Is there no stopping Android?
The bulk of all smartphones shipped worldwide last year, 81.5 percent in fact, ran Google's mobile operating system (OS), according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. That amounts to over 1 billion Android smartphones in 2014, a 32 percent year-over-year gain. By comparison, over 800 million Android smartphones were shipped in 2013, for 78.7 percent of the market that year.
Shipments of iPhones totaled 192.7 million in 2014, earning Apple iOS second place with 14.8 percent of the market. In 2013, the Cupertino, Calif.-based device maker shipped 153.4 million units.
Together, the two technology giants accounted for 96.3 percent of all smartphone shipments in 2014.
Demand was particularly strong in the fourth quarter (4Q14), with Android shipments of 289.1 million units, a 26.6 percent year-over-year improvement that nabbed the OS 76.6 percent of the market. Apple, meanwhile, shipped 74.5 million smartphones during the quarter following the record-setting iPhone 6 launch, a staggering 46.1 percent year-over-year gain, earning the company a 19.7 percent share of the market.
"A combination of strong end-user demand, refreshed product portfolios, and the availability of low-cost devices – particularly for Android – drove volumes higher," observed IDC research manager Ramon Llamas, in a statement.
The arrival of Apple's phablet-sized iPhone 6 Plus may have left the companies will little wiggle room going into 2015, however.
"Now that Apple has entered the phablet market, there are few new opportunities for the company to address," Llamas continued. "Meanwhile, Samsung experienced flat growth in 2014, forcing Android to rely more heavily on smaller vendors to drive volumes higher."
A strong third mobile ecosystem failed to emerge in 2014, said Melissa Chau, an IDC senior research manager. In a statement, she described the battle for third place as a series of "skirmishes, with Windows Phone edging out BlackBerry, Firefox, Sailfish and the rest, but without any of these platforms making the kind of gains needed to challenge the top two."
All is not lost. Low-end smartphones may keep things interesting in 2015, suggested Chau. "With Microsoft bringing ever-cheaper Lumia into play and Tizen finally getting launched to India early this year, there is still a hunger to chip away at Android's dominance."
Windows Phone takes fourth place for all of 2014 with shipments of 34.9 million smartphones. Blackberry, trailed with 5.8 million units and a scant 0.4 percent of the market. The embattled device maker, once synonymous with enterprise mobility, "posted the only year-over-year decline among the leading operating systems, falling -69.8 percent from 2013 levels," noted IDC.
The company is expecting to regain lost ground in the wake of new product releases, including the BlackBerry Classic. "CEO John Chen anticipates 10 million units will be shipped in 2015, returning the company to profitability and marking a 72 percent increase over the 5.8 million units shipped in 2014," stated IDC.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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