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When will there be one billion iOS devices in use?

iOS unit sales crossed over 700 million units last month. That is a significant milestone but the total number of units in use is likely to be lower. My estimate based on device replacement assumptions is that about 500 million are still in use.

The estimated break-down of units sold and in use by device type is shown below:

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 11-25-2.59.59 PM

When I looked at the penetration of iPhones in the US (as a part of smartphones in total) the surprising pattern was that it followed a logistic curve (while other platforms didn’t.) If this is indicative of a particular learning process to be observed in the market, then can we extend the logistic growth pattern to iOS overall?

I tried it with the assumption that at 500 million, iOS is at the half-way point in its growth. This assumption comes from growth being near an inflection point. It could be that iOS might accelerate further in which case peak penetration could be higher than 1 billion, but might take longer to reach.

The 500 million as 50% penetration point assumption fits the model as shown below.

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 11-25-3.23.10 PM

 

The fit is pretty good for the period after the iPhone 3G launched. This assumption would therefore imply (nearly) one billion iOS devices in use by the end of 2018.

Note that this does not mean one billion iOS users. The attach rate for iOS devices per user could well reach 2 by then placing total user base at 500 million. Note that this size of audience is very nearly the existing total Apple audience already (counting iTunes/iCloud accounts).

This means that we already have “existence proof” that Apple can reach half-a-billion users. Apple does not need to discover a large new set of non-consumers. The idea of 1 billion iOS devices is simply the projection that each current user could some day use two devices.