Behind the numbers – why mobile phone market share figures matter to your business: Control Shift

Behind the numbers – why mobile phone market share figures matter to your business: Control Shift

At the end of each financial quarter, a mass of market share and other mobile phone industry data gets released. Generally, the most highly regarded industry analysts are IDC, Canalys, Strategy Analytics and Gartner.

In a manner perhaps not too dissimilar to a television executive or news director waiting for the overnight ratings to come through, many people in the tech, telecommunications and mobile industries have an almost unhealthy obsession with these figures.

Generally, these figures are compiled from a number of sources, ranging from the numbers of device shipments listed in the quarterly reports of publicly traded tech or telco companies, through to surveys or retail sales checks. Naturally, there’s also some degree of guesswork involved too.

Of course, you don’t work for a major telco such as Optus, Telstra or Vodafone. Neither do you work for a consumer electronics firm or an operating system – you run a small business. Even so, there’s a very important reason why this information is valuable to you.

As I discussed a few weeks ago, we now live in the age of the mobile-first internet. Given the growing importance of mobile apps and websites to businesses for everything from online sales to marketing, it is important to be aware of what’s happening in the mobile sector.

Likewise, because it often takes time to develop a new mobile app or decide to target a different operating system, it can be valuable knowing the trends that are emerging in the mobile sector ahead of time.

With the second quarter of calendar year 2014 recently coming to a close, here are four interesting facts about what’s happening in the mobile phone industry:

1. Android rules the Australian market – and most of the world

The first question many businesses face is whether to primarily focus on developing apps for smartphone running Google’s Android operating system (used on a range of devices including Samsung’s Galaxy series) or Apple iPhones. Recent figures from Kantar WorldPanel shed some light on the question.

They show Android has now reached 68% market share in Australia in June, up from 64.8% year-on-year. Meanwhile, the share of the market held by Apple’s iPhone has fallen to 25.5% from 27.4% a year earlier. Microsoft Windows Phone (5.2% to 5.3%) – used on Nokia/Lumia smartphones – and BlackBerry (0.3% to 0.5%) both gained ground, but still have relatively small bases.

2. Don’t bother with Apple in most non-English speaking countries

This second lot of figures is interesting for anyone trying to do business overseas.

Apple’s iPhone has a very strong market position in most English speaking countries. It holds 25.5% of the Australian market, 31.5% of the US market and 28.5% of the UK market. Outside Japan, however, the situation is very different in most non-English speaking countries.

In fact, the figures show even Windows Phone is now beating iPhone in a number of countries, including Germany (6.4% to 1.6%), Brazil (4.5% to 3.9%) and Spain (7.5% to 6.8%). Windows Phone also narrowly trails iOS in Italy, by a margin of 12.3% to 10.1%.

So why does Windows Phone do so well in non-English speaking countries? Part of the answer is out of customer loyalty to Nokia, which both uses Windows Phone on its smartphones, and was always strongest in Europe.

But the other part of the reason is because while the iPhone has a lot of apps, a large number of these are in English and aimed at an English-speaking market. Of course, reviews of the restaurants in New York are of little use to – say – Portuguese speakers in Rio de Janeiro.

The biggest lesson from this is to not assume the mobile phone market functions the same in every country, or that the same devices are popular globally.

3. The worldwide market smartphone is booming – just not for Samsung anymore

Globally, the smartphone market is still growing explosively. According to IDC, there were 295.3 million smartphones shipped worldwide, up 23.1% from 240 million units for the same quarter last year. Phrased differently, that’s well over a quarter of a billion smartphones worldwide in just three months.

Samsung shipped just over a quarter of these, selling 74.3 million smartphones globally. Apple claims second spot with 12.4% of the market, selling 31.2 million smartphones globally. To put that figure into context, Australia’s national population currently stands at 23.5 million people.

But sales are no longer booming for Samsung. Its operating income fell around 24% in the June quarter to 7.2 trillion won ($A7.1 billion), its worst result in two years. Meanwhile, its shipments of 74.3 million units worldwide are down from 77.3 million a year earlier. There’s little wonder senior executives in Seoul are holding crisis meetings.

4. The PC market has bottomed out – but it’s tiny compared to the smartphone market

The final interesting statistic, according to Gartner, is that after two solid years of declines, global PC sales appear to have finally bottomed out.

In total, there were 75.763 million PCs sold worldwide last quarter – up 0.1% from 75.7 million for the same quarter last year. Of course, compared to the 295.3 million smartphones shipped worldwide each quarter, the PC market now utterly pales into utter insignificance.

Just by the numbers, the message is clear: We’re living in the age of the mobile-first internet. And at the end of the day, that’s why what’s happening in the mobile industry matters to your business.

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