One race that most tech industry players and analysts have been watching very closely over the last couple years has been between smartphone and feature phone (or dumbphones as they have been dubbed) sales. As mobile device manufacturers have continued to churn out more and more smartphones into the already saturated market place, smartphones are more available and affordable than ever. According to a report by Gartner released earlier this month, worldwide smartphone sales finally outpaced dumbphone sales in Q2 of this year. The report shows that smartphones sales grew 45.6% percent from the second quarter of last year, up to 225 million units globally. This is the first time that smartphone sales have exceeded feature phone sales. The report put Android’s market share in the lead at a whopping 69.7% compared to Apple’s comparatively slim 20.9%.
Are dumbphones really that dumb?
One issue that this report does not account for is the fact that the line between smartphones and so-called dumbphones is getting much blurrier. Most would imagine a feature phone as a plastic flip phone with a very basic interface, no touchscreen display, and functionality limited to calling, texting and perhaps a game or two. But an article in Gizmodofrom last month points out that feature phones are actually much smarter than most would think. They still consume data (though a fraction of the amount of most smartphones) and even have apps like Facebook and Twitter. Granted, the apps are not very pleasing to the eye, but these lower end models are much less of an upfront investment (sometimes the device is even free) and the monthly bills are much more wallet-friendly.
The stats from this Gartner report at definitely exciting for Google and Apple, as well as the many mobile app developers out there. But I have to ask the question: as the lines between smartphones and feature phones become blurrier and blurrier, how much longer will these stats be relevant?
The problem with Q2 reports…
It’s also important to point out that the mobile device market is much better analyzed on a one year cycle. Apple generally has bi-annual product launches, and Android has even more. Q3 and Q4 are generally the big sales window for smartphone sales because of the holidays and the big product launches, so it’s hard to jump to larger conclusions about market trends from data from just one quarter. This is especially true for the sales numbers by device manufacturer.
Although Android is dominating the mobile market worldwide, this App Annie report from last month shows that the Apple market still makes developers more money in the long run. Because the Android app store is so saturated and competitive, app-seekers can find pretty much any app they are looking for free. This means that developers have to resort on other app monetization techniques for apps on Google play, such as advertising and in-app purchases. Developers who put market their apps on the Apple App Store are able to cash in on these alternative monetization techniques as well as by charging to download their app.
For more information about the mobile market, check out our other blogs on mobile application development!