What you can actually believe about the mobile wars
As a result, you can be sure that the Android sales numbers you see are inflated. The truth is that Android's market share is not as high as the reported data would suggest. But no one knows the extent to which these numbers are inflated. What you can reasonably believe is this:
- Android, in all its forms, outsells iOS -- except in business.
- Apple devices and related services generate the vast majority of the mobile industry's profits: iOS makes real money; Android, not so much.
- People use iOS devices much more than they do Android devices, from app usage to Web usage to media consumption. That's especially true for tablets.
- Apple is on a roll when it comes to iPhones, but not when it comes to iPads.
- The major non-AOSP Android device makers -- such as Samsung and HTC -- are currently struggling to stay level, much less grow.
The reasons people are seeing an Apple resurgence
That last item is what's new and why you're seeing all those "Apple's resurgence" stories. Apple is growing more in the high end -- the users who spend real money both on devices, then apps and peripherals -- while the AOSP vendors are sopping up the low-end market outside the United States. "Full" Android is feeling the squeeze.
In China, a year ago the punditocracy was abuzz with predictions that Samsung would trounce Apple because the iPhone 5c wasn't cheap enough to gain mass adoption. Now that the sales data are in -- whatever their reliability -- we see the iPhone 5c and 5s did better than ever in China. The "overpriced" iPhone beat Samsung's flagship model, even if Samsung's overall sales surpassed Apple's. But China's Xiaomi beat them both using AOSP phones that look suspiciously like iPhones.
Of course, China is a special case -- its government is systematically attacking Western tech companies in an attempt to favor its own companies, many of which have deep, if hidden, government connections. It blocks Google's services because it doesn't want anyone but itself to spy on its citizens. (Meanwhile, Xiaomi phones have been found to send user data to a Chinese server. Surprise, surprise.) It wants Western tech companies to make their goods in China (where their technology can be copied and given to Chinese "partners"), but not sell them there.
So let's put China aside as a highly manipulated market in which Western tech companies really should rethink their involvement. In the rest of the world, the basic trend is this:
- Apple's iPhone series leads the U.S. market, and that lead seems to be growing as Samsung has had a series of disappointing Galaxy models and HTC has failed to ignite any real interest in its One series. Each new iPhone sells better than its predecessor, and it's clear everyone believes that will be the case for the new "iPhone 6" models to be announced on September 9.
- Europe is divided from country to country, but it's largely the province of major Android providers like Samsung, followed by the iPhone in the 15 to 25 percent range and, in some countries, pockets of Windows Phone sales in the 5 to 10 percent range. Like the Mac, the iPhone has never been dominant in Europe (not even in terms of reputation, unlike the United States). But the European market wars have stagnated, so most eyes are elsewhere.
- Japan is practically an iOS-only country, as it is for Macs.
- South Korea shifts allegiances frequently, but "full" Android devices dominate.
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