It has been one interesting ride if you've followed mobile news over the past two years. We've seen the rise and fall of several platforms. Most notably, Android rose from the open source software nerds could only dream about to the most popular platform around the globe. Likewise, some of the most used platforms like BlackBerry and Symbian have started to age and lose traction. A lot has changed in a relatively short time, and we're led to assume this is only the beginning.
In the latest IDC report, they have aimed to predict what will happen over the course of the next four years in the mobile space. Let me start by saying that four years into the future can only yield slightly – if at all – accurate results, for this market especially.
As you may recall, Chitika predicted in December of last year that Android would surpass the iPhone in US market share on or before February 16, 2012. In actuality, Android ousted the iPhone from its second place market share throne a mere three weeks after the prediction was made, beating the estimate by 13 months.
These IDC predictions are most likely educated guesses based on the current market conditions and short-term trends. IDC predicts that Android will hold 45.4% of the world market share and Windows Phone 7 follows with 20.9% of the market. Surprisingly enough, IDC has also placed iOS in third at 15.3% and BlackBerry in fourth with 13.7%. This is a completely shuffled order from what we have in today's market. Is this what we have to expect in 2015?
I am inclined to differ. This report completely writes off webOS, which has been given a second chance to entice customers. Granted, they are taking forever to reach their second push. When it does come, however, I expect it to be huge. HP is new to the current mobile world and I'm glad they're taking the necessary precautions to prevent a recurrence of Palm's mishap just last year. They have a wonderful platform on their hands, they just need to find their niche market and test some new hardware designs.
The report also fails to mention MeeGo. Whether MeeGo will ever hit the market or gain any real traction is still up in the air, but it has a fair shot, just like Android. Many believed the little green robot was destined to fail and that fragmentation would inevitably be a permanent anchor. But look at it now. Fragmentation is dissipating and Android is on top of the world. MeeGo and webOS are undoubtedly truncated to the "Other" category, but I feel they will have a larger impact than a combined market share of 4.6%.
Let us also exercise the idea of BlackBerry handsets with QNX software, or BlackBerry 7 even. Considering there has been little to no word on them, it's impossible to imagine what to expect from the Canadian company. They have acquired some of the most impressive names in the mobile software industry – The Astonishing Tribe, Torch Mobile, QNX, Cellmania, etc. – to help modernize and popularize the newest version of their software. With the addition of Android applications in QNX, it's impossible to tell what will become of the business man's phone. Barring the next two updates aren't botched, I would expect growth from RIM, not a loss in market share.
Not forgetting Windows Phone 7, whose fate is still undetermined, IDC has placed them second with 20.9% market share in 2015. Microsoft's new platform was built on simplicity, though many feel it may be too simple. In an obvious challenge to Android, Microsoft also promised a smooth, effortless update process that would update every device around the same time. Unfortunately, that plan already seems to be falling apart.
It's hard to accurately judge how well Windows Phone 7 is doing due to a lack of physical numbers from the company, but it has gained a respectable following, especially by developers, which may be the driving force of the industry by 2014. Let's not forget that the world renowned Nokia has also jumped into the Windows Phone pool, so I imagine a lot of faithfuls will ditch Symbian and hop on board Microsoft's ship. There's no reason to write WP7 off, but I'm not convinced they will hold a fifth of the market in 2015.
While other platforms rise and fall, Apple's iPhone is set to retain the majority of its market share, slightly dipping from 15.7% to 15.3%. This certainly makes sense as they are the sole manufacturer of their devices and tend to release one model per year. However, there has been the introduction of a CDMA iPhone and talk of several different models – a cheaper version as well as a larger model – coming in the future. If any of the rumors carry some truth, it could be a large breath of life for the aging platform.
The smartphone market is rapidly growing. More and more people are ditching their feature phones for a more-capable, more computer-like smarpthones. Predicting what will happen six months from now is tough, much less a prediction of 48 months into the future. The mobile market is volatile and one wrong move can send a platform to the bottom of the list. Rest assured, whatever the market share charts may look like then, there will be a flavor for everyone.