Should BlackBerry have gone Android? The answer is no - and these numbers show why

Should BlackBerry have gone Android? The answer is no - and these numbers show why

Summary: If switching to Android would have been so great for Nokia and BlackBerry, why hasn't it helped Sony and LG more, let alone HTC?


The recent woes of BlackBerry have resulted in the the predictable suggestions that instead of ploughing ahead with its BlackBerry 10 operating system, it should have taken its design chops and security knowhow and jumped on the Android bandwagon.

You can make the same argument about Nokia — after all, wouldn't that great Lumia camera have sold more phones on Android?

Five alternative futures for BlackBerry

Five alternative futures for BlackBerry

Five alternative futures for BlackBerry

But how many Android phone makers have actually hit the big time with big sales, or better yet, big profits?

The Android market is famously dominated by Samsung, which sells almost seven times as many phones as the number three player worldwide: LG. Also an Android phone maker, LG sold only 10 million phones in Q1 2013 compared to Samsung's 70 million (according to IDC, or 64 million according to Gartner). Apple, of course, has the number two slot, with some 38 million handsets.

It's the same in Q2. IDC says Samsung shipped 72 million smartphones compared to 31 million iPhones, but LG shipped 12 million smartphones — closely followed by 11 million smartphones from Lenovo and 10 million from ZTE.  

What about Sony, which has a strong brand, strong design skills and plenty of assets to leverage for marketing its Android phones? Sony doesn't even make it to the top five phone brands for Q1, with 9.6 million phones (from its own sales figures; Gartner and ABI Research had estimated numbers closer to 8 million).

If that's all Nokia or BlackBerry could expect from jumping off their 'burning platforms' onto Android, it hardly seems worthwhile.

In the same Q1, with the operating systems some pundits say they should have dumped, Gartner and IDC say BlackBerry shipped 6.3 million phones and sold 6.2 million phones and Windows Phone shipped 7 million and sold 5.9 million (5.6 million of those were Lumias). In Q2 2013, Nokia sold 7.4 million Lumias and BlackBerry shipped 6.8 million units (according to their own figures; Gartner and IDC both estimate total Windows Phone sales at just over 7.4 million).

The number of phones you sell if you aren't Samsung or Apple

So what about the money? Although Nokia is doing best with its cheaper models such as the Lumia 520 and the non-Windows Phone Asha handsets, Strategy Analytics figures for Q1 2013 show Nokia is doing comparatively well in terms of actual dollars. Number one is Samsung, with $23.62bn in sales; number two is Apple, with $22.95bn worth of phones (so the same amount of money for only half the units sold).

When Strategy Analytics did its report back in May, it put Nokia third with sales of $3.64bn and LG fourth with $2.95bn in revenue from mobile phones. HTC only managed $1.4bn revenue in the same period (although it did bump back up to $2.4bn for Q2).

Once you get past the combined sales of Samsung and Apple, which are about ten times as high as most of the Android phone makers, Android doesn't look like such a company saviour.

The 156 million Android phone sales in the first quarter of this year were made up of one big player, Samsung, and a lot of small players, with the five most-successful selling around 10 million phones each.

Even worse, unless you make the screens and ARM chips and Flash memory that go in the Android phones you see, it seems to be remarkably hard to make any money from them. According to Strategy Analytics, Samsung made 94.7% of all the Android smartphone profits in Q1 2103, followed by LG with 2.5% and the last 2.7% shared by every other Android phone maker.

With those kinds of figures, sticking to their own operating system should sound more attractive to BlackBerry and Nokia than ever.

Further reading

Topics: Smartphones, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone

Mary Branscombe

About Mary Branscombe

Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things inbetween.

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  • You guys are full of it.

    Blackberry still had a following and bringing their Custom Apps as well as solid security to an Android based Blackberry would have sold.

    As for Nokia, they're their own worst enemy! I know people that wanted to try the 925 and I know people that want the 1020 Camera but, the AT&T exclusive deals are leaving those people in the cold. Granted, none are a fan of the WP8 but, that might just be because it isn't familiar to them.
    • lol Nokia would be king if they would have gone Android.

      Where do people get nonsense like this article.
      • There is no need to be King

        to survive in Android OS market. HTC is not doing good last year but it is still making profit. Nokia is the King in WP but it is still facing financial difficulties. If Nokia can make profit by using Android, whether it can be King is not really important. What Nokia currently needed is money, not being the leader of an OS that other manufacturers don't even care. What is worse is WP is not helping Nokia to solve its financial difficulties.
        • Yep for a business, the key is making money

          For many years Apple made money being far from the market leader. That said, it IS better to be the leader but you don't have to be. You just need to make a profit.
        • 0.1% operating margin?

          You might want to look at the HTC figures again. Or the Motorola operating margin of -28% (that's negative 28%). Or the fact that barely 5% of the profit of all Android phones goes to Samsung who ships only 50% of Android phones. It's not the revenue, it's how much of it you get to keep.
          • samsung is special

            they make most of the parts that go into the phones, all the little chips and the like samsung can fab themselves whereas others must buy from a company who can fab it.
        • Re: There is no need to be King

          Case in point: Lenovo's recent quarterly result. Windows business: $7 billion revenue. Android business: $1.2 billion revenue. Guess which one is more profitable, and grew 105% year-on-year?
          • Your logic is missing (if you ever had any to begin with)...

            An established business will normally not show a high rate of growth, while a new business, or a new division, could show stratospheric growth rates; meanwhile, the established business has a greater chance of survival, and of steady revenue and profits.

            Now, go back to grade school to learn some common sense, because, logic is too hard for you.
      • I would have had one

        Much prefer to go with nokia quality rather than samsung packed with gimmicks, which admittedly I do use a fair few of.

        Not wanting WP was the decider for me.
        Little Old Man
        • I would have loved to see

          A Nokia device with Android - I'd be willing to bet that their devices would not have near the amount of flaws and issues the Samsung devices do.
          • athynz: You're kidding, right? The biggest flaw with Android devices is,

            Android itself.

            Because of that, Android will be dead and buried in about 5 years, perhaps less.
          • I'm no apple fan but

            who do you propose will climb the hill and knock google's child off?
          • Dual Boot

            Right now Android is most widespread and it's free. Blackberry can take advantage by "standing on the shoulders of giants" by dual booting Android. Give users the choice of using BB10 or Android. This will buy them a few years to enhance BB10. The phones will have two O/S. BB10 by day and Android after office.
            Mc Wong
    • Nokia made the right decision

      Nokia had a bad relationship with US carriers before this, and the AT&T exclusivity was their way of getting their foot in the door here.

      The only difference with Android would have been that they would have a partner (Google) who doesn't want them to do well (Google is competing with hardware - nexus & money pit Motorola). Microsoft hands Nokia a billion every quarter and backs them, as much as Microsoft (or an bloated behemoth) can.

      Nokia would be following Blackberry or HTC's path if they were on Android.
      • no, they did not

        their decision to not go with android may have been a good one but going with windows was an extremely poor choice.

        A co. like nokia needed its own ecosystem. They did finally have one with meego and just as that matured, they chucked it !

        If they WERE going to adopt someone else's they may as well have gone with an established player like android or even blackberry.
        • nokia running bb

          that would have been a curiosity to be sure
    • Oh, give it a rest, already. People don't buy phones because

      they are running Android. They buy phones because they like the usability of the brand.
      • Unless they crave the cool factor like.....

        Anyway, your sweeping statement isn't true of everyone (there's a surprise). I would have gone nokia but didn't want WP. How does that work within your made up little generalisations?
        Little Old Man
        • Welldid you "want" android or would yet another OS have done you on Nokia?

          Now tha is the question is it not?

          Pagan jim
          James Quinn
          • I didn't want IOS

            which really only left android. Out of the three I wanted android. I didnt want a WP or an ios phone so I guess I did want android more than I wanted nokia.
            Little Old Man