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Opinion 4 min read No comments

0% market share: the downfall of Android and iOS competition

That’s it! If there was any doubt about the dominance of Android and iOS, the statistics company Gartner destroyed it. 0.0% of all smartphone sales in the first quarter of 2018 were attributable to mobile operating systems other than Android and iOS. This was inevitable, but it’s still bad news for users.

Sure, you’re not supposed to trust statistics you haven’t made up yourself. That’s why, in absolute terms, alternatives still do seem to exist. Worldwide, 131,100 smartphones were sold in the first quarter that don’t use Android or iOS. In comparison, 607,300 of these smartphones were sold in the same quarter last year. Here’s another comparison: 325 million Android smartphones and just under 52 million iPhones were sold in the same period. All these figures are taken from market analysis done by Gartner.

0.0% means above all: the sales figures of other systems are so low that they hardly matter anymore. And sales is the second important keyword to correctly understand the study. It’s about smartphones that aren’t actively in use. So if you still use your old Palm Pre with WebOS, you won’t be factored into Gartner statistics.

Alternative mobile operating systems are a lost battle

Other platforms are not dead because there are even more active users who are not covered by the statistics. And of course, there are projects like Jolla that aren’t sold directly. Instead, users can install Sailfish OS on their smartphone.

But alternatives to Android and iOS no longer have a real future. They have no chance of generating a significant market share. The battle between operating systems has long been the battle between Android and iOS. Both platforms are mature and established.

In mass-market sales, the question is precisely whether a buyer can get a comfortable or even better experience. Even Samsung or Huawei may not be able to establish their own Android competitor. The probability that even expensive investments will simply fail is just too high (around 99%).  

There might be a paradigm shift every ten or twenty years. We can hardly foresee today what things will look like in the future: augmented reality and voice control via wearables are the next level of computing. That’s why Apple and Google have long been pushing Siri and Assistant. watchOS and Wear OS should be thought of in the same vein. Most of the time, however, the original giants usually remain.

Think back to desktop PCs: despite the smartphones with Microsoft Windows and Apple’s macOS, these are old combatants that competed against each other in the 80s. Everything suggests that the duopoly of iOS and Android will remain in the mobile sector. And both platforms have the best cards to determine what the next era of computing will look like. Only Amazon is trying to squeeze in.

The consequences for users

For now and the foreseeable future, this means that users can choose between two clear options.

There is Android from the advertising company Google. There is iOS, the operating system from the hardware company Apple. iOS is expensive: there are hardly any cheap iPhones and when Apple boasts that it has paid out 100 billion dollars to app developers, that also means iPhone users spend considerably more money in the App Store than Android users in the Play Store (which can be statistically proven). The platform is smaller in terms of its base, but each user is more valuable. This is how Apple created an economically viable universe.

Android smartphones, on the other hand, are usually cheaper, but ultimately the user is the money machine: Google collects all kinds of data about its users in order to better display better advertising with their help. It’s hard to generate revenue on the Play Store or on Android users. Apple, on the other hand, is paid for its hardware and doesn’t depend on ongoing advertising revenue.

Looking at Android, it seems strange: Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi make up the top 3 Android manufacturers. None of the three companies uses a Google-based Android. Xiaomi doesn’t have any Google services. Nevertheless, Google has no reason to fear that Android will go down one day.

What do you think of alternative operating systems à la Sailfish: Do they have a chance? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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