It begins to look like the 2012 holiday-season was an anomaly. comScore’s new numbers (for Jan 2012) are out; Android is resuming its long-term growth rate after a temporary slowdown, and Apple’s market share actually dropped slightly.
I refused to overinterpret Android’s relatively poor performance in the last quarter then, and I’m not going to read too much into Apple’s fall in market share now – it’s probably within the statistical noise limit for comScore’s numbers. I’ll leave the hyperventilation to the fanboys.
I wasn’t the only observer to doubt that the sales spike produced by the 4S was sustainable, and that skepticism now appears to have been well justified. Android phones were outgrowing iPhones even at the hight of the giddy hype; now we’re back to situation normal, with Android posting about three times iPhone’s growth rate.
So what happened last quarter? I have to say I don’t know. The most intriguing bump in the trendlines, I think, was that RIM – poor, doomed RIM – pegged a slight gain in its userbase in December, after having watched that erode steadily from a high in late 2010. This suggests to me that the quarter’s numbers got bent by a surge of smartphone newcomers that were exceptionally lacking in the ability or knowledge to scope RIM’s future prospects – and, by extension, poor at evaluating the prospects of Apple and Android as well.
But now RIM’s trend curves have resumed their long-term decline. That surge is over. It’s an interesting time for Apple’s growth to be weakening. The census Bureau gives the current population of the U.S. as 311,591,917 and comScore says there are 101,300,000 smartphone subscribers in the U.S. That means about one in three Americans now has a smartphone.
If I were a zealot, I’d be crowing about the Trump of Doom for Apple as vociferously as the Apple fanboys were predicting same for Android three months ago. But no; while I still think Apple is headed for disruptive collapse, this probably isn’t it. Yet. This is probably just a lull after an unsustainable holiday frenzy. But if Apple continues to look as uncompetitive next month, the end of its giddy run might indeed be drawing nigh.
Tablets, you say? Tablet dominance will save Apple’s planners from the disruption jitters? Probably not. This announcement – a 7″ capacitive (so, full multitouch) tablet running full Android 4.0 for $89 – heralds the next stage in the disruption. It’s now a safe bet that before the end of Q2 there will be a dozen varieties of Android 4.0 tablet on sale at price points below $100. In the $150 range we’ll see 10″ screens and retina displays. That price point is a recipe for increasing pressure on the iPad.