iPhone: Apple's Mac battle with Windows rebooted

Status quo déjà vu, for the mobile generation

Smartphone user photo via Shutterstock

Apple under Tim Cook has delivered six new makes of iPhone, with a further four derivations based on the overall brand.

The future, according to Cook this week, looks an awful lot like Apple’s recent past – especially if you happen to live in India, which is the new China in terms of tech firms looking to tap a vast and supposedly under-served market to tap for growth.

But the scale of Cook’s challenge is demonstrated in the latest smartphone sales and market share stats from Gartner.

Despite increased smartphone sales overall, Apple’s sales and its market share for iOS have fallen.

Apple’s share of the smartphone market fell to 12.9 per cent, down from 14.6 per cent, over the same time in 2015, with 44.3 million units sold versus 48 million. With falling iPhone sales, so fell iOS: 12.9 per cent of the platform market, 44.3 million units, compared to 14.6 per cent and 48 million units.

At the other end of the spectrum were Samsung and Android, Google's mobile operating system that the electronics giant has proven so adept at riding.

The biggest beneficiary of market growth or – depending on your point of view – the biggest driver of growth is Samsung.

Samsung incrementally increased its grip on the number-one slot, up from 21.8 per cent to 22.3 per cent, or 72 million versus 76.7 million units.

The big winner is Google’s Android, which runs Samsung devices. Android claimed 86.2 per cent of the market – running on 296.9 million units, up from 82.2 per cent last year.

If you're a fanboi, then before you panic, calm down. This is not Microsoft Windows Phone panic territory.

Windows Phone is a case study in failure, puffing along now on 0.6 per cent market share – down from last year’s 2.5 and having shipped on just 1.9m handsets.

Windows Phone was by now supposed to be approaching 10 per cent market share by now according to Gartner rival IDC. Microsoft reckoned 15 per cent by 2018.

But still.

Gartner reckons total smartphone sales for the period grew 4.3 per cent (344 million).

There was an implication growth could have been greater, as consumers were held off buying during the second quarter on the promise of impending new phones.

It is this pent-up demand that Cook will be betting on and with September around the corner, the next in a series of iPhones is thought to be locked and loaded: the iPhone 7.

Cook will have crossed his fingers that September’s iPhone can repeat the magic of 2015, when the 6s and 6s Plus blew the doors off in China.

But even if that happens, a clear dynamic has been established and is now in play: that of a smartphone market overwhelmingly dominated by a single operating system with a number-two player holding a smaller, but beautifully intractable position.

We've been here before, on the PC where Windows was the clear market-share hog and Apple’s Mac/OSX was dug in on seven-per-cent-ish share. Microsoft has handed the lead part to Android, supported by Samsung.

It took the break-out of the iPhone to send Apple in a new direction away from the Mac, a direction that challenged the industry and created growth. Unfortunately under Cook, another break-out doesn't look likely. ®

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