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Projecting iOS devices sales through iTunes account growth

During the iPhone 5 launch event, Apple announced 435 million iTunes accounts (with credit card numbers) with one click shopping.

The account total is updated occasionally by Apple and the history of these updates is shown below:

Measuring the growth in accounts shows steady acceleration.

The current rate is approximately 12 million new accounts per month.

The growth in iTunes accounts mirrors the growth in iOS usage as shown the following chart:

The alignment between the circles and the red line should offer an alternative method of projecting the platform’s growth.

Projecting the growth forward would imply one billion accounts in another two years. As iPhone and iPads growth increasingly converges with iTunes (of which there are 400 million units sold), the same time frame could apply to iOS cumulative sales.

This is not a very precise forecast, but late 2014 to early 2015 could see one iOS billion units sold.

  • http://twitter.com/m4rkusr Markus Ramstedt

    For comparison it might have been good to note the 500M Android activations to date and the 1.3M activations for Android on a daily basis. Android will reach the billion activations within a year.

    As Windows 8 basically requires a Microsoft account to be useful, we might also see huge Microsoft account numbers next year (Balmer was indicating a target of 400M W8 devices sold within a year).

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

      I believe Ballmer was referring to Windows 8 PCs not devices. He has been repeating this figure as related to PCs several times. For example: “People talk about: “How healthy is the PC market?” There’s going to be close to 400 million PCs sold in the next year, which makes it a big market. And whether it’s 405 (million) or 395 (million), it’s a big market, and Windows 8 will propel that volume.” http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2019168601_microsoftballmer16.html
      I forecast Android growth to a billion here: http://www.asymco.com/2012/02/29/when-will-android-reach-one-billion-users/

    • http://www.isophist.com/ Emilio Orione

      All this numbers have been made in a battle between smartphones and non consumption, as Horace noted in a previous post http://www.asymco.com/2012/09/06/positioning-lumia/. Rules will change when switching between platforms will become relevant.
      There are about 5.6 billion mobile phone users and more than 50% of them is using a smartphone today, that is 2.8 billion.
      Continuing the growth against non consumption and adding 500 million android users and 400 million w8 users in a year, adding 200 million iphones, lead to 3.9 billion of smartphone users by the end of 2013, about 70% of all mobile phone subscribers.
      This leads to 100% of smarthphone users by the end of 2014.
      That’s not realistic. First cheap phone only device will be in use for more time and also existing users will not discard they devices so soon, second the battle between ecosystems will start before the reach of 100% smartphone adoption and projections based on current growth will become unuseful since the basis of competition will change.
      A one year prediction is already a strong bet since non consumption is loosing so much ground.

      • http://twitter.com/WalterMilliken Walter Milliken

        There’s an interesting poll over on Ars Technica
        http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/09/poll-technica-are-you-buying-an-iphone-5-and-why/

        where it looks like we may be seeing the balance point between converting non-consumers and migrating between smartphone platforms.

        If you add up the numbers there, the number of people moving from non-Android/non-iOS devices to the iPhone 5 is roughly comparable to the number migrating from an Android device to the iPhone 5. And that’s counting Blackberries and Windows Phone as non-smartphones, as a simplification. If you count only the people who said their prior device was “feature phone” or “no cell phone”, the Android-to-iPhone switchers are twice as common as that stricter definition of non-consumption.

    • Jessi

      I see no evidence that there are 500 million android devices or that many activations per day. Every time I’ve looked into it those numbers were made up. Amazon, for example, doesn’t give sales numbers, neither does Samsung… And when forced to in court recently they were dramatically lower than the activations and claimed sales would indicate.

      In short, android fanatics and google are liars.

  • RobDK

    There are more iDevices than iOS accounts. That must mean account owners have more than one device. That must be a great thing for Apple!

    • samrijver

      It’s the other way around isn’t it. 400 iOS devices sold till June 2012. So there 35 million Mac and windows users with an iTunes account but without a iOS device.

      • El Aura

        Yes, but there a lot of iTunes accounts with people that ‘only’ have an iPod. Sure, that number is probably shrinking but it still exist. So, yes, there are more devices than accounts which means there are people with multiple devices, plus there are retired devices or devices without accounts (you can rip CDs and load them on your iPod). There are also a few people with multiple accounts, people moving between countries, people you got their first account in a different country because their country of residence did not have the iTMS initially.

    • Gordon Shephard

      iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad, iPad 2, iPad 3.

      One iTunes account.

      I don’t know how far off the curve I am – but I know I’m not alone.

  • graphex

    Horace, you should remove the words: ‘ (with credit card numbers)’. Apple has said this in the past but didn’t this time. Not all iTunes accounts are backed by a credit card. Many minor accounts and those wanting increased credit card security use iTunes gift cards.

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

      As of early 2011 the numbers Apple reported were claimed to be “tied to credit cars and one-click purchases”.
      http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/02/apple-200-million-itunes-accounts/

    • Kizedek

      The phrase has kind of been used to indicate the quality of Apple’s account numbers — the fact that, to some degree, the account holders are either trusting Apple with their payment details, or actively purchasing/renting apps and media, or both.

      This puts the platform on a par with Amazon (which gets a multiple of 300 for its stock), and puts it far above some other account type that is more social, like Google+, Google Apps, Facebook, XBox Live, etc.

      Of course, technically, the details are not that simple. “Credit Card” does not exactly describe every case anymore. Many do use gift cards to top their accounts up. And now many use alternative payment systems that Apple has allowed, such as third parties who know your bank account details (similar to PayPal). These are used in NL, for example, as many here do not own or wish to own (to their credit) a *real* Credit Card (and that may be down to principle rather than security concerns, because here we throw around our bank account numbers on all manner of websites).

      Now, some people (I don’t know about you) might say that the words “with credit card numbers” should be removed in order to demean the value that Apple or Apple supporters have attributed to the membership numbers of the iTunes Platform. However, rather than denting the quality of Apple’s numbers and the value of its membership platform, you could actually say that this is a good thing…. because it helps to answer another criticism often leveled at Apple:

      “How will Apple expand into developing countries, and what good will its platform do for it there, when many people in developing countries don’t even have credit cards?”

      Well, we now have at least two examples of how iTunes accounts are used without Credit Cards. So, critics may not BOTH demean the value of the iTunes platform in terms of its number of *Credit Cards* (read, active payment options), AND declare that Apple’s platform cannot usefully expand into developing countries to compete with non-consumption. The degree to which Apple is *failing* to do one of these things, it is doing the other that much better. Indeed, apparently Amazon sells the Kindle Fire HD in only USA and UK because it knows where it has a strong platform that can support it.

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  • Canucker

    These graphs may be fine but they also hide several forms of outlier uses (perhaps the errors cancel?). I have three iTunes accounts in different countries so I can access the unique content in these. My spouse and I also have 5 iOS devices (iPad1/3, iPhone, iPod Touch, AppleTV) and two Macs. We have one active iCloud account. Yes, Apple likely loves us but it also means we can be counted as 3, 6 or 7 in terms of iTunes, iOS or iOS/Mac. We share all music, photos, calendars, etc with differential syncing per device. Probably not the norm, but I doubt there is true one to one linearity in the iTunes numbers.

    • Gonji

      “Probably not the norm…”

      I have Australian, South Korean and US iTunes accounts for exactly the same reasons you quoted. As an example, there is no iTunes music store in South Korea.

    • BoydWaters

      Good point.

      Although I live in the US, I have at least three iTunes accounts, as there seems to be no way to clean up and consolidate such.

      I also have intentionally kept my developer account seperate from iTunes… and now that Apple has iCloud everywhere, that’s yet another account. I’m operating under the theory that I’m mitigating some risk by partitioning these roles.

      How common is this behaviour? I have no idea. But many of my 60+ year-old clients do something like this, if they have an Apple ID, as they do not trust online services that link to credit cards.

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  • http://profiles.google.com/simon.hibbs Simon Hibbs

    Yes there are many iOS devices that share a single iTunes account, and some users who have multiple iTunes account, but if the overall percentage of users in these categories is stable with changing population size, it doesn’t matter. These variations would only have an impact on the overall trend if suddenly on of these edge case conditions became massively more prevalent. Otherwise all the different combinations just average out to the same overall trend.

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