Another milestone for Google’s Android in its unstoppable march to mobile dominance: the operating system accounted for 85% of all smartphones shipped in Q2 — its highest ever proportion, according to a new report from Strategy Analytics.
Google’s win comes at a loss for everyone else, and interestingly for the smartphone market overall. Apple, Windows Phone and BlackBerry all declined, and while there were nearly 300 million (295.2 million, to be exact) smartphone units shipped for sale in the quarter, smartphone growth has nearly halved compared to a year ago.
And it could come for a loss for Google, too — Android is likely to start getting investigated in Europe over its dominant position, according to a report in Reuters. An investigation could get triggered if Android is found to have more than 80% market share in the European market.
However, it looks like, for now, Google may still be clear of that. Strategy Analytics says that Android accounted for 73% of all smartphones shipped in Europe in Q2. A report from Kantar Worldpanel that was released earlier today noted that Android has a 74% share in Europe at the moment based on sales surveys (not shipments) that Kantar takes in five key markets in the region. In tablets, Android now stands at some 70% of all tablet shipments globally as well, too.
Strategy Analytics says that while smartphone sales continue to grow, it’s at a significantly slower rate than in the past. The 295 million units shipped in Q2 represents yearly growth of 27% compared to 49% a year ago. Why? In part, it’s because, while emerging markets are still growing strong, and have large populations, they are, at this point, still not making up for the slowing sales in more developed, large markets like Europe and the U.S. which came earlier to the smartphone craze.
Emerging markets mean more price pressure and consumers that may have significantly less disposable income, and think their very basic feature phones do a good enough job, apps or no apps.
“Global smartphone growth in the current quarter is at its lowest level for five years, and there are wide variations by region,” Linda Sui, a director at the research firm, notes in a statement. “Africa and Asia are booming, while North America and Europe are maturing.” Nevertheless, the changing tides have played squarely into Google’s hand. OEMs have been producing low-cost smartphones based on Android for years already, buoyed by the OS being free to license and the growing ecosystem of apps and services to use based on Android.
Yes, Microsoft has more recently also moved to make its Windows Phone platform free to license, and Nokia has been pushing low-cost Lumia smartphones for a while now, but this looks like it’s too little, too late: Strategy Analytics notes that Windows Phone share of shipments was only 3%, down from 4% a year ago, because of sluggish growth in the two huge, key markets of China and the U.S.
Indeed, a lot of the competitive fight has moved very much into the low end of the market. Apple and its iPhone, Strategy Analytics’ Woody Oh notes, also lost a percentage point “because of its limited presence at the lower end of the smartphone market.” Apple accounted for just under 12% of smartphone shipments (which is not the same as sales but is related in that it points to what retailers believe will be selling well, based on what has already sold well).
What we have shaping up, as research director Neil Mawston describes it, is effectively a one-horse race:
“Like the PC market, Android is on the verge of turning smartphone platforms into a one-horse race,” he writes.”Its low-cost services and user-friendly software remain wildly attractive to hardware makers, operators and consumers worldwide. Rival OS vendors are going to have to do something revolutionary to overturn Android’s huge lead in smartphone shipments.”
What could that revolutionary move be? Mawston believes Apple’s “push into the big-screen phablet market” and Mozilla’s continuing efforts in low-cost Firefox mobile devices “are the only major threats to Android’s continued growth at this stage.” Given that Firefox has yet to set the world on fire, and phablets are just larger screens but little more in the way of functionality, it seems like a pretty feeble fight, if that’s as revolutionary as it’s going to get.