US Smartphone Market Continues To Grow

The latest data from comScore is out (as reported by Apple Insider), and there are several items of note for February 2012. Before discussing the numbers, though, it is useful to remember that these apply to the installed base (based on active subscribers). This isn’t the same as some of the sales numbers that are often quoted, which show percentage of unit sales for some period of time. These numbers refer to active devices in use today.

Android and iOS Dominance Continues

Not surprising, iOS and Android continue to grow. Together the comprise over 80% of the US smartphone market. Android now commands just over 50% of smartphones in the US. Apple represents a little over 30% of smartphones. Together, they pretty much own the market, and the trajectories for iOS and Android remain largely the same, as do the trajectories for their competitors.

The news is not so good for Blackberry or Windows Phone. Both saw drops in their share of active devices, with Blackberry holding on to a little over 13% of the market and Windows Phone keeping just under 4%. Symbian was the only other platform of note, remaining steady at 1.5% of the market. And these numbers come after RIM released updated devices, and after the much-anticipated release of the first Nokia devices for Windows Phone. Neither appeared to move the needle in a positive direction for the two platforms.

Smartphones Bigger Part Of User Base

Another interesting tidbit is that there are just over 100 million smartphones in use in the US. That now puts smartphones at just under 1/3rd of all mobile phones in America, which is up from the 1/5th of mobile phones about a year ago. This is reinforcing a trend: the replacement of feature phones with smartphones. Feature phones are still an significant part of the market, and will be for a while. But their share of the market will continue to diminish over time. We are still at least a year or so away from smartphones being the dominant mobile phone in people’s pockets and purses.

But, with the increase in the user base comes an increase in opportunities for smartphone content providers, including media, books and apps. The market for these products certainly has a lot more room to grow, and even with the massive libraries for iOS and Android, there appears to be plenty of opportunity out there. What it will mean, though, is that app providers would be wise to target both Android and iOS for their apps for the long term. Given the moribund state of Windows Phone, and the decline of Blackberry, there is little harm in ignoring these platforms. Despite any real or perceived technical superiority they may have, the larger market is moving away from both of them.

Consumer and Enterprise Preference Is Now Clear

Consumers and enterprise customers are voting, and it is clear that Android and iOS are the direction they want to take. I’m not sure what it will take to get consumers to change direction, but what I can say is that the work will be tremendous. The best opportunity will likely be years in the future, assuming iOS or Android (or both) start to stagnate and “lose their way” much like Windows has done in the PC market. That, in combination with Apple finding ways to get customers to give them a closer look, has opened up avenues for the Mac that weren’t really viable a decade or more ago. Apple’s return to simplicity and better design, with the return of Steve in 1997, helped, but it was the iPod, and then the iPhone, combined with truly stunning design in the 21st century that started to turn the tables. Anyone taking on iOS or Android has to show up with more than just “our OS or hardware is better”. Tech specs won’t move product.

In the mean time, it may be time to face facts: Android and iOS are the defacto standards when it comes to smartphones, and little on the horizon is likely to change that.