Market Data / News

What are Australian Smartphone Sales Figures Telling Us?

The latest Kantar WorldPanel figures have been released for the quarter ending December 2013.  The figures break down smartphone operating system sales by country.  The numbers for Australia indicate that sales of Android devices are still higher than those of Apple.  Since the same time last year, Apple is down around 3% versus Android’s 1% lift.

Compared to the previous quarter however, Apple has clawed back a significant amount of sales share, possibly from Christmas and Holiday sales.  In August 2013, 28.7% of sales were Apple, compared to 35.2% in the December quarter.  Overall  Android devices made up just under 60% of sales of smartphones in Australia, Apple around 35% and Windows picked up small gains, holding onto 5% of sales. Blackberry is all but gone.

Interestingly, a recent story on CRN indicated that Kantar’s numbers do not track enterprise sales, so those numbers could tell a different story about which devices are in the hands of many Australian employees.

Kantar WorldPanel ComTech – Australian Smartphone Sales Share by Operating System (Sep – Dec 2013)

Kantar jan2014

So how relevant are these smartphone sales  figures, and what can they really be used for? 

If you were making a business decision about mobile development, app platforms or targeting an ad campaign, it would be wise to look beyond the simple grouping of Android versus iPhone in smartphone sales figures.

We group Android devices together for the purposes of reporting, but in reality they are far from a homogenous bunch.  Smartphones running the Android operating system include a range of devices from high to low end.  Many of the cheapest entry level devices on the market are now running the Android operating system.  How do these low end users compare to an iPhone or higher end Android user?  With arguably lower disposable incomes, there’s a fair chance these customers are less appealing to marketers, probably download fewer apps and spend less time online via their smartphone. To make an accurate assessment of the value of each device for the purposes of marketing, targeting or development would require further information.  Of interest would be data about app downloads, data usage, time spent online and activities carried out on each device type.

If you were making a business decision about mobile development, app platforms or targeting an ad campaign, it would be wise to look beyond the simple grouping of Android versus iPhone in smartphone sales figures.

The other important point to note is that Kantar figures are a share of sales.  They do not indicate how many devices there are in the market (or in use) at a given point in time.  Kantar’s quarterly report indicates how many smartphones of a particular operating system were sold in a given 3 month period.   Smartphone share of sales is the metric most often reported in the media, due to the fact that it is the most readily, and publicly available data.  However there are some who believe this metric is simply not of any informative value. Consider the argument from analyst Ben Evans, who has shared three graphs on his website.

  • iPhone share of global smartphone sales (the figure we usually see reported, or broken down by country)
  • iPhone share of global mobile phone sales
  • iPhone unit sales
  • Global unit sales (comparing android & iphone)

From a top level analysis of the four charts above, you might expect to see the following headlines:

HEADLINE: iPhone holds market share in face of Android expansion

The iPhone has held its share of global smartphone sales (at around 20%) fairly consistently since 2008, possibly slipping a bit in the last 18 months.

HEADLINE: iPhone grows market share by 500%

As a percentage of ALL mobile phone sales however, the iPhone has steadily increased its share from around 2% to just over 10% over the last 5 years.

HEADLINE: iPhone unit sales through the roof

Looking at unit sales, the iPhone demonstrates a steep growth curve from fewer than 10 million units per month in 2008 to over 50 million per month at the end of last year.

HEADLINE: Android Smashes iPhone

Finally, compare that to Android unit sales and we see a far more impressive growth curve, towering over iPhone unit sales, with monthly sales in December 2013 reaching more than 200 million.

The moral of the story? Look deeper than the headlines and make sure you know the real data that is being reported.  Global  Unit Sales tells a very different story to Smartphone Share of sales.

In Australia today there are certainly more Android sales per month than iPhone sales, but that’s not enough information to make a business decision.  It’s far more important to know which devices are in the hands of your customers, and how they use these devices on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, this is the data you won’t read in the news!



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