Android vs iOS: The Only Game Left in Town?

The race is on for the mobile universe. Smartphones are gaining popularity around the world at a rapid pace. A crucial part of any unit involves the operating system, but which one is winning over the most users?

The Android smartphone operating system was launched four years ago and continues to gain market share over its rivals. In the third quarter, the Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) developed OS was found on three out of every four smartphones shipped. According to International Data Corporation, a global provider of market intelligence and services for the technology field, total Android smartphone shipments worldwide hit 136 million units, representing 75 percent of the 181.1 million smartphones shipped in the third quarter.

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“Android has been one of the primary growth engines of the smartphone market since it was launched in 2008,” said Ramon Llamas, research manager, Mobile Phones at IDC. “In every year since then, Android has effectively outpaced the market and taken market share from the competition. In addition, the combination of smartphone vendors, mobile operators, and end-users who have embraced Android has driven shipment volumes higher. Even today, more vendors are introducing their first Android-powered smartphones to market.”

Total Android units shipped totaled 0.7 million in 2008, but has grown to 333.6 million units year-to-date.

As the chart below shows, Android experienced a year-over-year change in units shipped of 91.5 percent. It is one of the few major mobile operating systems experiencing growth. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), the world’s most valuable company, also logged a year-over-year change of 57.3 percent, increasing its total market share to 14.9 percent in the third quarter. Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Mobile operating system surged 140 percent from last year, but only holds 2 percent of the total market share. Although this could easily change going forward, as multiple Windows 8 smartphones will reach the market.

Research in Motion’s (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry fell 34.7 percent year-over-year, while Linux dropped 31.7 percent. Symbian, which has Nokia (NYSE:NOK) as its largest vendor, along with Fujitsu, Sharp and Sony (NYSE:SNE), plunged 77.3 percent from last year.

“The share decline of smartphone operating systems not named iOS since Android’s introduction isn’t a coincidence,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. “The smartphone operating system isn’t an isolated product, it’s a crucial part of a larger technology ecosystem. Google has a thriving, multi-faceted product portfolio. Many of its competitors, with weaker tie-ins to the mobile OS, do not. This factor and others have led to loss of share for competitors with few exceptions.”

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