Smartphone Market Share Statistics: Market Saturation on its Way

There’s a statistic for nearly everything. And, they don’t appear to need to agree even when apparently measuring the same thing (and therein lies the problem).

Let’s start with the IDC’s data that shows Apple’s iPhone passing RIM’s BlackBerry in worldwide sales for the past quarter.

Apple Passed RIM in Worldwide Phone Sales But Has a Long Way to Catch Up to Nokia, Samsung & LG

Then, there’s Canalys’ decision to compare the iPhone with individual Android handset manufacturer’s instead of an aggregate of their combined Android phone sales (see Frank’s commentary linked below).

It’s All About Which View You Want To Promote

Then, there’s NPD’s data which does aggregate Android phone sales across manufacturers. It notes that Android added 11% to own 44% of the U.S. smartphone market. NPD notes this gain is related to a decline in BlackBerry market share. NPD’s headline involves a bit of rounding up as they report that smartphones sales accounted for 46% of all U.S. phone sales in the third-quarter.

A Mobile Milestone: Smartphones Reached 50 Percent Unit Share in July

So, which is it? Apple surging, flat or falling? The answer is, of course, all data interpretations are true if you accept what is being compared by each of the analytics firms (IDC, Canalys, NPD). The main thing to take note of is that smartphones sales, in general, is growing quickly. NPD’s data indicates that U.S. smartphone sales rose from a 28% market share in the third quarter of 2009 to 46% this past quarter. If smartphone market share continues to increase with this kind of big jumps, we will soon be at a point of saturation with nearly everyone in the U.S. owning a smartphone of some kind. Smartphone market share growth, as a whole, is now coming from people switching from feature phones to smartphones. But, once saturation is reached, it will become a zero sum game among smartphone platforms and we’ll see another retrenching in the platform market probably dropping to three main platforms.