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Studies: Android ready to eclipse iPhone

Mar 12, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Linux smartphone shipments grew 19.4 percent year-over-year to a 8.4 percent share in 4Q 2008, according to the latest Gartner report. Meanwhile, IDC reports a sharp fall in general handset sales, and Informa Telecoms & Media predicts that Android will outsell the iPhone by 2012.

(Click for larger view of the Linux/Android fueled HTC Magic)

The Gartner study showed Linux smartphone sales rising to 8.4 percent during the fourth quarter of last year, compared to 7.2 percent in the previous quarter, and 7.3 percent in 4Q 2007, reports Joe Wilcox in our sister publication, eWEEK. Android sales were said to have accounted for 20 percent of the $3.2 million in mobile Linux sales in the quarter.

Correlating these figures, Wilcox estimates that T-Mobile sold 639,000 G1 phones in the quarter — despite shipping almost a month into the start of the quarter. T-Mobile has not released sales figures, but according to a story (see below) the mobile carrier reports that Android now represents 20 percent of its contract sales.

The Gartner report revealed that Windows Mobile rose to fourth place in the smartphone OS rankings, displacing the Apple iPhone, says Wilcox. Windows Mobile's 4Q surge pushed it to a 12.4 percent share, compared to the iPhone's 10.7 percent, an 11.9 percent year-over-year increase.

Android on the move

Wilcox suggests, however, that Windows Mobile's surge may fade as Android picks up speed. “Android is going to be Apple's big competitive problem in 2009 and 2010, particularly as Windows Mobile licensees flee for something better,” writes Wilcox, who says that Windows Mobile 6.5, which won't appear until the second half of the year, is a “dismally discouraging upgrade” that falls “way behind the web experience” available on competing smartphones.

“Handset manufacturers are lining up for Android, setting up potentially fearsome competition with iPhone OS later in the year,” writes Wilcox. He adds, “HTC and Samsung, both longtime Windows Mobile licensees, are looking at Android or Symbian.”

Palm's Linux-based
Palm Pre

(Click for details)

Despite the overall loss of ranking to Windows Mobile, the iPhone OS share continued to grow at a faster rate than any other, although at a 111.6 percent year-over-year rate compared to last quarter's 327.5 percent burst. RIM stayed strong with its BlackBerry OS. RIM grew at an 84.9 percent rate, taking second place with a 19.5 percent share, according to Gartner. Symbian and PalmOS both continued to decline at a 21.6 percent and 27.3 percent rate, respectively.

Starting in the third quarter, Palm, the company, will also be showing up in the Linux box as its Palm Pre (pictured at left) goes on sale. By then, some more compelling LiMo (Linux Mobile) compliant smartphones may also be available, and Garmin and Asus will try the Linux smartphone waters with their navigation-oriented Nuvifone G60 (see image below).

Informa: Android to supplant iPhone

Gartner's strong Linux numbers are reflected in other recent studies, such as a February report from Forward Concepts, and a study released earlier this month from In-Stat. Now, Informa Telecoms & Media is forecasting a bright future for the Android flavor of mobile Linux. According to a widely reported story, Informa predicts that Android smartphone sales will outstrip the iPhone by 2012.

Linux-based Nuvifone G60
(Is an Android model next?)

(Click for details)

Informa estimates that almost 162 million smartphones were sold in 2008, surpassing laptop sales for the first time, says The research firm further forecast smartphone penetration to reach 13.5 percent of all new handsets sold in 2009, a number that will jump 38 percent by 2013, says the story. Informa also predicts that smartphones will cruise through the recession with a “robust growth” of 35.3 percent, year-on-year, but that general handset sales will fall 10.1 per cent, year-on-year, says the story.

IDC tracks falling handset sales

Taking a more conservative view on smartphones is IDC, which predicts that while sales of smartphones, or “converged mobile devices,” will continue to rise compared to general handsets, the recession is slowing the growth rate. Its previous estimate of 8.7 percent smartphone growth for 2009 has been scaled back to 3.4 percent, says the firm.

By comparison, Gartner did not release 2009 projections, but pegged 4Q smartphone growth as having dropped to 3.7 percent. (Comparing studies is difficult, considering that smartphone definitions vary, and that the state of the economy is being recalibrated on a daily basis.)

According to IDC, prospects for the general handset market are far bleaker, with shipments falling 11.6 percent year over year in the fourth quarter, “marking the first time the holiday quarter has not recorded double digit growth in seven years,” says the research firm. Although 2008 sales grew 4.3 percent over 2007, IDC anticipates handset sales to fall by 8.3 percent in 2009.

Japan, the U.S., and Europe, will see the largest drops, ranging from -24.6 percent to -12.4 percent, predicts IDC. The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) show essentially flat growth, with a rate of 0.3 percent. India is expected to see the largest growth of the four countries.


Joe Wilcox's eWEEK story on the Gartner smartphone study, including a breakdown by vendor, and detailed charts, can be found here.

The story on the Informa Telecoms & Media report may be found here, and Informa itself should be here.

More on the IDC study may be found at IDC's site, here.

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