Android, iOS End 2011 Strong, comScore Reports

Market research firm comScore recently released statistics from its MobiLens service that offers insight into the United States’ mobile phone industry. The statistics covered the three-month period ending November 2011, and, as seems to be the case as of late, Android and iOS were the biggest winners.

comScore surveyed over 30,000 mobile subscribers aged 13 and up in the United States to collect the results of its online study.  It tracked the smartphone market, as well as the entire U.S. mobile market that includes smartphones and non-smartphones, which are often referred to as feature phones.

The study compared the three-month average of total smartphone subscribers ending August 2011 versus the three-month average ending November 2011 for the following platforms: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Research in Motion (RIM), and Symbian.  Of the five platforms, only Google and Apple saw an increase in market share.  Google’s Android platform increased its industry-leading market share from 43.8 percent to 46.9 percent.  Apple’s iOS platform rose from 27.3 percent to 28.7 percent.  Third place belonged to RIM, which experienced the biggest drop of the platforms by falling 3.1 percentage points from 19.7 percent to 16.6 percent.  Microsoft came in fourth at 5.2 percent, which was down from August 2011’s figure of 5.7 percent.  Symbian carried the lowest market share of the bunch, dropping 0.3 percentage points to 1.5 percent.

The results of the study are not surprising, as Android and iOS have been on a hot streak for a while now.  Various respected manufacturers such as HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung produce Android handsets in volume to give the platform a boost, and iOS has the advantage of being attached to the immensely popular iPhone.  RIM has been on a decline as more users shift toward Android and iOS, and its major service outage last October did not help its reputation.  Microsoft, meanwhile, is attempting to make its Windows Phone platform more appealing with the release of new Windows Phone 7 devices, as well as incentives for developers to create apps to increase its catalog of offerings. 

comScore also found overall smartphone ownership to be on the rise, with an estimated 91.4 million users in the United States over the three-month period ending November 2011.  That figure was an 8 percent increase over the preceding three-month period.  With so many consumers shifting to smartphones, more pieces of the market share pie will be up for grabs.  Whether or not RIM, Microsoft, and Symbian increase their take remains to be seen. 

As for its entire U.S. mobile market findings that include smartphones and non-smartphones, Samsung was listed as the top original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for the three months ending November 2011.  Samsung held a 25.6 percent market share, and was followed by LG with 20.5 percent.  Motorola, Apple, and RIM rounded out the top five, with 13.7, 11.2, and 6.5 percent, respectively.  Apple experienced the biggest increase of the bunch, gaining 1.4 percent market share over the previous three-month period ending August 2011.  RIM suffered the biggest decrease, falling 0.6 percent.

comScore took things one step further in its study by looking at how mobile phones are used.  The introduction of smartphones in particular has changed the way in which many consumers view mobile devices, as they are no longer solely used for communication with others.  Thanks to always-improving technology, mobile phone subscribers can now use their devices for messaging, productivity, entertainment, gaming, and more.  comScore’s study gave a breakdown of how both smartphone and non-smartphone spend their time while using their devices.

Not surprisingly, comScore found the most widely used mobile function to be text messaging, with approximately 72.6 percent of respondents noting they used their mobile phones to send text messages to others.  That number was up 2.1 percent over the three-month period ending August 2011, and one reason could be the release of more messaging-friendly phones.  Many smartphones now come equipped with physical full QWERTY keyboards or virtual keyboards that improve the messaging experience.

The second most popular use for mobile phones, other than obvious phone calls, was to download apps.  The study reported that 44.9 percent of respondents used their devices for this purpose, and it represented the biggest jump of any of the categories at 3.3 percent.  This is another number that comes at no surprise, especially when you consider the growing number of apps that hit markets on a daily basis.

Moving on, 44.4 percent said they used their mobile phones to browse the web, up 2.3 percent from the three-month period ending August 2011.  Social networks or blogs were accessed by 33 percent of users on their phones, while 29.7 percent played games and 21.7 percent listened to music.  You can expect these numbers to jump even more in the future as smartphones become the go-to gadgets for a variety of consumer needs.

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