Android eating iOS away in APAC

Google's mobile OS already leading in Asia-Pacific region, say analysts who note users lured by advanced features of open source platform and affordability.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Google Android's position as the top mobile platform in the Asia-Pacific region will unlikely be threatened by the Apple iOS, despite one survey which showed that some Android users are looking to switch to Cupertino's device, according to market observers.

In the second quarter of 2011, the region's top three smartphone operating systems (OSes) were Google Android, Nokia Symbian and Apple iOS, according to findings by multiple research firms.

Wong Teck Zhung, senior market analyst at IDC China, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview that Android-based devices make up about half of the Asia-Pacific shipments during the second quarter, while Symbian and iOS accounted for 25 percent, and 18 percent, respectively.

Smartphone OS ranking in Southeast Asia differed slightly, Beijing-based Wong said. Android led at 32 percent, followed by Symbian at 30 percent while Research in Motion's BlackBerry sits at No. 3 with 19 percent.

In comparison, the top three smartphone OS worldwide in Q2 were Android, iOS and Symbian, he shared. Wong attributed Symbian's higher share in the Asia-Pacific region to the availability of affordable Symbian handsets targeted at the region as well as Nokia's decision to reduce its emphasis on Symbian in the United States.

Jessica Kwee, research analyst at Canalys, noted that the strength of the Android platform is the support from different vendors such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung.

These Android handset vendors are pushing to be at the forefront of mobile technology, she said in a phone interview. Many have ambitions to be "No. 1" in terms of tapping dual core, Long-Term Evolution (LTE) or 3D technology for their handsets, she noted.

These new features will likely attract new users to the Android platform, with some even switching from different OS, she said, adding that the iPhone can be slower in terms of technology advancement.

iOS to lose users, share to Android
A study in the United States published this month found that some Android users are considering switching to the iPhone.

However, Abhishek Chauhan, Frost & Sullivan's associate director of ICT practice for the Asia-Pacific, said a switch from Android to the iPhone is "highly unlikely" in the Asia-Pacific region.

In his e-mail, he noted that such a switch happened "only in one case", that is in the U.S, when operator Verizon Wireless started offering Apple's handsets. Previously, AT&T had the monopoly on the iPhone in the country.

"Since the iPhone was not available on Verizon network earlier, many Verizon users were forced to choose an Android phone. They wanted to buy the iPhone but could not do so because it required shifting to [the] somewhat inferior AT&T network. Once iPhone became available on Verizon, it was natural that they switched to [the] iPhone," he explained.

Adding on to Canalys' Kwee's observation that Android phones are more technologically advanced than the iPhone, Chauhan said not only do Android phone manufacturers have a faster release cycle, customers also have a greater choice of Android models.

While the iPhone still leads in terms of ease of use and size of its appstore, Chauhan pointed out that gap has narrowed.

That said, Chauhan noted that the rumored iPhone 5 will be the deciding factor if Apple can stop the current trend of losing market share relative to Android.

London-based Ovum analyst Nick Dillon added in an e-mail that while there will always be users switching between the iPhone and Android, most of the growth for Google's platform will come from current feature phone users opting for Android devices when the price dips below US$100--comparable with the lower-end device segment.

"As the iPhone is a premium device, it will not be able to compete at the low-price end of the market," he said, adding that this trend will occur on a global basis but especially so in the more price-sensitive markets.

Current Android user Benjamin Chew shared with ZDNet Asia that he switched from the iPhone 3GS to a Samsung device running on Android because the OS allows him to custom the look and feel of the phone's user interface with widgets.

He also noted that the iOS is "sucky" and requires him to install iTunes on every computer he plugs his phone into.

But one Apple user has decided to stay loyal. Wes Wong, a iPhone 3GS user, said that he will most likely switch to the iPhone 5 when it is released.

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