Android Market Share in 2013 Dominates at 80 Percent but Slower Growth Could Mean Trouble
Android smartphones handily dominated the mobile market in 2013, but new analysis shows that it may be peaking, and that the future may hold openings for companies such as Microsoft and Mozilla.
Recently released market data from Strategy Analytics (carried out by its Wireless Smartphone Strategies service) reveals that Android, developed and distributed freely by Google, absolutely dominated 2013, leading Strategy Analytics to declare: "There is little doubt that 2013 was the year of the Android." How badly did Android obliterate the competition? Let's just say that Android ended 2013 with a whopping 79 percent market share, translating to four times as many shipments as both Apple and Microsoft combined.
In comparison, the Strategy Analytics data shows that Apple finished off the year with 15 percent of the market. Growth slowed sharply for Apple, thanks to less-than-stellar sales of the iPhone 5C, and despite record shipment numbers.
Microsoft, the report reveals, has now become the third player in the mobile operating system industry, finishing off 2013 with four percent of the market. It's not impressive, but if forecasts hold true, this number should grow as Android faces a new challenge and holes in the market open up.
Android's Future Problems
So why should Android worry when it dominates the market in such a way that it sits 65 percent above its closest competitor (who happens to be the behemoth that is Apple)? The answer lies in the growth rate.
Android's growth rate for 2013 clocked in at 62 percent. This is an impressive number by most industries and standards, but not enough for Android to continue on its record-breaking pace. In fact, 2013 was the year Android grew the slowest -- a troubling sign. A company's (or, in this case, product's) growth rate can be a far more reliable indicator of the future than current success or failure.
"We expect Android's growth to slow further in 2014 due to market saturation, and rivals like Microsoft or Firefox will be ready to pounce on any signs of a major slowdown for Android this year," reads the Strategy Analytics report.
Tech junkies and market watchers will recognize a similar plague afflicted Samsung in 2013. Despite posting record profits, growth had slowed under industry expectations. The Samsung Galaxy S4 was successful, and most other companies would kill for the numbers it posted, but it wasn't as successful as Samsung and Wall Street had hoped.
"When we moved to S4 from S3, it's partly true that consumers couldn't really feel much difference between the two products from the physical perspective, so the market reaction wasn't as big," Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of the Samsung's mobile business, said in a Bloomberg interview earlier this year.
It's hard to see Microsoft's Windows Phone or Mozilla Firefox operating system (or even the upcoming Samsung Tizen operating system) becoming as big a driving force in the mobile market as Android in 2014, but tiny openings in the market can always lead to bigger things down the road.
Android has retained many of the same features, staying within the "4.0" phase for quite some time now. Android 4.4 KitKat, while more innovative than Android 4.2 or Android 4.3 was, should mark the end of Google's reluctance to unleash a far more revamped Android interface. Whether or not the rumored Android 5.0 operating system can counteract slowing growth with enough new features remains to be same, but the lesson here is simple: growth will slow if enough innovation isn't put into counteracting market saturation and what consumers can construe as complacency.
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