Apple's iOS Dethrones Android ... for Now

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There's a game of thrones brewing, tech investors, and it has nothing to do with the popular HBO series depicting a feudal struggle among nobles for control of the fictional realm of Westeros.

This game is far more real, and there's much more at stake for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) investors. The prize? Dominion over the global smartphone market.

King Google was partially dethroned last year. A new report from researcher Kantar Worldpanel ComTech says Apple's iOS controlled 44.9% of the market versus 44.8% for Android handsets in the fourth quarter.

Worldwide, Android still leads. But Apple's growth has recently accelerated in several countries, Kantar said in its report. In Britain, for example, the Mac upped its share to 34% from 22% in last year's Q4.The gains help to explain Apple's sparking fiscal first-quarter results.

"Apple has continued its strong sales run in the U.S., UK, and Australia over the Christmas period. Overall, Apple sales are now growing at a faster rate than Android across the nine countries we cover," said Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director, in a press release.

Admittedly, we're talking about short-term trends here, and today's leader could very well become tomorrow's laggard. Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) just reported sharp declines in shipments smart and plain-vanilla handsets.

Days earlier, Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) replaced its founding co-CEOs at the behest of the board in what looks like a Hail Mary attempt at reigniting growth lost in the rise of Apple's iOS and Google's Android. So while it's appropriate for Apple investors to celebrate Kantar's report, I'd avoid anything resembling a touchdown dance. This game of thrones is far too volatile.

The good news? You needn't throw caution to wind to profit from the post-PC world emerging around us. The Motley Fool recently homed in on how mobile computing is changing fortunes in a report entitled "The Next Trillion-Dollar Revolution." Thousands have already requested the report, which is available for a limited time. Get your copy before the offer expires -- the research is 100% free.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's Web home, portfolio holdings, and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google and Apple and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (9)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2012, at 7:34 PM, sawchain wrote:

    You can't use the name iOS interchangably with the name iPhone. One is a subset of the other. What this report shows is that the subset -- the iPhone -- is more popular than all Android handsets combined. If you include all iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) Android doesn't even come close.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2012, at 11:51 PM, BR14 wrote:

    Are you sure about those numbers for the UK?

    I recently read reports from another consumer organization showing Android taking the number 1 spot in the UK from ..... BlackBerry!

    Apple came in third.

    And globally in 2011 Q3 (according to Gartner) Android has over 50% market share, with Apple at 16% (Symbian actually had more share than Apple!).

    The "dying" BlackBerry had 11%.

    I suppose it depends who is doing the research, and who is paying them to tell what story.

  • Report this Comment On January 29, 2012, at 2:19 AM, deasystems wrote:

    @sawchain: Good point--and one so frequently overlooked: If the discussion is about platforms, one must look at ALL devices running that platform. In the case of Apple's iOS, that includes iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

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