The uncanny similarity between EU and US smartphone markets

comScore released one of its rare updates to the EU5 (Spain, UK, France, Italy and Germany) smartphone market. Note that the data is claiming to show installed base and not sales in any particular period. What interests me is a comparison or contrast between the European market and the US market.

First, total users.

Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 12-19-7.30.57 PM

The EU has about 500 million inhabitants while Europe overall has 731 million. The EU 5 total about 314 million which is very nearly the same as the US (311.6 million). Therefore the EU5 is a good comparable to the US in terms of population. As the graph above shows it’s also remarkably similar in its adoption of smartphones. Note that the scale reflects users and since the populations are very similar then the penetration should also be similar.


  • Very interesting. I think this is good news for Apple overall as there was some expectation that the EU would trend more heavily towards Android. As Apple’s market share in the US is growing faster than Android’s, this trend could be expected to be mirrored in the EU.

    • My understanding is that of all the EU5, the UK is most like the US in terms of iOS vs Android share, but elsewhere in Europe Android dominates heavily. This is particularly true in Germany where Samsung Galaxys are the top selling phones.

      For myself, I’m impressed at how quickly the US caught up with Europe in mobile usage. Ten years ago Europe was way ahead. When mobiles were ubiquitous in Europe and even teenagers were adopting text messaging over here, US mobile penetration rates were still much lower.

      I wonder how Horace’s comments on local variations in global phone markets hold up two years on:

      • jawbroken

        Got a source for those shares across individual EU5 countries?

      • Tatil_S

        Kantar does not say Galaxy is the top selling smartphone, “Samsung, buoyed by the release of the Samsung S3, is now the top selling brand across Europe with 45% share.” Slightly different…

        The table in GSM arena for US market shares are incorrect, so I am not sure how accurate these numbers are for European markets.

      • Hmm, pretty sure I had a source for that but I can’t track it down.

        The point is though that Android is a lot more popular in Europe than it is in the USA, and the UK is somewhere in-between. But then Apple has always been much more popular in it’s home market than abroad. That’s not a problem for them though, they still hold the high ground in terms of market value and profit margins. If anything it’s good news as it means there’s even more scope for market share growth outside the US than most observers realise.

      • JohnDoey

        Apple sells 2/3rds of their products outside the US. They are more popular “abroad” than they are in “their home market.” So you are wrong about that, too.

        Samsung is king of generic phones. They took that title from Nokia, not Apple. We should expect Samsung to be selling exponentially more phones than Apple. The fact that a computer maker can sell a $600 computer phone in similar volumes to Samsung’s $100–$200 generic phones shows just how hollowed-out the traditional mobile phone market has become. “Phone” (like iPod) is something you get for free with your mobile computer now.

      • Tatil_S

        “This is particularly true in Germany where Samsung Galaxys are the top selling phones.”

      • JohnDoey

        The US did not catch up with Europe in phones, it leap-frogged ahead in mobile computers.

        Android-based phones are actual phones, from a phone maker and built for a phone carrier and running baby Java apps as an afterthought. iPhones are computers, from a computer maker, built for a computer user, and running powerful native C/C++ apps and HTML5 Web apps as a core feature — phone is just an app, same as everything else. Android users make calls and texts — iPhone users run apps. Again and again all of the usage data bears this out.

        Going forward, as more and more Windows PC’s are replaced with iPads, I think we will talk about the iPad halo selling iPhones. The iPad converts the user into a mobile computer user, and then they recognize the value in what you get in an iPhone that you don’t get in phones that are just phones.

  • hpettyiii

    I always like to see share by value or ASP along with share by units to keep a sense of proportion on the market segments being dominated within SP by iPhone and Android

  • Interesting that RIM seems to be growing everywhere except the U.S. If you believed the U.S. tech media, the XBox 360 is easily crushing the PS3 and nobody wants Blackberries. The truth is that the X360 and PS3 are pretty much neck-and-neck in sales and people are still buying Blackberry. There IS a world outside of the U.S. but Americans tend to forget that at times.

    • -2.5% is not really growing right? These numbers are not sales but usage, worst case nobody is buying any RIM devices anymore and the current RIM abandon rate is 2.5 / 17.7 = 14%

      • I love how you waited for RIM’s earnings report before posting.

      • steven75

        It is clear now though, people are moving away from Blackberry even outside the US.

      • My understanding was that the losses were almost entirely from North America.

      • steven75

        Ok, it may be my misunderstanding. I should say it’s clear that the hole RIM is in is still growing.

      • Tatil_S

        Yeah, using facts to support arguments is so unfair… 😉

      • Not so much that I had a problem with his point, it’s that I didn’t have the same information when I made my original post. Everything is clearer in hindsight. 😉

      • RIM’s situation has been apparent for quite some time. E.g. when I googled “RIM growth” the top result was over a year old.

    • JohnDoey

      RIM makes 2005-style phones. Not only is there no long-term future in that, but nobody cares about it. It isn’t because of location, it’s the devices.

      Apple is making computers in an iPod form factor and calling them “phones.” That is what is interesting today. The fact that RIM makes actual legacy 2005-style phones doesn’t make them interesting or relevant.

  • B Loftus

    The comscore press release you link to has UK data in the last two figures and EU5 data in the first figure.

  • mieswall

    so, we should be “connecting the dots” ? 🙂

  • Andreas Keller

    I believe the reason Android outpaces iOS in the EU is the more established prepaid market. When you pay the full price for the phone upfront, 679€ for iPhone 5 vs. 349€ for Nexus 4 does make a difference.

    • JohnDoey

      I think a big part of that is Europeans are just buying phones, not computers. There is a bigger and older mobile phone culture in Europe, and the US is more PC and iPod-centric.

      So $300 is enough to pay for calls and texts and basic Java apps, same as 10 years ago. Similarly, if all you want is an iPod, you pay $300 for an iPod touch. But people with iPhones use them like Macs. If you use an iPhone like that, it is cheap at $600 and often pays for itself. If you only do calls and texts, it sounds insane.

  • normm

    What happened to the rest of this article? There used to be several graphs, but at this moment that I’m looking at it, there’s just one. I was going to ask how the Android vs iPhone comparison is reconciled with recent Kantar Worldpanel data, but this comparison is no longer there.

    • The data was wrong. I was using UK-only data mixed with EU 5 data.

  • Doug J

    This article doesn’t make sense to me. Where is the rest of it? Comments about RIM. RIM wasn’t even mentioned in the article I read. I assume there has been a technical screwup of some kind. Please repost.

    • The article is referring to information in a source article, which it links to in the second word of the article, and refers to some of the information in that source article. The source article has information on market share, including for RIM, and that’s what people here are talking about.

    • JohnDoey

      What is “RIM?”

      • Research in Motion; makers of Blackberry.

  • Carpenter

    What’s most interesting issue in this smartphone vs. other phone fight that I really think that basic phones will prevail and feature phones will die. In the future there will be two kind of phones:

    1. Mobile computers that can do wonders but are more or less energy constrained since wonders require all the energy that batteries can provide.

    2.Basic phones that can be used fro call & SMS with very small size, great battery life and good durability.

    Feature phones are in between and when smartphones will be prized low enough feature phones will be totally pointless.