In the battle for mobile supremacy, Apple and Google are winning as competitors continue to lose ground, finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the strong iOS and Android ecosystems (can you say ‘duopoly’?), per latest survey from the NPD Group. The results came by tracking U.S. consumers aged 18+ who reported purchasing a mobile phone and exclude corporate purchases. In the June quarter, iOS grabbed 29 percent of the U.S. smartphone share versus Google’s 52 percent share. Both tech behemoths have grown their platform share at the expense of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion.

RIM’s been on a serious decline amid poor sales and delays related to their QNX-based superphones. Their BlackBerry OS software share fell to just eleven percent in the U.S. Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard’s webOS is in a state of limbo as the world’s leading computer maker announced intentions to exit the hardware business. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile grabbed five percent of the market each.

The emerging prepaid market is the next battelground for iOS and Android. Google, however, has the first mover advantage here…

NPD’s Ross Rubin argues Google’s deal with Motorola could result in “closer ties to the heart of Android that can help inspire new paths to differentiation”. Think the booming prepaid smartphone market, where one in five new handsets acquired in the June quarter was on a prepaid plan. “In Q2 2010 just eight percent of prepaid phones were smartphones, but in Q2 2011 that number jumped to 22 percent”, NPD warns. Apple, of course, has been locked in the persistent rumors calling for an inexpensive iPhone. The device has been portrayed as anything from the so-called iPhone nano featuring a tiny form factor to the low-priced iPhone 4  to even a recycled  iPod touch with 3G networking capabilities.

The market for prepaid handsets presents Apple and Google with a major growth opportunity. Whether or not Google uses its ownership of Motorola to enter the hardware game remains to be seen. What’s certain is Motorola’s steady decline as the company has seen its market share shrink due to competition from Samsung and LG. The company lost three percentage points of the handset market in the past twelve months and experienced the same drop in smartphones.

Their annual Android unit share halved from 44 percent in the second quarter of last year to just 22 percent in the June 2011 quarter. Quarterly sales for June topped 4.4 million Android handsets, in stark contrast to the 20.34 million iPhones. NPD previously reported that Verizon iPhone stopped Android’s market share march and was among the first to report that Android overtook the iPhone in sales back in May of 2010.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster theorized that Android’s market share could drop below iOS by 2013 should Google close Android and keep it proprietary to Motorola. The speculative scenario has Google sell one in five handsets in 2015, with Windows Phone devices accounting for half of the market and iOS ranking #2.

Cross-posted on 9to5Google.com

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