Where Does the iPhone Stand In The World?

iphone_150x150.pngThe market is hungry for today's iPhone launch. Existing iPhone customers are ready to upgrade. Nearly a third of Android users are would consider switching to iPhone, but only 11% of iPhone users would give it up. Sprint is making a big bet to become the third major U.S. carrier.

Apple just announced the iPhone 4S, a significant update to the iPhone's existing design. The iPhone 4 far outshone its predecessors, and a bump to that phone will surely prove popular. More importantly, the iPhone 4S is now a "worldphone." It contains both GSM and CDMA radios, so all carriers can now support the same hardware. Furthermore, the old iPhone 3GS is now free with a contract. But several Android phone manufacturers are neck and neck with Apple, and most of the mobile world doesn't even have a smartphone yet. Amidst the world's many phones, smart and dumb, where exactly does the iPhone stand?

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Smartphone Platforms

It depends whom you ask. The problem with understanding the smartphone market is that every vendor speaks a different language, and each analyst cares about different metrics. Which matters more: How many different devices can run your underlying OS, or how many physical phones of one kind are in people's hands? It depends whether your Google or Apple. The Android platform is the biggest, which means Google's software and third-party apps have the biggest install base, but Apple sells the most devices, and it, unlike Google, gets to keep all the profits.

Leaving tablets and iPod Touches out of the equation, Android prefers to tout its platform, which is installed on nearly half the smartphones in the world.

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Chart used with permission from Asymco.com

Phone Manufacturers

But that comprises many different phones by many manufacturers providing many different user experiences. It's an apples-and-oranges comparison (yes, I went there) with the iPhone, which is one experience from top to bottom.

Currently, in terms of manufacturers, Apple is number 1, but just barely. Apple has 18.5% of the market, and Samsung has 17.2%. Both of them overtook Nokia last quarter, which has 15.2%. In terms of physical phones in hands, the iPhone is already the most popular smartphone.

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Chart used with permission from Asymco.com

The Smartphone Players

The iPhone redefined consumers' expectations of what a phone is supposed to do. It was hardly the first "smartphone" on the market, but its interface made its predecessors look ridiculous. It screamed past RIM and the old Windows Mobile. It spurred on the development of Android, and the Android/iOS paradigm brought down Symbian, which used to lead the world.

To stay in the game, Nokia went with Microsoft's OS, which had to reinvent itself in opposition to Google and Apple. With the launch of the new Windows Phone 8 still off in the distance, Apple and Google are the whole smartphone story today.

The Smartphone Market Is Not The Story

Existing smartphone market is not where the action is, nor is that how Apple measures the iPhone's success. CEO Tim Cook said in his presentation today that the iPhone has just 5% share of the worldwide market for handsets. It's the worldwide movement toward a mobile Web that matters, and the vast proportion of phones in the world are not smartphones yet. But according to comScore, that proportion is shrinking fast. Global smartphone adoption is happening, and with today's new iPhone, Apple wants more than 5%.

Do you think the new iPhone will sell well in the global market? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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