Just When You Thought Apple Ruled Mobile ...

Just when we thought Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iOS had dethroned Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android in the mobile market, some new figures are splashing cold water on those hopes.

Market researcher Gartner has recently released its figures on the state of the smartphone market during the fourth quarter of 2011. The devices unsurprisingly put up massive cumulative growth, but who emerged as the clear winners and losers within?

Worldwide smartphone sales soared by 47% to 149 million in the fourth quarter, while that figure rocketed 58% to 472 million for the entire year. Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza attributed much of the strength to record iPhone sales, allowing Apple to become the No. 3 largest mobile phone purveyor in the world, passing LG in the process.

Source: Gartner.

Looking at how the operating-system terrain has changed over the year, we see that Google expanded its market share lead to 50.9% in the fourth quarter, more than double the 23.8% share that iOS claimed. Symbian and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) continue to sing the same song, with Symbian's share shriveling by almost two-thirds to 11.7%, while RIM's 14.6% slice crossed into single-digit territory at less than 9%. It doesn't help that RIM is also starting to lose its once-iron grip on the enterprise to iOS.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) also keeps struggling, as Windows Phone hasn't made a dent, with Mr. Softy's share falling to less than 2%. iOS and Android combined keep on keepin' on, growing their joint share from 46.3% to nearly 75% of the smartphone market, leaving the rest to fight over table scraps.

In the broader mobile-device market, Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) remains top dog in terms of sheer unit shipments, with about a 23% share for the quarter and the year, although all of its digits are on the decline, including its employee headcount.

Why do Gartner's digits paint a stark contrast to those released by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech? Every researcher uses a different methodology to arrive at their figures, and while the discrepancy between these two releases is rather large, they do share one common theme: iOS and Android are unstoppable.

With iOS and Android leading the mobile revolution, some winners are hard to see -- because they're buried inside the gadgets. The proliferation of mobile gadgets is going to be breathtaking, and a handful of companies stand to rake in the profits as consumers snap up each year's latest and greatest models. We've just released a new special free report on "3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution." In it, you'll find three companies that supply crucial components that virtually every mobile device relies on. Check it out now -- it's free.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Nokia, Apple, and Microsoft and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and 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.

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  • Report this Comment On February 18, 2012, at 6:38 PM, skippywonder wrote:

    Tablets and iPod Touches are still part of "mobile". That changes the picture at least a bit.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2012, at 3:58 AM, marv08 wrote:

    Interesting, when a investment related site defines "winners and losers" based on market share, but not revenues and profits... Apple and Samsung (far behind in profits) are the only players making any relevant money here, none of the big players of the past are even on the map anymore.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2012, at 6:38 AM, Lochias wrote:

    <Why do Gartner's digits paint a stark contrast to those released by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech? Every researcher uses a different methodology to arrive at their figures, and while the discrepancy between these two releases is rather large, they do share one common theme: iOS and Android are unstoppable.>

    You might start with the fact that they are reporting different things: Gartner is reporting worldwide, Kantar the US numbers only.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2012, at 7:29 AM, Melci wrote:

    What you have neglected to note is that while Android market share is up compared to last year, it has dropped compared to last quarter while Apple has surged upwards in the same timeframe.

    Gartner reports Android declined from 53.9% in Q3 2011 to 50.9% worldwide smartphone market share in Q4.

    In contrast, Apple's iPhone surged to 23.8% worldwide smartphone share, up from 15% in Q3 2011.

    Also, the iOS platform as a whole is far larger than Android with an installed base of 316 million versus 250 million Android devices.  With only 17 million iPhones sold in the first two years the vast majority of those 316 million iOS devices are still in use.

    So Apple's iOS has a larger installed base than Android and sales are accelerating at a larger rate while Android market share is dropping.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2012, at 11:11 AM, BR14 wrote:

    "250 million Android devices"

    They sold 250 millions this year alone!

    There's no secret here. Androids are globally far more successfully than iOS.

    Apple is wisely trying to present itself as market leader to sustain its crazy share price. It's only a matter of time before they fail.

    "Android market share is dropping" :-D

    It's bizarre even to suggest such a thing.

    Androids are low cost devices that sell well in price sensitive markets. Unless they're stopped by legal means they'll power ahead of Apple. It's inevitable.

    Apple has to innovate to stay ahead, but there's only so much they can do that won't damage their margins.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2012, at 2:54 PM, Melci wrote:


    Android powered devices stood at 250 million as of Jan. 19th, 2012 from when Android was first released according to Google (not just last year), while iOS powered devices stood at 315 million as of Jan. 24th, 2012 according to Apple. 

    In terms of worldwide smartphone marketshare growth alone, Android went from 367% growth in 2010 to only 28% in 2011 according to NPD. In contrast, Apple iPhone marketshare growth rate went from -14% in 2010 to +38% in 2011 and that was only up till Oct 2011.

    According to Nielsen, during the three months of October, November and December 2011, Android's share of the US smartphone market dropped from 61.6 percent to 48.7 percent and then to 46.9 percent. ... iOS' share of the US smartphone market rose from 25.1 percent in October 2011 to 38.8 percent and on to 44.5 percent.

    NPD also reported that between Q3 2011 and October/November sales of iPhones  in the USA soared from 26% to a whopping 43%. During the same period sales of Android devices fell from a high of 60% to 47%.

    In Q4 2011 81% of AT&T smartphone sales were iPhones while 55% of Verizon's smartphone sales were iPhones.

    So it is iOS that is indeed now accelerating while Android has plateaued.

    Of course this doesn't even consider the fact that it is iOS that has far more app downloads, far more apps, far larger developer income, a much higher proportion of users with incomes over $100K, much higher web browser share, etc 

    It is also the phone that rakes in a massive 75% of the profitshare of the entire cell phone industry (up from 67% last year) and 40% of the revenue on only 9% unit share of the entire cell phone industry.  As an investment site, which company would you invest in?

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