At Apple's WWDC last week, Steve Jobs said he didn't care for most of the mobile market studies being released these days. To put it nicely, it isn't difficult to understand why.
A new analysis finds Apple's share of the U.S. mobile market is eroding while Android's is growing exponentially. It's the latest in a large string of studies that reaches that conclusion and -- as much as Steve Jobs may try to downplay it -- reinforces the notion of Android's inevitable dominance over the iPhone.
Apple vs. Android: The Times, They Are A-Changin'
The new study comes to us from the analytics experts at Quantcast. When you first glance at the report, you might see Apple as the victor. And, in a short-sighted perspective, it is: Looking at mobile Web consumption for the month, Quantcast finds iOS-based devices accounted for 58.8 percent of the overall pie. Android-based devices took up just under 20 percent of the total.
As with most studies, though, the overall trends are the most important measure to consider. And that's where Quantcast's report gets particularly interesting.
From May 2009 to May 2010, Quantcast finds, Apple's share of the mobile market slipped 8.1 percent. In that same time span, Android's market share jumped up by 12.2 percent. And remember: These numbers don't even take into account the HTC Droid Incredible or HTC EVO 4G, both of which have been selling like hotcakes, nor do they factor in piqued interest in older Android phones thanks to Google's new Android 2.2 upgrade.
[Related: When will your phone get Froyo? See our Android 2.2 upgrade list to find out.]
Sure, Apple's new iPhone 4 will sell well, too. But at the same time, it'll be pounded month after month by innovative new Android devices on practically every carrier. That's some serious choice from a consumer perspective; it'd take a truly magical and revolutionary feat for Apple to be able to keep up.
"The biggest winner is clearly Google's Android," Quantcast's analysts proclaim. "Android continues to capture more share, and if the recent launch of the HTC Incredible on Verizon and Sprint's HTC EVO 4G is anything to go by, Android will continue to rapidly gain share."
Android, iPhone, and Mobile Market Perspectives
Study after study has found the same effect. Just last month, the gurus at Gartner found U.S. Android sales had grown a remarkable 707 percent from year-to-year. And then, of course, there was that widely cited study in which NPD researchers concluded that Android phones had actually outsold Apple phones in America for the first quarter of 2010.
The crew at Compete, another analytics firm, sees a parallel with the past.
"The reason Apple should be concerned about Android's newfound strength is because it has been in a similar situation before, in its competition against Microsoft for home computing," Compete's Nathan Ingraham explains. "Apple, of course, is the only manufacturer and vendor of phones running the iPhone operating system, while any manufacturer is able to run Android if it wishes. This mirrors Apple's history pitting its Macintosh operating system against Microsoft Windows."
The Android-iPhone Future
Right now, as Steve Jobs pointed out, Android is still the small fry in the global smartphone Happy Meal. And sure, you can find a study or two here and there -- as Steve did -- that paints a slightly less bleak picture for the iPhone's future. But denying the shift in consumer interest is as silly as, say, describing simplistic home screen folders as "amazing," "wonderful," and "beautiful."
To be clear, the shift means more than just fresh ammo for your next Apple-Android fanboy fight: Ultimately, it means better products for everyone. As Android gains greater attention, manufacturers and programmers will have added incentive to bring even more innovative work to the platform. And as Apple realizes its stronghold is no longer a guarantee -- even if Stevie J. never actually admits he's aware of that fact -- it'll be forced to step up its game and bring more options to consumers in order to remain competitive. In the end, the competition itself is what we should all be celebrating.
That said, for those of us who have long appreciated the choice-oriented power Android provides, the extra bragging rights are pretty damn satisfying, too.Author JR Raphael writes the new Android Power blog at Computerworld. You can find him on Facebook: facebook.com/The.JR.Raphael