updated 10:30 pm EDT, Thu April 18, 2013
In the US, Android use has levelled off over past two years
An analysis by London-based tech and telco analyst Benedict Evans has compiled statistics for US smartphone sales from the two largest carriers -- AT&T and Verizon -- and concluded that all new growth in the past two years from both carriers has come as a result of the iPhone. By comparison, Android sales have remained basically flat since at least 2011, with an actual drop in the most recent quarter. The analysis reinforces the notion that Android and iOS customers are entirely different groups, and should be marketed to differently.
The chart (seen below) also makes clear that iPhone buyers tend to buy around the time a new iPhone is announced: while somewhat different for each company, both Verizon and AT&T's figures show dramatic increases in sales between September (generally when a new iPhone is announced) and December, with sales slipping back down by March and staying flat through the spring and summer. Android figures, by contrast, see almost no change at all from quarter to quarter, even in the heavily-promoted holiday season. Both Verizon and AT&Ts sales charts stay nearly flat at around 3.5 million units (AT&T) and two million units (Verizon) sold per quarter, regardless of promotions or "hero" phone releases.
In part, this should not be too surprising: apart from Samsung's Galaxy line, the Android world doesn't really have many "hero" phones that have done well, and its base is mostly composed of price-sensitive consumers that are seeking the cheapest smartphone, not the most premium one. While doing great business overseas, Samsung and other companies haven't really made as much impact in the US market; even during its seasonal "doldrums," the iPhone generally matches (Verizon) or outsells (AT&T) all combined Android sales from the two carriers, at least in their 2012 stats.
Still, the lack of any significant change in sales in the US around the release of, for example, a new Galaxy or Nexus phone is surprising, though Evans has previously pointed out that Android phones tend to do better elsewhere: in Europe, China, Japan, and most of the rest of the world, Android devices (led by pre-paid and other "low cost" models) dominate all other brands.
While Evans' figures treat all non-iPhones in the chart below as "other," in the US non-Android smartphones have practically no presence in the market, making the "other" category virtually all-Android. Although the iPhone generally sells better for carriers (particularly AT&T, which has carried it since its debut), the Android buyers' tendency to purchase phones at a steady pace throughout the year also represents a valuable market to resellers, compared to the more "seasonal" ebb and flow of iPhone sales. Of the two platforms, however, it is clear that at least within the US market, only the iPhone platform is growing.