Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

How China Could Lift Android Over iOS

By Sam Mattera - Sep 9, 2013 at 12:41PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Developers, developers, developers!

Android is the world's dominant mobile operating system. Last quarter, nearly 80% of the smartphones sold worldwide ran Google's (GOOGL -0.31%) open-source platform. Yet, despite its market share edge, Android continues to lag Apple's (AAPL -0.09%) iOS in one key area: software.

But one thing could change that, or more accurately, one country. Android is the primary smartphone platform in China, and as the world's most populous nation becomes a larger player in software development, made-in-China apps could give Android the lift it needs.

China is Android country
Android absolutely dominant in China. Last quarter, it powered roughly 70% of the smartphones sold. And that's just phones sold in a recent quarter. Back in May, Android passed the 50% installation mark; now, more than half of all existing phones in China run Android.

For comparison, Android's position in the U.S. is far less dominant. Last quarter, Android accounted for just 52% of the smartphones sold -- a majority of the market, no doubt, but not that far ahead of Apple's iOS at 40%. This difference is even less significant when one considers that many Android owners in the U.S. probably use their phones as little more than feature phones -- iOS continues to far outpace Android in terms of user engagement.

Thus, if you're an app developer in the U.S., you're probably more inclined to go with iOS, at least at first. There are numerous examples of apps that have started off on iOS and only later made their way to Android, including Instagram and Tinder. Electronic Arts' new hit mobile game, Plants vs Zombies 2, remains an iOS exclusive for the time being.

But that isn't the case in China. According to analytics firm Flurry (via Computerworld), Chinese developers build two-thirds of apps used by Chinese smartphone owners -- and given Android's total dominance in China, it isn't surprisingly that developers favor Android.

Even Android app stores are big business. Back in July, Chinese search giant Baidu bought 91 Wireless -- an Android app store -- for $1.9 billion.

Made in China, downloaded in the West
One day, China's love for Android could spill over into the West. Presently, few Westerners use Chinese-developed apps, but that could change. Chinese developers have begun to export to the rest of Southeast Asian, particularly to Korea, Japan and India, according to Flurry.

Could Chinese-developed apps become popular in the U.S.?

If they do, it would terrible for Apple. Although there are number of reasons to pick an iPhone over an Android-based competitor, a better selection apps is one of the biggest reasons. In terms of hardware, Android has the edge -- there are handsets available in every possible size, shape and price-point. Software is where Android still lags.

Google in China
Google has had a complex relationship with China over the years. After ceasing its operations in the country back in 2010, some may have concluded that the Chinese market was no longer important to the search giant.

But that would be a mistake. Although Google may not directly benefit from China's horde of Android smartphones, the longer-term consequences of Android's dominance in China could be huge. Should Chinese developers ever become a force in the global app community (something analysts at Flurry expect) Android could finally gain the edge over iOS in software.

Given that the app market remains iOS' primary advantage over Android, a wave of Chinese-developed apps could tip the smartphone balance decidedly in Google's favor.

Sam Mattera has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Baidu, and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Baidu, and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
AAPL
$173.03 (-0.09%) $0.16
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
GOOGL
$121.70 (-0.31%) $0.38

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
402%
 
S&P 500 Returns
129%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/17/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.