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Android growth to end in 2012 as Microsoft begins to steal Google and Apple's thunder

Zach Epstein
June 6th, 2012 at 8:45 AM

The unprecedented growth rate Google’s Android operating system has enjoyed can’t last forever, and a new report suggests 2012 is the year Android’s share of the global smartphone market will peak. Market research firm IDC on Wednesday released the findings of its latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report, and the firm predicts that cell phone shipments will reach 1.8 billion units this year compared to 1.7 billion in 2011. A sharp decline in the feature phone market will be the root cause of the stalled growth — IDC is forecasting the lowest annual growth rate since 2009 — but smartphone shipments will offset the 10% decline expected from feature phones, growing 38.8% year-over-year to 686 million units in 2012.

“The smartphone parade won’t be as lively this year as it has been in past,” said IDC analyst Kevin Restivo. “The mobile phone user transition from feature phones to smartphones will continue in a gradual but unabated fashion. Smartphone growth, however, will increasingly be driven by a triumvirate of smartphone operating systems, namely Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7.”

While the overall smartphone market is expected to continue growing at a healthy pace over the next five years, IDC sees 2012 as the start of a major shift. The global smartphone market is currently dominated by Android, which will comprise an expected 61% share of the market this year, and iOS, which is forecast to claim 20.5% of the global smartphone market in 2012.

Smartphone unit shipments will continue to grow between now and 2016, but IDC believes there will be a substantial shift in momentum away from Android — which the firm believes will peak in 2012 and then begin declining — and iOS, and toward Microsoft’s perpetually emerging Windows Phone platform.

During the five-year period from 2012 through 2016, Android’s share of the global smartphone market will dip from 61% to 52.9% according to IDC, Apple’s iOS will slide gradually from 20.5% to 19%, and Microsoft’s share of the market will balloon from 5.2% in 2012 (Windows Phone and Windows Mobile combined) to 19.2% in 2016, passing iOS to become the No.2 smartphone platform in the world.

Worldwide Smartphone Operating System 2012 and 2016 Market Share and 2012-2016 Compound Annual Growth Rate 

Smartphone OS

2012 Market Share

2016 Market Share

2012 – 2016 CAGR





Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile








BlackBerry OS












“Underpinning the smartphone market is the constantly shifting OS landscape,” IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said. “Android will maintain leadership throughout our forecast, while others will gain more mobile operator partnerships (Apple) or currently find themselves in the midst of a major transition (BlackBerry and Windows Phone/Windows Mobile). What remains to be seen is how these different operating systems – as well as others – will define and shape the user experience beyond what we see today in order to attract new customers and encourage replacements.”

IDC expects RIM’s smartphone market share to stay relatively flat for the next few years, dipping marginally from 6% in 2012 to 5.9% in 2016, and other smartphone platforms will comprise just 3% of the market in 2016, down from 7.2% in 2012, suggesting Samsung’s efforts with the Tizen platform will be in vain.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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