There are now over 2.5 billion active Android users worldwide, with more than 3 million devices across the globe using this mobile operating system. How did the Android OS become more popular, what is the current state of the global smartphone market and how will the mobile market evolve? Let’s take a look.
Key Stats On Smartphone Users and Android Devices Globally
- Over 70% of all mobile devices worldwide were running Android as of July 2021.
- There were over 1 billion iPhone users worldwide as of early 2021 – Android hit this benchmark in 2017.
- Android has held the market share lead in the mobile OS space since 2012.
- By July 2021, over a third of all Android devices were running Android verion 10.0.
- There were over 313 million tablet and smartphones shipments just between April and June 2021; well over 80% of these new devices were running Android.
Why is Android The Most Popular Mobile OS?
As the above stats show, Android is by the most popular mobile operating system globally – and has been for some time. But how did Android become more widely distributed? After all, it’s not the first mobile operating system on the market, with other OSes such as iOS preceding it by a few years (Android was first release in 2008, almost a year after the iPhone’s debut).
Unlike other mobile operating systems, Android is open source. While it was originally developed and released by Google (and is still maintained by Google), it is free and open for anyone to use.
As a result, mobile device manufacturers like Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, et al are far more willing to use Android over other OS options. Why bother paying to license an operating system for your mobile devices when a highly popular and well-liked option is available for next to nothing?
Pricing also impacts who uses Android. Devices running iOS, namely iPhones and iPads, tend to be more expensive than Android mobile devices. This makes Android far more accessible to a greater number of people. Even in iOS-heavy markets like the U.S. and Australia, budget-conscious consumers often gravitate towards Android.
Other users choose Android because it offers more variety and choice. Unlike iOS, which is a very closed system, Android is more customizable. As Big Think contributor Frank Jacobs has noted, “If you are an Android aficionado, you pity the iPhone user, a captive of an overly expensive closed ecosystem, designed to extract money from its users.”
Even as iOS and Android achieve parity, Android is becoming an increasingly well-liked option for mobile devices. According to an analysis of hundreds of thousands of tweets conducted by Electronics Hub, consumers in most countries – including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Germany, Brazil, New Zealand and South Africa – have more positive things to say about Android versus iOS and Apple. For example, across the U.S., tweets were more likely to be positive around Android vs. IOS in 32 of 50 states.
Charting The Evolution of the App Stores
Also helping to fuel Android’s rise is the corresponding growth of Google Play, Android’s app store. While the iOS App Store is older, Google Play is now by far the biggest mobile app store globally. At the beginning of 2021, there were over 3.4 million apps available in Google Play, as opposed to around 2.25 million apps in the iOS App Store.
Part of this growth comes amid the growth of Android overall. For app developers and publishers looking to reach a wide audience globally, Android is often the top choice. As more people use Android devices, it makes sense that developers are following the population.
This delta in number of apps on Android vs. iOS comes as a result of gaming. While mobile games are popular in both mobile ecosystems, gaming apps are especially popular and prevalent in Android – especially in countries like Indonesia and India that have a large number of Android mobile device users.
It also helps that Android users have proven to be valuable. While the overall lifetime value of iOS users continues to be higher than it is for Android, Android OS apps still made well north of $38 billion in revenue in 2020 alone.
And on top of it all, it’s often more cost effective to develop apps for Android over iOS. Google now has a set 15% fee for all apps, as compared to Apple which offers different rates depending on overall revenue.
Understanding The Mobile Market in the United States
Of course, it’s important to dive into how the Android landscape is looking in the U.S., which is one of the most mature and most lucrative mobile markets globally. While Android is by far the most popular mobile OS globally, what is the state of the mobile OS ecosystem in the United States?
Apple is, and continues to be, the most popular mobile device manufacturer in the U.S. Today, around 60% of all mobile devices in the U.S. run on iOS.
But of course, this isn’t the full story. Android is still quite popular in the U.S., with over 131 million Android smartphone users expected by the end of the year. Between 2014 and 2020, the number of Android smartphone users in the U.S. grew by more than 38%.
And there are certain segments of mobile device owners in the U.S. who are more likely to use Android over iOS. For one thing, Americans between 55 and 64 years old are more likely to have Android devices than Apple mobile hardware. In addition, Android is either more popular or on par with iOS in 19 states.
How Is The Mobile OS Space Evolving?
As we’ve noted before, there is increasing parity the features and capabilities found in Android and iOS. But what does this mean for the future of mobile operating systems?
As TechRepublic contributing writer Jack Wallen has noted, expect current trends to calcify. With Apple and Android branding becoming set and established (including around pricing), the trends we’re seeing now in terms of adoption will probably remain in place for the foreseeable future.
The one area that’s really interesting to watch is around privacy. With iOS 14.5, Apple rolled out its AppTrackingTransparency framework, which requires apps to gather user consent in order to collect and share information about them. And then in June, Google announced its own privacy changes to Android. While both operating systems are making moves around protecting user privacy, Apple so far has been more proactive in this regard.
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