In The Smartphone Wars It’s iOS Vs. Android And Windows Phone Vs. The Rest

It’s Smartphone Platform Market Share Day, meaning that your local nerds are atwitter about the latest figures: Android’s continuing massive growth, the slowing of iOS’s year-over-year unit volume expansion, and curiously, today, if Windows Phone’s numbers matter.

You see, Windows Phone posted the highest year-over-year unit volume increase, according to IDC, clocking in with a second quarter of 2012 to second quarter of 2013 gain of 77.6 percent. The simple kicker to that growth rate is that Windows Phone as a platform is exceptionally small compared to Android, which posted a 73.5 percent unit volume gain in the same period.

Windows Phone fans are quick to grab onto good news that their platform of choice earns, and that’s perfectly reasonable. Android fans, of course, are having a field day as iOS’s market share as a percentage of the worldwide market share is down to 13.2 percent. Android itself surged to 79.3 percent in the quarter.

Keep in mind that it’s far easier for Windows Phone to put large percentage growth on the board than Android due to the fact that Android has to sell a mountain more units than Windows Phone to lock down each percentage point of unit volume increase.

However, it’s doing a simply exceptional job. According to IDC’s figures, Android’s second quarter 2013 unit figure of 187.4 million was larger than the entire second quarter 2012 smartphone market, in which 156.2 units were shipped. That’s all but insane.

Another stat to help cloud your head: Despite its 77.6 percent growth in units for the year, Windows Phone only expanded its market share from 3.1 percent to 3.7 percent in the same period. That’s due to the fact that the larger smartphone market grew in the past year, up 51.3 percent year over year in the second quarter.

Well then. What can we actually make of all this damn data? There are two separate narratives here that we should not confuse or conflate, because if we do we’ll end up nowhere at all. The simplest way to view the smartphone market is that it is two separate wars: iOS v. Android, and Windows Phone v. Everyone Else.

The old joke fits well: Two men are being chased by a tiger. One takes a pair of running shoes out of his backpack, and begins to lace up. What are you doing, his friend shouts, they are coming! And you can’t outrun a tiger! No, says the friend with his shoes now firmly on. I only have to outrun you.

That’s Windows Phone at the moment, as it faces down BlackBerry, and every other increasingly fringe smartphone platform. iOS and Android ship units on a scale that simply places them in a separate class; Windows Phone must convince developers that it is the firm third mobile platform, and that it can ship enough units to be relevant to their platform considerations.

I’d say that the most recent mobile market share figures affirm both points: Windows Phone is growing, shipped the third most units, and all other platforms that have less unit volume than it saw their numbers decrease.

So a simple way of viewing the smartphone market is that Android is consistently adding friction to Apple’s products, which are seeing their market share fall as the market itself expands more quickly than they ship. And that Windows Phone, while still a distant third place player, has managed to functionally cement itself as a player in mobile.

That fact will be more gut-checkable once more than 10 million Windows Phone handsets ship in a quarter. However, barring a dramatic market reversal, that figure should be reached inside of calendar 2013.

I’m no expert when it comes to Apple, so I’ll leave analysis of its current — though it’s hard to resist the temptation to add “difficult” — position inside of the smartphone wars to those who write about such things. However, given what IDC revealed today, we can essentially view the market as a three-way war, but not one in which Windows Phone has even begun to challenge the incumbents.

A perhaps better title for this post was suggested by the excellent @marypcbuk: “Growth, Share and other Irrational Numbers.”

Top Image Credit: Gregory Moine