Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS continued to thoroughly dominate the global smartphone market in the fourth quarter, according to research firm IDC, with Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus driving Apple to gain share at Android's expense. Meanwhile, Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Phone platform continues to be an also-ran in the market, though the company as vowed to introduce a range of new phones this year running its new Windows 10 software.
According to IDC, Android and iOS accounted for 96.3 percent of all smartphone shipments in both the fourth quarter and all of 2014, up slightly from 95.6 percent in year-ago fourth quarter and up from 93.8 percent for all of 2013. "Many of the same drivers were in play for Android and iOS to tighten their grip on the market," IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said in a statement. "A combination of strong end-user demand, refreshed product portfolios, and the availability of low-cost devices--particularly for Android--drove volumes higher."
Llamas noted that with the iPhone 6 and especially the 6 Plus Apple moved into the phablet market, where it had been absent, so it's unclear what will drive continued iOS growth in 2015. However, Samsung Electronics, the largest Android device maker, saw flat growth in 2014, forcing Android to rely on smaller device makers to drive increasing volumes. IDC said Huawei, Lenovo (including Motorola Mobility), LG Electronics, Xiaomi and ZTE fueled the most growth for Android in 2014, IDC said.
In the fourth quarter, Android saw its smartphone market share decline year-over-year to 76.6 percent from 78.2 percent a year ago, IDC reported. Meanwhile, Apple boosted its market share to 19.7 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 17.5 percent. "iOS saw its market share for 2014 decline slightly even as volumes reached a new record and grew at nearly the same pace as the overall smartphone market," IDC noted. "Much of this was due to the strong demand for Apple's new and larger iPhones and the reception they had within key markets. What remains to be seen is how Apple will sustain demand going forward, as larger screens were among the last gaps in its product portfolio."
Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to fight market headwinds. While the company has increased the number of apps it offers and has introduced new features like the Cortana voice-activated digital assistant, Windows Phone has not been able to make up ground, according to IDC. In the fourth quarter, Windows Phone saw its market share actually shrink to 2.8 percent from 3 percent. For all of 2014, the platform saw its market share drop to 2.7 percent from 3.3 percent in 2013.
Microsoft's platform had the smallest year-over-year increase among the leading operating systems growing just 4.2 percent, well below the overall market growth of 27.7 percent. "Having finalized its acquisition of Nokia in the spring of 2014, Microsoft relied primarily on a long list of entry-level Lumia devices to maintain its position in the market, and relied on its partners HTC and Samsung to provide cover on the high-end of the market," IDC said. "With the launch of Windows 10 later this year, Windows Phone stands to make a more concerted effort to return to the high end of the market."
BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) was the only operating system vendor that sold fewer units in 2014 than it did in 2013. For all of 2014 the company shipped just 5.8 million smartphones, good for 0.4 percent market share, down from 19.2 million shipments and 1.9 percent share in 2013.
"2014 marked a year of rationalization for the beleaguered platform, and by the end of the year the company had revealed multiple enhancements to its platform and new device additions with the BlackBerry Passport and BlackBerry Classic," IDC noted. "CEO John Chen anticipates 10 million units will be shipped in 2015, returning the company to profitability and marking a 72% increase over the 5.8 million units shipped in 2014."
Last week AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) started selling the Classic for $50 with a two-year contract, $14 per month on AT&T's Next 24 equipment installment plan or $420 outright. Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) will start selling the Classic online on Feb. 26 and in stores on March 5 for $100 with new two-year activation after $50 mail-in rebate card.
- see this IDC release
- see this ZDNet article
- see this Business Insider article
- see VentureBeat article
Motorola's Osterloh calls Apple's prices 'outrageous' in response to criticism from Ive
Cook: Apple doesn't need to make a cheap iPhone to be successful
Kantar: Apple's share of smartphone OS market grows further in Q4
ABI Research: Android smartphone shipments fall for first time in Q4 2014
Apple's blowout: 74.5M iPhone sales, net profit of $18B
Samsung loses top smartphone vendor title to Apple in Q4, according to analysts