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Day May 11, 2011

Measuring iPhone progress

Speaking of boats, there were recent claims that the iPhone is “dead in the water“. As someone who has done some sailing I can say that being dead in the water is dangerous. Not only are you not going anywhere but you also don’t have steering control. It’s movement through the water that allows a rudder to work so being stationary means that you can’t orient the boat when waves or wind might threaten stability.

This implied inability to gain directional control is what makes the accusation so powerful. How valid is it? That claim certainly was not made because the iPhone did not grow. iPhone grew at 113% year on year. It even grew sequentially in a post-holiday quarter and the growth is not slowing materially.

The claim was made that iPhone was not gaining share. But share of what? If we look at the iPhone share of all phones and share of smartphones, it’s still growing. It reached 5% share of all phones sold in the quarter and fourth most popular vendor in the world. Beating RIM, HTC, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and ZTE.

So what makes the iPhone dead in the water?

A rising tide does not lift leaking ships

I’ve often said that the smartphone rising tide has lifted many boats. If you were selling smartphones during the last three years, your business was growing, no matter what phones you made.

In fact, measuring success and failure was a matter of deciding what growth rate was “not good enough”. Growing at 30% was nearly enough to shame some vendors into re-evaluating their strategies.

But that sort of tidal growth can’t last. At some point  ships with holes begin to sink no matter what the tide brings.

When we look at the data from the last quarter, we should be asking again whether some ships have developed some leaks.