Apple iOS Has an Edge on Google Android: Analyst

Things look great for Android and iOS, and not-so-great for pretty much every other mobile OS.

Looking for a graph that illustrates how Google Android and Apple iOS managed to turn the mobile-device market into a near-duopoly? Look no further than a new visualization by analyst Horace Dediu, which shows just how savagely the market has treated Research In Motion (now known as BlackBerry), Microsoft, and webOS over the past three years.

In his latest research posting, Dediu also suggested that the U.S. smartphone market is rocketing toward a saturation point within the next two years. “The next milestone I have [penciled] in is the 80 percent mark which I extrapolate to be achieved by October 2014,” he wrote. “[Eighty percent] could be considered ‘saturation’ which would signify a rapid slowing of new user addition.” However, that slowdown might not actually hit until the market reaches 100 percent, “depending on the availability (or lack thereof) of non-smartphones to buy.”

If all mobile-device users in the United States are on smartphones, that changes the contours of the competition “to smartphone replacement rather than smartphone adoption,” which could end up benefitting iOS and Android—with iOS at something of an advantage, given the traditional loyalty of iPone users. “The data from comScore has already begun to show that Android may have peaked around 54 percent share,” Dediu added. “Android share is now at the same level it was in July while iPhone share has grown by more than 6 points since then.” (See below for comScore’s chart of the top smartphone platforms.)

Apple’s popularity could help it withstand the tide of Android devices flooding the market. But Apple also seems determined to test the limits of consumers’ patience: during the company’s April 23 earnings call, CEO Tim Cook suggested that no new products will hit Apple Store shelves before this fall at the earliest. “We continue to be very confident in our future product plans,” he said, according to a transcript produced by Seeking Alpha.

Apple is reportedly rushing to revamp its iOS mobile operating system in time for the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June. Apple senior vice president Jonathan “Jony” Ive, famous for his hardware designs, is heading up the iOS overhaul; according to Bloomberg, the effort could continue into 2014 as Ive and his workers revamp both the interface and individual apps.

If that new software and hardware proves a hit, it could cement Apple’s position as a dominant platform—and give it a way to push back against increasingly sophisticated Android devices.

Images: Horace Dediu, Asymco (top)/comScore (bottom)

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