Friday, September 2, 2022

iPhone User Base Overtakes Android in U.S.

Tim Hardwick (Hacker News):

Apple’s iPhones have overtaken Android devices to account for more than half of all smartphones used in the United States, according to data from Counterpoint Research (via Financial Times).

The active installed base of iPhones passed the 50% landmark in the quarter ending in June, while around 150 other mobile brands using Google’s Android operating system, led by Samsung and Lenovo, accounted for the rest.

John Gruber:

The other interesting takeaway here is that iPhone usage share outperforms iPhone sales share. iPhones are simply more durable and get meaningful software updates for longer.


Update (2022-09-03): The takeaway that I quoted above may be backwards. Counterpoint’s chart shows that iPhone’s U.S. share of sales has had multiple quarters over 50% recently, even as high as 65% in Q4 2020 and 56% in Q4 2021, yet the user base only just broke 50% for the first time. It’s possible that Apple has only been winning the smaller quarters but having lower sales over the entire year, but I haven’t seen any numbers to that effect.

Ed Hardy:

iPhones made up more than half of all smartphones shipped in North America during the second quarter of 2022, according to a market research firm. This marks the third quarter in a row that more than 50% of the handsets shipped in the region came from Apple.

John Gruber:

But there are wealthy countries like Germany and France where Android is more popular by roughly 3 to 1 margins. I suspect there is no simple answer to this, and that it comes down to nuanced but significant nation-by-nation cultural differences.

Update (2022-09-26): Michael Gartenberg:

As someone who used to do this kind of analysis, I’m amused when the press reports stuff lIke this without reporting exactly how the number was derived.

Stuff like this always made us laugh at Apple. One reason I longer do market share or forecasts

15 Comments RSS · Twitter

The misconception is that Germany or France are generally as wealthy as the US, they aren't. Paying 700+ Euros for the basic phone is just not something a lot of people can (or want to) afford. The SE is a good deal though and IMO competes well w/ the Androids, good move.
Also I think the trust towards Apple as a US company is comparatively lower.

@Helge and trust for Korean or Chinese manufactures are higher ?

As Helge says, France and Germany may not be as rich as Gruber believes — or, in any case, citizens of these countries may allocate their funds differently and prefer to spend less on electronics and so-called consumer goods.

I should love to hear from someone in the know whether taxation plays a role, too, as it is heavy in both countries: can a country be globally rich and yet keep its citizens in comparative poverty through excessive taxation? VAT over there is roughly 20% and devices carry “special” taxes such as a recycling tax, a mandatory piracy tax, etc.

Furthermore, I believe Gruber and most of the US-based blogosphere underestimates how fast anti-American sentiment is rising in both France and Germany. That is the truly worrying part.

Users tend to see Android as the open system (especially rebranded or de-Googled Android) and to trust Asian manufacturers more — including cut-rate manufacturers with long histories of human right abuses, execrable security practices, etc. This is the result of long-running disinformation campaigns by governments who much prefer their population to purchase white-label phones from national telcos who conveniently forget to release timely security updates and sell the phones pre-loaded with officially sanctioned apps — not exactly spyware, of course, as that would be illegal, but apps designed not to protect data too much and to keep it all within very easy reach of European law enforcement.

Remember: in the US, “privacy” means protection from the State ; in the EU, “privacy” means protection from corporate interests.

These are not technical factors, of course, they are social factors, but Apple is slowly losing the propaganda battle in Europe. They remain successful because they are still appreciated by many on technical grounds and seen by others as the ultimate purveyor of status symbols, but I feel the new “green” generation will turn its back on their parents’ folly and run straight into the arms of Huawei, Samsung, and others.

Gruber is making a faulty assumption when he thinks that anyone who could afford an iphone would buy an iphone rather than an Android.

This might come as a shock to some, but Android phones are just as good as iphones.
And not everyone thinks the sun shines out of apples ass.

Arguing from a standpoint that the natural order of things is too go Apple it's like saying everyone should drink tea rather than coffee.

Daniël de Kok

"Users tend to see Android as the open system"

I think that there are definitely many cultural factors at play. For instance, I once read that when buying bikes, Dutch look more at how the bikes look, while Germans look more at bike tech specs. So, Dutch bike brands often focus on finish - brand tailored screws (e.g. Gazelle), smooth curves, while German brands focus more on cutting-edge specs.

In phones, Android manufacturers tend to focus more on raw tech specs, while Apple focuses more on advertising the experience. These different foci are appreciated differently by different cultures. I lived in Germany for a while (I'm from The Netherlands), and I notice that (at least superficially), Germans care much more about privacy and are more skeptical of American companies. So, they might prefer phones from Asian manufacturers.

Daniël de Kok

Oh, I realize now that there may be another factor at play. In The Netherlands, and I think also in many other European countries, if you get a cell plan with a phone, it is not allowed to bundle both into the same subscription price anymore. The cell subscription and phone pay-off contracts need to be separate (priced) contracts. I think this causes people to become more price-sensitive. E.g. if you see that your contract is 20 Euro monthly and your phone 40 Euro monthly, the phone doesn't look so cheap anymore. And of course, there are a lot more cheaper Android phones (even good ones, like the Nokia line-up).

>France and Germany may not be as rich as Gruber believes

It's difficult to quantify these kinds of differences, because how rich somebody is depends on lots of factors, but the median adult income in Germany and the US is about the same. France is higher. But of course, there are taxation differences, and Apple tends to overcharge on their Euro prices.

Also, average household debt is higher in the US than in France or Germany, which might imply that people are more willing to buy expensive things they can't really afford.

Subjectively, my impression is that people in Europe just don't see phones as status symbols in the way Americans do. Grossly oversimplified, nobody cares about other people's phones. When Europeans want to project wealth, they buy an Audi, not an iPhone.

Also, everybody uses WhatsApp, where other people can't see what phone you use anyway. No green dot, so much less peer pressure to buy an iPhone.

>it is not allowed to bundle both into the same subscription price anymore

Yeah, that's definitely a factor. Friend of mine forgot her phone on her car's roof, and it flew off on the autobahn, never to be seen again. She wanted an iPhone. We went to a phone store. The difference in price between the iPhone she wanted, and an Android phone with similar specs, was absolutely brutal. She ended up with an Android phone.

You don't see this difference if the price is magically absorbed in your subscription.

@Tarsier: The problem is that US "privacy" applies to US citizens only, a fact well known and discussed in Europe. You may have heard the ECJ (highest european court) turned down "Privacy Shield" after turning down its predecessor "Safe-Harbor" before.
That's why many europeans don't trust american companies to protect their rights and their data.
Germans believe i.e. Samsung just wants to earn money, and that is OK.

Apple should invest even more in real privacy to earn trust in Europe. Their latest moves to expand their advertising business is going completely in the wrong direction.

Pierre Lebeaupin

I’m French, and while I don’t have any sure theory, I think the best clue trail to follow would be historical reasons for the popularity of Android in France (and Germany, etc.).

In particular, despite Nokia’s missteps Symbian and its other platforms were quite popular in France (and, I suppose, the remainder of continental Europe) in their heyday, in fact in the beginning of Android as a shipping product we’d mostly hear about it as an American phenomenon, as in the first year or two Android handsets were few and far between on the market, at a time when the iPhone was available in regular numbers.

Then I saw more and more Nokia smartphones users switch to Android when the former’s platform(s) felt more and more out of the loop and the latter picked up steam, I suppose parlayed in that by their carriers.

Conversely, I don’t believe that (except for Nokia as mentioned) this is through any loyalty to local constructors: all other European handset makers (Ericsson, Alcatel, etc.) were already fading into irrelevance when the iPhone reached our shores in 2007. LG and Samsung, the big two Koreans, may have played a role, though I don’t know whether they actually had an easier time being accepted and/or facing trade barrier by the European markets than they did by the North American market.

I’d be surprised to hear about it being for any deep cultural reason. We might be driving with manual transmissions, but we don’t like screwing with handsets as a hobby any more than North American people do.

Addendum for this discussion: I admit I have no idea to which extent the lesser subsidies in France and the EU in general could have played a role (carriers here can and do subsidize, the limitation being that commitments longer than 12 months are forbidden).

@Ramzez Nope, trust for Korean or Chinese manufactures is definitely not higher (or actually more precisely: Google). But this is about the user base in the US, and I can imagine that US users trust an iPhone (and generally Apple claims) more than a foreign one. Would be similar in DE if Apple would be a DE company (can be seen w/ cars in DE). It's more like the privacy-focus of Apple is _less_ relevant.

@Tarsier Taxation probably pays a little role too (DE has a high, but significantly lower than the US, GDP in the first place, but then also less income directly available to the individual due to social insurances and such). But it's not that we are "taxed to death", it is quite reasonable.
I don't have the feeling that "anti-American sentiment is rising in both France and Germany" fast. Well at least I haven't seen that in Germany (apart from the usual trolls). I certainly don't see anyone buying a Google phone over an iPhone because he hates the US (that would be utter non-sense).
I also don't think that a meaningful number of "Users tend to see Android as the open system", that may be true for a certain group of technically fluent people. And I mean, it is more open, US or not :-)
In Germany in particular “privacy” absolutely means protection from the state too! The former "Stasi" is a major reason why people are so privacy aware here.

Apple Watches and iPhones are definitely status symbols over here as well. I really think that the whole thing is mostly about the price. _Maybe_ people are also just used to it when they started out (and 10y ago didn't see the point) and just don't want to switch anymore (similar to Mac vs Windows).

I also wonder if part of the reason might be because Americans use their phones more as multi tools (requiring apps that are iOS only, or are more well implemented on iOS), while in other countries only a few basic cross platform apps are used? I thought about switching to Android many times over the years, but I can never do it because so many of the apps that I rely on my iPhone are simply not available on Android. And when there is some sort of substitute app available, it’s not nearly as good of an experience.

Although I think Apple has made many missteps in its iOS developer program, it has turned out that apps on iOS are generally much better, more feature rich, and easier to use than Android. iOS is also much more consistent.

For me, Apple has basically caught up to all the things on Android that were missing on the iPhone. And I think they’ve now completely surpassed Android OS. Just wish they would be nicer to developers, take a 10% cut, and allow sideloading + proper paid updates.

Right, I'll play those silly game.

We know that Apple users are very susceptible to marketing "most lucrative target audience"etc

Europe has stricter marketing laws than the US. I also think Apple spends less here, plus a lot is just direct translations of American ads and sound rather silly.

And maybe Europeans are just tower to sway. Q anon isn't as big over here, and neither is flat earth, scientology etc.

There's an answer, backed up with facts

I just thought of another reason, maybe Europeans are more interested in experimenting with new technology.

USB-C, OLED, Highres camera sensors, wireless charging, pholdables, silly 3D gimmicks, in screen fingerprnt sensors, behind the screen front facing cameras, SDcard slots, thermal cameras, e-ink secondary screens, dual headphone jacks, etc.

If you love tinkering with tech you've got to go android.

In the UK, the market is rather mixed. There are definitely people who prefer iPhones to Android, and vice-versa.

There are people who buy high-end iPhones as status symbols. They tend to be marketing or media people, who definitely prioritize appearance, have no patience with technical things, and regard computers as magical. A lot of the population thinks they're idiots, rather than aspiring to join them.

There is a significant segment, at all wealth levels, who regard Apple devices as easier to use and thus prefer them. The lower-income part of this segment is responsible for the lively market in used iPhones.

The rest of the market is Android.

Hello, Italian here. As far as I can see no one has remarked yet that in EU Apple products are usually 20% more expensive than in US so, even if subsidized, new Apple products are just more expensive.

Then there are actual users' needs: most folks I know use their smartphone as a glorified photo camera / handheld console / whatsapp-running chat machine and for these needs a 200-250 EUR phone is really more than enough for them; iOS's niftier interface does not warrant shelling out 300-500 EUR more. It is quite telling that here most Iphone users are the folks whose jobs involve contact, negotiation and a first good impression with the general public

Add to this that there are more and more small businesses outsourcing their email/chat/calendar needs to Google infrastructure; this means more integration with google services.

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