updated 01:51 am EDT, Tue July 30, 2013
Gains come despite lack of new model, surpassing flagship Android phones
While Apple's iPhone sales are softly declining as customers wait for an expected September release of new models, a new study by Kantar Worldpanel shows that the marketshare for the company's mobile platform is still growing in a number of key markets, most importantly the United States. Based in part on the strength of the older iPhones with new smartphone buyers, Apple is also seeing growth in marketshare in the UK and France -- taking share away from both Android and BlackBerry, even as Windows Phone begins to gain a foothold.
In the three-month period ending in June, Apple saw iOS gain more than three percentage points to grow to 42.5 percent of the market in the US compared to the year-ago period. During the same period, Android dropped just over a full percentage point, though it still has a majority share based on shipments (rather than actual sales to end-users, which if known might paint a different picture). While BlackBerry continues to slide precipitously in the US (down to 1.1 percent from four percent a year ago), Windows Phone appears to be gaining some traction at last in the US market, up about 1.1 percent in the latest report to four percent share.
The numbers reveal that Apple is likely to continue taking share from Android when new models come out in the fall, but more interestingly they highlight the continued resilience of the iPhone 4 and 4S, the previous models still available from Apple which have seen surprising strength in sales worldwide. The Kantar study suggested that new smartphone buyers -- at least from Verizon, the US' largest carrier -- are likely to pick an iOS device. It also found that the upgrading iPhone buyers at Verizon tended to be women rather than men.
The trend for Apple as well as Microsoft has been seen to be repeating in other countries, notably the UK (where iOS is up 5.2 percent from a year ago, while Android is down a percentage point and Windows is up 4.1 percent) and France (Apple up 4.7 percent, Android up 2.6 percent, Windows Phone up 6.7 percent). The iOS platform was also up in Australia (by a hair, one tenth of a percentage point), Mexico (up 4.5 percent from a year ago, with Windows Phone up 5.1 percent in the same period) and Spain (Apple up 2.8 percent). Overall, iOS gained 2.2 percent in Europe, though Android also gained share in a number of countries and remains dominant overall.
Kantar says that more than a third of iPhone 4 sales are to customers new to smartphones entirely, finally upgrading from low-end "feature phones." An analyst from the company notes that some 19 million people in the UK alone still have feature phones, providing plenty of room for growth still for Apple, Google and other rivals. Windows Phone in particular is seen to be gaining a small foothold in the market, with sales up in the same countries that Apple saw growth, likely fuelled by low-cost Lumia models just as the iPhone 4 and 4S are helping Apple.
Apple has said it is "very happy" with the strength of the iPhone 4 and 4S sales figures, noting that the popularity of the older models in developing markets helped Apple experience "unusual" fiscal third-quarter growth in iPhone sales, beating Wall Street consensus estimates. In markets dominated by "pre-pay" customers, iPhone sales were up -- and in some cases, way up all across 2013.
Sales in India, Apple executives noted in the recent conference call with analysts, were up 400 percent year-over-year. Also seeing triple-digit growth were sales in the Philippines, with "new Europe" countries like Turkey and Poland up more than 60 percent. While iPhone sales in the crucial China market were slightly down (though Apple says sales were actually up five percent owing to a change in inventory levels), a surprising surge in Japan more than made up for the drop, with Japanese sales gaining 60 percent over the year-ago quarter.
There is a widespread impression among new buyers that the iPhone 4 and 4S, even though the latter is a year old and the former more than two years old, are the best choice for contract smartphones at their price points (free and $50-$99, respectively). Sales of iPhones overall continue to surpass every other rival's flagship models, including the recent HTC One, Lumia 1020 and the Samsung Galaxy S4, which has seen a slump of late. One selling point of the iPhone line may be its guaranteed compatibility with the next major iOS upgrade -- a feature that few if any Android phones will be able to boast, and a point that is rarely discussed in Android phone marketing.