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Apple and Android: Powering up the smartphone league

Rory Cellan-Jones | 16:18 UK time, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Want a glimpse of how fast the mobile world is changing? Take a look at the latest figures on handset sales from the research firm Gartner and you'll find that, in the space of one year, several earthquakes have shaken the market.

First of all, the market is growing rapidly again, with sales in the last quarter up 35% on the same period last year. But what stands out is the 96 % rise in smartphone sales. One in five handsets sold was a smartphone - what were once expensive toys for executives and gadget freaks are entering the mainstream.

Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phone


And it's Apple and Android which are powering this smartphone revolution. Apple has now grabbed fourth place in the overall handset market from RIM, makers of Blackberry, after a stellar quarter which saw 13 million iPhones sold around the world.

But it's the performance of Google's Android operating system across a range of handsets which is the big story. In the third quarter of 2009, Android phones had a 3.5% share of the smartphone market, this time that has soared to 25%.

Android and Apple, with their very different approaches, have grabbed this lucrative new market by the throat, and as the Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza puts it, there's little time for others to react:

"Any platform that fails to innovate quickly - either through a vibrant multi-player ecosystem or clear vision of a single controlling entity - will lose developers, manufacturers, potential partners and ultimately users."

Of course, Nokia fans will point out that they are still top dog in both smartphone sales and the wider handset market. But a firm which has long set a target of commanding 40% of the overall market has seen its share drop from 36% to 28% in the last year. Twenty-nine million smartphones running Symbian were sold in the quarter - but you can bet that the profit on each of them was a fraction of that achieved on the 34 million Android and Apple phones.

Nokia brought control of the Symbian operating system back in-house this week, after it became clear that the idea of an open system which would be endorsed and supported by a wide coalition of manufacturers was not going to fly.

In Roberta Cozza's words, Nokia failed to turn Symbian into a vibrant multi-player ecosystem, now it must try again as a single controlling entity. By Q3 2011 it will need to prove that the new strategy is working - but by then of course the world will have changed again.


  • Comment number 1.

    If you look at the profits made in the sector it is even more lopsided in Apple's favour.
    Nokia is struggling to stay in positive territory.


  • Comment number 2.

    Actually Nokia fans would point out that over 9 million Android sales were made in the US where Nokia doesn't have any real presence so, in effect, Nokia outsell the Android manufacturers by a factor of two to three outside the US. Including Western Europe. You know, where we live, Rory?

    As for Carniphage's comment about 'struggling to stay in profit', did Nokia's handset and services division make over a billion dollars profit last quarter? Yes or no? And what's the average quarterly profit for handset and services divsion over the last three years?


    See, what I find interesting is that Nokia sold 26.5 million smartphones with a pretty poor line up - the highlights being maybe the E72 or C5 - and demolished Android in the medium range (RIP Wildfire, Pulse and Tattoo, we hardly knew ye). This doesn't exactly bode well for Android in Q4 with the new S^3 phones out.

    The iPhone deserves to do well as indeed to the likes of the Desire and SGS. They're great phones (well unless you actually want make a call or move more than four hours away from a power socket) but let's get soem perspective behind the numbers, Rory. You can still do that, can't you?

  • Comment number 3.

    Rory Cellan-Jones.

    "..a stellar quarter which saw 13 million iPhones sold around the world."

    will the sound of champagne corks popping in celebration drown out the voices of concern??

    "Specially crafted web sites can launch iPhone and iPod Touch apps without the Safari browser asking the user for permission when certain URL protocol handlers (URL schemes) are called."

  • Comment number 4.

    For nearly a decade the telecoms industry tried to drive the growth in data traffic on the 2G and later networks. The solutions they offered were dreadful nerdie tech.

    Now the likes of Google, Apple, and HTC are driving teh growth and this must be having an impact on the mobile tech firms beyond just Nokia.

  • Comment number 5.

    I have been a Nokia man for the last 10 years. I have just changed to a HTC Desire HD and it is like going from Windows 95 to Windows 7. Android truly delivers what we have wanted for the last few years, stunning in every detail. Nokia are in real trouble.

  • Comment number 6.

    There is no doubt that Android will become ubiquitous to thru point where it will become the mobile OS equivalent of Windows (to iOS' OSX, ironically) but it still suffers from a lack of branding, something essential for it to be identifiable and therefore desirable. Joe Public is not likely to know a Desire is an Android phone, just a HTC one (just wait till their Windows Phone 7 handsets muddy this water even more). That's to say nothing of increasing fragmentation due to operators dragging their heels. I hope Google will push for all handsets to go to Gingerbread for OTA updates to level the field and push Android brand awareness. God knows they have the money and they own web advertising as it is...

    Ian McGurren, editor,

  • Comment number 7.

    Rory in answer to your question - Want a glimpse of how fast the mobile world is changing? The answers no.

  • Comment number 8.

    @ gunark

    I fully agree with you. What causes some of these issues is the HTC Sense interface which sits over both their Windows and Android phones. Lots of poeple see HTC and Android as going hand in hand though, and this could really help.

    Still, it is good to see that the masses have realised that an iPhone isn't needed to enjoy a superb smartphone experience. Competition is good, even if you don't like the competitor because it makes everyone up their game.

  • Comment number 9.

    I used to be a fan of Nokia handsets. An old faithful 6230i (still working and very rugged) and then an N85 (nice chunk of technology with great potential).
    I stayed with the N85 for 6 months while I struggled to come to terms with it's cumbersome and clunky software during the astonishingly fast rise in the popularity of miniature communications devices. The device became more usable once I'd replaced the Nokia email, web interface and GPS applications with Google's offerings; these were so much better and served as a clear indicator that Nokia had lost the plot as far as smartphones go. Yes it's true that they make solid hardware but today, software is king.
    Then in April of this year I bought an HTC Desire running Android 2.1. What a revelation; from the first it was a joy to use. Admittedly, I had some years before adopted the Google cloud for my email services (to avoid phone service lock-in)so when invited by the Desire's welcome screen to enter my email user name and password, I complied, hit "enter" and then went to make a cup of tea to fortify myself before tackling the horribly daunting task of importing a large address/phone number database and myriad of calendar entries. Settling down with the Desire once again I found that, in the time taken to turn on the kettle, the device had automatically synchronised both aforesaid data sets; my telephone was now ready to roll.
    Since that day it has been a real pleasure to use. I can honestly say that the Android (Google again)operating system is a no-brainer to use. Automatic update over the WiFi link to the later version 2.2, installation of applications in well under 60 seconds from the excellent and burgeoning Android market to name but a few examples. And all that from Linux based operating system!

    So now I have a remarkable and minuscule portable computer that serves me exceptionally well as; a telephone,computer(email, web-surfing, e-purchasing, creating and editing documents, spreadsheets and presentations) music and video player, YouTube surfer, Internet radio, FM radio, TV, 5 Mpix still and video camera (with auto timer) photocopier (think) GPS (better than TomTom)torch, compass, e-reader, sketch pad/jotter, barcode reader...I'm just awaiting the tele-transportation feature, then I'll be really impressed!

    So once again, as the article says, the mobile world is changing incredibly fast and, while the hardware is important, it's the software that really counts. And in that respect it's clear that the Google and HTC team have come up trumps.

    PS I've never used Apple devices but they are beautiful to look at and I'm sure the iPhone is excellent, I simply don't like their lock-in approach with regard to the user.

  • Comment number 10.

    Sorry, I'm going to stop reading now before this becomes another Apple vs Android thread.

    oooo mine has an app for putting out fires... ooo....

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm interested to read the comment that Android was preferred over iOS because of Apple's "lock-in approach". I've heard this a few times before, but I wonder what it really means. Clearly, only iOS apps will run on iOS, just as only Android apps will run on Android. The lock-in can't refer to the number of apps available, as there are still more iOS apps available than Android apps. I suppose it could mean that there are more sources of apps for Android, but that would seem more a philosophical than a practical issue. If there are apps available that let me do what I want to do, at a reasonable price, I don't mind getting them from a single source. And if there aren't, I would reject the platform for that reason, not because of "lock-in". More likely it refers to the fact that if your next phone is not an Apple phone, you will lose your investment in iOS apps. But that would apply equally to Android apps (and to PS3 games for that matter). The difference is that there is a much wider range of phones running Android. So it begins to look like a rerun of the Windows vs Mac debate. Most people went with Windows because there were more companies making Windows PCs than making Macs, and more applications available for Windows than Mac. There are now more phones running Android than iOS, and within a few years there will probably be more Android apps than iOS apps. I suppose it's inevitable that most people will follow the crowd eventually, but for now I'm happy to go with the platform that, today, offers the most. For me that is the iPhone, and in the grand scheme of things if I eventually have to throw away all the apps I've paid for I think it will still have been worthwhile.

  • Comment number 12.

    I have been a Nokia user for many years. I now own an N97 Mini... The worst phone I have ever used.
    Sadly I'm stuck with it for another 12 months as I signed a 2 year contract... Never again.
    My 0ld N95 8GB was a stunning machine, so I assumed that the 97 would be an improvement.
    How wrong was I!!!!
    It crashes, the software rarely runs, it's battery life is appalling, it's screen has been replaced twice...
    The only great bit is the Ovi Maps sat nav... Really neat

    I will never buy Nokia again.
    I used to be a big Symbian fan, but sadly it's being left way behind. It rested on it's laurels and has not only been caught up, but very quickly overtaken by the likes of Android and IOS.

    I was never a fan of the iPhones, but the iPhone 4 appears to have finally got things right.
    The next phone will either be an iPhone or an Android based phone, possibly an HTC.
    One thing for certain, it won't be a Nokia, not unless they pull something really special out of the bag.

    The only reason that Nokia is still top dog, is the amount of models that have on the market.

  • Comment number 13.

    Lunchtime, so I'll just take the opportunity to add a further comment after camyeoerfraefrance's posting.

    What do I mean regarding my Apple "lock-in" comment? Several things:

    The fact that I started using a PC at work is one factor. In those days computers were nothing more than tools of the trade (civil engineering in my case) and I never thought of actually buying one. The PC was essentially the stock in trade of the engineer, while Apple computers were more often found in the offices of architects and visual arts professionals. In any event one is loathed to switch from something that's familiar and so today, I am locked out of Apple because of that.
    In addition, now self employed, making the switch would be expensive and time consuming, plus many of the useful utilities used for work are not available on the Apple platform.

    I understand that owners of iPods and iPhones...are obliged to interface their devices to an Apple computer (although I understand that PCs running Windows can now be used) using iTunes, and that all audio/visual content must be acquired through the Apple market. For me that is a source of lock-in.

    The HTC that I'm using is simply plugged into a computer running Windows or Linux. The computer sees it as an external disc or USB key and one can drag and drop files (MP3s..., MP4s...Photos, Documents, PDFs, Spreadsheets...) from the computer to the HTC. The same is true of the Nokia.

    Furthermore, the Apple devices have an inbuilt battery and storage card whereas the HTC has a replaceable battery (useful as one can also carry a spare if needed) and, in addition to the on-board memory, an external memory card can be installed (currently up to 32Gbyte capacity but this will increase). As both batteries, and to a lesser extent, memory cards are consumables, it is useful to be able to change / upgrade them without being locked-in to the manufacturer.

    But these are just the ramblings of an engineer. While I admire the Apple approach, and the superb functionality and integration that such focus can bring, I prefer like the greater freedom of choice offered by the alternative solutions.

    So there you have it. It's all down to history, money, design and engineering, like so many things.

  • Comment number 14.

    Thanks for the clarification. It seems to me that your choice really comes down to satisfying your needs, as of course it should. If you need a spare battery or an external memory card, then the iPod or iPhone is not for you. But I wouldn't call that "locked in". In fact, it sounds as though you are "locked in" to your Windows PC, because of the time and cost of moving to a Mac, and the lack of required applications for the Mac. I was in the same position until five years ago, when I took the plunge. I still have a Windows virtual machine on the Mac, but I rarely use it.

    You don't actually need a Mac to connect an iPod or iPhone, nor do you need to buy audio or video content for them via Apple. But, for most practical purposes, you do need to acquire iOS apps via Apple's app store. If that is not acceptable, either philosophically or practically, then once again, the iPhone is not for you. Personally, I prefer the Apple way to that of most other vendors. Windows PCs (there are several in my household) always seem to come with software I'd really rather not have on them, and not always easy to remove. And network operators often feel the need to brand or restrict the software on their mobile phones in ways I have found more objectionable than Apple's.

    I'm glad we have the choice - and I may well end up with an Android or Windows phone in a few years time.

  • Comment number 15.

  • Comment number 16.

    @RichardRemlap and @camyeoerfraefrance
    Re: #13 and #14

    It's been very interesting reading your posts. I myself am a BlackBerry user (for now) and have had the same reservations as RichardRemlap concerning the iPhone (probably because I am a developer). At the same time I am also a Mac OS X user (previously a Windows/Linux user).

    camyeoerfraefrance, you're absolutely right in saying that it is all a matter of choice. People often ask me why "I'm a BlackBerry" and also "I'm a Mac". Previously I would have used "locked in" as Richard did, and after reading camyeo's post I would probably correct myself and say "choice to be locked in". Because as I have made a choice to use a BlackBerry, in some ways I am locked into the browser I use, apps available, the user interface, etc. So the best I (or anyone can do) is give reasons as to why I decided to lock myself into a BlackBerry and not an iPhone (despite having a Mac).

    There is the physical hardware freedom of being able to replace the battery, external memory card (which is easily portable to other devices) which Richard mentioned which I enjoy on the BlackBerry and is absent from the iPhone. As for the software, the BlackBerry OS is in essence a Linux system and has several configurations available which largely were missing from the iPhone (a large number was addressed in the iPhone4 release) without 'jail-breaking'. Even a configuration as simple as changing the background, or indeed the theme of the whole user interface.

    Being able to plug the BlackBerry anywhere and use it as a memory stick without the need for BlackBerry Desktop (the equivalent to using iTunes to load iPhone software and audio/visual content) for any kind of file is attractive to me because of the freedom.

    So why do I use a Mac? I use the Mac as I would do a Linux system, I have a lot of freedom (in software development, office documents, graphics, music - you name it) and portability to other devices which I enjoy. That, combined with the staple Apple audio-visual excellence made it a great choice for me. I sync my BlackBerry with my Mac just fine. The iOS takes away some of that freedom and presents you with what they want you to see (which for most people is probably what they want) and you need specific software to add and update the iPhone.

    Those are the main things that I didn't 'choose to be locked into' (which doesn't mean the product itself is not amazing) and in turn, I decided to lock myself into a phone which does not have as versatile an app store, (though every app I have needed has been available) and the other things I mentioned at the beginning.

    Something topic relevant? iPhone and Android are definitely leading the charge! I myself am thinking of transferring to an Android next year (as my 'freedom' preferences have not changed and I still have need for a keyboard!) unless the BlackBerry Torch impresses me enough to upgrade to that instead! Don't rule RIM out of the race though (or Nokia for that matter), we have all seen from Android's improvement over the past year how fast the smartphone market can change!

  • Comment number 17.

    I fully agree regarding the annoying habit network operators have of tampering with an OS. My current smartphones are all SIM unlocked. Better performance, no lock-in and much cheaper in the medium to long term.

    The mobile phone operators are panicking at present; they see their revenue shrinking as Google and Apple sell yet more services. How soon before one sees them offering mobile telephone services as well? 2011 would be my guess.

    I have tried using a remote bluetooth keyboard with the HTC Desire. However at present the Desire's bluetooth stack is the glaring weakness in an otherwise good device. The keyboard can be paired but not in HID mode, which results in a rather flaky performance. OK for typing long documents on the train though, and lighter than a laptop, while easier to steal!

    Here's hoping that Android 3 will deal with the bluetooth issue. Mind you, if you're a developer of software then there's a market crying out to be supplied.

  • Comment number 18.

    For all those "locked in" remarks. Answer = Jailbreak. Use the iPhone to it's max. Or, there are actually apps (Phone Disk; free) that let you use your iPhone as an external disk, without jailbreaking.

    A lot of Apple products are co-dependent on the Mac like iPhoto, Aperture, iMovie, iWeb, but this is actually a plus point if that's what you want. You get hardware and software that work great together. Some may say it's a closed garden, but it's a safe and reliable closed garden. Besides, I can unlock the gate anytime I want and still profit from exceptional hardware/software working well together as they were designed and made to work together.

    Sure, Apple could be a lot more "open", but then quality might go down too. For me, there are just too many Android desserts floating around and some are not inter-upgradeable or inter-functional. Stick with one OS and do it well.

    Android is like Windows a bit, in that it creates the software but not the hardware. They don't have that much (quality) control over the hardware, much like Microsoft. Might be a stellar OS, but if it's on a crappy pc/phone then a bit of the gloss wears off.

    I used to hate all Apple gear, but having tried it, the quality cannot be denied. Still hate their philosophy, but I circumvent this by jailbreaking.

    Android and iOS are the future unless Nokia can drag itself into the 21st century. They are the opposite, they have the hardware (sort of) but lack the software. Most of the phones they sold were probably low tech models sold in lower income countries or where the 3G infrastructure is lacking, which is an enormous market.

  • Comment number 19.


    The locked in approach refers to the fact that you cannot fundamentally change parts of the iPhone without jailbreaking (which imho makes the iPhone 4 brilliant). On my HTC Legend (they really do go for bigheaded names) I downloaded an SMS app that puts a pop up over the app that I am using (as well as pausing the app) when I get a text. This means that I can reply to a text without exiting the application. As soon as the text is sent or the window closed I can return to the app. Now this might not seem a big deal on the face of it but its all the little extras that you can do on a more open system that makes the difference. Another point would be bluetooth file transfers, which an iPhone can't do (and you aren't actually allowed to install an app to do it) but my old Motorola Razr could. These are what people mean by closed system: there are certain apps that you are just not allowed to run.


    If you are sick of all the bloatware that the likes of PC World dump onto your computer just use the recovery disk to do a fresh install the first time you switch on. Sorts out any issues. Or even better, build it yourself and save a few quid!

  • Comment number 20.

    Android has multiple app stores, freedom and competition. You never need connect an Android phone to a PC it will update itself over the air and you certainly don't need the increasingly bloated iTunes !

    Diversity of phone makers mean you can find a device with the price and features you want running Android, with iPhone you have the choice of an iPhone from Apple.

  • Comment number 21.

    It's all rather strange how we got to this, isn't it? Imagine if, 20 odd years ago, HMV had issued their own brand CD player, that would only play CD's purchased from HMV? Everyone would have laughed, and no-one would have bought one... and now here we are, all of us (whichever way we choose to dress it up) locked in to the platforms we chose. It would be a lot better if everything just worked on everything...

  • Comment number 22.

    Personally, I love my HTC Desire.

    I have to admit I do love the iPhone styling and hardware, but a few things stop me from buying in to the Apple's mobile philosophy...

    1. iTunes - I briefly owned an iPod (already owned - and still do - an Archos 540). I much prefer the 'drag and drop' philosophy. A philosophy that just isn't part of Apple's mobile ethos.

    2. Built in obsolescence - no replaceable battery, no way to add extra memory, no camera flash (not a big concern, but still a strange ommission), crippled bluetooth. Again, don't get me wrong, the iPhone is a beautiful piece of hardware, but Apple's iterative release philosphy leaves me thinking "Why should I buy this one, when I know they're going to upgrade it in 6 months"

    3. Apple lockdown - yes, I know Android is locked down too, but from experience, Apple just seem to be a lot more aggressive in their lockdown strategy.

    Don't get me wrong, I know quite a few iPhone owners and have at times, looked on and used their phones in envy and there are still a few things wrong with the Android platform, not least of which is platform and version diversity, but for the 3 reasons above I still won't be buying into the Apple lifestyle.

    For me though, the final choice boils down to this. The iPhone is a smartphone for non geeks. The Android platform is for those who really want to tinker...and I'm in that geek camp!

  • Comment number 23.


    I couldn't agree more with your last paragraph!

    It's a great summary of what I wrote on #16. At the same time, the reason I can identify with iPhone lovers is because using a Mac I am locked down on a few things hardware-wise (which I don't have an intention on tinkering with anyway). But when it comes to mobile devices, I feel that the whole point of a smart mobile device is a connect-anywhere, update-anywhere, OS-independent drag-and-drop features - so that I can indeed tinker with the software.

    (Correction about the camera flash btw, the iPhone4 finally comes with a flash. When my iPhone friends mention that, I quickly remind them that these feature has been in other smart phones for a couple of years now ;-) )

    But hey, we cannot deny (and neither can the markets) that Apple are making good of their relatively closed world, and enticing others. All that does is make the tinkerers amongst us want to replicate any advantageous features in our respective phones, whether it be Android or BlackBerry (... oh yes, Nokia too)

  • Comment number 24.

    Yes, Android is doing very well, thank you very much.

    Imagine how much better it'd be if it got equal pegging from the iPlayer team. As I can't stream at broadband speeds everywhere I go, it'd be great if the 'cross-platform' AIR worked... yanno... the same, cross platform. The AIR installer for iPlayer doesn't work if you use the Android version of AIR...

  • Comment number 25.

    I ran with Nokia for years and they made good solid handsets which did want I wanted - made calls. The handsets were very good value.

    But the landscape was changed by the iphone and mobile phones no longer just made calls. I stuck with Nokia for some while after the iphone release for one reason - price. For £650 (phone and data contract) or nearly £1.50 a day there was no way I could justify an upgrade just to play amusing games and surf the web once a week on an iphone.
    Google changed the landscape again. My HTC wildfire was free and the data contract is just £240 a year.
    Sure the andoid experience isnt quite as good as Apple, but its not £400 worse either.

  • Comment number 26.

    Nokia sells a lot more phones than Apple, Android or Blackberry. The vast majority of Apple, Android and Blackberry phones are used as proper smart phones (they have a data connection, email service, internet access, etc) whereas Nokia sells millions of phones in the 3rd world (Africa, India, etc) where the phone may have Symbian smart phone OS but the vast majority of users do not have a data service nor do they use the phone as a smart phone (in many of these countries, phone service is very cheap but 3g data service is beyond the means of most people). The phones are simply used to make phone calls and send SMS messages. Therefore comparing Symbian market share with the other operating systems' market share is misleading.

    Nokia have has such a commanding presense in some 3rd world markets that everyone refers to a mobile phone as a Nokia because there is translation for the phrase "mobile phone" in the local language.

  • Comment number 27.

    As an ex Nokia fan the real money now rests with Apple or Android. Persoanlly I chose Apple because the apps better integrate with one another.

    However, the apps approach is imperfect on either Android or Apple and this is where Nokia used to score. It is obvious that, give the range of data on a smart phone you may want to print from it - not easy on Apple and few of the apps really work. You might want to transfer your contacts or print labels not really easy and not possible on Apple.

    All in all these are great devices but still lacking in ways the apps still fail to deliver.


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