Deciphering Android's Smartphone Sales Figures

Right after I finished my Q1 total Smartphone Market Analysis, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) came out with the statement that they now sell 100,000 smartphones per day. There are 61 models of Android handsets by 21 branded manufacturers (including Google itself, with its Nexus One as one Android handset model).

Run rates
What does this tell us? Well, the quick math of course says Google is now (in May 2010) selling smartphones at the rate of 36 million units per year. Is that big? World No. 4 manufacturer of smartphones, HTC (who makes mostly Android smartphones but also makes Windows Mobile smartphones) sells currently at the rate of 18 million per year. So where HTC once was manufacturing seven out of every 10 Android handsets in the world, today HTC's share is at best half of all Android phones -- this bodes well for the other big Android manufacturers like Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) , LG, SonyEricsson, Samsung, etc. HTC is no longer the only game in town.

But yes, what does 100,000 per day mean? How does that compare to Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone? Yes, the world got quite a shock two weeks ago when NPD reported that Android devices were selling more than iPhones in the USA in Q1. So yes, how is Apple doing? Well, its latest sales numbers from Q1 had Apple selling iPhones at 8.75 million per quarter which means they sell at the rate of 35 million units per year. Yes, assuming Apple's current iPhone sales have not exploded in unit sales (reasonable assumption as we await the new iPhone model due in June, and something Apple said in court documents about the Gizmodo 'stolen' iPhone case, Apple actually testified that current iPhone model sales are struggling because customers now await the new model), the family of Google Android smartphones has definitely passed iPhone unit sales globally in Q2.

So how near is Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) , the world's second-largest smartphone maker? It's getting interesting here -- RIM's latest quarterly sales were measured at 10.6 million by the analysts (we await newer numbers from RIM, which reports in a cycle one month off from the normal quarterly calendar cycle) but yes, RIM's current sales is at the level of 42 million per year. Or the daily rate? RIM's daily rate in Q1 was 116,000 smartphones per day. How close is Android? Android reported in Q1, that it was selling 65,000 handsets per day, or about 24 million per year. In just one quarter, Android family has grown unit sales 54% (compared with RIM, who grew 4%, or Apple, who grew 1%, from the previous quarter). This is an amazing growth rate. It's very likely that Android smartphones will pass RIM in quarterly sales during Q3, even if RIM picks up speed and Android slows down considerably. The difference in growth rates is that immense right now. 

Oh, and it's totally certain: Apple cannot recapture third place from Android during Q3. Apple needs to abandon its "one new smartphone model per year" strategy. Android has already 61 phone models in the market -- out of 21 manufacturers, it means that on average each rival maker offers 3 Android models. So think: Just playing the averages, go to an average country, to an average carrier and find that LG offers 3 Android models, Motorola offers 3 Android models, Samsung offers 3 Android models, SonyEricsson offers 3 Android models, ZTE offers 3 Android models -- these are all dumbphone handset manufacturers who produce more dumbphones than Apple's total sales. Then, in the best case, that carrier is an authorized iPhone dealer who offers one iPhone model that is less than a year old (the 3GS) plus another iPhone (3G) which is almost two years old by now. And in the worst case, that carrier does not support Apple, but does offer these 15 Android smartphone models, many of which look to the average uninformed customer remarkably similar to an iPhone (and usually even cost less).

Now, each of those global brands with global distributorships, offering phones through far more carriers than Apple, has on average 3 Android models already released (and more coming). So they can afford to do one "iPhone Clone" with a near-identical form factor, then do another QWERTY smartphone (the QWERTY keyboards still outsell touchscreens, remember, so this is a huge market that Apple is abandoning to its rivals) and then do a third, more special phone -- if you're SonyEricsson, that could be the super cameraphone under the Cybershot brand, or if you're ZTE, that could be the $100 super-cheap smartphone for Africa and India, etc. Apple doesn't have a prayer to catch up -- remember, last quarter, Apple grew 1%, while Android grew 54%. The two platforms are now roughly similar size (it's easier for a small player to grow faster than a larger player; that's just the math of percentages).

So in this quarter, Q2, Android is running neck-in-neck with Apple and passing it. By Q3, Android is challenging RIM and may well pass it, which would make Android the No. 2 best-selling smartphone platform in the world.

What of No. 1? In Q1, Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) was selling at the rate of 86 million smartphones per year (more than twice the size of Android today). If measured on a daily sales rate, Nokia sells 236,000 smartphones every day. Nokia grew 3% from the previous quarter. So Nokia is not "threatened" by the Android invasion yet -- not at all. But even the boys in Espoo take notice when a rival grows more than 50% in just one quarter. Android could become an unstoppable force if that continues.

The upside rosy scenario for Android
Let's assume for the sake of argument that Android maintains its enormous growth rate for several consecutive quarters without slowing down (an unlikely scenario; currently, its major handset makers have been doing their ramp-up, so the growth rate in total Android sales is likely to slow down). Note that I am simplifying the pattern, ignoring the Christmas sales peak, but just doing some linear projection. So let's see how the numbers stack up, if Android grows every quarter by 54%. And let's assume that Nokia would also manage to continue to grow at its current rate of 3% per quarter. If that happened, Android would pass Nokia as early as Q1 of 2011.

Please note, I am not making that forecast now. I don't think it's plausible for Android to keep growing at such speeds for the next three quarters to come. But it is so close to RIM already today, that almost certainly before the end of the year, and quite possibly already in Q3, Android will become the second-best-selling smartphone OS in the world, behind only Symbian, and ahead of RIM and Apple. And by the end of the year, Symbian will start to feel the heat. Not from Apple, not from RIM, but yes, from Google Android.

I think a far more reasonable scenario has Android taking a solid second place by end of the year or early next year, and then doing a more gradual race against Symbian and Nokia in the next few years.

The reality bit
Three important caveats to bear in mind. First, many major dumbphone handset makers who support Android, also support Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows Mobile (including its newest incarnation, Windows Phone 7, due out end of this year). So especially Samsung, SonyEricsson, HTC, and Motorola are certainly going to consider how good the new Phone 7 OS will be, and may well use the Phone 7 platform to release some phones at least to differentiate from the 21 manufacturers who now offer very often "clone-like" copies of each others' phones on Android. So there may be some "leakage' of market share away from Android to Phone 7 toward the end of the year and early in 2011, when perhaps some makers shift their flagship models to the Microsoft OS. For this to happen, it is absolutely crucial for Microsoft to deliver a well-debugged, highly competitive OS upgrade on time. Microsoft's surprise announcement of its first two Kin phones gives evidence that Microsoft is serious in the smartphone wars. So don't count them out.

Secondly, remember Samsung, the biggest of the dumbphone makers who support Android. Samsung sells 21% of all phones on the planet, and it sells for example more touchscreen phones than all Apple iPhones. Samsung supports four smartphone OS platforms (Symbian, Android, Microsoft, and its own new OS, Bada). Samsung said that for 2010, they intend to sell 24 million smartphones; half of those will be on Android, and a third on Bada. As Bada is Samsung's own OS, they will no doubt increasingly prefer their own OS, so toward the end of the year, Samsung's 'mix' of OS platforms supported may well be tilted so, that in 4Q, over half of all smartphones are Bada and only a third on Android. So some of the early hot growth in Android smartphone sales we see now in Q1 and Q2 of 2010, is that heavy push by Samsung to shift to Android, which will then move to Bada toward the end of the year. That will very likely cause Android sales growth to slow down as Bada ramps up. Note again that since Samsung's dumbphone maker rivals LG, SonyEricsson, Motorola and ZTE all support Android, but no others support Bada, there is no danger that if Samsung shifts its balance from Android to Bada, Android sales would stall. But it does mean Android is having its golden time now, and that will probably change toward the end of the year.

And third, remember that Symbian is more than Nokia. Symbian is the best-selling phone operating system in Japan, where the world's most advanced phones are made. The typical Japanese "featurephone" runs on Symbian, but is not considered a "real" smartphone, because it does not allow end-users to install apps (the phone OS is closed to the user). Yet this means significant Symbian sales out of Japan, come what may. And NTT DoCoMo, the biggest operator in Japan, just announced a partnership with half a dozen Japanese mobile industry giants to create an app store, and a smartphone OS evolution path, to Symbian (and to Linux Mobile, the other major smartphone OS platform used in Japan). So yes, there is the occasional Samsung Symbian phone, and the Japanese contenders, and every so often even a SonyEricsson, etc. So Symbian is not just Nokia, Symbian's market share is about 45% of the new phone sales globally, and the installed base of all smartphones in the world is nearly 60% Symbian. Now that Symbian is an open-source foundation, it is also finding new support, even as the OS obviously shows its age in many ways.

And while they are a microscopic player today, Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) just got bought out by Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) the world's biggest PC maker. HP is a huge giant corporation -- it's twice the size of Microsoft or Nokia, and four times as big as Apple or Motorola. If HP wanted to make a serious effort as a latecomer to smartphones, it could turn Palm around and become a significant player. Not in a year, but in a few years, it could be rivaling the Apples and RIMs of the world, with their own small OS families. And then, if HP wanted to really try a major play, they might go open source and try to build a family of manufacturers around Palm's OS. I am not suggesting this is happening; I am just imagining. Alone, HP can't hope to even match Apple in the next three years -- much less what Apple achieved in the previous 3 years -- so even by the end of 2013, HP and Palm cannot hold as much as 3% of the global handset market. So if HP wanted it as a niche mobile strategy for its own branded PCs in the shfit to the pocket, that is fine. That would be in line with Apple's OS/X strategy, building iPads and other Apple exclusive devices on that platform, even as its share of phones is tiny. But if HP wanted Palm to become a rival to, say, Microsoft (and Google), then it also would need to build partnerships quickly with other handset makers. Let's monitor this space; it could be interesting.

But consider the "armies" involved
What do I think? I think the trend for Android is strong. It can well be holding something like 25% to 30% by the end of the year (Q4 market share), and for the full year 2010, sales will edge past RIM in something like 22%-24% levels of the total new smartphone sales market share. Nokia will still be the clear leader, but no longer will Nokia be as big as No. 2 and No. 3 combined (as it still is today).

I also want to mention something about the manufacturers supporting Android. Every major company in mobile seems to be suddenly a smartphone maker. As I've written, the competition by giant global brands in smartphones has tripled in three years. Back in 2006, before the iPhone, only seven of the Global Fortune 500 largest corporations on the planet were involved in marketing smartphones under their own brands. Today, that number is 23 and growing. Also, a few years ago, most dumbphone makers were ambivalent about smartphones -- whether they would remain a niche luxury bracket item, or become a global major market opportunity. Today, all major dumbphone makers have announced strong commitment to smartphones. And obviously, the biggest PC makers, software makers, Internet companies, etc. believe in smartphones being relevant to their business future.

Provocative scenario
So, let's take a quick "provocative" look at the market shares of the Global 10 biggest handset makers, and see how many of them support Android. I am simplifying, and assuming Samsung will eventually shift from Android to only supporting Bada:

  • Nokia 35% - Symbian (and in future MeeGo)
  • Samsung 21% - Bada
  • LG 9% - Android
  • ZTE 5% - Android
  • RIM 4% - Blackberry
  • SonyEricsson 4% - Android
  • Apple 3% - iPhone OS/X
  • Motorola 3% - Android
  • Sharp 2% - n/a (supports Symbian and Windows Mobile and Linux Mobile)
  • Huawei 2% - Android

If we assumed all who make smartphones for multiple OSes would only pick their primary one, and if we assumed all dumbphone makers could transfer their existing dumbphone market share to smartphones (a very unlikely scenario, as seen by the troubles of Motorola and SonyEricsson to achieve this) then Android-supported major brands of dumbphones would give Android just 23% out of these companies -- even allowing Samsung to "escape" completely.

So in that hypothetical model,  the market shares among the Top 10 in a couple of years would be something like:

  • Symbian (Nokia) 35%
  • Android (LG, ZTE, SonyEricsson, Motorola, Huawei) 23%
  • Bada (Samsung) 21%
  • Blackberry (RIM) 4%
  • iPhone OS/X (Apple) 3%

All other smartphone makers, which would include 15 more brands for Android, plus HP/Palm, Microsoft, plus some Japanese, etc., on Symbian, Linux Mobile, etc., would share the remaining 14%.

Note, I do not see this split of market shares as plausible. In particular, I do not see Bada being able to capture nearly all of Samsung's current market share. But consider, just by "market power" of the support of its "committed" partners in Android (even allowing Samsung to be promiscuous, to be opportunitistic with Android now while it builds the rival Bada platform) -- the other five major dumbphone makers in the Top 10 of the world who support Android have a dumbphone market share of 23%. Compared to RIM at 4% or Apple at 3%, I think it's safe to say that Android will soon be one of the biggest smartphone platforms on the planet, come what may. And by the end of this year, they are likely the second largest behind only Symbian.

So yes, the announcement of 100,000 Android handset sales per day is a very important milestone for Google's smartphone platform.

More from The Bright Side of News*

This analysis was originally posted at Communities Dominate blog by Tomi Ahonen and then posted on The Bright Side of News*, where it was edited for clarity. You can learn more about Tomi here.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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 May 27, 2010, at 4:10 PM, Diaphanic1 wrote:

    Just curious, how would one factor in the 2 for 1 or buy one get one free campaign that android has been doing?

    Could that be an attempt to inflate their market share? Certainly at this scale and with these numbers that is would certainly be worth accounting for if there was a way to determine for what percentage of sales that extra phone counted, especially when they are touting such up to the minute numbers.

    Anyone?

  • Report this Comment On May 27, 2010, at 4:13 PM, hary536 wrote:

    That's a very ill-informed article and shows how people in US have so much pre-assumptions about Symbian in general.

    Symbian handsets are made not just by Nokia, but also by Samsung, Sony, Sharp, NTT-Docomo, etc.

    Yes,majority is Nokia, but others are too.

    Just like Android, majority is HTC, but there are other players too.

  • Report this Comment On May 27, 2010, at 4:17 PM, applebull wrote:

    A large number of the Makers of Android Handsets are offering buy one and get one free. This is a great way to boost sales figures and carrier subscriptions, but it is a lousy way to make money. Bet on Apple. The current IPhone is still miles ahead of all the other smartphones when you look at all aspects of use, and the New One coming next month will assure an even larger lead going forward.

  • Report this Comment On May 27, 2010, at 4:45 PM, Dimka15 wrote:

    Google does not make money by leasing the Android platform to mobile device makers. Yes, their market share is mushrooming, but can they capitalize on this?

    Does google make money by growing their mkt share??

    thx

  • Report this Comment On May 27, 2010, at 5:19 PM, jmcleveland91 wrote:

    Interesting that Google doesn't make any money on their Android OS. Nice of them to be so benevolent. If the major smartphone makers never used Android, but enhanced their own OS's, then the total number of smartphone sales would be exactly same as it is now. Android is itself not a "game" changer; just another way for Eric Schmitd to get back at Apple and he basically stole much of the features incorporated into Android. You would think that any smartphone manufacturer using Android would be aprehensive about using patented intelectual property presented to them in someone elses OS. And Apple's market share may indeed have much more upside potential, if and when they can break away from exclusive contract with Mr. T (AT&T).

  • Report this Comment On May 28, 2010, at 3:01 AM, Diaphanic1 wrote:

    Some one help me decipher this:

    "So yes, the announcement of 100,000 Android handset sales per day is a very important milestone for Google's smartphone platform."

    Is it still unclear how Google plans to capitalize on their market share? Just advertising? If they are VASTLY increasing the the ad revenue real estate aren't they also diminishing the what they will be able to get per ad? How much advertising money is out there?

    On the flip side, how much of that "100,000" per day really constitutes new advertising real estate if it is inflated by free phones from the buy one get one free campaign which may or may not be activated to unique customers or at all for that matter? And, of the ones activated, how many are new users if the following creed is also true:

    "Apple needs to abandon its "one new smartphone model per year" strategy.

    ?

    With so many different manufacturers, and no one to control prices to the point of giving them away, who will make money on them?

    Is it possible that maybe there is a little optimistic mania going on here? Internet boom? Banner ads? Deja Vu

    It just seems like maybe they're implementing a strategy to inflate a perceived market share under the assumption that they will eventually grow into it.

    Is the success of this OS real or is it propped up by Google until it can stand on its own? (I'm asking)

    Who is subsidizing the free phones? Google? Manufacturers? Anyone? (I'm asking.)

    Android Phones vs. AOL CD's? Advertising vs. Subscription? Boom? Bust?

    Depending on the scale it seems like there could be a great risk for potential backlash at least as far Google stock price is concerned. Those numbers could easily deflate by first-time smartphone users brought in by aggressive marketing campaign maybe later switching over to Apple after getting hooked on the hand held Internet for free, especially as Iphones become cheaper and serviced by other providers.

    Is anyone predicting any migration in this sector to be anything other than practically a one way street to the "Gold Standard" which is Apple? How many fragmented manufactures is that to one Apple? Of whatever percent do migrate, if that was split 70/30 which is may be generous to Android, Apple would owe a big thanks to Google.

    If Android sales are propped up by Google aggressively funding subsidies, they could be locked a real tar baby. Even if the initial cost of their efforts are just a drop in their bucket of cash, they may have to sustain for a prolonged period. If the numbers begin to show signs of reversing themselves, it would be all over CNBC, here, and everywhere else stockholders frequent, and likely blown out of proportion the other way, driving stock down, thus making more news, driving the stock down further and so on, possibly making the initial inherent risks somewhat greater than anticipated since a sustained effort could begin to add up to real money, even for Google.

    Does only Apple serve Kool-Aid?

    I don't know if any of what I said makes sense to anyone else out there, especially if my hypothetical premise based on my question of who is eating the free phone costs or (cuts) or subsidies or whatever and to what extent that campaign affects or inflates these "deciphered" numbers. (Again, I'm asking if anyone out there knows, as I do not.) Regardless, it just seems like the aggressive marketing of Android in the investment community especially as it relates to Google should be curtailed a bit because the potential downside of publicly losing ground to Apple down the road could be pretty severe to Google stock value. (MSFT?)

    "Android is having its golden time now" maybe true.

    Alternatively, what I am trying to get at, is they may help sustain it with a modest downplaying of these figures, and decoupling themselves from Android as much as possible for a while at least. If Google was not actually hands on in this recent push, then they at least certainly, perhaps unwittingly, unleashed a bloodbath between manufactures, which could generate some serious collateral damage to stock value when and if it deflates the growth numbers this article "deciphers" for the same reasons I mentioned earlier. Establishing The Viable Alternative to the IPhone is quite the achievement, but it couldn't hurt to hedge against losing face and their huge market cap if these numbers start to deflate substantially. They can still blame it on all the manufacturers as they shake each other out. Then take credit when they are on android is on solid ground.

    Are they coming out the gates two hard?

    I don't normally leave long comments like this or really talk in depth about this kind of stuff as I feel like I am probably out of my depth. However, as a simple retail investor who still prefers my Windows XP to anything else on my desk, who skeptically bought an Iphone and then a bunch of Apple stock a while back because of it's brilliant simplicity, I've been following all these headlines linked to AAPL stock reports and subsequently sucked into the drama which is the battle for the smartphone sector. I'm trying to remain objective and not drink the Kool-Aid, but I find myself feeling like I it was slipped in my drink, so if I am drinking it, somebody please help, this is my note to the congressman visiting Jobstown!

    For example, when I got my Iphone, I couldn't understand why it did not support Flash, but had faith that it was coming, but now I find myself behind Jobs' rational behind it and believe that its fine and that at the very least, web developers will conform if Adobe can't get their act together soon. Is that a symptomatic of cult like behavior? Also, speed, am I just slow for thinking my Iphone is plenty fast? It's at least as fast I can interact with the tiny little thing. Multitasking, who the hell needs to multitask on a smartphone, when 99% of the time that I'm interacting with it, I'm multi-tasking to begin with, and as diagnosed with ADD already I can't imagine the long term consequences multidimensional multitasking. So, please let me know if I need to call cult awareness hot-line, and if one exists that has not been bought by the COS.

    Seriously, though, if I am making some sense here and am not insane, other than the temporary insanity brought about by the stock market recently and reading and thinking about this smartphone turf war as it's been presented in the media and internet for the last several months (with many taking sides) as my faith in continuing to stay long AAPL is under constant strain with flash crashes, Greece, and suicides and finally with this "deciphering" forcing me rant all these questions stemming from my ignorance as a, fair to say, less than amateur investor out of his depth on a quite knowledgeable investor site, as to the broader context of said turf war extending from Kool-Aid drinking to how perhaps Google should be conducting themselves (itself?), I will actually go out on a limb here and throw out one those IMHO's, but I still would like any help with the questions I raised earlier and would welcome correction where I am off in my assessments as a I am surely speaking from them, and yes, though perhaps considered "too long" for most English teachers, this sentence is still more or less grammatically correct notwithstanding that it technically should not be used to constitute its own paragraph. (ADD)

    So, IMHO, all of the swipes and jabs the Android manufacturers, Google, or maybe service provider execs have made towards Apple of the Iphone's "comparable deficiencies" to whatever latest and greatest Driod is being touted are like capes wiaved by matadors at Jobs the Bull, complacent in beautiful success surround him, till he gets stung by the bee. Or maybe Jobs is like Adam Sandler in Water Boy, on the brink snapping into Droid Rage! No, I think they could be more like the jibes from jealous friends in the Count of Monte Christo,

    after all, it is fair to point out that Mr. Ahonen

    has left out the human element in this thoughtful analysis, when Jobs could easily slip into this archetype. He's been biding his time and has amassed quite the treasure, and has every reason open a can to reclaim what he may rightfully feel was taken from him the first time around, complete and total global domination. What's he got up his sleeve?

  • Report this Comment On May 28, 2010, at 3:44 PM, Diaphanic1 wrote:

    Trillions....that certainly ads perspective.

    Do you know if Google is hands on or not in propping up some of these phones sales or is it just the manufacturers hacking away at each other?

  • Report this Comment On June 18, 2010, at 11:15 AM, kitikatism wrote:

    Google makes money off of the apps people buy from the Android market. (30%) and coming soon the Music store.

    The iPhone will go the way of the Mac...popular to begin with but then everyone bought Windows. Now everyone is buying Android. All other OSs dont have a chance.

    Apples downfall was signing an exclusive deal with AT&T. Regardless of how many articles you see about the iPhone coming to Verizon/Sprint/TMobile...it won't happen till 2013. There's no way AT&T lets Apple out of that contract...that would be the dunbest move every in the wireless history.

  • Report this Comment On June 18, 2010, at 11:42 AM, Turfscape wrote:

    Selective facts always produces skewed results. Consider:

    Quantity of Android phones is not directly correlated to revenues for GOOG.

    GOOG may not be able to control, or even greatly influence revenues from Android. This creates a risk for lower support of Android to handset manufacturers.

    Verizon will most likely be announcing an end to unlimited data plans (news today on CNNMoney), just like AT&T. The surge of data-intensive devices on other carriers is producing the same problems that AT&T has been facing since carrying the iPhone. Playing field may be leveling across carriers.

    GOOG has done a fantastic job of creating a real alternative in smartphone OS, but that doesn't actually impact the Apple business model. Apple captures users across its device platforms and capitalizes in multiple aspects of the customer relationship: device, application, media, storage/accounts, peripherals & conveniences.

    This doesn't so much spell doom for AAPL. GOOG may surpass AAPL in smartphone by a significant margin, even. But AAPL will continue to make significant revenues and have a large, loyal customer base. This spells doom for the likes of RIM, Windows Mobile division and others who will not be able to provide product or service differentiation and do not have a competitive advantage with their business model.

Add your comment.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 1194710, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/25/2014 7:33:51 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement