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Numbers game: Why analyst says iPhone market share will exceed Android

Lex Friedman | April 29, 2013
A report recently published by Yankee Group concludes that, because iPhone customers are considerably more loyal than Android device buyers, Apple will beat its largest competitor in market share by 2015--and that the advantage will benefit the iPad as well.

A report recently published by Yankee Group concludes that, because iPhone customers are considerably more loyal than Android device buyers, Apple will beat its largest competitor in market share by 2015--and that the advantage will benefit the iPad as well.

That's an interesting argument, one that John Gruber calls a "bold projection" to make. Apple has always focused on profit share over market share, but it's certainly not going to complain about dominating a market, either. Still, some recent reports have seemed to indicate that Android is gaining in popularity as iPhone slips.

Now, I'll be honest: Many of us feel wary when we see reports like these. Good analysts can seemingly make the numbers say anything if they work them hard enough. And for every report that says Company X is "winning"--as defined by some arbitrary metric--there's another that says that Company Y is in fact the victor, and that Company X isn't worth the dirt that used to muck up your computer mouse, back when it actually had a little ball in there. So what are we to make of this latest report?

Intent to buy what?

Yankee Group's report, prepared by analyst Carl Howe, looks at a number of different factors in the mobile market. For example: Intent to buy. Howe reports that--despite favorable press for the Galaxy S4--"consumer intent to buy Samsung phones is less than half that of iPhones in the U.S. In fact, iPhone intent to buy is statistically tied with the intent to buy all Android phones combined."

Galaxy S4

That's a big statement. If more people intend to buy iPhones than to buy Samsung phones, and if customers are effectively evenly split on whether they want to buy an iPhone or any Android phone, then it's clear that Apple is sitting pretty. The question you might ask, though, is how the heck do you measure intent to buy?

In the report, Howe explains that the data comes from two primary sources. The first source is 16,000 consumer responses to a survey it conducted "during the past 12 months," released this past March. As part of that survey, customers were asked which smartphones they own and which they intended to buy within the next six months. The study coupled that data with Yankee Group's North America Mobile Carrier Monitor, March 2013, which estimated smartphone shipments by OS and brand among U.S. carriers.

One red flag at this point is obvious: If the study includes consumer surveys from the past 12 months, then the vast majority of survey respondents couldn't comment on the Galaxy S4, which was released in March of this year. So when the study says that customers don't want to buy Samsung phones, despite S4's generally positive press, it's being a little cute. The numbers would seem to speak to customer sentiment regarding pre-S4 Samsung phones in general, with the S4 itself being unable to influence data gathered before its launch.

 

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