The unrelenting trends in the US smartphone market

The latest comScore US mobile subscriber monthly data is in: comScore Reports January 2012 U.S. Mobile Subscriber Market Share – comScore, Inc.

January saw a return to trend line growth in US smartphone add rates. The 767k/week rate is within the band after November’s below- and December’s above-the-line outliers. The weekly add rates are shown (with projection of trend) below:

The pattern shows a likely 1 million new smartphone users per week being added consistently by the fourth quarter of this year.

Overall, penetration of the sampled population (above age of 13, primary phone and excluding business purchases in the US) reached 43.3% in January. The increase was 1.45 points from December.

A significant 35 million US users  switched to smartphones in the last 12 months, equivalent to 15% of the user population. My current forecast is that 50% of the user base would be smartphone users by June 28th.

The platform data shows a continuing pattern. In terms of absolute users Android has reached nearly 50 million users, iPhone 30 million, BlackBerry 15 million and Microsoft (Windows Phone and Windows Mobile combined) 4.5 million.

In terms of market share of the smartphone population, the various platforms stack up as follows:

The net gains for each platform by month are shown in the following diagram:

RIM and Microsoft have continued to lose users while Google and Apple have continued to gain.

The two trends that continue are that overall penetration is nearing saturation and that two platforms seem to be increasing their share of that base. The “comeback story” for any of the hopefuls will depend either on switching users away from their current platforms of trying to engage with late adopters. The first option is daunting due to latent network effects related to platforms and the second sounds to be symmetric to existing incumbent strategies.

Without an asymmetric approach, the challengers are unlikely to succeed.

  • John R Moran

    35 million more smartphone users in the past year… Wow.

  • Muh Qadir

    Catalyst in the platform war = iPod touch + iPad.

  • BrianLoftus

    Hard to explain the difference between Pew’s numbers and Comscore numbers.  Pew data is collected mostly in the month of February and would seem to show about 46 million Android users and 43 million iPhone users.  Comscore data is a composite of November to January but hard to imagine it adding 13 million iPhone users over the next 3 months.  Any ideas to explain the difference in the data?

    • comScore samples computer users and only asks “primary use” devices from those aged 13 or older. There are many ways this data is incomplete. However there are many useful trends to be observed. Pew surveys are different and so are Nielsen’s.

  • BMWTwisty

    Seems to me the real winners here are the carriers who are selling more data plans.

    • Louis

      They share with Apple in the form of subsidies, but, no they aren’t hating life at all.  There was not much of a market for expensive data plans before the iPhone.

      • A preview of what happens when smartphones (and their data plans) saturate a market:

      • capnbob67

        Interesting… when the tide no longer rises fast enough and some boats start to sink. Do you have smartphone penetration data for Sweden? At what level do the carriers tend to implode? Inquiring minds and wallets want to know…

      • Louis

        The US duopoly doesn’t seem to have the kind of competitive pressures on it that Euro MNOs do, and AT&Ts refusing to unlock off-contract iPhones means that this probably isn’t coming in the next couple of years.

  • Walt French

    Boy, that “platform share” chart sure looks like “the jaws of death” over the timeframe you’ve drawn.

  • Anonandon

    Given the fragmentation of Android-based devices does it make sense to talk about it as a single platform? Or do we just not have enough information to do the per-manufacturer sub-platform analysis? Would it be interesting to distinguish between the different major versions of the two major platforms in these charts? See and 

  • Ronin48


    It looks like iPhone had a bad Jan 2012 – lower even than to the immediate pre-iPhone 4S lull.

    Do you see this too?  What do you make of it?

    • KirkBurgess

      It looks that way doesn’t it?

      These are US only figures though, so may not be representative of worldwide growth, in particular the growing China Sales.

      Still, I’m more likely to be revising Apples Jan-Mar quarter results down closer to 30 million, rather than upwards to 40 million.

      It will still be a record March quarter of course, particually with the very broad launch for the new iPad.

    • I would not use this data to predict iPhone shipments. I should build a set of data that shows what comScore would suggest and what actually happened. My hunch is that there is poor correlation.

      • Ronin48

        Yes.  It’s the net US iOS subscriber gains in Jan that look comparatively bad.  

        I imagine there’s some effect from iPhone 4 getting recycled to new users and iPhone 4S buyers upgraded.  There’s likely a short time lag from the purchase of the new 4S to the recycling of the 4.

        This may be partly at the root of the mismatch between subscriber numbers and phone sales.

  • Ronin48


    One more thing.  Tim Cook mentioned today that now 172 million iOS devices total and 62 million iOS devices sold in calendar Q4.  He also mentioned “over 100million” users of iCloud.

    Tim Cook, Feb 14, Goldman Sachs conference:  “We have 100 million users of iCloud — we just launched it in October! This is unbelievable.”

    Here’s Oppenheimer from the Jan 24 earnings call transcript:

    “Combining iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, we surpassed 315 million cumulative iOS device sales, selling more than 62 million in the December quarter. We were very pleased to launch iOS 5 and iCloud during the quarter. Customers are loving the new features of iOS 5, including Notification Center, iMessage and Reminders. And iCloud is off to a great start with more than 85 million customers signed up as of today.”

    Eyeballing these numbers seems to show iCloud growth decelerating after initial rapid growth from October launch to January.  I guess this is to be expected.

    But I can’t make sense of the various iOS device numbers that have been cited recently.  I’m not sure how they are slicing or dicing them or how to assess growth.

    Any insight you have would be greatly appreciated.

    • Ronin48

      Just watched today’s event:

      The 172 million iOS device number is for calendar 2011 only.  He mentions it at about the 2 minute mark.

      • That is interesting. I had a lower number for 2011 (156 million). It’s possible that they sold a lot more iPod touch than I had guessed. The total iPhones and iPads is publicly known (133.6 million).

      • Ronin48

        Yes.  He’s clearly talking about calendar year 2011 yesterday when he cites the 172 million iOS devices.  I just triple checked it 😉  It’s even on the Keynote slide.

        I calculate a total of 38.5 million total iPods sold in calendar 2011. Adding this to the 133.6 iPad+iPhone number gives you the 172 million he cited.  It looks like they could be counting ALL iPod family devices as iOS devices.  Not sure what to make of this.

        Also, I checked the Goldman Sachs Apple roadshow transcript and TC said they sold “just shy or 3 million” Apple TVs in 2011.  These are legitimate iOS devices but I believe they are counted with iPods, right?

        Here’s the GS transcript:

      • I saw the event video. He did not say 172 million iOS devices. He said 172 million Apple post-PC devices sold in 2011. It’s subtle. He’s counting all iPods. Note that during the same part of the talk he classifies the iPod as the first post-PC device without saying iPod touch.

      • In that vein, Apple Computer Inc. made personal computers (and peripherals). Apple Inc. makes personal computers, iPods, iPhones, iPads. For marketing then, Post-PC == beyond PC products. The name change must have been in the works since after iPod was a big hit, presumably when they started working on iPhone.

    • My data reflects Cook’s numbers for Q4(62m) and for cumulative total (315m). Not sure what the 172 million figure refers to. I have not had time to listen to the event but PED’s summary of data points does not mention 172.

  • Oakustic

    Typo last paragraph “… from their current platforms OR trying to engage with late adopters.”

  • Davel

    The numbers don’t lie. It’s a two horse race.


  • RJL

    Apple sold 37 Million iphones in their fiscal 2012 Q1.
    Why does the installed base only show 30 million ??????

    • Darin

      Becsuse the whole world isn’t North America?

      • Actually the data set is not North America but the US only and only people over the age of 13 and measuring their “primary” phone and the respondents are using computers.

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