For data-driven professionals who follow the smartphone industry closely, a new Kantar Worldpanel survey is akin to a stat-filled Christmas present. While this comes a little late to coincide with the actual holiday, the latest data brings surprises for all major operating systems: Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS, and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone. Unfortunately, surprises aren't always a good thing.
A word of caution before we dive into this data. Kantar's data is important to detect trends, but does have shortcomings. First, the data measures phone shipments from September to November; this has benefit of smoothing data over more than one month, but can skew the outlook if major products are launched (or not launched). This is a greater concern for Apple's iOS, a closed system, than Android or Windows Phone, open phone platforms that have numerous vendors producing handsets for the OS.
Drilling down into eight key markets, the big five European markets (the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany, and Spain), China, Japan, and the United States, there are three interesting takeaways when you compare that latest data to last's year's corresponding report. For a visual comparison, here's the data direct from Kantar:
An A for Apple in most countries; an incomplete in Asia
For a company that is unconcerned with taking market share for market share's sake, Apple had a great showing in Kantar's survey. The iPhone maker increased its market share percentage in each of the eight countries but Japan. In addition, Apple had the highest increase in market share in five of these countries.
For years, Apple has salivated about getting into China in a meaningful way, and it seems to be building upon earlier progress. Its smartphone market share in the Middle Kingdom grew from 17% in 2013's report versus 18.1% in 2014's, and that's considering the iPhone 6/6Plus only went on sale there on Oct. 17.. However, Apple's archrival, Google, grew its market share from 78.6% to 80.4%. Apple's gain appears to be built on market share losses by Windows Phone and other operating systems.
The news appears less promising at first glance in Japan, where Apple's market share reportedly dropped from 69.1% to 53.8%, with much of that market share going to Android handset makers. But, according to Kantar, this was due to an unfavorable comparison to 2013 because Apple inked the deal for NTT DoCoMo to carry the iPhone that year. Some cooling off of the initial iFervor is to be expected.
While Apple can taste success by merely expanding its business alongside wireless subscriber growth in China, fans would love to see the company put a dent in Android's dominance. In Japan, you can understand the Apple mania dying down a bit, but fans should watch Android's moves there and look for any future falloffs for Apple's market share.
Google's Android Gets a C-
Unlike Apple, the report makes clear that Google cares about market share. Android has the largest market share in seven of the eight surveyed nations (Japan being the only country it doesn't lead), and boasting a 65%-plus market share in all but three of these countries. Alas, when you have such a high market share you have to work harder to maintain and build upon your dominance; I'd say Android struggled in that regard.
Android lost market share in four of those eight markets on a year-over-year basis as it contends with Apple's gains. In those four markets, Google reported the greatest market share decreases on a raw number basis, the worst showing of the major operating systems.
There were positives: Android increased its market share in the surveyed Asia markets and continued its dominance in China with the emergence of Xiaomi. But, overall, this was a (ever-so-slightly) below-average report for Android.
Windows Phone gets an F; BlackBerry gets an automatic withdrawal
The news was worse for Microsoft and BlackBerry.
The Kantar Worldpanel survey found that Microsoft shipments dropped in six of the eight countries, and in three it had the largest market share drop; that's particularly tough considering its already low market share relative to iOS and Android. It appears Microsoft was focusing on Europe, where it had double-digit market shares in three of the five countries; however, it lost market share in four of those five countries on a year-over-year basis.
BlackBerry gets an automatic withdrawal. Although it still produces phones, CEO John Chen appears focused on the enterprise business and better ways to monetize its assets: its QNX software, Messenger, and secure enterprise servers. However, as of this report, BlackBerry had more than 1% market share in only one of the eight nations: Italy. Therefore, it should be excluded from the greater-smartphone conversation for the time being.