The time that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) was the undisputed king of the smartphone world seems like a very distant memory today. A number of other competitors have cropped up in recent years, some of which have been extremely successful. Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) has especially been doing well, and is by now the world's number one smartphone maker. As for the software side of things, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Android operating system has also been steadily increasing its market share. Recent numbers from IDC and Gartner suggest that this trend is still very much intact.
Global smartphone sales are still going strong; 250 million smartphones were sold in the third quarter, up 46% year-over-year. The Asia-Pacific region is still leading the pack with an impressive 77% rise in smartphone sales. Indeed, smartphones seem ubiquitous in many parts of Asia. Globally, total mobile phones sales are set to reach 1.81 billion units for the year according to Gartner's most recent report. .
So who's selling all these phones? Samsung is clearly still the dominant player in the industry, maintaining its solid 32% market share. While this is flat compared to last year, the company is still easily growing sales, with 80 million handsets sold versus 55 million last year. So basically, while the company is selling a lot more phones, and is in fact still the largest producer of smartphones, it hasn't significantly gained market share compared to last year.
Part of Samsung's flat market share performance is being attributed to the relative strength of competitors. It may also be due to the operating system, which is seen as less user-friendly than iOS by some . However, this is not reflected in Android's market share.
Android's smartphone market share has now hit 81% in the third quarter. That's a fairly dominant figure. However, Q3 marked another significant milestone for Google. Its operating system for the first time has topped iOS in terms of tablet revenue, hitting 46.2% to surpass iOS. In terms of unit share, Android devices increased to 66.7%. .
One of the things that Android has going for it is that it's generally incorporated in lower-cost devices which are doing especially well in Asia. This strength in emerging markets seems key to Samsung and Google's growth, as they have successfully catered to a lower-end, more accessible market. The comparison has been made with the early success of MS DOS and Windows quickly overtaking Apple's operating system in the early days of mass computing .
Apple's continued decline
Samsung's smartphone market share of 32% might not seem too dominant, but it definitely looks good compared to Apple's 12%. Nevertheless, Apple sold considerably more phones than it did a year ago, unit sales up by around $30 million. As for all smartphone makers, Asia is fueling most of the sales growth .
The company isn't faring much better with tablets. According to IDC, the iPad's market share dipped to an all-time low of 29.6%. Analysts blame Apple's decision to move its product roll-outs to the fourth quarter. However, with some new product launches scheduled for later this month, the company may be looking at some solid sales growth going into Q4. The company could use some good news, iPad shipments increasing less than one percent compared to the same period last year .
The bottom line
The Samsung-Google team seems unstoppable. Its rising sales, compared with Android's spectacular growth in market share, make both companies look like a compelling investment. Emerging markets growth especially is fueling this strong performance, as lower-priced devices continue to sell like hotcakes in Asia. In any case, the duo seems to be doing a lot better than Apple.
Daniel James has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple 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.