China has become the largest single market for Android, with two in every three mobile phones sold in the country this year powered by the Google-backed OS, according to Informa Telecoms & Media.
The research firm also claims that a third of all Android devices sold globally in 2012 were sold in China. The US is the second-largest market for Android with an 11% share.
Despite the economic downturn, the global smartphone market is enjoying healthy growth and consumers are actually spending more to acquire increasingly technologically-advanced devices, says Malik Saadi, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.
It is estimated that around 786 million smartphone devices were sold in 2012 (including the devices powered by non-certified variants of Android that are proliferating in China), which is 45% more than the total number of smartphones sold in 2011, notes Saadi.
China is by far the fastest-growing smartphone market with a year-on-year growth of 85% in 2012, and this growth is being driven by the explosive demand for Android phones. Sales of devices powered by Android in China exceeded 50% penetration in 1H12.
Of the other major platforms, Apple’s iPhone and Microsoft’s Windows Phone hold minority shares of China’s total handset sales, around 5% and 1%, respectively in 2012. However, thanks to Nokia’s partnership with China Mobile, Windows Phone is expected to improve its share in 2013 to 2% while iPhone is expected to lose market share slightly if Apple does not manage to create a TD-LTE variant for the Chinese market.
At the same time Android is expected to consolidate its position further in the US to such an extent that one in every two handsets sold in the country in 2013 will be powered by this platform, the research firm says.
That rise could pose a serious challenge to iPhone sales in the US if Apple does not manage to make radical changes to its ageing iOS, particularly to the user interface. The company could be forced to compromise the high margin associated with its iPhone in order to maintain volume share. Although Apple has upgraded the hardware of the iPhone5, little has been done on the software side. This situation could lead to even the most ardent Apple fans churning as they become disillusioned with using the same UI framework for more than six years.
That said, Informa anticipates that US sales of the iPhone will decline to 34 million units in 2013, from 35.5 million in 2012.
Microsoft is expected to slightly improve its market share in the US in 2013 to 6.5% as Nokia and HTC strengthen their Windows Phone marketing strategies and device portfolios, and tighten their partnerships with operators in the region.
“Looking forward, Android is expected to continue gaining market share globally and, by 2015, one in every two handsets sold worldwide will be powered by it,” Saadi says. “However, the market share of this platform could potentially peak – or even decline – after 2016 owing to a more aggressive penetration of the alternative OSs, most notably Windows Phone.”