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The opportunity cost of Windows Phone

The global mobile OS market shares for Q4 shows a continuing (but diminished) leading share.

At the end of last year Android’s unit share reached 51% which is down from about 57% during the third quarter. iOS reached 23%, followed by Symbian at 12%, RIM at 9%, Bada at 2.4%, Windows Phone at 1.6% and Other at 1%.

When seen on a year/year basis

The Global Smartphone Market Landscape

There is finally enough information to try to give an estimate of the smartphone market as a subset of the overall phone market.

The chart to the left shows the overall picture.

To sum up: The smartphone market has now reached over 30% of shipments. Non-smart devices are at 69% of total. The individual phone platform shares are as follows:

  1. Android (and Android-like): 17.6%
  2. iOS (iPhone only) 4.4%
  3. Nokia Symbian: 4.3%
  4. BlackBerry: 2.76%
  5. Bada: 1%
  6. Windows Phone 0.5%

The past quarter was the first where there is evidence of significant non-seasonal decline in incumbent platforms. Both RIM and Symbian saw two sequential drops in volume. The iPhone had a seasonal (or, more accurately, transitional) decline. Windows Phone had a very modest increase in share from 1.3% to 1.7% share though this is well below a margin of error in the estimate.

Android (and Android-like) shipments ballooned to nearly 70 million but sell-through could be about 10 million less. Nearly one in five phones sold is now powered by an Android variant. A remarkable story since the share was zero less than three years ago

Of the vendors involved, here is the division of share:

Mobile Impossible

In yesterday’s post about the “biggest mobile loser” I covered the exodus of users from non-smart devices in the US and EU5. I also said that what happens in those regions tends to happen in other regions with a time shift. In some regions it happens quicker but in most it happens more slowly.

But can we be sure that there isn’t vast non-smartphone growth in other regions? Well, no, we can’t be sure. At least not without access to reliable data.

But what we can track is the overall non-smart phone market and compare it to the smartphone market. Here are the growth rates of the two sub-markets:

The difference is plain to see. We can also note that the non-smart market may be heading into a contraction–something noted by some analysts close to the market–but no real sign of that happening in smartphones.

Beside growth, we can also see actuals and the split of various vendors’ volumes in the market.

A new mobile phone market index

Measurements of “share” are abundant. There is journalistic value in summarizing performance in a single figure of “share” but it usually is a very limiting view. For example in the global mobile phone market there are at least the following measurements available:

  1. Share of all handset units sold
  2. Share of installed based of handsets (penetration)
  3. Share of smartphones
  4. Share of mobile computers
  5. Share of value (revenues) captured
  6. Share of profits
  7. Share of platforms
  8. Share within a given platform
  9. Share by regions/countries/geographies/demographics

One could go on. So performance in a market can only be measured if you know to what end is that measure applied. Are you trying to determine current performance or are you assuming that the future will be different and trying to figure out what that future will look like?

"Other" vendors sell 10% of Smartphones but 30% of voice-oriented phones

In the last post, I highlighted the difference between smartphones and non-smart device sales last quarter. The trajectory of share growth for smart devices would appear to have accelerated due to Android.

The following charts show the evolution of smartphone vendors and platforms over the last few years.

Like in the past, I used color clustering to show the separation between “integrated” (in green) and “modular” (in brown) platforms and their users.

Unlike the non-smart market where “other” make up 30% of the market, smartphones are still a big brand business. “Other” make up only 11% of units. and that number has been trending down. It would seem that the age of unbranded Android phones is still not upon us.

Comparing three years “before and after” here is Q1 2008 vs. Q1 2011 by vendors share:

iPhone share of phone market in Q1: 5% volumes, 20% revenues, 55% profit

Operating profits for the eight vendors I track increased at a compounded 25% over three years. As with revenues, the growth is concentrated. The following chart shows operating profit growth across three time frames: three year compounded, year/year and sequential. Loss-making vendors are excluded from this chart.

Looking at individual performance, the following chart shows how each vendor performed over time:

The controversy of playing it safe: What's IDC's Smartphone Market Message?

IDC released a new forecast for the worldwide smartphone market which included a long range forecast–all the way to 2015.

Most people fixated on the share data in 2015. Not hard to do since whoever wrote the press release highlighted this flashy headline. Putting aside the three significant digits of accuracy on every data point and the hard to swallow declaration that a painfully underperforming (in more ways than one) Windows Phone will overtake iOS and BlackBerry to become the second largest platform by units/year in 2015, there is much more to the report.

Using only the public data from the press release we can put together a pretty good picture of the transition being forecast and determine some of the (unstated) assumptions being made. It’s these assumptions about the underlying market dynamics which illuminate far more than the falsely precise share data.

Smartphone users still prefer branded phones

The smartphone market has grown threefold in the span of three years. However, as noted previously, the share of units running a licensed OS has not grown dramatically. The following chart shows the vendors’ shares with the same brown/green dichotomy between licensed and unlicensed OS’s.

Verizon Strikes Out in Smartphones [Updated]

[Updated]

[ITG sent an explanation of their methodology and there is no indication that the data represents inside information.]

ITG Investment Research analyst Matthew Goodman is forecasting monthly sales record for all of Verizon’s devices “based largely on our proprietary daily point-of-sale data from thousands of independent wireless retailers across the US.”

Assuming the data is accurate, we are going to dive into it but I will state up-front that without confirmation, the conclusions below should be taken with a grain of salt. All statements should be read with a preceding “if the data is accurate…”

So, if the data is accurate, here is what I conclude [1]:

Verizon Has three strikes against them:

  1. The iPhone has stolen their growth
  2. They are facing the prospect of a single OS platform supplier
  3. Android is not competitive vs. iOS

When markets are supply constrained purchase decisions are not based on product performance

The difficulty in analyzing the smartphone market lies in its extremely rapid growth. With the market growing at 90% (and 400% in some areas like China) the forces of demand and supply are disconnected. It’s impossible to discern whether a purchase decision is made from a choice of comparable alternatives or if it’s made from a choice between buying nothing and some alternative.

Furthermore, another problem lies in distribution inefficiencies. The global phone market is nominally serving 4.6 billion consumers but they are not all participating in the same market.  Devices and the services they are bundled with are not fungible globally.  You cannot buy a phone is one country and easily couple it with service in another. You can’t even transfer one bundle from one owner to another within the same country. Products are available only in some countries or some operators and not in others.

Commentators focusing on mobile OS platform shares assume a zero sum game and a liquid, efficient market. Both assumptions are false.