Last year, more than 1 billion Android smartphones were shipped. It’s a massive milestone, and one that Apple, with its focus on the higher-end market, can’t hope to replicate for years.
But according to a report by ABI Research, Android sales also went into decline in Q4 2014 for the first time ever.
Apple is demolishing the high-end smartphone market with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Samsung’s profits have cratered as a result. New data shows that the South Korean company’s woes aren’t isolated: Apple is now taking an astonishing 93 percent of all profits in the smartphone industry, despite its minority market share.
The iPhone is also outselling Android handsets in the U.S. for the first time in years, according to data from Kantar Worldpanel.
And Google’s Android is also under unprecedented threat from “forks”—independently developed versions of the operating system that the company has no control over. The market share of forks is rising, and Cyanogen—a popular fork—just raised $70 million at a valuation in the hundreds of millions. “We’re going to take Android away from Google,” CEO Kirt McMaster told the Wall Street Journal.
But the most significant figure comes from ABI, which we read about in a blog post by former Guardian technology editor Charles Arthur.
It’s the fact that—astonishingly—the number of Android sales dropped in the last period of 2014.
This isn’t a decline in market share. It’s a drop, in real terms, in the number of handsets running the Android OS shipped quarter-on-quarter in Q4 2014, according to ABI.
More than 205 million were shipped in Q4, down from 217 million in Q3.
Here’s the data:
This probably isn’t the start of a long-term decline. As Android devices grow ever-cheaper compared with Apple handsets, it’s likely to cement Android’s position as the smartphone of choice for low-income consumers as the next billion people come online. But nonetheless it’s astonishing that despite the huge potential markets emerging in the developing world, Android is seeing negative growth.
And forked Android vendor Xiaomi is going from strength to strength, further threatening Google at the low-end of the market. ABI Research senior practice director Nick Spencer says it’s “worrying times for Google’s mobile services and Android, but it presents opportunity for other service providers and even operating systems.”
Add all these factors together, and things aren’t nearly as good for Google as that 1 billion shipment headline figure suggests.