The iPhone and iPad might be everywhere, but until recently, the operating system designed by the computing colossus that created these two devices was lagging behind its main competitor by a relatively wide margin. In the past three months, however, sales of handset devices featuring Apple’s iOS have been catching up to Android in the smartphone sector. A new analysis of the US smartphone market conducted and released by Kantar Worldpanel — a technology segment analysis firm — shows that Apple’s operating system now holds 41.9 percent of sales — an increase of 3.5 percent over last year.
The statistics in the analysis were derived from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech USA’s consumer panel, which is the largest continuous consumer research panel of its kind in the world today. ComTech tracks consumer behaviors related to smartphone purchases and usage.
Google’s Android OS, which is found on Samsung Galaxy phones among others, used to have a much bigger market share when it came to smartphone sales. It still dominates, but the Kantar report noted that Android sales have only increased by 0.1 percent since 2012. This could mean that Apple and its iOS operating system is poised to narrow, and possibly even close, the gap within the next few years.
As to why sales of iOS enabled smartphones have jumped in the past year, the launch of the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 on T-Mobile’s subscriber network may be behind the change.
“The highly anticipated release of the iPhone on T-Mobile has benefited iOS in the latest three-month period, though it has not yet impacted T-Mobile’s share in the market,” Dominic Sunnebo, Kantar Worldpanel’s global consumer insight director, said in a statement released by the firm.
“iOS’ strength on T-Mobile appears to be the ability to attract first-time smartphone buyers, upgrading from a featurephone. Of T-Mobile consumers who bought an iOS device since it launched on the carrier, 53 percent had previously owned a featurephone, well above the market average of 45 percent of iOS owners who previously owned a featurephone.”
T-Mobile has had the iPhone on its roster of available smartphones since mid-April and according to figures released by that company, had already sold 500,000 units by the end of the first full week of May. Kantar Worldpanel reported that iPhone sales made up 31 percent of T-Mobile’s smartphone revenue.
If Apple does manage to close the gap in smartphone sales, it would be big news for the company, which has seen its share of the tablet market decrease thanks to people’s apparent fondness for smaller devices. Another Kantar report forecasted that 2013 would be the first year in which Android tablets would overtake the iPad and iPad Mini in sales.
Which isn’t to say Apple is hurting. The iPhone accounts for 60.5 percent of AT&T Mobility’s smartphone sales and 43.8 percent of Verizon Wireless’ smartphone sales. And Apple is still making the big bucks when it comes to phone sales, taking in 72 percent of the industry’s profits according to Canaccord Genuity’s research arm, with Samsung and its Samsung Galaxy in second place and well behind when it comes to profits. It’s no surprise considering that Apple is the sole manufacturer of devices running its operating system.
But back to T-Mobile. Sales of Apple’s iPhone will probably keep going up as it floods into this established network. Kantar’s report on the growing market share of the Apple iOS in handsets also revealed that 28 percent of T-Mobile subscribers who plan to change or upgrade their devices in the next 12 months are thinking about purchasing an iPhone.
The fact is that the race to carve out the biggest, most lucrative share of the smartphone and tablet operating system market is a marathon, not a sprint. Sales of Microsoft’s Windows Phone make up such a small percentage of handset sales — 4.6 percent, up 0.9 percent since 2012 — that right now Android and iOS are still running neck and neck. Blackberry sales haven’t even made it past the starting line.
The notable increase in iOS-enabled phones could mean a sea change in the mobile market or we may just be seeing the inevitable evening out of sales in the United States as market saturation is achieved. Whatever we’re seeing, it doesn’t look like either operating system will have any close competition to contend with anytime soon.
Jessica Oaks is a freelance journalist who loves covering technology news and the ways that technology can make life easier. Follow her on Twitter @TechyJessy.
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