!![/i]

    Then it was:
    [i]iPad sells 3 million after 60 days!![/i]

    Then it was:
    [i]iPad sells 3 million after only 90 days!![/i]

    See a problem? :)
    • RE: Android sales surge, surpass iPhone


      Apple sold 3 million iPhones in the three weeks after the iPhone 4 launch.

      That's about 143,000 a day.

      During the same timespan, more than 160,000 Android phones were sold every day. Probably even more than 180,000.

      Even if you extrapolate the first three weeks of iPhone 4 sales, Android phones are still outselling the iPhone.

      And of course, in reality, the gap is growing, because iPhone 4 sales are slowing and Android sales are accelerating.

      So much for those who think including iPhone 4 sales would make any difference. That's wrong.
      • super sales

        Er "During the same timespan, more than 160,000 Android phones",, Which specific phone would that be? The one Google just canceled, the one that Verizon just stopped selling, all the Android phones that run version 1.1 and are not going to be upgraded, etc,...

        Say, buy what you like, but all that talk will not make a version 1.1 phone run apps that need version 2.2.

        Just a thought,
      • RE: Android sales surge, surpass iPhone

        @NonZealot You are correct that iPhone sales will go up and down depending on the time of year and expected release of the next version. The same can also be expected to a certain degree with Android phones.

        @drphysx This years sales have been phenomenal but all those new owners are now in 2 year contracts. Some of them will upgrade to the next latest and greatest no mater if it is subsidized or not, some will upgrade at the earliest possible time like a year later but a larger portion just want a phone and probably got the cheapest Android phone not caring what the OS is and won't upgrade for some time. This means the explosion in sales is not a given to continue.
    • It's easy to win an argument when you get to make up your own facts

      @NonZealot The problem is not with Apple or Apple fans exaggerating sales, the problem is with your mis-stating the facts. Apple said it had sold 1 (not 3) million iPads after one month, 2 (not 3) million iPads after 2 months and 3 million iPads after 80 days. See the problem?
    • See a problem?

      @NonZealot : Yes I do; you misquoted the first two announcements which were "1 million after 26 days, 2 million after 54 days and over 3 million after 81 days." Of course, you may not like the real numbers, but it shows that iPad sales have held fairly steady at least for the first 3 months.

      Meanwhile, the iPhone4 sold 1 million after only 3 days!
      • RE: Android sales surge, surpass iPhone


        "Meanwhile, the iPhone4 sold 1 million after only 3 days!"

        Yes, and 3 million in 21 days.
        (compared to 3.4 million Android phones)

        See a problem? Exactly. NonZealot is right (despite that his iPad numbers were obviously wrong, but the point of his post is right).
      • RE: Android sales surge, surpass iPhone

        "Yes, and 3 million in 21 days.
        (compared to 3.4 million Android phones)"

        Er, exactly which Android phone would that be? Remember that when you sell 50 different phones, each running different versions of software, it can sound good but is it really good.

        Just a thought,
    • I totally understand

      wow, just wow. You do not get your info from a Microsoft internal source or such do you??? Cause using the name "NonZealot" seems to be equal to "Apple hater, MS lover" (paid political announcement**).

      "Numbers for new phone sales are important for developers because of the lead times for new apps and games"

      A question. Which Android phone are you referencing when you talk about how great it is selling??? Cause I hear that Apps must be tweaked for each phone, and sometimes each seller to make them work. And some apps only work on the latest phone and since no one seems to be doing major updating, what you buy is what you get.

      Gee, that would make about 200 + different Android phones out there, most not very compatiable with the rest.

      But, hey whatever numbers make you feel the best. Buy what you like, enjoy what you buy.

      Just a thought,
      • Doesn't matter what Android phone is selling...

        ** Actually this is not a direct response to eldenorm but to others in the thread **

        The bottom line is that it is the OS and the experience that the users are buying into. To the uneducated, nobody is selling Android 1.1 phones. They are all at least 1.5 by now but the real big sellers are the 2.x like Droid, Incredible, X. The lower end phones like Eris (I am most familiar with Verizon so but you get the idea) are still out there and the various form factors are appealing to some.

        Choice is important. Maybe I want a slide out keyboard like the Droid, maybe I want a huge 4.3" display with HD video recording and HDMI out like the X, maybe I want a BlackBerry-style keyboard like the new Motorola Charm. Android makes this possible.

        Those older OS versions are for phones whose hardware would not be able to handle the new version. That's not much different from Apple who say that all of their devices can be upgraded to the latest version but not all of the features are supported on the older ones.
  • RE: Android sales surge, surpass iPhone

    And all you Android guys will be running Rustock bots on your open platform in no time.
    nim chimpsky
    • RE: Android sales surge, surpass iPhone

      @nim chimpsky Actually, a PDF can crack open any iOS device. So, I'd say the iPhools are much more vulnerable.
      • Nicely done!!

        No coming back from that one. :)
      • iPhools LOL!

        @Droid101: iPhools LOL!
  • RE: Android sales surge, surpass iPhone

    once apple starts selling iphones in all carriers, say in 3 years, those numbers will be interesting. For only being with att, iphone marketshare is great.

    once the iphone goes the tmobile and verizon, android sales with those carriers will slow down
    • Hey stop spoiling their shortsighted high!