SmoothSpan Blog

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What is the iPhone’s Market Share?

Posted by Bob Warfield on May 5, 2010

After my last post on the iPhone, there are still a lot of people arguing that Apple doesn’t have nearly the market share of a monopolist. 

I’ll get to that, but first, there are also a fair number of fans who are hurt that Apple may in some way be “penalized” or taken to task for having built an insanely great product.  In any such discussion, its important to remember that it isn’t illegal to have a monopoly.  Many exist.  It isn’t even “Evil”, in the Google sense.  It is only when companies abuse their monopoly in some unfair way in order to take unfair advantage of it that problems start.

OK, with that shocking moral dilemma out of the way (phew, fanboys relax!), let’s look at some market numbers.  It’s interesting to try to drill down further on the iPhone phenomenon. 

A good place to start is to ask what a Smartphone is anyway, since Apple apparently has a relatively small share of the Smartphone market.  The answer, so far as I can tell, is it is any phone that can do more than, well, be a phone.  As I suspected, not a very interesting answer, and certainly the iPhone is a Smartphone, but it is a whole lot more besides.

Smartphone OS share is one source of that 25% market share and under number we keep hearing about the iPhone:

iPhone:  17%

Symbian:  47%

Blackberry:  15%

Windows Mobile:  14%

Android:  5%

Others (such as Palm):  2%

No monopoly there.  But that’s kind of like looking at everything that has a microprocessor in it and saying because there are so many, PC’s and Mac’s have no market share.

How about the share of Internet traffic due to Smartphones?  That’s much closer to what this discussion is all about, much closer to what makes iPhones different and what I think their real market is:

Apple:  69%

RIM:  13%

HTC:  10%

Palm:  3%

Other:  5%

Wow, that’s a lot different picture, isn’t it?  Some will argue that’s just a random slice and not a market.  But Apple is monetizing that random slice like crazy in all kinds of ways, which makes it a market.  Moreover, it is access to and participation in that market that the Apple/Adobe wars are all about.  Lastly, Apple is making arbitrary rules to prohibit access by anyone that doesn’t use a very narrowly defined set of tools that happen to coincide nicely with Apple’s interests.

Mary Meeker provides another slice of numbers that tell us about Apple’s monetization of that market.  First thing she says is that mobile will shortly overtake desktop Internet use and that it is ramping much faster than the desktop did.  BTW, she attributes $8B in revenue for Q409 alone to this monetization, so its no small thing.  There’s a reason Apple’s market cap has soared.

What kinds of share numbers have led to this monetization?

  • iPhone has 54% of page views
  • It has 51% of app usage
  • 44% of all ads to Smartphones are served to iPhones, but Android is coming on strong at 42%

This is all no accident.  Until the skirmishes with Flash, I don’t think many would have argued Apple was doing anything Draconian.  They simple have a way better user experience that makes their users much more likely to participate:

  • 65% of iPhone subscribers buy music versus 35% for Smartphones in general
  • 61% buy games versus 48%
  • 58% participate in Social Networking vs 43%

If there is a category where iPhone users don’t over achieve versus the Smartphone industry average, I haven’t seen it.  Bravo Apple, we love your products!

With that said, this argument that we have to only use exactly the tools Steve Jobs likes because we might otherwise build crappy apps and damage the precious platform is just silly.  We’ve been down this road before.  It always starts out this way with Steve, and then eventually sanity prevails (or the market intrudes with competition) and the company backs off. 

Macs started with no arrow keys because they were afraid the availability of arrow keys would allow crappy apps onto the platform.  18 months later, the arrow keys were back.  Some will argue their absence was pivotal to the platform’s success, but that’s just silly. 

The Mac was introduced with great applications that showed the way.  A rush to deliver “arrow key” applications would’ve been a joke.  The platform would never have been choked by them because the people who wanted that platform wanted it precisely because they wanted what the new Mac apps had. 

If you don’t believe me, look at the early days of Windows.  There was no end of crappy software hastily ported.  Some of it had huge brand support behind it from the market leaders of the time such as Lotus (for spreadsheets) and Word Perfect (for word processors).  It didn’t matter a whit.  That software was crushed by software built right for the new platform.

Steve, you and your gang build great products for us users.  But you sure don’t think much of our ability to select those products out of the noise.  We don’t need a Big Brother to watch over us and tell us what to do.  We just want more choices, and then we’ll make the right ones.  Your customers are actually pretty smart about it.  If you think about it, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Related Posts

Steve Cheney writes a brilliant post about all the things Apple is doing to secure its control of the platform.  Take away–there are two key reasons to deny Flash (and other write once run everywhere tools):

–  Secure their tax on every app.  You can’t allow an app that can run other apps lest it let others sneak into the tent without paying.

–  Take shelfspace.  In the bricks and mortar world, shelfspace is a huge determiner of success.  If some of your cereals are must-haves, and you insist on stores carrying every one of them to get the must haves, then competitors have less shelf space available.  If Steve Jobs forces you to use tools that only work on the iPhone, then he ensures that the pool of scarce talent expends all of their energies on his platform first.  He hopes they will have little energy or desire to do it all over again on some other platform.

2 Responses to “What is the iPhone’s Market Share?”

  1. schlafly said

    Apple has 100% of the iphone app market, and would like to keep it. If I buy a Ford car, then I can buy a replacement headlight from the local parts store and I do not have to buy it from the Ford dealer. That is because Ford is not allowed to forcibly extend its market to replacement parts, even tho Ford does not have a monopoly on cars.

    If Apple were to allow 3rd-party from (non-Apple sites), then Apple would lose that revenue. Allowing flash games would undermine Apple’s control and profit from the game market.

  2. smoothspan said

    I like the Ford analogy, Roger. Apple doesn’t want anyone else selling headlights.

    But the latest moves against Flash proceed to a ridiculous degree. I doubt if very many would be unhappy if one could write Flash apps and they had to be approved just like any other iApp. In fact, there was a brief window where they allowed that.

    That approval gives them all the control they need to extract their tax and maintain their creative control without being egregious. But that wasn’t enough for Steve and his lads. They had to go to this ridiculous extreme.

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