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Platform war gets ugly as surveys ignore the big picture

I must admit, I’m fed up with market surveys. I’m talking about recent mobile surveys from comScore, IDC, ABI Research, StatCounter Mobile and many others. ComScore’s February mobile numbers, for example, prompted Business Insider’s Henry Blodget to argue that iPhone is “dead in water”, which in turn provoked pundit John Gruber to observe that “the iPod Touch and iPad don’t count, apparently”.

Piggy-backing on the latest surveys, Fred Wilson again advised programmers to create apps for Android first, provoking an opinionated response from Instapaper founder Marco Arment. And a rebuttal from Henry Blodget. And a new chart suggesting Android blows past iPhone even if you include the iPod touch. So why don’t research firms take into account the entire OS mobile market share as a measure of a platform significance?

This rivalry is about capturing mindshare of the consumer and attracting developers to write compelling apps for the platform. Last time I checked, IHS Global Insight said the App Store ruled with 82.7 percent of all mobile software sales in February. Apple paid out two billion dollars to developers so far and that’s after their 30 percent cut. A substantial portion of this revenue has come from Game and entertainment app sales on the iPod touch and iPad. The App Store eclipsed Android Market with eleven times higher revenue last year.

According to a study by ROI365 based on four million unique visitors across a bunch of websites, Android’s web usage share grew modestly over the past quarter. ROI365′s Jeff Tribble said:


The Android stats are for the total platform while iOS stats are broken out into three categories: iPhone, iPad and iPod. Android has never come close to passing iOS as a whole.

He noted that the iPad is outgrowing the entire Android ecosystem substantially:

This means that despite large sales of Android handsets, among web browsers, Apple’s iOS is clearly remaining the [dominant] mobile platform. This mirrors Apple’s native app business, which is far larger than any other mobile platform in both numbers of titles and revenues generated.

Look, smartphone shipments are important, but unit sales and market surveys can be – and often are – deceiving. The revenues and profits count at the end of the day. In this respect, Apple’s iPhone is the money-making machine. In December, the device had 22 percent share of the mobile industry’s revenues and accounted for more than half the profits, or 51 percent, according to Asmyco and echoed by Canalys.

This makes Apple the biggest phone vendor in the world by revenue. The figure is even more astounding known that Apple in the December quarter ranked fifth among top global phone vendors with an IDC-estimated four percent of the global handset market.

Surveys, of course, can’t tell you the whole story.

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  1. In the mobile platform wars, iPads and iPod Touches don’t matter because Android doesn’t have any soldiers on either of those fronts. All that matters is a dozen Android smartphone companies are “crushing”, “destroying” and “decimating” Apple’s iPhone and Apple is running off with its tail between its legs. it really sounds exciting to Droidtard fanbois that Apple is being left in the dust as far as combined unit smartphone sales are concerned. This means that all Android smartphones are “better” than iPhones. It’s quite a stretch, but this theory is likely causing Apple shares to collapse, so it’s a very effective theory. Apple still controls majority mobile revenue, but I guess that no longer matters for a company being “left in the dust”. I’m surprised that analysts and investors aren’t aware of the revenue side of iOS and only focus on unit market sales.

  2. Both platforms are really quite amazing and software innovation alone has made these last few years more progressive than the last ten.

    But the analyst are still living in a statisticians bubble. They keep harking back to the Windows vs Mac scenario in a very superficial, shallow way. If we change the facts to make it more valid then Windows 95 would have also been available on home consoles that plugged into the ariel sockets of tvs and early PDAs. And then these would have to be as popular.

    I think the analyst will wonder why, in a years time, iOS still commands the majority of major development when Android phones have more users than iPhone. Then they will conclude that there are 3 individual markets catered by iOS but Android has just one. They will throw there hands up at this great revelation and then merge Honeycomb and Android users as one platform, since they do both come from Google, right?

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