A new report from market research company Strategy Analytics suggests that while Google’s Android mobile platform still has a very tight hold on the operating system market, it may have already gone as far as it could go when it comes to market share.
According to Strategic Analytics’ report, Android had a market share of 84 percent in the July to September 2014 quarter (Q3 2014), marking a slight decrease from the Google OS’ share of 85 percent in the second quarter of the year. This still gave Android a huge lead over Apple’s iOS (12 percent), Microsoft’s Windows Phone (3 percent), and BlackBerry (1 percent), though Strategic Analytics believes that Android’s market share may have reached its highest possible level.
“Android’s global smartphone market share is peaking,” said Strategic Analytics executive director Neil Mawston in a statement. “Unless there is an unlikely collapse in rival Apple iPhone volumes in the future, Android is probably never going to go much above the 85 percent global market share ceiling.”
Google does, however, have a good number of things going for it as consolation. First is the fact that its Android platform still has a 72 percent lead over its closest competitor, iOS. Second is Strategic Analytics’ forecast that smartphone shipments (the number of phones shipped to retailers, not the number of phones bought by end consumers) may rise by 12 percent in 2015. Third is the reduced number of Android forks among total Android shipments.
According to the firm, Android forks, or altered versions of Android featuring a third-party company’s ecosystem and not Google’s, took up a 37 percent share of Android shipments in Q3 2014. This represented a slight decline from the 39 percent share of forks in Q2 2014. According to Mawston, the reduction in forks was largely due to the “maturing” of the Chinese smartphone market, as China is where forked versions of Android are most prevalent. Forks can also include more famous examples, such as Amazon’s Fire OS, which is mainly based on Android, but designed to represent the Amazon ecosystem, sans native Google apps such as the Google Play Store.
Further, Mawston cited the Android One initiative, a recently-launched program that allows Google to sell extremely affordable, basic smartphones in emerging markets; these devices, including a recent batch of three released in India, come with native Google apps onboard, and aren’t considered Android forks like the Amazon Fire Phone, or any one of several Chinese knockoff devices like the GooPhone.
Other interesting analytics in the recent report included a reduced market share for Samsung devices, as the South Korean tech power’s share of smartphone shipments dropped from 35 percent in Q3 2013 to 25 percent in Q3 2014. This is indicative of Samsung’s recently disappointing financial statistics, and the presence of companies such as China’s Xiaomi, which has gained lots of ground on Samsung due to its high-end, yet inexpensive flagship devices. Samsung’s phones, including the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 4, are sold at premium price points and give the company higher profit margins, while Xiaomi monetizes smartphone sales mainly through peripherals and additional software packages, despite seemingly smaller profit margins.