Smartphone Platforms in 2013: Android, iOS, and Irrelevant

This story originally written by Matt Rosoff at CITEworld. Sign up for our free newsletter here.

If there was any doubt, the latest smartphone market share numbers from IDC make it crystal clear that it's a two-horse race. IT and developers should plan accordingly and ignore all talk of third platforms for the time being.

Together, Google  (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Android and Apple  (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iOS made up 93.8% of all smartphone shipments in 2013, up from 87.7% in 2012. In the fourth quarter of last year, the two main platforms made up 95.7% of smartphone shipments, up from 91.2%. In other words, the two main platforms are getting more dominant, not less. 

Most of the takeaway comes from BlackBerry  (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) and from "other" platforms, such as Symbian. But the outlook also looks bleak for Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Windows Phone. Absolute shipments nearly doubled from 17.5 million to 33.4 million between 2012 and 2013. That's nice. But the overall smartphone market is growing so fast, that only amounted to a slight gain in market share, from 2.4% to 3.3%.

See also: Google's Android empire is unraveling

No, market share does not equal installed base, which is what really matters for developers and IT departments trying to figure out which platforms to embrace and support. But the market share of the two leaders has been over 90% for nearly two years, and continues to grow. This growing duopoly means that third platforms will struggle mightily to build the kind of ecosystem that will draw users.  

Tell me again how Microsoft would be crazy to abandon Windows Phone? More seriously, how long should Microsoft stay at this, and how much money they should invest in it, to what end goal?

Let's go to the the charts. First up, full year 2013 versus 2012:


And here's how the holiday season looked in each of the last two years:

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  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2014, at 1:05 PM, MaierWerx wrote:

    I think it is a mistake to ignore Windows Phone's growing momentum. Windows has taken market share away from Apple. Granted, Google's Android has taken more market share away from Apple. But, I think the real story is Apple's market share continues to decline, while Google and Microsoft continue to increase. I believe Windows Phone will eventually catch up and pass iOS.

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2014, at 1:11 PM, MaierWerx wrote:

    One more point to ponder: what if Microsoft decided to fork Android, similar to what Amazon has done with FireOS? Microsoft would instantly have access to Android's vast ecosystem, but they could tailor the forked OS to Microsoft services and give it the "Metro" interface. It is a strategy that Microsoft could/should at least investigate.

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2014, at 1:30 PM, hawkhell wrote:

    WP8 could easily overtake iOS with the momentum the Lumia line has as long as the OS rapidly evolves to have more options that will satisfy Android users changing over while keeping it simple out of the box.

    We have all this phone hardware and no phone can truly take advantage of it yet, like new 64 bit snapdragons waiting to jump in a phone or the new 64 bit intel mobile chips. If Microsoft made a phone that had a dock that connected to a monitor with about 4 USB ports and it could run RT that would be amazing.

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2014, at 4:44 PM, Dvoraak wrote:

    Windows phones may (and has) attracted the low end market and, to a much lesser extent, a higher end market..... but ask yourself this..... If Microsoft can't turn the public at large onto PC W8, how in the world are they going to convince us to buy the scaled down version?

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2014, at 9:47 PM, NoWindows8LockIn wrote:

    I absolute detest the Mickey-Mouse applications of the new Windows. Don't get me wrong - I do like applications that look good. It's just that Microsoft is attempting to relegate its die-hard loyalists to ONLY writing Mickey-Mouse applications. This is great for them - we sell applications for $5, and they take 20%. It sucks for us, however. Anytime we want to use a Windows phone for something truly innovative, we wade in a sea of crappy frameworks that they created as a tool to lock us into their ecosystem.

    Despite all this, I vowed to stick with Windows, because Linux lacks certain kernel-mode API's that are 100% necessary for advanced, systems-level programming.

    Or so I thought.

    I learned last week that I was wrong. Linux fixed this deficiency in 2006!!!

    What this means is that, for my type of applications, I have no reason whatsoever to remain loyal to Windows anymore as a software engineer.

    But that's not the bad news.

    The bad news is that I realized that, since Linux is just-as-strong in the technical details that matter to me, there is no longer to stick with writing Enterprise Server applications for Windows, since Linux is free, and the performance will be just as good, if not better.

    Microsoft...that stunt that Ballmer pulled, trying to lock us in with Metro, and giving of Mickey-Mouse API to write Windows Phone is backfiring like you wouldn't believe.

    Let me put it this way. You could not PAY me at this point to write my apps for Windows phones. My new target market is 100% Linux.

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