The Verizon iPhone Halted Android's Surge. The iPhone 5 Could Reverse It.

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Nearly a year ago, I wrote a post titled “Is Android Surging Only Because Apple Is Letting It?“. Not surprisingly, it fired people up. About 1,000 comments later, there was a full-on fanboy war between the Apple and Google sides. But the point was actually something we can look back on. Was Android surging ahead of the iPhone in the United States because Apple only had a deal with AT&T?

Let’s revisit, shall we?

At the point that post was written, the Verizon iPhone was just a rumor. It was an oft-cited rumor, but still just a rumor. Apple had a deal with one carrier in the U.S., AT&T. Meanwhile, there were Android devices on all four major U.S. carriers. And by all accounts, the ones being sold by Verizon were doing the best in terms of sales.

20+ phones on four carriers (including the nation’s largest) were outselling one phone on one carrier. It was really shocking.

It wasn’t until four months after the post that Verizon officially announced they were getting the iPhone. At it was a full five months later that it actually went on sale. That was roughly one quarter ago, so the data has started to trickle in and take shape. And guess what? It sure looks like the iPhone on a second carrier, Verizon, halted Android’s march.

In April, when NPD data had the iPhone market share push a bit forward while Android saw a small decline, it was perhaps a bit too early to read into it. But a month later, Nielsen data suggested that Android share was indeed flattening, and most credited the 2.2 million iPhones Verizon sold in the two months of its existence on the carrier as the reason.

A few days ago, a report by Needham using IDC data suggested that Android’s market share peaked in March, and was now on the decline as Apple’s share was rising again. This was the first quarterly share decline that Android had ever seen.

Why? It seems obvious, doesn’t it?

Earlier today, BTIG Research put out a report showing that in both AT&T and Verizon stores across the country, the iPhone is now the top selling device in most stores. Four months ago, the iPhone did not exist in Verizon stores. Now it’s easily outselling any Android device in the majority of stores.

To be fair, as before, the sheer number of different Android devices out there means they’re undoubtedly still outselling the iPhone when combined together. But the market share numbers suggest that even this discrepancy has collapsed. That’s pretty amazing.

And let’s keep something in mind — by most accounts, the Verizon iPhone launch was not the massive blow-out many were predicting. Why? It’s likely that a sizable chunk of would-be Verizon iPhone buyers believed a newer model would launch in the summertime, just a few months away, just like it always had in the past.

That turned out not to be the case, and it now looks like the iPhone 5 will launch this fall. But Apple gave no guidance on that either way. So a lot of customers have been left waiting. (Though the white iPhone helped a bit.)

And guess what happens when the iPhone 5 does launch in the fall on both Verizon and AT&T? It’s going to be massive. So massive that I wouldn’t be surprised if the one device does actually reverse the Android’s march forward. At the very least, it will do so in the short term.

Yes, one device on two carriers could well outsell dozens of devices on four carriers.

And if and when the government approves the AT&T/T-Mobile deal (which is BS, but will happen), we’ll see the iPhone on the top two of three carriers in the U.S. Apple doesn’t really need Sprint anymore, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the iPhone on the carrier next year.

So in that regard, the Android vs. iPhone argument is becoming a more fair one in the U.S. market. Apple is never going to make dozens of devices to match Android in “choice”, but the carrier part of the equation is being negated.

In other words, at least in part, Android is no longer surging because Apple is no longer letting it.

[image: flickr/victoria white2010]