Apple’s Bigger iPhones Dent Android’s Sales Momentum

Apple’s newest iPhones, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, have put a spring in iOS’ smartphone sales figures for fall, and a small dent in the rival Android platform’s share, according to new data from market watcher Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Kantar’s latest 12-week smartphone sales figures, for the three months to the end of November 2014, show Android losing share in the U.S. for the first time since September 2013.

This is not a huge surprise, given that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus — Apple’s largest ever iPhones — went on sale starting last September. Yet the Android platform has had larger form factor ‘phablet’ devices for years, so iOS buyers have had time to eye up the competition and covet owning their own palm-stretching phone.

Apple’s annual smartphone refresh cycle also means consumers wanting a new iOS handset may have a while to wait, so pent-up buyer demand is often unleashed once a new iPhone arrives in the market — as is the case here — provided those consumers haven’t been persuaded to make the switch to one of the myriad new Android handsets available in the meanwhile.

(Kantar notes the rate of Android to iOS switchers has remained “stable” at 18 per cent, so while the new iPhones are evidently playing well with existing iOS users — and others, such as first time smartphone buyers — they apparently haven’t especially wooed Android owners as yet.)

Kantar’s figures show Android’s still dominant share declining two percentage points in the U.S., year on year, from a 50.4 per cent share of sales in the three months to November 2013, down to 48.4 per cent this year. While iOS grew its share in the U.S. by 4.3 percentage points, rising to 47.4 per cent.

Evidently iOS is also taking share from smaller platform players in the U.S., such as Windows Phone (which dropped 1.6 percentage points) and others, likely BlackBerry. The others category shrunk a further 0.4 percentage points over the measured period.

In the U.K. Google’s mobile platform dropped a larger share than in the U.S., declining 6.7 percentage points year on year, down from 56.4 per cent in 2013 to 49.7 per cent at the end of November. While iOS saw a big rise in momentum, gaining 12.2 percentage points and growing its sales share from 30.3 per cent in 2013 to 42.5 per cent. That’s a big iPhone-6-shaped bump.

Here iOS also evidently took share from smaller rivals, with the beleaguered Windows Phone platform dropping 3.6 percentage points to shrink its sales share from 10.6 per cent to 7 per cent. The U.K. has been one of the stronger markets for Microsoft’s mobile platform so that decline is not a good sign. It follows smaller slides for Windows Phone earlier last year across most European markets, also noted by Kantar.

Even Windows Phone’s strongest European market, Italy, which was still seeing marketshare gains in the 12 weeks to the end of last September, is now recording dropping share. Kantar’s latest figures have the platform shedding 3.3 percentage points, dropping from 16 per cent to 12.7 per cent over the measured period. At the same time iOS grew its share of sales in Italy by six percentage points, rising from 11 per cent to 17 per cent. Bigger iPhones are presumably helping to persuade Italy’s Windows Phone owners it’s time to ditch.

Across the five biggest European economies (the U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Spain) in aggregate, Android dropped 3.2 percentage points (to 66.8 per cent), iOS rose 6.3 percentage points (to 23.8 per cent), and Windows Phone declined 1.5 percentage points (to 8.3 per cent).

Meanwhile in China there were modest gains for both Android and iOS, and another small drop for Windows Phone. Android remains hugely dominant in China, taking 80.4 per cent of smartphones sales in the three months to November. While iOS’ share grew to 18.1 per cent, with China Mobile acting as the main sales channel for iPhones there, accounting for 63 per cent of iOS’ overall sales, according to Kantar.

Android’s share in China is of course bolstered by large numbers of local device makers using the platform. But Kantar name-checked Xiaomi as a big contributor to the platform’s success in the market, noting the fast-growing device maker averaged 30.2 per cent of sales to the end of November.

Likewise, some of Android’s European slippage could be attributed to Samsung having a tougher time. Albeit other Android OEMs are around to pick up the slack — with Kantar noting that Motorola grew its share thanks to its refreshed Moto G and Moto X handsets playing well. These devices focus on performance and affordability.

Japan bucked the general trend, as the market is often wont to do, with a dominant iOS platform dropping 15.3 percentage points — despite the arrival of new, larger iPhones — to shrink its share to 53.8 per cent of sales. Meanwhile Android bulked up, gaining 12.4 percentage points to take a 42.4 per cent share. Smaller phones have long played well in Japan so phablet-sized iPhones evidently don’t carry the same cachet here as they do elsewhere.

Finally, down under in Australia it was the opposite story again: Android shed 10.1 percentage points while iOS grabbed 9.9 percentage points. Sales of the two platforms were almost neck and neck over the measured period, with Android at 45 per cent and iOS on 44.9 per cent, while Windows Phone added a modest 1.1 percentage points to take an eight per cent share — some cold comfort for Redmond from the other side of the planet.