Android and iOS are continuing to move toward total domination of the worldwide smartphone market following results from both the fourth quarter (4Q14) and the calendar year 2014 (CY14), says IDC.
According to data from the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, Android and iOS accounted for 96.3% of all smartphone shipments in 2014. This was up slightly from 95.6% in 4Q13 and from 93.8% in CY13.
For year-over-year shipment growth, Android outpaced the overall smartphone market for CY14 (32.0% vs 27.7%, respectively) while iOS beat the market in 4Q14 (46.1% vs 29.2%, respectively).
"Many of the same drivers were in play for Android and iOS to tighten their grip on the market," says Ramon Llamas, IDC Mobile Phone team research manager.
"A combination of strong end-user demand, refreshed product portfolios, and the availability of low-cost devices – particularly for Android – drove volumes higher.
"What will bear close observation is how the two operating systems fare in 2015 and beyond. Now that Apple has entered the phablet market, there are few new opportunities for the company to address.
“Meanwhile, Samsung experienced flat growth in 2014, forcing Android to rely more heavily on smaller vendors to drive volumes higher," he says.
Melissa Chau, IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker senior research manager, says, "Instead of a battle for the third ecosystem after Android and iOS, 2014 instead yielded skirmishes, with Windows Phone edging out BlackBerry, Firefox, Sailfish and the rest, but without any of these platforms making the kind of gains needed to challenge the top two.”
"This isn't to say that vendors aren't making moves, especially for the growth segments – the low-end markets.
“With Microsoft bringing ever-cheaper Lumia into play and Tizen finally getting launched to India early this year, there is still a hunger to chip away at Android's dominance," she says.
Smartphone OS highlights
Android pushed past the one billion unit mark in 2014, and total Android volumes in 2014 bested total smartphone volumes in 2013.
Samsung retained the leadership position by a wide margin, shipping more volume than the next five vendors combined.
At the same time, Samsung's total volumes for the year remained essentially flat while Asian vendors including Huawei, Lenovo (including Motorola), LG Electronics, Xiaomi, and ZTE fueled the most growth for Google's platform, says IDC.
iOS saw its market share for 2014 decline slightly. However, volumes reached a new record and grew at nearly the same pace as the overall smartphone market.
Much of this was due to the strong demand for Apple's new and larger iPhones and the reception they had within key markets. What remains to be seen is how Apple will sustain demand going forward, as larger screens were among the last gaps in its product portfolio, IDC says.
Windows Phone had the smallest year-over-year increase among the leading operating systems growing just 4.2%, well below the overall market.
Having finalised its acquisition of Nokia in the spring of 2014, Microsoft relied primarily on its entry-level Lumia devices to maintain its position in the market, and relied on its partners HTC and Samsung to provide cover on the high-end of the market.
With the launch of Windows 10 later this year, Windows Phone stands to make a more active effort to return to the high end of the market.
BlackBerry posted the only year-over-year decline among the leading operating systems, falling -69.8% from 2013 levels.
Recognising this, by the end of 2014 the company had revealed multiple enhancements to its platform and new device additions with the BlackBerry Passport and BlackBerry Classic, says IDC.
John Chen, BlackBerry CEO, anticipates 10 million units will be shipped in 2015, returning the company to profitability and marking a 72% increase over the 5.8 million units shipped in 2014.