Android bests Apple

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Android

While it might seem that everyone you know has an iPhone, the rest of the world is using Android. News today that Google’s operating system captured 79 percent of the smartphone market in 2013 wasn’t exactly welcome for Apple.

Here are some of the details from MarketWatch’s Benjamin Pimentel:

Smartphones using Google Inc.’s Android operating system remained No. 1 last year, with 79% of the more than 1 billion devices sold in 2013, up from 69% in the year-earlier period, IDC said. Apple’s iOS was at No. 2 with 15%, which is down from 19% in 2012. Microsoft’s Windows Phone was at No. 3 with 3%, followed by BlackBerry with 2%.

It was the first time that smartphone shipments surpassed 1 billion, although IDC also noted that “the era of double-digit annual growth has only a few years remaining.”

The industry group also highlighted an important trend that could be critical for Apple, the growth of the market for cheaper smartphones.

IDC analyst Ryan Reith said sub-$200 smartphones made up 43% of the total market in 2013, up from 31% in 2012 and 21% in 2011. That segment of the market is expected to reach about 54% in 2017, he added.

“It’s practically all Android,” he told MarketWatch. “The low end of the market is going to continue to grow.”

PCWorld’s story by Martyn Williams led with the shipment numbers and said that growth is likely to continue:

The figure, which represents a new smartphone for roughly one out of every seven people on the planet, is all the more impressive when it’s compared to the year before. In 2012, total shipments were 725 million phones, so last year saw an additional 275 million smartphones sold—a jump of 39 percent over 2012.

“I think there is still some energy to be had,” said Ramon Llamas, one of the IDC analysts who worked on the report. “Last year we saw pretty similar growth. It bodes well for the market.”

IDC estimated that 79 percent of smartphones shipped in 2013—just under four out of every five—were running Android.

In the global market, second-ranked Apple iOS isn’t even close. Apple devices accounted for just over 15 percent of shipments at 153 million, an increase of 13 percent on the previous year.

However, the Apple number compared to Android isn’t perhaps as bad as it seems. The company managed that market share from a handful of phones that are generally the most expensive on sale in any market.

Even Nokia, which is being acquired by Microsoft, is getting into the Android game, according to a Bloomberg story by Adam Ewing:

Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), whose mobile-phone business is set to become part of Microsoft (MSFT) Corp., plans to introduce handsets that run on the Android operating system made by the software maker’s rival Google (GOOG) Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

The Finnish manufacturer is preparing to present more than one lower-end Android smartphones this month to tap into growth in countries such as India, said one of the people, asking not to be named because the devices haven’t been made public. The phones, which will have access to a Nokia application store rather than that of Google’s, are set to be announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which starts Feb. 24.

Nokia has struggled to win back users from Android devices and Apple Inc.’s iPhone with its Lumia smartphones running Microsoft’s Windows software. Cheaper Android devices from manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) have gained customers at Nokia’s expense in regions such as Asia.

Doug Dawson, a spokesman for Espoo, Finland-based Nokia, declined to comment on the company’s Android plan.

The move means Microsoft is set to own a business that makes phones using software from one of its fiercest competitors. Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, is aiming to complete its purchase of Nokia’s handset unit this quarter.

But as Tom Warren points out in a story for The Verge, this might not be so shocking since Microsoft may be considering allowing Android apps on Windows phones:

Of Microsoft’s many challenges in mobile, none loom larger than the app deficit: it only takes a popular new title like Flappy Bird to highlight what the company is missing out on. Windows 8 apps are also few and far between, and Microsoft is stuck in a position where it’s struggling to generate developer interest in its latest style of apps across phones and tablets. Some argue Microsoft should dump Windows Phone and create its own “forked” version of Android — not unlike what Amazon has done with its Kindle Fire tablets — while others claim that’s an unreasonably difficult task. With a new, mobile- and cloud-focused CEO in placeNokia’s decision to build an Android phone, and rumors of Android apps coming to Windows, could we finally see Microsoft experimenting with Google’s forbidden fruit?

Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the company is seriously considering allowing Android apps to run on both Windows and Windows Phone. While planning is ongoing and it’s still early, we’re told that some inside Microsoft favor the idea of simply enabling Android apps inside its Windows and Windows Phone Stores, while others believe it could lead to the death of the Windows platform altogether. The mixed (and strong) feelings internally highlight that Microsoft will need to be careful with any radical move.

What’s clear from all of this is that Android is the true king of the smartphone market, something app developers need to continue to pay attention to as they make new games and ways to make life a little easier. It’s also something for large, multi-national firms to consider as they develop and work on their apps. As more people enter the content game, those who have the best means of deliver will win the battle for people’s attention.