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The curious case of slowing US growth for Android

The latest data from comScore MobiLens is showing an uncharacteristic slowing in smartphone growth. In the survey period ending November, the number of smartphone users in the US was 91.4 million. This is equivalent to 39.1% penetration, an increase of 0.6% (i.e. up from 38.5% in the last period.)

The growth is equivalent to 1.4 million new smartphone users (i.e. users who switched from a non-smart device for the first time.) The problem is that this is half the growth of the previous period. The following chart shows the growth as the weekly add rate.

As you can see, the growth has fallen to a level not seen since 2010. The cause may be seasonal as last November was also a slow month. I added a three month moving average which shows that although there seems to be seasonality, the last period did not show the peak of previous periods.

To better understand what happened, I looked at the performance by platform. The following chart shows the net user gains by platform.

What appears immediately is that Android growth was the primary cause of a change in the pattern. The iPhone grew slightly more slowly sequentially but the difference between November and previous periods is not great (941k adds vs. an average of 904k over the previous 12 months.) BlackBerry moderated its losses and Windows is quite a small influence on the market.

Android gain was 1.2 million vs a trailing twelve months’ average of 2.24 million. Android’s slowing in the US is significant.

We also have access to additional data from Google themselves. We had an update that showed that by late November there were 200 million Android devices activated. We also had an update from mid October of 190 million activations. That makes the increase in activations of at least 10 million during the same period that comScore was measuring the US.

comScore’s increase in Android users of 1.2 million then becomes even more interesting. It implies that the US consumers were responsible for no more than 12% of Android activations in the November time frame.

Furthermore we can derive from comScore’s data the total devices in use in the US by platform: the figure for Android is 42.9 million (46.9% of 91.4 million smartphones in use). By the end of November, the total activations from Android adds up to about 204 million. Excluding some devices which may be out of use, we can estimate that about 20% of all active Android phones are in use in the US. Conversely 80% of Android devices are in use outside the US.

This means that the US share of Android activations is decreasing. From a cumulative average of 20% to a recent 12%.

So the mystery of what caused the slowing in Android (and hence in all smartphones) in the US remains. Seasonal effects would affect all platforms equally and that is not the case. I’m not comfortable ascribing a cause until we hear more evidence and the pattern is more established. But something does seem to be happening.

[Update: The source data is available here. Note:  multiple tabs.]

  • http://ximagin.co/ The CW

    At some point, all the sales incentives and advertising in the world can’t make up for an unsatisfactory user experience. There isn’t enough lipstick for some pigs.

    • http://ximagin.co/ The CW

      Sorry, I had to channel my inner “fanboi.” What would be more useful in judging Android is not the number of activations but the number of devices that have Google as their primary search and Google applications locked in. Since Google sees no profit from Android per se, isn’t their only metric of value the number of devices feeding them advertising eyeballs?

      • Dan

        Maybe, but iOS is not a reliable income generator for Google. Apple can change the default search engine at any time, and Siri uses Google less than a regular user would. Android promises more control for Google.

      • Anonymous

        Yes. Control. That’s what ‘open’ is all about, apparently.

      • Anonymous

        This is the fundamental mistake of many analysts.  If Google ever intended to lock down Android, it wouldn’t have released it under the licenses it did.  Google, unlike Apple or Microsoft, was not trying to create a software platform it controlled.

        Google’s goal was much more modest.  Rather than seeking control, it was trying to make sure that neither Apple nor Microsoft was in control.  Rather than locking in the platform for themselves, they simply made sure no one company was in a position to lock Google out.

      • http://twitter.com/zzbar Joe Zou

        if you really believe that, I have a bridge connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn  for sale. 

      • OpenMinde

        And I have a tower in Paris for sale, too.

      • Anonymous

        I’ve said this myself and enthusiastically agree.

      • Counternotions

        You can’t possibly be so naive as to not know that 2/3 of Google’s mobile ad revenue actually comes from iOS devices, can you?

      • Anonymous

        Yes, well put, Seethelunatic! I agree that seems to have been Google’s original intent. However with the unexpected success, it seems that the temptation to exert more control over official licensees has been too much to resist.

        As to the unreliability of iOS, that’s been a self fulfilling prophecy. Apple was clearly happy to work with Google to an unprecedented degree. So long as Google services were first rate (as they still are) I think it’s inconceivable Apple would have pulled them out of iOS — except tha Google chose to take another path. In the end if Apple successfully chooses to cut Google out that will be a costly decision on Google’s part.

      • Anonymous

        They have a deal.  Apple charges what the market will bear at deal time, Google pays if the price seems acceptable.  Like many time-based deals at renewal time each may re-evaluate their position such that a meeting of minds is not possible and the deal is discontinued.

        Since Apple isn’t involved in search advertising to me that outcome seems unlikely.  Bing could bid more but they’re $2B in the hole annually already and there’s other bonfires that extra money could be thrown into like cloud and brilliant acquisitions like Skype.

      • Anonymous

        Uh…devices that Google reports as activated have the Google applications.  That’s why they report to Google.  Yes, you can have Android without Google, but those don’t count.

        For example, Google has no idea how many Kindle Fires have been sold.

        Nice try on the FUD, though.

      • http://ximagin.co/ The CW

        Heh heh. You so crazy.

      • http://twitter.com/qka qka

        What about Verizon Androids that use Google apps, but Bing as a search engine?

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for reminding us that Verizon Bings their Android phones.  A good reason to avoid Verizon if you can.

      • Lolzore

        They haven’t done that for months. I’m using a great LTE phone with pure Google search.

    • Lolzore

      That applies to iOS more than anything, silly fanboy.

      • http://ximagin.co/ The CW

        Cite me the sales incentive figures offered by carriers to sell iPhones.

      • jawbroken

        How do you explain the large gap in user satisfaction between the two platforms?

  • Luis Alejandro Masanti

    As a side note, Apple usually is “production constrained,” not “demand constrained,” so –if this is a valid hipotesis– the “stable” grow of iPhone should be more significant.
    Usually, Android phones have “no production constrain” so the decrese –maybe– is only attributable to the market forces.

    • Anonymous

      This is the first thought that crossed my mind as well. With Verizon and Sprint now carrying the iPhone, a preference to stay off AT&T is no longer as valid of a reason to select an Android app phone over an iPhone.  And with a new iPhone 4S hitting the market at the beginning of this quarter, there is timing incentive to change.  Yet the iPhone is basically production constrained.  How much of the drop in Android sales represents delayed iPhone sales demand?  

      As another data point to consider; recall that HTC made a major downward revision in their current quarter guidance in November, which they attributed in part to market forces. Their original earnings estimate was only 3 weeks old.

    • Anonymous

      No, it’s just diminishing returns.  There’s only so much market and Android and iOS have taken up so much of the available market that there’s less market to get from others so of course they get diminished growth rates.  Neither one could grow to 3x their current market share, or they’d have more than 100%.  The market is growing quickly, but not THAT quickly that either one can stay on their historic unit growth trend.

      The graph only goes back to January 2010, before which Android’s rise was meteoric.  Apple’s meteoric rise was two years prior but less steep because their target market is more dynamically conservative.  (This conservative reference is not social, political nor financial, just people’s willingness to accept dynamic change.  The dynamic conservativeness of Apple’s target market works in their favor as their customers will be more loyal.  The dynamic progressiveness of Android’s target market works in their favor by capturing a sustainable market share quickly, but works against Android in that customers will be less loyal so they are more pressed to deliver continuous progress.)

      The difference in slope is just things coming to equilibrium.  We are near the end of this upheaval.  I’m afraid by the end of 2012 there will be only these two.  The other formerly big players will not be able to cope with the sudden loss of their unit sales and margin, and will collapse.

      • Anonymous

        Horace will correct me if I’m wrong, but the idea that this is showing market constraints just doesn’t add up. Last I looked, there was plenty of “blue sky” for additional smartphone growth, even in the U.S.. And symbolset, you are quick to throw Apple under the “impossible to grow 3x” bus. I would argue that the “end game” hasn’t been reached yet, which I define as occurring when Apple can finally manage to keep up with demand. At that point, Apple’s continued growth will be more a case of whether or not it can win converts from the Android side of the house. If it can, it can “eat Android’s lunch” like it’s eaten everyone else’s, and grow into their market share. In that instance, 3x would be imminently doable.

        I’d also suggest that the patent battles are far from over, which also can help chip away at some of Android’s early success.

        Finally, there’s the whole issue of “Googerola”. If Google decides to throw its weight behind a “walled garden” version of Android running out of Motorola, then Samsung, HTC, et al are basically doomed. That could hugely impact the ability of Apple to pick up Android customers.

    • Anonymous

      The iPhone is indeed production constrained, but there is also a bias towards supplying the US market (especially Apple Stores) with the limited world-wide supply of iPhones.  So while that constraint has a big effect world-wide it has a lesser effect in the US.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5BHLNE6HC75ETNMNDKEEKLMF3M Steve Pederson

    I’m not as reluctant to guess (and I appreciate your discipline in not doing so)… perhaps we’ve reached the level of penetration where new users start to become a bit harder to attract? The Apple number conflating this factor with its well documented rise in share after release of 4S (+availability on Sprint, +free 3GS option on AT&T)

    • http://kaizenity.blogspot.com/ FalKirk

      I have often wondered how the dynamics of the smart phone market would change once smart phones reached saturation and smart phone companies had to take share from one another rather than from “non-consumers”. However, I don’t think we’re at that point yet  – although the day may soon be upon us.

      • http://twitter.com/WaltFrench Walt French

        Yeah, this is why Apple is advertising Siri to people who lock themselves out of cars or eat too many Christmas cookies. (Not the people who buy based on tech specs, which is a large fraction of the Android core — and one which Apple can’t hope to dislodge.) These are not the jobs that people used to hire phones for, but which Apple says it can serve.

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.scariati James Scariati

    I wonder if the slowing Android growth has anything to do with the iPhone being on Verizon and now Sprint. For the first four years the iPhone was on the market, it was AT&T-only, so if you couldn’t or didn’t want to go with them, Android was your next best bet. But now that the iPhone is on Verizon and Sprint, contracts for users on those networks who bought Android phones in 2009/2010 are now expiring, and they now have the option of switching to the iPhone.

    • http://wmilliken.livejournal.com/ Walter Milliken

      I was initially thinking the same thing, but it doesn’t really explain the timing — Verizon users have had the option for some months now, as their early-termination contracts expire. You shouldn’t see such a big impact in a single month from platform switchers, as far as I can figure it, since it depends on when they committed to their contract.

      Basically, from the data, it looks like suddenly a whole bunch of people (presumably mostly current dumbphone users) who would ordinarily have bought Android devices decided instead to buy nothing — there’s no obvious corresponding spike in iPhones in November.

      I suppose it’s possible that potential Android buyers currently using dumbphones did buy iPhones, but had to wait until December to actually get them and activate them (so they don’t show up in November data), but this seems a little far-fetched; I don’t remember the US iPhone lag climbing above about two weeks. Depending on comScore’s month sampling boundaries relative to the iPhone becoming available, this might be possible. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

      • Billy

        I don’t think Comscore is reporting the whole enchilada of Novembers’ data. Also they aren’t doing and ending total but a 3 month average.

      • Anonymous

        It’s just possible that Siri has had a more profound effect than most think. Perhaps people who were prepared to invest in Android decided that Siri was interesting enough to hold out for Apple. If we see a mammoth move towards the 4s in the January figures from Apple, then it may be as simple as that. It would also explain why this appears to be more of a U.S. circumstance.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=741717344 Dick Applebaum

        That is an interesting possibility.   AFAIK, there haven’t been any comprehensive polls or surveys that have identified Siri as a major factor for choosing the iPhone 4S.

        I had an iPhone 4 before the 4S was announced and didn’t think that Apple could do much to improve on the hardware — I planned to skip the new model.

        I watched the keynote and hadn’t changed my mind until Phil brought Scott up to present Siri…

        For me, that was it — just like pinch-zoom on the original iPhone…

        I knew then, that I wanted to be a participant in the emergence of that new technology!

      • http://twitter.com/WaltFrench Walt French

        Your anecdote shows up in surveys as the #1 feature that people like about the 4S. No buyers’ remorse here but instead, over-delivering against the pundits’ “disappointment” at the incrementalism.

      • Anonymous

        There was a “Calling all the pretty faces” ad for the Galaxy Nexus and another for the Razr on today’s NFL broadcast. While that indicates the big difficulty of selling the top end Androids as they compete against each other, it may also explain a part of the dip in sales. If iTards can wait around for the 4s, maybe Droidtards can hold off, as well.

      • Anonymous

        There was a “Calling all the pretty faces” ad for the Galaxy Nexus and another for the Razr on today’s NFL broadcast. While that indicates the big difficulty of selling the top end Androids as they compete against each other, it may also explain a part of the dip in sales. If iTards can wait around for the 4s, maybe Droidtards can hold off, as well.

      • http://www.facebook.com/james.scariati James Scariati

        “I suppose it’s possible that potential Android buyers currently using dumbphones did buy iPhones, but had to wait until December to actually get them and activate them (so they don’t show up in November data)”

        Could be…maybe since the iPhone 4S was “late” this year, people who would have bought it over the summer instead opted to wait until Christmas when it was announced in September instead?

    • r.d

      if you look at rate of growth
      http://fortunebrainstormtech.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/screen-shot-2011-12-30-at-5-59-34-am.png
      on Apple 2.0 Blog
      then you can see that February that was real hit to growth of Androind
      then again in November both are month when new carrier was introduced
      so if T-mobile is added then all Android growth will be gone in US
      and Google will start touting emerging markets.

  • http://antoinerjwright.com Antoine RJ Wright

    Its market saturation. The total cost of owing am Android device comes into play here. Then there’s the issue of replacement cycles and how the activation number doesn’t consider that. Will come back to flesh this out. Am mobile on a Symbian device ;);)

    • Billy

      A coworker just got a new Galaxy something the other day, she only knew to install the Facebook app and maybe use the camera. I think we are calling the market “Smartphones” but the real usage is showing us that its iPhones versus mini-smartphone.

      • Anonymous

        Agree, it’s iPhones versus rich feature phones (an even lesser designation than “mini-smartphone”).

      • Lolzore

        The Galaxy S2 is considered a feature phone? Get back to me when you come out of moron land.

      • Lolzore

        Do you honestly think she would do anything more on an iPhone had she bought one? A Galaxy S2 ain’t cheap (it’s a flagship Android phone), so people are obviously seeing the value in Android. You’re such an ignorant iOS fanboy.

      • Chris

        Since we’re talking anecdotes, I don’t think the comparison is that valid. At least in my experience not all the people I know with an iPhone actually use it for more than we used to use feature phones for. Even those people I know with a huge collection of apps don’t actually use most of them, unless they are games.

        Smartphone is a usage model, not a device and I think it’s way too early to be making any conclusions about the relative merits of the platforms. People are not all ready for smart mobility yet, that’s all.

  • Anonymous

    When I got my first girlfriend I thought WOW! Then the novelty of boobs for their own sake wore off and I started to think about the right kind of girlfriend. Android can’t sustain itself because it’s shallow and doesn’t engage. It’s very susceptible to deep experiential things like Siri. Like boobs, Android is a commodity. It’s been trading on its newness. It’s not new now. Even BB has more character.

    • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo Marcos_El_Malo

      Aside from the fact that this is your opinion and has nothing to do with the data, boobs are still quite popular, even if you yourself have outgrown them. I don’t have any hard numbers, but I’m willing to bet that, given the growth in the market for boobs, there has been no slow down in demand for them.

      • Z Kariv

        Any numbers?

  • http://twitter.com/teroterotero Tero Kuittinen

    Here is what I don’t get about comScore data showing a seasonally slow November in both 2010 and 2011: November is not a slow month.  HTC’s monthly data showed a big build from autumn to November in 2010 (of course, this year is different due to HTC’s troubles). GfK’s monthly data in Europe for several years has shown November stronger than October and October stronger than September. US carrier numbers would seem to imply that November has to be a strong month – 4Q additions could not be so high on December strength alone.

    I have never seen any other data source implying that November is a soft month. Of course, it could be that US smartphone sales softened in November 2011 due to the overall economic climate. But that wasn’t the case in 2010 – yet comScore showed November weakness in 2010 as well.

    It would also seem odd that iPhone sales would decline from October to November considering that it’s a brand new device now also available at Verizon and Sprint. Comparing iPhone sales in November to 12-month average may not be the best way to look at the number, since we know that the previous model sales softened during the summer as it aged.

    I don’t know about comScore…

    • Billy

      I don’t think they weigh in all of November, they must cut it off halfway through and this accounts for smaller reported numbers. One other thing they only report averages instead of factual numbers at a closing date. Doing it this way allows them to hide low numbers should they occur by pooling the months together.

  • http://twitter.com/zzbar Joe Zou

    AT&T CFO said October and November had record breaking smart phone sales: 
    http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=22107&cdvn=news&newsarticleid=33471&mapcode=corporate|financial

    How does this square with comScore results?

  • Westechm

    I am bothered by the disconnect between the reported estimates of Android phone sales and my day to day personal experience.  I see a lot more iPhones in ‘the wild’ than I see Android phones.  This was really brought home to me on a recent train trip on the Acela (Boston to New Jersey) where I noticed many more iPhones than all other types combined.  I do know people who have Android phones and like them, but I know a lot more people who have iPhones and love them.
    I can think of three possible explanations for this:1, Small sample giving a distorted view;2. A higher proportion of iPhones remaining  in use longer after purchase than Android phones;3. The estimates for the number of Android phones sold are erroneous.

    Also note that internet traffic and on mobile e-tail with iPhones is far greater than with Android phones.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed: fine observation. Check out the rather checkered history of comScore and how it obtains its data (just google comScore spyware). The blogosphere loves data, any data, that can generate large numbers of hits, but I fail to see why this particular company’s data should be reflexively accorded dignity as unquestionably accurate.  Why not the slightest skepticism in any of the dozens of blog articles using it?

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        comScore’s data is used because they publish it. It is subject to scrutiny in the public domain, as you yourself are doing. If you have better data, please publish it as well.

      • Anonymous

        But you, yourself, are giving comScore an enhanced reputation by your use of it on your highly influential blog. Note that from at least as early as 2007 there were challenges by the IAB to the lack of transparency of comScore and a major media push by the Media Ratings Council to talk up its supposed auditing of comScore, but all references to this supposed audit ceased two years ago.  To date there has been AFAIK no accountability of the data they churn out, even though it is widely disseminated and finds its way into countless analyses.

        And by the way, the onus is on comScore to provide enhanced transparency, not on individual readers of their data to do their own research and attempt to disprove it.

    • Mark

      Agreed as well. I’m spending this week in Florida, and iPhones clearly outnumber Androids at Disney World and SeaWorld. Last week, I flew round trip to Salt Lake City passing through Phoenix and new York City, and iPhones outnumber Androids in planes and terminals. And most iPhones are 4 or 4S.

      So just anecdotal, and similar to what I’ve seen on past US travels. Since Androids clearly outnumber iPhones in all these surveys, I can only postulate that iPhone owners travel more.

      • Lolzore

        In airports? Sure, because all the rich travelers willing to show off their social status use the overpriced iPhone. In places where people go on a weekly basis, you’ll see plenty, PLENTY of Android users with flagship phones.

      • http://www.noisetech-software.com/Home.html Steven Noyes

        Free is overpriced?  The only reason people would choose an iPhone is to show status?

        Granted, there is definitely an ownership cachet to Apple products but part of the reason is they have earned a reputation for high quality with high technology.

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo Marcos_El_Malo

        I use a dirt cheap Samsung dumb phone and I ride the freakin’ bus, and you don’t see me trying to turn iPhone vs. Android into a class warfare issue. But then, I’m not a troll or a whiner.

      • http://twitter.com/WaltFrench Walt French

        Even more, you seem to have a good grasp of reality, which posters at some sites, on both sides of the useless battle line, seem to lack. This site’s about analysis, wherever it leads, not beating our breasts about how savvy/wonderful we are for having been born in the town with the winning team.

      • http://twitter.com/WaltFrench Walt French

        Rich people use iPhones for conspicuous consumption, but others buy “flagship” (top of the line, I guess) Androids out of their constrained income? So the technical cachet of being able to e.g., install an alternate keyboard on Android only extends over the bottom half of the income distribution of Americans? *There’s* a market that marks it for success: “low-income nerds love it! ®”

        Back to reality land: I fly 50–70 times a year, mostly on business. My flights are filled with frequent (aka, business) flyers. (I don’t fly the 10AM Minneapolis–Honolulu, JFK–LAX or DFW–MIA flights that your upwardly mobile types might favor.) Instead, I occasionally hear that over half the passengers are frequent flyers, and the front two-thirds of the planes I’m on match that. Business travelers NEED a mobile phone, every single one.

        Two other business type features: (1) their time is valuable to their company, even if they don’t get a huge salary and they can’t spend it screwing around customizing home pages etc., and (2) if they show up in Chicago with a bricked phone they are F***ED, big time. Even more so if it was because they got hacked or had a crash. They just cost their employer a couple of thousand dollars of travel and who knows how much in missed deals, timely responses, etc. THAT will weigh on their next review.

        Yes, iPhones are susceptible to problems, too; BlackBerry’s old phones are probably still the reliability champs. But Androids have a deservedly terrible reputation on the two features that matter most to people who you sneer at as conspicuous consumers.

        Get over it: with Apple having sold many tens of millions of iPhones in the US, they are NOT all going to those people you envy/sneer at. You’re just writing sour grapes. Not helpful to understanding the market except for the clique that shares your prejudices, but we can’t tell how many Android sales went to people who mask their emotional decisions with claims that everybody else is stupid.

    • Anonymous

      Or it could be that the observation made by another poster (that the Android usage pattern resembles that of a feature phone) is true.  If 2/3 of the riders on your train are carrying Android phones but only pull them out occasionally (or when they need to make or answer a call) then what you will see is the 1/3 who carry the iPhone (because they will have their phone out more often).

    • http://www.noisetech-software.com/Home.html Steven Noyes

      I simply think the iPhone is more “iconic” and stands out better.  There are many Android phones that don’t look like an Android (small screen/slider keyboard) and you may very well miss them.

      I know at the local coffee shop the ratio seems to be about 3:2 in Android’s favor.  Oddly, however, the iPhones simply stand out more.  It could be since they all look so close, it just looks like there are more of them out there.

    • Anonymous

      Noticed the same thing.  At airports, hotels, and restaurants in the central US and US west coast and most recently Hawaii.  The ratio of iPhones to Androids was in excess of 5 to 1.  On my most recent vacation over the holidays, it was closer to 10 to 1 — because I can remember counting on one hand the number of Androids I saw over that 2 week span.

    • Marian

      I see plenty of Androids in NYC subway (although I see a LOT of iPhone too). And I paid attention to the type of person who had either of them. While my non-scientific study doesn’t cover all the demographics, I’d say that:
      – Most of the lower-to-middle class (blue collar or similar), that are usually non-white (asian or hispanic usually) have Android
      – Afluent-looking people and young people (student-looking and/or hipster-looking) have iPhone

      So I’d say that Android is way more successful to uneducated less rich people. Since money is not an issue (both require a data plan, and iPhones start at $0), imho there are 2 factors:
      – uninformed, uneducated people are duped by the carrier’s salesman; they didn’t do the research in advance, they don’t know which is better for them, so they trust the guy that sells phones
      – perception of iPhone – I think iPhone is perceived by uninformed people as expensive, and when you earn under the median wage, you might think you can’t afford it, you don’t deserve it, it’s not for you. I make a parallel with my perception of stores like Bergdorf Goodman,Tiffany’s or Cartier – I don’t even go in, because I know I can’t afford their products.

  • Anonymous

    People don’t get that Android and iOS are completely different things – polar opposites in fact.

    • OpenMinde

      Good postulate for 20% informed consumers. For other 80% average Joe, whatever sales rep offers the moment Joe walking into a carrier store, he will take it. Carrier will offer Androids since they cost less to carrier. iPhone is Rome without coffee, Android Rome with coffee. This is how carriers want to present to consumer. One can look at iPad to know what will happen when carrier is cut off from distribution. Brutal to OEM.

      • Anonymous

        Don’t you just love metaphors?

      • Anonymous

        They’re like similes!

      • Anonymous

        The bastard blind-sided me by not using ‘as’ or ‘like’.

      • http://twitter.com/WaltFrench Walt French

        Coffee here in Indonesia is FANTASTIC, best I’ve had. (Think Java, Sulawesi, the original civet coffee, …) Haven’t been to Turkey, Ethiopia or Yemen yet, so I can’t compare to them. But Rome without coffee still has great vino, utterly lacking here.

        Meanwhile as to why carriers *really* push what they do: they benefit from playing manufacturers off against one another. Yes, it’d suck for them if Apple was the only brand that people wanted: consumers could get it from the competitor down the street and it’d be easy to compare pricing, etc. The only way you’d get/keep customers is by a race to the bottom in pricing.

        But that’d ALSO be true if 80% of the customers came in and asked for a BlackBerry 9099 by name. Come time for Verizon to discuss features/pricing for their next BlackBerry, the good people in Waterloo would regret that sales in Brazil (or at T-Mobile) have been picking up quite a bit, and they’ll have to get another $25 per unit to be able to meet the volumes for VZ.

        Carriers have ALWAYS played this game, which I call “keep the manufacturers barefoot and pregnant,” to a tee. No OEM gets enough of their sales to gain any power, either profits, sales percentage, branding or features. BlackBerry broke this a bit, when they were at the top of their game, and could offer BBM that bypassed the ridiculously overpriced TXT charges. And famously, Apple did, too. But Google has been too concerned with their unit growth strategy to try to get profitability or branding for their devices, so it works great for the VZ Store guys to compare different Androids against one another.

    • http://avc.com fredwilson

      Such a great comment. Thanks for sharing that. I’m off to read the cathedral and bazaar posts.

    • Anonymous

      Then people must be switching their ‘innate natures’ when they buy tablets.

  • http://www.kvmswitchdvi.org/ KVM switch USB

    Id like to see some kind of comparison in foreign markets. Of course not sure what you are reporting as an android  device. So many of them.

  • http://mark.opineapple.com/ Mark Newton

    The iPhone 4s was released in the US on 14 October 2011. At the same time, Apple announced that the iPhone 3Gs was available for free, on a plan. We know that many historical Android sales have been made to subscribers who did not want to pay upfront for a handset.

    It seems reasonable to at least entertain the thought that a large percentage of Android’s usual November subscribers decided to instead opt for a free iPhone 3Gs. 

    Could the following factors perhaps explain the situation?:
    • AAPL reports only ‘sell thru’ and doesn’t generally provide any indication of volumes until three weeks after the close of their financial quarter. If Apple moved a lot of 3Gs handsets in November, comScore would not necessarily know until mid-January.
    • On the other hand, Android handset makers report shipments – providing much earlier insight to analysts. comScore also had the opportunity to validate these shipment reports to a degree via Andy Rubin’s 21 Dec and 28 Dec Twitter updates regarding activation rates.

    And so, perhaps Horace’s chart describes a simple timing issue for November – where we have already seen Android’s volumes fall off, but comScore doesn’t yet have the data to call a corresponding bounce in iPhone 3Gs, 4 and 4s sales.

    • http://twitter.com/MarkUry Mark Ury

      Good observation.

    • Anonymous

      Comscore’s numbers are based on a survey of 30K people, not numbers provided by the handset makers (nor Rubin).

      • Anonymous

        So they are. Thanks Josh.

  • Dan Devine

    Compared to the previous October time period (although there is only one showing), it’s improved.

    I think you are making too much out of an annual cycle of device releases.  

    • Anonymous

      Overall volumes are indeed comparable with the previous year.
      The specific Android numbers are the lowest since June 2010.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jlmcnamara John McNamara

    The conclusions that the iphone has something to do with this is ridiculous.  Is the iphone’s superiority the reason android activations have been outpacing the iphone for over 12 consecutive months?  Android has had a more volatile growth than the iphone, which is understandable considering the control Apple has over distribution and production.

    • jawbroken

      I don’t recall any suggestion of this in the article. Who are you responding to?

      • http://thosch.blogsite.org Thomas Schewe

        I think he is responding to Mark Newton.

      • http://mark.opineapple.com/ Mark Newton

        I didn’t draw a conclusion.
        I postulated a theory.

    • James Saldana

      The iPhone 4S was out during the 12 month period your talking about and the 3S free with contract also doesn’t cover that entire period. Plus user satisfaction for Android phones and at some point we were going to see defections. Also just because everyone doesn’t have a smart-phone doesn’t mean the market isn’t near saturation, which may be happening on the low-end were Android dominants – smart-phone used like a feature phone.

      Wrap those three factors together and it could represent a real shift or not.

      We”l have to see where we are 3-6 months from now.

      In any case the data clearly shows a steady decline in Android growth (rate) in the US.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, and there was no way the Wehrmacht could be beaten was there?

      Beware the combatant who has much much more still to deploy.

    • http://twitter.com/WaltFrench Walt French

      John, please see my post, which I wrote before reading yours. It is admittedly speculative, but is consistent with the points you raise. (In a nutshell: since Froyo, Android has done a great job of meeting tech-oriented users’ needs, but *perhaps* has failed to recalibrate its product and marketing message to the majority consumers’ needs. See Wikipedia’s Technological Adoption LifeCycle.)

      Oh, a PS: it’s almost a statistical requirement that subsets of a market show more percentage volatility than the overall, unless something like Apple’s supply constraints is at work, as you say. However, the notion that US Android usage levels is both a large share of the market and also hugely more volatile than the market is more than a bit odd, worthy of comment. Surveys are iffy and you have to read the findings carefully, but I still think we should watch for signs of a big change in our understanding of the markets.

  • Frank van Leeuwen

    Could it be that the seasonality of Android is partly related to (expected) iPhone releases? When new iPhones are about to be released, or people expect a new iPhone to hit the market, people may hold off buying a new phone, anticipating something great from Apple. Then, when the iPhone is finally announced, those people compare the actual iPhone with Anroid phones and may choose for Android anyway, based on specs or price or whatever.

  • James Saldana

    I think the drop in Android subscribers is a result of the iPhone 4S. Potential Android customers forgoes an Android phone for a future iPhone 4S purchase. In any case I think it’s a safe assumption we’ll certainly see a more favorably share/volume for the iPhone in November and December.

    The question is will it last? Will it just be a surge or did the 4S/3S combo initiate a fundamental shift in marketshare?

    There are also a few other factors to consider.

    1. How many WinMoblie and BlackBerry users are left to switch over to iOS and Android?
    2. Is the smartphone market reaching saturation on the low-end dominated by Android sales? In other words people who use Android phones as feature phones while former high-end WinMoblie and BlackBerry users continue to uptake iPhones?
    3. Are we finally seeing Android defections and/or dissatisfaction?

    • Anonymous

      You put forward a lot of interesting thoughts on this one!  For most of these, only time will tell.

      I think the two main factors (in order) are:

      1) The 3GS subsidized at $0.  There are reports projecting Apple to have sold 2 million 3GS phones this quarter.  We can infer from Horace’s crowd sourced Big Mac index that this is a US-centric device.  If the lion’s share of these devices are sold in the US, it speaks volumes about the massive upside potential for cheaper iPhones.  Keep in mind that only AT&T is carrying the 3GS, and next year the 4 should be made available to all  carriers at the same $0 price.  This should give Apple a big growth opportunity.

      2) Carrier rollout.  The phone is now available on the three largest carriers for the first time.  The 4S was also released just before the two year anniversary of the original Droid on Verizon, which was the product that really launched Android in the US.  As these contracts turn over, many users are seeing their first chance to buy iPhones.

      Both of these issues point to strength in the US, but not necessarily globally.  The 2.5 year old 3GS is still more expensive than a lot of first-run Android phones in markets where phone prices aren’t fixed into specific tiered subsidies.  Also, the CDMA network issues for Verizon and Sprint were really only a US problem. 

  • Anonymous

    Can nobody see that there were multiple new awesome Android phones waiting waiting waiting to drop in November and December, including the first Ice Cream Sandwich Nexus and the new Razr? And that anyone buying a state of the art Android phone in October had no clue what the market was days or weeks away from bringing them?

    • Anonymous

      That’s a fair point if  true. But I want to see evidence that the mass of Android buyers behave like that (not the minority of geeks). I’ve been assuming that it’s the non-awesome Android phones that are selling most because of their cheapness…

  • http://avc.com fredwilson

    Horace – I suggest you reach out to Flurry to see if their data confirms what you are seeing in the comscore data. I’ve been invested in and involved with both companies for a long time. And I’ve learned that it is always good to triangulate with market data.

    • http://twitter.com/zzbar Joe Zou

      why didn’t flurry break out iOS and Android numbers separately? they surely have individual numbers.

      • http://avc.com fredwilson

        i don’t know but i bet they would if asked

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        They won’t.

      • http://avc.com fredwilson

        really? who did you talk to?

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        I know someone who did reach out to Flurry and they said that their policy is not to reveal platform data. They deliberately obfuscate the information. Presumably it’s so as not to cause friction with the platform vendors.

  • gbonzo

    The overall market not growing so fast could be addressed to saturation. Less and less potential new customers as we approach the 50% penetration.

    This being just the failure of Android is not totally clear to me. Do you think this is a great result for the first full month with the new iPhone 4S? Surely we expected that blue bar to take share out of the gray one now, didn’t we? It has, but now both platforms somewhat suffer from that sudden weakness in the overall market.

    • PhillyG

      Hmmm…. First time I have ever heard 50% called saturation.

      • ray

        Guess like they say ” you live and learn”
        Why is it called that? Cause not everyone will go with smartphones,. I know so many peeps that will never get one. All they want is to have a phone, ie make phone calls, paragraph period.

      • Just Iain

        Ray, I have to agree with you. I have one friend in mind as well as multiple family members who would never consider a smartphone for the data plan costs alone. 

    • Anonymous

      The iPhone numbers are a guess, not hard numbers.

    • Anonymous

      @gbonzo: If you compare Nov-10 to Nov-11, the blue bar HAS taken a lot of share out of the gray one.

  • Anonymous

    At some point, the Android experience will run its course. maybe we are seeing the beginning of this trend, but when the Windows alternative is viable we will see the full blown impact. I will not go through all the obvious reasons that comparing iOS to Android clearly points out, but when you’re trapped in a contract with no software update available, the only way to keep up with the innovations is to buy the newest Android phone… it is just not a feasible economic option for the vast majority of users. I suspect that this is now impinging on new Android sales big time.
    The other major impediment to Android is its impossible task of integrating different devices with client data sync. So many problems that can’t be solved fast enough to maintain Android momentum…. the game is about to move to the next level… will Google continue to spend the money on Android or focus on Motorola devises and a controlled eco system that can compete with iOS and eventually Microsoft…. just like Microsoft, Google will eat its own when its comes to the bottom line… this will be clear in the coming year.

  • Asymco Fan

    Ice Cream Stall?  An alternate theory to why we would see slowing in Android in what *should* be a busy holiday season could be tied to the GED model Google uses for new versions of Android.  Everyone knows Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) was coming, and from just one exclusive manufacturer (Samsung, Galaxy Nexus).  Given the slow upgrade path for all non-GED devices, fancy new devices saw some folks holding off buying until they could confirm that their brand new non-Nexus device would get ICS.  Since all other OEMs aside from Samsung did not even see the ICS source code until the public push – when the Galaxy Nexus was launched – they are at a multi-month disadvantage in getting ICS upgrades and new devices to market.

    Thus perhaps Google’s ‘favoritism’ approach – is actually stalling sales now for all other non-GED manufacturers?  (this does not apply, I think, to the folks going their own Android path like the Kindle Fire, where it is far less about what version of Android is running).

    • MRS

      You are way overestimating the percentage of the market that knows or cares what ICS is.

  • James Saldana

    It’s more like iPhone vs. touch feature phones aka average Android user.

    I know many Android users will scoff at that comment but the sales data supports it. Android users don’t by Apps and most telling iOS makes up 92% of all purchases made online by moblie devices, like smart-phones and tablets.

    Considering how many Android users there are you’d think they’d make up more than 8% of purchases made online for general goods. In fact, it’s less than 8% because that remainder includes all other smart-phones and tablets to include the BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7.

    So even as Android increased it’s marketshare it’s value to online retailers actually decrease 4%, making up under 8%. Plus in the App market Android on pull 1 out of every 3 dollars compared to iOS.

    Developers and retailers take note… Android users have like feature-phone user habits.

    Activation are trivial to developers and retailers when these sales numbers are taken into account. iOS is the cream of the crop and it’s heavily lopsided 10 to 1.

    • iPad and iPhone Dominate Mobile Shopping: Apple mobile devices account for the bulk of all online non-desktop sales: just over 92% of the sales originated from an iPad or an iOS-enabled device in December 2011, up from 88 percent in April. Apple mobile devices also have a larger AOV compared to other mobile platforms ($123 for Apple vs. $101 for Android in December 2011) – and far outstrip desktop orders ($87).

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathanf Jonathan Fingas

    I’d put the blame mostly on carrier additions.  The iPhone is known to become the most popular smartphone on any US carrier it’s on — Sprint said as much, and C Spire’s probably the same.  Often, it’s getting a lot of the people who would only have bought Android because they didn’t want to switch carriers.

    Combine that with the first truly new iPhone on Verizon, which some of its subscribers were waiting for, and you’ve got Apple’s ideal situation: the majority of the US smartphone base can get an iPhone, and there’s a brand new model to take all the attention away from Android.  Apart from T-Mobile and (most) of the regionals, there’s now no “safe haven” where Google can avoid having to compete directly with Apple and still expect to make an impact on market share.

  • Bill

    Many new device purchasers download at least one free news app. So, take a look at these stats for a major news publisher who have had mature apps on the three platforms compared for quite some time.. They indicate that the slowdown is far greater than device sales stats indicate. The numbers below are downloads of this particular popular news app (Android users give it 4+ stars) for the last week of the year.

    Number of iOS app downloads for each Android download

              Android   iPhone    iPad
    2010        1          .5         1.4     Android kicks iPhone’s rear, but not iPad
    2011        1         5.6       11.0    iPhone and especially iPad blow Android out of the water

    Twas an iOS Christmas for this publisher. And, app utilization stats favor iOS over Android substantially.

    I’m beginning to believe Android users have more similarity to RIM users than iOS users. I.E., Android’s a platform used more like the feature phones they replaced whereas iOS users seem to use the devices more for computing than communicating tasks.

    • Anonymous

      ‘ I.E., Android’s a platform used more like the feature phones they replaced’
      Interesting point which would seriously deflate Google’s hopes that Android would protect its ad revenue interests in the mobile space.

      • James Saldana

        ‘ I.E., Android’s a platform used more like the feature phones they replaced’
        Exactly. Touch phones are the ones to have and they all just happen to be smart-phones. But this doesn’t mean they are being used as smart-phones.

    • Anonymous

      I bet it’s a paid app. A free app comparison would be better comparison ’cause with Android users it’s more a case of avoiding paid apps than avoiding apps in general. Amazing stats though.

      • Bill

        All three are free

      • Anonymous

        Well that’s stunning then. So maybe Android people like games more than news apps. Maybe they just do Facebook. *shrug*

      • Anonymous

        My guess is that, many Droids either do not have a data plan ( I can speak for India) or take the ridiculous 100mb plan(US), which they immediately consume. So once they realize that they actually have to pay for data access, they stop downloading apps and use it as a dumb phone. There ends the typical Android story, until another new device excites them and it starts all over again.

        Really, asymco should try to get data on how many Android users vs iOS users are on an unlimited or large data plan. This will give more insight if I’m guessing right.

        Vino

      • Anonymous

        Vino,

        Are you implying that these Droid owners don’t even get Wi-Fi access to download apps??? I know a friend of mine who purchased an iPhone at cost from Apple and uses Wi-Fi all the time to browse and download apps.

  • http://www.noisetech-software.com/Home.html Steven Noyes

    Horace,

    I tend to trust most of your insights but this one is not accurate I believe:

    “Seasonal effects would affect all platforms equally and that is not the case.”

    I don’t believe this.  Apple is a HUGE (as in HUGE) seasonal machine with Christmas driving stupid sales for them.  Getting an Apple gift is a big thing and not so much a “Samsung” gift or “HTC” gift or an “LG” gift.  There is a brand appeal in Apple that applies to “gift giving” that other brands really lack.

    I think this reflects in the mindset that gifts are buying things for people that they would not tend to get themselves.  Given that Apple is taken as a luxury brand, many people will give an Apple product over a competitor because it is seen as this luxury brand and might be something a person would not get under normal conditions.

    • jawbroken

      You can see the seasonality clearly in the android numbers. I guess you can argue about the “equally” part, though.

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      If you see the performance of iPhone in isolation you see that it does not spike in compensation to Android’s decline. Nor does it drop in tandem with Android. That was my point.

      • http://twitter.com/zzbar Joe Zou

        what if you time lag iPhone number a bit to compensate for the possibility that people might have been waiting for a new iPhone model? 

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        iPhone change in installed base has been very consistent. You can try it yourself with the data. The link is in the post.

      • http://www.jbwtucker.com/ Josh Tucker

        When the current trend in smartphones is a decline, then not dropping is hardly different from spiking.

  • http://twitter.com/rtorcato Richard Torcato

    Google’s activation numbers are BS.

    • Gcbirzan

      Oh, really? And why is that?

  • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

    There are even more curious data here: http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/iphone_crushes_android_at_att_corporate_stores_in_december/?utm_campaign=shorturl

    The data includes sales of non-smart devices which seem to add up to about 20%. QMD represents Quick Messaging Devices, a peculiar distinction of devices with keyboards but not running a smartphone OS.

  • Anonymous

    How about it being caused by the “Osborne effect” (ice cream sandwich announced, but no new phones running it able to be bought). Different to iOS previews, in that ice cream sandwich was previewed and it was not going to be able to run on devices currently being sold (whereas people could buy iPhones 4 units and know that it would be upgraded to iOS 5 when it arrived).

    I ind it strange that iPhone platform adds for November are that low… Where are all the new iPhone users from sprint, and where are all the resold or handed down iPhone 3GS users who upgraded – maybe a lot went to kids/teenagers who aren’t covered by the survey?

    • Anonymous

      Honestly, I don’t think ICS has any effect on the numbers — the vast majority of possible phone buyers can’t even name the operating system of their phone (whether iOS or ICS or Symbian or whatever). They know they have an iPhone, or a Blackberry, or something else. 

      • Billy

        I don’t believe Comscore is measuring the whole of novembers numbers. Also they do a survey and don’t rely on actual counts from carriers.

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        comScore methodology is in the page linked in the first paragraph.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=741717344 Dick Applebaum

    I read most of the Asymco articles and find the discussions very informative.

    Sometimes I post (usually on topic) if I think I have something to contribute.

    This post is totally off topic.

    One of the things that stands out in the discussions, here, is the open-minded discussion of ideas, perceptions and facts…

    Said another way, the discussions are reasoned, interesting, and enjoyable — with an absence of bias, name-calling and outright trolling.

    This is the first Asymco thread, that I recall, where there seems to be some trolling, ill-will and name-calling creeping into the discussion.

    Sorry to see  that, here!

    • Anonymous

      How do you read this ” I’m not comfortable ascribing a cause until we hear more evidence and the pattern is more established. But something does seem to be happening”
      and can write that? 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=741717344 Dick Applebaum

        I don’t understand your question?

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      It’s not the first, but you may not see the threads before they’ve been policed.

  • Anonymous

    @gbonzo: If you compare Nov-11 to Nov-10, the blue bar HAS taken a big bite out the the share of the gray one.

    • James Saldana

      True, the ratio has changed. It’s the most obvious change.

  • http://wmilliken.livejournal.com/ Walter Milliken

    Horace, the comScore data is reported as an average over the three months ending at the report date, correct?

    That implies the large drop-off in Android additions was due either to A) an unusually large number of Android sales in August dropping out of the average, or B) a *really* bad Android sales rate in November. Of course, they could be using some kind of wonky weighted average, but still….

    I also note that these numbers seem to be bouncing around more than I’d expect a 3-month average to do. Horace, it doesn’t look in the spreadsheets like you’re trying to back-out the monthly data from the 3-month averages… you seem to be using just the end-of-period average values they’re reporting. So why are their “averages” so noisy?

    It’s not just Android weirdness, look at the iPhone data for May, June, and July 2011: June is a really low month *for the average* but the averages for the months on either side are *much* higher. And the iPhone spike in July 2011 is simply counterintuitive… as far as I can recall, iPhone sales were supposed to be strong through that period, only dropping in August/September as the news of the 4S October launch firmed up. And there is the expected spike up in the October 2011 average, presumably due to the first surge of 4S sales.

    All I can say is that this data is making less and less sense to me.  Will be very interested in the December data when they report it….

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      The data is indeed very “delicate”. This is why I am not ready to draw any conclusions from it. Broadly speaking the data has been showing consistency with what can be checked: BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone global quarterly performance over the last year has been aligned with this US pattern. The same can be said for Android though there is less confidence in the accuracy of global sales. Since comScore data is most frequently updated (monthly) it has the potential to give early warning. However it’s not without problems, as you cite.

  • Anonymous

    Slightly off topic, but a possible slowdown in smartphone marketshare growth in the US could be due to a smaller than expected percentage of the current handset market that can actually afford the higher monthly contracts required to use a smartphone in the USA.

    How much can we expect of the current postpaid subscribers in the US to upgrade their monthly plans to the significantly higher monthly data plan costs associated with changing to a smartphone?

    I think there is a common expectation amongst a lot of industry pundits that almost everyone will, but maybe at the current high plan rates it might be somewhere between 50-65%, in which case we are most of the way there already.

    • Chandra2

      yes, that is an extra $30 a month plus taxes make it not appealing to a lot of people. I sort of compare this to how many people first subscribed to dial-up internet access on top of their phone lines and then from dial-up to high speed internet. After the initial rapid ramp up adoption rate of 40-50% then it begins to slow down. That slow march takes it to around 70% over several years.

      What does this mean? Are we already at 75% of the saturation point for smart phone adoption in the U.S.? That is quite scary.

      • OpenMinde

        This is very likely the reason.  Clearly smartphone adoption rate reaches 50% now. It will grow, but at much slower rate.  The beginning of smartphone saturation comes early than expect.  Apparently the product life cycle becomes shorter and shorter.  And each manufacture will try to take users from others in addition to new users.

      • http://www.noisetech-software.com/Home.html Steven Noyes

        In most industries, I think as the market reaches saturation, real product cycles slow.  This is simple economics.  It takes longer to recoup your costs so the pressure becomes stealing customers based on price and not features/quality.  It is the “race to the bottom” mindset.

        Now, there may be “fake product cycles” like: “We changed the color and gave it a new name”.

        But as far as real product cycles as in: “We changed the antenna”  “We added 2 cores”  “We have the greatest new GPU”  “We have a larger/better screen”

        Market saturation will slow those product cycles.

      • http://www.facebook.com/james.scariati James Scariati

        I only got an iPhone once AT&T introduced the $15/month plan (and my contract was up for renewal so I could get the subsidized price). I’m just not willing to pay $30/month for data.

      • Chandra2

        I did not even know there was a $15 plan. Who offers the lowest plan and what $ is that?

        There is a whole market that is currently not addressed. (30%) These people do not make a lot of calls and would get by with spending $100 a YEAR on prepaid. But I can see them hiring a smart phone to do some data oriented stuff which I think they can be induced to pay around $10.00 a month. That does not amount to much in terms of ARPU but if people buy their own smartphone, they should have that option of subscribing to the lowest voice plan plus $10.00 data. The lowest voice plan should not cost more than $10.00 a month. If on contract, the carriers can subsidize the phone a bit, say by $100, to bring the contract price to around $199.00 for an iPhone 3GS type phone. I guess we are not there yet. May be possible today with a three year contract but still stretching it. Such a thing is needed for the last 30% smartphone penetration is achieved.

      • Anonymous

        You just described how the rest of the world outside the US buys cellphones – a range of different upfront handset prices for different priced plans.

  • http://twitter.com/WaltFrench Walt French

    If I understand the 3-mo MA nature, anticipation of the October 14 start of US sales for the 4S would hold back a 3MA ending in November. A slowdown of growth fits already-known facts just fine. No reason to doubt Cook’s projection of sales.
    But the puzzle is about Android usage falling off a cliff. My first reaction to anomalies is to make sure I understand the data, especially when we’re comparing different sources/methodologies. My (too-) casual read of ComScore is that they’re reporting users, and a legit activation that merely replaces an older device would show up in ComScore as a zero net gain in active users. I think it’s a fair assumption that most hand-me-downs become new users, but only an assumption; it should be tested. Absent hard data, it’s easy to argue that the assumption is BAD right now for Androids: prior to May 2010 (v2.2/Froyo’s introduction), Android was especially doggy and unsuitable for a hand-me-down gaming device; perfectly acceptable for a CDMA phone with tech features but NOT something that becomes a wifi-based internet/gaming device, and even more unacceptable as an alternative to a $100 on-contract current smartphone. Even in 2011, Consumer Reports was recommending AT&T low-priced devices with pre-Froyo OS versions; these older machines with an inefficient, balky OS, slow CPUs and limited RAM just don’t deliver on today’s expectations.These older devices may well be going into desk drawers: for practical purposes, not worth the trouble to take out, upgrade, buy apps for, use, buy replacement batteries, etc. Without an easy upgrade to Froyo (and many are unable to get it), these are more museum pieces than anything else.Also hypothetically, most of these older Androids were US sales, so don’t generate a sales/users conflict in the rest of the world.Finally, a necessary note on the carriers. With some help from Horace, I detect an end to the Land Rush phase of mobiles: carriers cannot afford the expensive BOGO, unlimited data, early upgrade or other loss leaders. They will necessarily revert to their “barefoot and pregnant” treatment of multiple, anonymous/generic manufacturers of phones: putting each manufacturer into a couple of neat niches to make it easy for their salespeople and hard for manufacturers overall to upsell direct to consumers. Continued lack of profitability equals continued inability to establish brand identities, a vicious circle. Android will continue to see net positive user growth, but the expansion into a less-technical clientele will be restricted on all the elements of marketing: branding, advertising, BUY NOW sales, etc.

  • Anonymous

    It occurred to me that there may be another possibility to keep in mind. Granted, there is always a Christmas spike, there is also a pre-christmas lull. This is the result of people buying gifts and putting them away until Christmas Day. Of course, this lull can be expected to affect both iOS and Android sales. But what’s interesting about this lull is that it shows Android and Apple much closer to even going into Christmas Day. If we postulate that part of the reason for this is the movement of Apple’s release date to the fourth quarter from the third quarter, then this may indicate the successfulness of this strategy (assuming it is in fact a strategy) on Apple’s part.

  • Anonymous

    A surprise resurgence in Java ME on low end feature phones a cause for slowing Android sales? http://bit.ly/usm1vl

  • Anonymous

    Mine is attached to the wall with a wire. When my iPod finally wears out I might buy a Touch; but if someone wants to talk with me and cannot leave a message, they will find me at the beach, nursing a Marguerita. Much as I like the idea of Siri, I don’t think it will be worth the monthly charges and I have almost never needed a phone while wandering about.

    • Jzou

      Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be out wandering about?

      • Anonymous

        Hey, I just got back and saw your message. I had to watch the Rangers Flyers outdoor game on the box. Now if Apple could blend a TV with the iPhone, I might just reconsider. Happy New Year and Q1 speculations.

      • Anonymous

        Mark,

        You can watch TV on your iPhone. 

        Try film filmon.com

      • Bill

        Or CNN on iPhone and iPad. With many other networks coming very soon.

    • Jzou

      Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be out wandering about?

  • Z Kariv

    So, assum that there is a trand here and we can not pinpoint its roots at the moment, how this will affect the smartphone market in the future:
    Google advertizing revenue
    Google commitment to manufectors, to Motorola (and agains other Android’s companies)
    A different advertizment approch or features to cater to consumers and not “geeks”
    Are different world’s regions will follow or have there own path

    • Rpkappraisals

      Learn how to spell, then I might pay attention to your comments.

  • Pingback: U.S.-Smartphone-Markt: iPhone-Marktanteil steigt schneller als der von Android-Smartphones » m4gic.net()

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  • James Saldana

    NPD Data for OCT/NOV seems to confirm the data…

    Apple’s iPhone 4S propels iOS smartphone market share to 43% in Oct., Nov. 2011
    http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/12/01/10/apples_iphone_4s_propels_ios_smartphone_market_share_to_43_in_oct_nov_2011.html

  • http://techsansar.com Team TechSansar.com

    The trend is always indifferent!

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  • Fanfoot

    Hey Horace,

    Hoping you’ll update this post now that Eric Schmidt has announced the 850,000 activations/day and 300 million devices activated so far (each counted only once he has clarified).  AllThingsD or various other places have coverage of the event at MWC today.

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