Well, here comes comScore’s March 2011 smartphone market share numbers, just in time to make me a liar. Turns out we do know a thing or two about what went down in the smartphone market in March of 2011, a month which would otherwise be of little importance, save for the fact that it’s far enough out from the Verizon iPhone launch that we can catch a glimpse of just what happened with this landscape-altering deal. You want the numbers? We’ve got ’em.
To start with, according to comScore, the smartphone market in the U.S. increased to about 72.5 million users total. Of that 72.5 million users, Apple raked in 25.5%, up a full 0.5% over a three month period. The bulk of this (which I’ll get into in more detail in a moment) occurred during the month of February which saw Apple’s largest increase in market share in months, outpacing even their growth during the first launch of the iPhone 4.
However, for those who hoped the narrative would be that the Verizon iPhone would crush Android’s advances, well, get ready for a bit of disappointment. Over the same 3 month period, Android saw a 6% growth in smartphone market share. Even with the advent of the Verizon iPhone, the Android onslaught continues.
Now, if you’re like me, market share percentages don’t exactly paint the best picture. For example, I didn’t really realize until recently that up until the middle of last year, Blackberry was actually gaining users, even though they were losing market share. Market share percentages really only tell you part of the story. To look at some other facets, I’ve compiled this handy, if visually displeasing chart of some raw data extrapolated from the last several months of comScore’s numbers:
Take a look at this info. For starters, there’s one thing we notice right off the bat in the Apple chart: Something pretty friggin’ huge happened when the Verizon iPhone came out. For three months prior to that, Apple had been activating roughly 450k iPhones a month in the U.S., but once that phone was on Verizon? Those sales numbers more than doubled. The idea that there was huge pent up demand for the Verizon iPhone was no myth. Users flocked to the stores to buy the device. Apple’s market share may be more or less flat-lining, but their actual unit sales skyrocketed the day Verizon got the iPhone. Keeping in mind, of course, that this is new users to the platform. Apple sold quite a bit more than 1.2 million iPhones in February, but this is dealing strictly with platform growth. Which means Apple’s bottom line looks even better than this chart indicates.
The flip side to that coin, however, is that Apple’s new activations dropped dramatically in March. A mere month later, Apple only brought 973k new users to the platform. That’s down almost 300k users from the month prior. There’s little explanation for such a decline since the often-used “everyone’s just waiting” explanation a.) should’ve applied just as much one month earlier, yet we saw a huge spike, and 2.) most rumors peg the next iPhone hardware refresh in the Fall this year rather than the Summer. It seems that Apple got a quick boost from the launch but, as is pretty typical with most Apple product launches, the sales tapered off. Now, that’s not to say that Apple’s likely to drop back to 450k-levels of new activations. Far from it. Verizon and AT&T are both still reporting strong iPhone sales. More likely is that iPhone sales have roughly doubled by being on Verizon, meaning 900k new activations every month are likely to be standard fare.
Taking a look across the fence, though, at the Android camp and another truth becomes clear: the Verizon iPhone was a huge boost for Apple, but in terms of overall smartphone market share, it doesn’t really matter.
September 2010 is the closest Android came to Apple’s highest monthly user growth. Not on the high end, but the low end. Three months after the launch of the iPhone 4 (and the Evo and two months after the Droid X, by the way), Android added 1.6 million new users to the platform. It was an all-time low (where “all time” consists of July 2010 onwards). In fact, the same month the Verizon iPhone was released, Android saw the largest number of new users added to the platform since the summer of 2010 with 2.4 million new users.
Let me repeat that. During the month that Apple finally released the long-awaited Verizon iPhone, Android added more new users to the platform than the iPhone by a factor of 2:1.
The myth that people are only buying Android phones because they want iPhones but can’t get them on their carrier of choice should be laid to rest now.
It’s important to note, of course, that neither of these companies is in a bad spot. To be certain, both Apple and Google are making plenty of money and enjoying plenty of growth in the most exciting technology market sector in the world right now.
These numbers, though, do lend yet more credence to the theory that analysts and bloggers alike suck at predicting the future. There were those who predicted that, once the Verizon iPhone came about, it would be Apple’s gateway to dominating the smartphone market again. This is not the case and life goes on, much as it has this past age.
Oh yeah, and for the record, total Blackberry users dropped below 20 million for the first time since last year when they were actually growing their user base (if not their market share). With Apple hovering around 18.5 million users in the U.S., it’s looking like the next major headline we’ll be reading is that Apple’s secured the number two spot in America. Finally, everyone else will catch up to what we tech nerds have been saying for forever.