Android's Apple-Smashing a U.S. Phenomenon

iphone vs android

Lies, damned lies and statistics: You can play games with numbers, and recently the game has been to show Android phones are beating the iPhone in the U.S. Now new data proves that in the rest of the world, Google's still chasing Apple.

The new figures come from Gartner as part of a bigger survey of global mobile phone use patterns. This has two headline figures that are news all by themselves: Globally the entire mobile market grew by 17% in the first quarter of 2010, a strong indicator that the world's economy is definitely on the mend. But the smartphone market grew even faster, from 13.6% of total sales in Q1 2009 to 17.3% in Q1 2010--a 27% growth rate, which is yet another sign that while the dumbphone still owns the market, the future is in smartphones.

Within the smartphone figures, we learn that Nokia's symbian devices still top the table, despite Nokia's development and economic woes (which definitely put the company's future position in doubt). RIM's BlackBerrys occupy second place in the sales figures, trading on their strong business market.

And then in third place comes the surprise: It's Apple's iPhone, which experienced its strongest quarterly growth ever, at 112.2 % growth in units sold, versus last year's figures. Maybe Apple's worries about a potential sales dip caused by the Gizmodo/iPhone 4 fiasco are a little overblown, don't you think? Apple's device is outselling Android devices by the million: 8.4 million units in 2010's first quarter versus Android's 5.2 million sales. According to Gartner's research vice president Carolina Milanesi, this is mainly due to strong iPhone sales in Europe and Asia--in particular, twice as many iPhones were sold as Android devices. This is borne out by my experience on the street: As a technology writer I can't help but keep my eyes peeled for the gadgets people are using, and I've only seen one single Android device being used by an acquaintance here, and none by passersby.

Is this a style thing, with the old notion that Europeans are more style conscious than North Americans, and hence iPhones appeal more to European design tastes? Is it simply because not enough PR efforts have been made to promote Android over here? Or can we flip this argument on its head, and suggest that the generally multi-network model Apple is exploiting overseas is serving it better than the single carrier model it's using in the U.S.? Whatever it is, it's not being driven by content issues: In the U.S. iTunes carries all sorts of TV and movie content that we just don't get to see, so this can't be an iPhone sales driver.

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