What Smartphone Duopoly? Apple as much at risk as Blackberry and Windows Phone


Over the last year I have increasingly been hearing about the smartphone duopoly of iPhone and Android, and how the two together meant there was no space or hope in the market for anyone else, either new entrants or established players.

While there is no doubt Android is increasingly dominant, one element I found incredibly irritating was how Apple’s iOS was given a pass – as part if by being part of the Duopoly it was thought to be safe, while the rest of the market would soon declare bankruptcy and leave the field.

This of course ignores the fact the Apple and Google are about as far away from being allies as any two companies (except possibly Google and Microsoft), meaning as much as Google would love to see Windows Phone dead, they would not mind raising the iPhone’s tombstone either.

A look at the supposed duopoly above, stretching all the way back to 2009, should make it clear that in no way has a stalemate been called between Apple and Google, and that Apple has rapidly lost any market share advantage they held vs Android, and that their position has reversed nearly perfectly – when Android was introduced it had 20% of the combined volume, and in Q1 2013 Apple only had 20% of the combined volume.

This market share erosion shows no sign of abating, and it far from inconceivable that iOS will hit 10% of the combined “Duopoly” volume in the next year. It hit 16% in Q3 2012 for example.

Apple then faces the same issues as any minority player, such as Windows Phone or Blackberry – if you only have 4% market share like in Spain, vs 92% for Android, no sane developer with a locally relevant app (such as a banking app) would develop for you first.

In May 2013 Kantar has iOS having 15% market share in Germany, 17.9% in France, 14.8% in Italy, 9.9% in Mexico and overall just 17.8% in EU5 overall (and probably much less in Europe in total), down from 19.2% the previous year.

Yes, iOS is strong in USA, but its pretty weak everywhere else.  Its time to stop talking about the Duopoly and call it for what it is  – the Android Monopoly and the other minority players, including Apple’s iPhone.

Of course this does not mean I endorse an uninformed view such as Salvatore Mattera’s, that The Mobile OS War is Over, and certainly from the above it is clear I would not include Apple in the winner’s circle, but what history has shown is that App lock-in did not stop Android from completely demolishing iOS, and it will not stop the next “winner” from taking over from Android.  It will also not kill small players, else Mac OS would have died years ago.

The clear truth is that nothing is forever, the smartphone market has always been very dynamic (as previous leaders such as Palm, Blackberry, Symbian, Windows Mobile and now iOS found out) and in 5 years time we will probably have some-one else sitting pretty and thinking they will rein for the next 1000 years.