iOS and Android, taken together, account for an amazing 93% of the total number of smartphones and tablets in Australia. The market leadership position has changed hands though – with Android gradually emerging as the top mobile platform in the country.
Among techies across the world, there is a general feel that iOS 8 will have a tough time to fight it out with Google’s latest mobile OS platform – Android L. This belief chiefly stems from the data trends over the last year or so, which suggest that Android is gradually gaining ground over its rival all over (except, perhaps, in select Asian countries). In Australia too, things are leaning towards Android, although iOS had a significant lead even a couple of years back. Prior to the actual iOS 8 vs Android L showdown, let’s take stock of how the two biggies of mobile technology are performing Down Under:
- Android wins in terms of market share – Once the fight was close, but Android has now pulled ahead quite a bit. According to the latest Kantar Worldpanel reports, iOS is currently holding on to a 35% device share in the Australian smartphone sector, while Google, with over 55% market share, has established a clear leadership position. Interestingly though, in the last quarter, Android lost around 3% users, while iOS was more or less steady.
- Apple’s strategy to release iPhone 5 later has backfired – For the much-hyped iPhone 5, Apple went with its traditional Q3 release (September) – a strategy that was ill-advised in hindsight. Samsung Galaxy S3 had already been in the market for more than three months, and had captured an early-mover’s advantage. The scenario is much the same in 2014, with the iPhone 6 (scheduled to be launched on 9 September) arriving almost a quarter after Galaxy S5.
- Apple is struggling to match Google’s array of handheld devices – Apple’s products have always been positioned as ‘premium’. On the other hand, Android has a very strong presence in the lower end of the market – with several budget smartphone models and an overall quicker product cycle (which does not necessarily ensure qualitative superiority though). Even if iOS 8 becomes a big success, Apple has its task cut out to match the sheer variety of devices that will be powered by Android L.
- The fight in the tablet market is getting extremely fierce – Although it still has a fairly large share of fanboys/girls in Australia, the iPad no longer rules the roost here. Nexus tablets and Galaxy Tabs have emerged as attractive alternatives – and even the Windows 8 tablet has the potential to become a challenger. If the 5.5” phablet version of iPhone 6 (slated to hit the markets in December) does well, Apple has a chance of regaining its numero uno status in the Australian tablet market.
- Pressure from the other platforms – This is something that both Android and iOS are currently facing. Windows Phone consolidated on its third position last quarter, and looks set to build its market share further. Even Blackberry – which many thought was already down and out – has around 1.5% of the Australian market. Most software analysts and mobile app developers in Australia feel that – since Android currently has a big lead, it has more leeway to stay ahead of the competition than iOS.
- Upward trend in the prices of iPhone apps – In April, Apple made an official statement that there would be a slight increase in the prices of paid iPhone apps – to counter the recent movements in the USD-AUD foreign exchange rates. While this would not cause iOS loyalists to move away from the platform in dozens, the announcement was probably not necessary – since the exchange rates have remained volatile. There have been no such announcements from Google Play Store either.
- Indications that iOS is stagnating – Four years back, iOS had a mighty impressive 39% share in the mobile market of Australia. Google’s OS, at the time, was present on a measly 6% of smartphones in the country. Fast forward to 2014, and the iOS figure has remained in the same range (in fact, gone down a bit), while Android has zoomed ahead. The pace and the ease with which iOS has been overtaken is a telltale suggestion that first-time smartphone users are preferring Android devices.
- iOS enjoys much higher buyer-loyalty – It’s not all doom-and-gloom about iOS in Australia, however. While it has failed to grow much in the last few quarters, the fact that it has not fallen away suggests that there is a strong, loyal customer-base for iPhones over here. Foad Fadaghi, a representative of Telsyte, feels that iOS generates the “highest repeat purchase intention” among buyers. As long as the debacle of iPhone 5C remains a one-off event, Apple will always have a strong presence Down Under.
- Android won’t have the support of Samsung in future – Samsung Mobile, with a device share of over 45%, is among the most popular Android brands in Australia. Its recent decision to part ways with Android (Samsung Z will run on Tizen OS) is likely to have repercussions, on both parties, according to market analysts and experts on mobile apps in Australia. It will be interesting to monitor how Google counters the loss of Samsung from its stable with Nexus, HTC and Sony handsets. iOS might have an opening here.
- Mobile app market trends in Australia are not standalone – The phenomenon of iOS steadily falling behind Google Android in Australia is in keeping with the worldwide trends. In the EU nations, the balance is skewed 69%-19% in Android’s favor, while in China, Google is winning the market share battle by an even bigger margin. Even in the United States, there is clear daylight between the popularity of the two platforms (55% of the devices are Android-powered, while around 38% run on iOS). Apart from Japan, it is difficult to find another country where iOS has a significant lead over Android. Of course, if iPhone 6 wins big and the next line of Nexus phones flop, the situation can change somewhat.
The results of a recent Telsyte survey has revealed that, by the end of 2014, Australia will have about 1.6 new smartphone users (over its present 16 million base). Many Android-buyers have also expressed their desire to switch over to ‘iPhones with larger display screens’ – which makes the 5.5” iPhone 6 absolutely critical. As of now, iOS has a lot of catching up to do, and by the end of the year, we shall know whether it has managed to make a dent in Android’s superiority in the Australian mobile market.