The Smartphone Wars: comScore loses the plot?

I’ve come to the depressing conclusion that I can’t trust comScore’s share numbers any more.

The problem isn’t that they’re showing a second month of effectively no change in userbase share for Android. That, in isolation, I could manage to believe (though I would find it very puzzling). The problem is that I can’t reconcile that with other lines of evidence.

One of my commenters has pointed out that Android activation numbers are up to 900K a day. That’s 27 million devices a month, and I can’t imagine any plausible percentage of tablet activations to discount that by that would leave Android smartphone activations unable to swing the needle in a market that comScore estimates at just 110M users.

Other market-research outfits were already quoting Android global market-share figures ranging from 56% to 60% two months ago. Yes, global market share isn’t the same as U.S. share, but historically those trendlines have been distinguished by timelag rather than having different slopes. And just to drive that point home, NPD already had Android at 61% of U.S. share in May.

Finally, there’s the curious fact that when you multiply out comScore’s own numbers it looks like Android is still gaining smartphone users a little faster than iOS (though not by a statistically significant amount.)

I don’t know what’s going on here. I trusted comScore’s numbers for a long time because they showed a continuous and regular set of measurements that was in sync with more sporadic indications from other sources. Overall it made a coherent picture. Now the other sources are still suggesting rapid Android growth, but comScore thinks it ain’t happening.

This is a bummer. It means I’m going to have to be a lot more skeptical of comScore’s numbers in the future even supposing they turn happy for Android again.

63 thoughts on “The Smartphone Wars: comScore loses the plot?

  1. “And just to drive that point home, NPD already had Android at 61% of U.S. share in May.”
    The link is broken.

  2. Is it at all conceivable that Rubin might just be fudging the numbers? It’s not like it’s never happened before.

  3. It’s not totally clear from their press releases, but AFAICT comScore is tracking user base for each platform, while NPD and IDC are tracking device sales. NPD’s numbers do seem to line up better with the quarterly changes in your derived user base sizes.

  4. What metric does comScore claim to track? Is it the total installed base? If so, that may suggest that perhaps a widening piece of the Android pie now consists of upgrades which place a previously purchased device out of service.

  5. >Is it at all conceivable that Rubin might just be fudging the numbers?

    I think it’s highly unlikely. Google is big enough to be constantly worried about having the SEC on its ass.

  6. @syskill:

    > AFAICT comScore is tracking user base for each platform.

    True.

    > while NPD and IDC are tracking device sales.

    That seems to be correct. And Nielsen occasionally releases numbers in both categories. Nielsen is the only entity that sometimes has something close to apples-to-apples numbers to compare to comscore (US domestic smartphone installed base).

    http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/smartphones-account-for-half-of-all-mobile-phones-dominate-new-phone-purchases-in-the-us/

  7. “I’ve come to the depressing conclusion that I can’t trust comScore’s share numbers any more.”

    Hide the decline.

  8. >Hide the decline.

    Good analogy. When the tree-ring based temp reconstructions got wildly out of whack with most temperature indicators from other sources, the right response wasn’t to spawn an entire sub-industry of explanations for the “divergence problem”, it wae to stop believing the tree-ring numbers. The OP is me being more honest than J. Random Climatologist.

    It’s still a bummer, though. Now I don’t have any justified belief that I can trust any of the share numbers being flung around out there.

  9. “It’s still a bummer, though. Now I don’t have any justified belief that I can trust any of the share numbers being flung around out there.”

    There was no reason to trust the Comscore numbers prior to 2 months ago other than that you liked what they were saying.

  10. >There was no reason to trust the Comscore numbers prior to 2 months ago other than that you liked what they were saying.

    Pay better attention, fool. I trusted them because they were consistent with other indicators that were more sporadic. I was quite up front about the risks of this – most notably here

    But don’t forget that I am relying on comScore’s primary datasets and code, which I can’t see. The absolute most you can deduce from what I show you is that my extrapolation is correct if comScore’s numbers are correct, and your confidence in that can only be as strong as the value of the business comScore would lose if it got out that its numbers were erroneous or fudged.

  11. The scientific approach is always to ask “How do they know?” Eighty seven percent of statistics are pulled out of someone’s ass.

    There is no easy way to know how many people are using operating system X in their phones. Nor is there any easy way to know total android sales.

    We can know, for example, the proportion of unique visitors per month using operating system X that hit certain widely used sites.

  12. Oh, I’m paying attention ESR. Some of my first posts a year ago attacked not only your hypothesis but your methodology.

    Myself and several others have argued from the beginning that:
    1. Relying on Comscore’s data alone was incredibly poor science.
    2. That there were innumerable data sources from the other market analysis firms, other sources, OEMs and suppliers themselves, etc. that did conflict with the Comscore data all along.
    3. Using Comscore data for the US was a particularly bad proxy for the total market because the 1st and 3rd world markets would diverge (with the US doing so even more).

    You poo-pooed or ignored these criticisms for a year. Now…

  13. @esr

    >One of my commenters has pointed out that Android activation numbers are up to 900K a day.

    Actually, at the I/O keynote they announced that the number had hit 1 million.

  14. @esr:

    I finally had a chance to take a look, and don’t see anything obviously untoward with the numbers. You have to remember they are smoothed, and that we are still seeing effects from Apple availability on new carriers. In fact, iPhones were rolled out to a bunch of prepaids just recently. (And a lot of the prepaids don’t have either BYOD or compelling Android options.)

    Finally, there’s the curious fact that when you multiply out comScore’s own numbers it looks like Android is still gaining smartphone users a little faster than iOS (though not by a statistically significant amount.)

    That’s just a function of the fact that Android had a larger share in the prior reporting period, and the market is still growing.

    @Ignatius T. Foobar:

    What metric does comScore claim to track? Is it the total installed base?

    Yes. But there is one quibble I’ve had with comscore for awhile — their total devices never seems to go up. I guess they don’t know how to quantify that. It’s much easier to figure out percentages. But it’s hard to believe that there have been 234 million mobile devices for the last umpteen years.

    If so, that may suggest that perhaps a widening piece of the Android pie now consists of upgrades which place a previously purchased device out of service.

    This is part of it. And more frequently, the previous device runs Android. I have no trouble believing that Apple devices are regifted or resold more than Android devices, which would mean that more Apple sales are cumulative into the installed base than Android sales, which might explain part of the discrepancy esr thinks he is seeing.

    Also, anybody who wanted to replace their blackberry with an Android could have done it a long time ago, and for a lot of people (not on AT&T), their upgrade window to replace a 2-year contract blackberry with Apple is just coming around now. So for the carriers where Android was available much earlier than Android, it is not unexpected to see more conversions from RIM or Symbian or whatever to Apple than to Android.

    I wish we had good data about what kind of phones people were buying and what they replaced, though — those companies charge for that.

  15. I’ve always looked at the activation numbers as being something Andy Rubin pulls out of his ass, as I have 5 activated Android phones sitting in my desk drawer and yet I use none of them so its easy an easy number to game. But even ignoring that, the progression of the activation numbers for this year looks a bit funny:

    Feb 2012: 850,000
    Beginning June 2012: 900,000
    End of June 2012: 1,000,000

    While the devil certainly is in the rounding, it looks like Android took 4 months to add 50k activations per day, then suddenly in the space of a month or so added 100k. Seems a bit sudden especially with no significant product launches from the major Android vendor (Samsung) in that period (The Galaxy s3 being launched as we speak) and just happening to collide with the annual developer conference.

  16. >2. That there were innumerable data sources from the other market analysis firms, other sources, OEMs and suppliers themselves, etc. that did conflict with the Comscore data all along.

    Generally when they conflicted, they did so by suggesting faster Android growth rates and higher market shares than comScore was indicating – the NPD numbers from May being an entirely typical case in point. Oops. I doubt that’s the representation you wanted to prevail.

    >You poo-pooed or ignored these criticisms for a year.

    Only in your fantasies. I focused on the U.S. rather than the world market precisely because we seemed to be able to get higher-quality measures here. Again, the worldwide surveys generally indicated faster Android acceleration than in the U.S – and now you think I should have leaned on them more? It is to laugh. Had I done so at the time, I have no doubt at all you and the other fanboys would have bitched at me for ignoring Apple’s comparative success in the U.S.

  17. I’m aligned with one of the use-a-watch-with-your-smartphone manufacturers.

    We’re seeing a LOT of push-back on “iOS-only”, but simultaneously, a LOT of US carrier-friendliness to the idea of something being Windows Phone Only.

    The reason: the carrier’s want to be in-charge, and with a race between Samsung and Apple, they don’t have much leverage with which to negotiate. With a third technology in-place, they do (or they think they do).

    I read this as a canary in the coal mine that the US carriers are prepared to push Windows pretty hard, the same way they used to push Android when all but AT&T lacked the iPhone. Now everyone but T-Mobile and US Cellular have the iPhone (and T-Mobile wants it bad, as they will probably fail without it.)

    T-Mobile is rushing to build out LTE and is refarming spectrum in order to supply 3G in an iPhone-friendly way. Sprint is also rushing to build out LTE. While LTE has been available on a few Android phones to-date, there will be a huge rush toward LTE with the next-gen iPhone.

    So, customer demand for iPhone continues to increase, and Microsoft and the US carriers are prepared to push Windows Phone. Simultaneously, Google has finally closed on its acquisition of Motorola, which has to spook the other members of the Open Handset Alliance.

    Android has a new set of challenges in front of it.

  18. > I wish we had good data about what kind of phones people were buying and what they replaced, though — those companies charge for that.

    This is actually the key metric for the US smartphone market. Anybody who bought a Droid on Verizon between Oct 2009 and July 2010 is now out of contract and upgrade eligible. The question is are they buying another Droid or now that the iPhone is on Verizon are they switching ?

    If that is the case then we should see a slow Android decline as more Verizon subscribers come out of contract and are faced with that choice and a slight acceleration as Sprint subscribers come out of contract and T-Mobile fully supports the iPhone.

  19. “Generally when they conflicted, they did so by suggesting faster Android growth rates and higher market shares than comScore was indicating – the NPD numbers from May being an entirely typical case in point. Oops. I doubt that’s the representation you wanted to prevail.”

    No, not really. There is lots of data to the contrary as well. And, no, I have no problem with NPD data being disparate from Comscore’s data in favor for Android — my point is that relying on one source of data as more reliable was always foolish.

    “Only in your fantasies.”

    Nope, it’s been noted by myself time and time again.

    ” Again, the worldwide surveys generally indicated faster Android acceleration than in the U.S – and now you think I should have leaned on them more?”

    No. When did I say that? I said you should have always synthesized all of the data after evaluating it’s accuracy.

    ” Had I done so at the time, I have no doubt at all you and the other fanboys would have bitched at me for ignoring Apple’s comparative success in the U.S.”

    Again, who sayed to focus on any one data point? Your deflecting because your theory has been WRONG for nearly a year now.

  20. Typo: “Nope, it’s been noted by myself AND OTHERS time and time again.”

  21. 900k activations a day in a market of 110M? That’s enough to match the entire market every four months. I know smartphones are a newish field, but they’re not at three doublings a year. Those numbers are simply not compatible with each other.

  22. “The OP is me being more honest than J. Random Climatologist.”

    yea, let’s not take this analogy too far though. otherwise before you know it we’ll have people saying that Android’s market-share lead is a hoax and that the activated devices don’t really exist.

  23. @alsadius:

    900k activations a day in a market of 110M? That’s enough to match the entire market every four months. I know smartphones are a newish field, but they’re not at three doublings a year. Those numbers are simply not compatible with each other.

    One of those numbers is global; the other is domestic.

  24. For the statistics, this is the list of daily activation rates by date.

    60,000 01-04-2010
    160,000 01-07-2010
    200,000 01-09-2010
    350,000 01-02-2011
    400,000 01-05-2011
    500,000 01-06-2011
    550,000 01-07-2011
    600,000 01-10-2011
    700,000 15-12-2011
    850,000 15-02-2012 (actually, Andy tweeted it today 27-02-12, but I stick with the half month)
    900,000 01-06-2012 (tweeted 11-06-2012)
    1,000,000 30-06-2012 (keynote I/O)

    It seems clear that the numbers get rounded at ~100k by now. Given the scrutiny Google and Android get, I think the numbers are conservative. If Google claim 1M/day, they probably make sure it is above 1M/day.

    This comes down to around 150K increase in activation rate for 4.5 months. That is still approximately a 30k increase in daily activation rate per month. So Android is back to the long term historical trend of a ~30k increase per month world-wide. Might be slightly higher as I suspect Google is rounding the numbers down more now than in February.

    Note that at this rate, Google will have another 400M Android phone activations in a year time. By then the daily activation rate could be approaching 1.4M

    The problem with the comscore numbers is obviously that the US market is neither a telecom monopoly nor a free market for ISPs and phones. In both a telecom monopoly and a free market, the price differences between iPhones and Android phones would directly affect their sales. However, in the US market, the network (cross-) subsidies can make an iPhone as cheap or cheaper to the consumer than any Android phone. Then there is the economic crisis which affects the target consumers for Android phones and iPhones differently.

  25. Some links about the 1M milestone for the archive.

    Last year alone 300M Android handsets were activated and daily activation rate increased from 400k to 1M. That would come down to an average increase of some 40k per day each month.

    Android activations reach 1 million per day
    At the developer-oriented Google I/O show, Google announces a new milestone for its mobile operating system. In addition, 400 million Android devices have been sold so far.
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57461870-94/android-activations-reach-1-million-per-day/

    400 million Android devices in the wild, 1 million activated daily
    http://gadgets.ndtv.com/mobiles/news/400-million-android-devices-in-the-wild-1-million-activated-daily-237118

    And a new time line (corrected):
    June 27, 2012 1,000,000 devices
    Feb 27, 2012: 850,000 devices
    Dec 21, 2011: 700,000 devices
    July 15, 2011: 550,000 devices
    June 28, 2011: 500,000 devices
    May 10, 2011: 400,000 devices
    Feb 24, 2011: 350,000 devices
    Dec 9, 2010: 300,000 devices
    Aug 4, 2010: 200,000 devices

    Compare to Apple:
    Apple brags: sells 365 million iOS devices, 140 million iMessage users
    http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/11/apple-brags-sells-365-million-ios-devices-140-million-imessage/
    http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/11/apple-wwdc2012-iphones-ipads-sold/

    I assume this includes the iPods.

  26. “I read this as a canary in the coal mine that the US carriers are prepared to push Windows pretty hard, the same way they used to push Android when all but AT&T lacked the iPhone.”

    Nokia’s Windows phones have been out for several months now and they don’t seem to be going anywhere, despite massive marketing support from MS. If the US carriers are prepared to push them hard, they’re hiding their efforts remarkably well.

  27. @mikko
    “If the US carriers are prepared to push them hard, they’re hiding their efforts remarkably well.”

    I think they would like to. Divide and conquer and all that.

    However, the NoWin and other WinPhones have had such a miserable reception by consumers and channel alike, that they do not even try anymore.

  28. Even Nokia is losing faith, at least, they say so:

    What is the Nokia Secret Plan if Windows 8 isn’t Windows gr8?
    So secret, even Elop doesn’t know about it
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/07/03/nokia_plan_b_schtum/

    The most likely – and only serious – Plan B is for an interim, Windows Phone Classic (aka 7.99999) to take advantage of multicore processors and (perhaps) higher resolution screens.

    Far more worrying than the Big Bang is that Nokia’s comeback has had everything: lots of press, good reviews, everything except sales. Which makes the idea that there may not be room for differentation at the platform level at all: the only two ‘ecosystems’ may be Android and iOS.

  29. The comScore data seem right to me.

    The Android activation figure is global. The ComScore figure is for the US only. So, the market into which Android is shipping 1M devices per day is not 110M devices. It’s the global smartphone installed base.

    In the US Apple has in the last year or so become available on Sprint and Verizon, enabling it to gain share more quickly.

    Also, the repeat rate of Apple buyers is higher than the repeat rate of Android buyers. The percent of people who, upon upgrading, shift from Android to Apple is way higher than the percent who shift from Apple to Android.

  30. Speaking of which: Firefox OS… [not really related to comScore no, but is certainly a new entrant in the Smartphone Wars...]

  31. >The Android activation figure is global. The ComScore figure is for the US only.

    Granted this is true. But I can’t see how to come up with a ratio of overseas to U.S. sales that is both plausible and explains the comScore figures, especially since comScore’s own numbers say Android is still gaining users faster. A million activations a day – 30 million a month – is an awful damn lot.

    Here and on G+, people looking for an explanation have tended to attack either the honesty or the significance of Google’s activation figures. The trouble is that those are not the only other data against which comScore’s share numbers now look wonky. We also have the NPD, Nielsen, and Gartner estimates, all of which put Android’s share in the 56% to 60% range – or even higher, given the latest ones are a couple months old.

    It used to be that all the estimates tracked pretty closely. In retrospect, that started to change last December.

  32. @esr
    “Here and on G+, people looking for an explanation have tended to attack either the honesty or the significance of Google’s activation figures. ”

    Which is a sign that they cannot cope with reality. People on this level risk jail time if they lie and deceive.

  33. >People on this level risk jail time if they lie and deceive.

    Yes, this is why I don’t take the “Andy Rubin lied” theory seriously.

    Mind you, people as exposed to SEC fines and jail time as he is do sometimes lie for a little good as this lie would do him. But those people are stupid. I don’t suspect Andy Rubin of stupidity.

  34. @esr:

    It used to be that all the estimates tracked pretty closely. In retrospect, that started to change last December.

    Which is the first Christmas after iPhones became available on Verizon and Sprint. Anybody who got their first smartphone for Christmas ’09 would be looking to upgrade around Christmas ’11. And right after Christmas ’09, the smartphone market really took off — Comscore shows 25% more smartphones in May ’10 than in Dec ’09. That’s 10 million smartphones. From Dec ’11 to May ’12, the market only grew by 12 million smartphones, but I’m sure there were a lot of replacements. So in a market where there are 12 million new smartphones, and at least 10 million upgrade-eligible-for-hardly-any-money smartphones, when you consider that the iPhone is now available to more than twice as many subscribers as it was not too long ago, is it really all that surprising that lots of people who can now get iPhones decided to do so?

    According to comscore, in the timeframe from Dec ’11 to May ’12, Android added subscribers at a rate 1.5x that of Apple, whereas for a long time it was at a 2x rate.

    I think it might bump up again as more people turn to prepaid or more transparent contract pricing, but it may be that with heavily subsidized Apples available on all major carriers, this is the correct rate. I have no reason to disbelieve comscore, and don’t think this data really contradicts the other data you show.

  35. >I think it might bump up again as more people turn to prepaid or more transparent contract pricing, but it may be that with heavily subsidized Apples available on all major carriers, this is the correct rate. I have no reason to disbelieve comscore, and don’t think this data really contradicts the other data you show.

    Huh? How is ComScore at 50.9% compatible with NPD at 61% and rising? The low estimates at this point from anybody-but-comScore are 56% or higher. My rule of thumb on these things is that between different survey outfits a 3% difference is noise, but there’s twice as much daylight than that between comScore and everybody else.

  36. > How is ComScore at 50.9% compatible with NPD at 61% and rising?

    If you do the really simplistic thing and assume that few people are going between Apple and Android, and that people are only really buying Android and Apple phones, and look at the Comscore numbers between Dec. 11 and May 12, you will find that Comscore shows that the number of Android additions is 61% of the number of (Android plus Apple) additions:

    (55.99 – 46.31) / ((55.99 – 46.31) + (35.09-28.98))

    There’s a lot of slop in the assumptions in that calculation, but 61% isn’t particularly inconsistent with 61%. (It’s somewhat inconsistent in that NPD reported that 10% of purchased phones were something else, but since Comscore and other surveys show “something else” nosediving, it’s pretty safe to say that the added phones for everything else weren’t even at replacement rates.)

    Others are saying that NPD’s numbers are high:

    http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-05-02/tech/31529764_1_smartphone-android-iphones

    But of course, there’s that age old problem of the discrepancy between iPhone activations and sales, and depending on how NPD did their survey, a gifted/repurposed iPhone might not count as a sale anyway, although it would count as an activation. In any case, I can well believe that the active life of the average iPhone is longer than the life of the average Android phone, and that would be reflected in comscore’s total numbers, but not in NPD’s “what did you buy last quarter” numbers.

  37. @SPQR:

    Speaking of Thorstein, if you were wondering where Baghdad Bob ended up …

    The Norwegian Blue prefers keepin’ on it’s back! Remarkable bird, id’nit, squire? Lovely plumage!

  38. Patrick, somehow the image of Thorstein nailing a Blackberry to a perch is apt.

  39. As this OP post has become more or less inactive, I would like to share a list with links to all the Smartphone Wars articles of Eric. Just to have a link to go to when looking up how precise Eric and his critics were in their predictions. For added bonus, I included the most comprehensive list of Android activation statistics I could find.

    I think Eric should bundle them in a (e-)book called “Diaries of the Smartphone Wars” or something like that.

    Android daily activation statistics

    Month Rate Date Cumulative
    32 1,000,000 27-06-2012 400M
    32 900,000 11-06-2012
    28 850,000 27-02-2012 300M
    27 – 19-01-2012 250M
    26 700,000 21-12-2011
    25 – 16-11-2011 200M
    24 600,000 17-10-2011 190M
    21 550,000 18-07-2011 135M
    20 500,000 28-06-2011
    19 400,000 09-05-2011 100M
    16 350,000 24-02-2011
    14 300,000 09-12-2010
    10 200,000 04-08-2010
    9 160,000 01-07-2010
    6 60,000 01-04-2010
    0 0 23-09-2008

    The Smartphone Wars:

    In total, there are some 68 articles over a period of 25 months from June 4, 2010 to July 2, 2012.

    comScore loses the plot?
    Monday, July 2 2012

    Inauspicious exits and debuts
    Friday, June 22 2012

    Oracle lawsuit’s final fizzle
    Wednesday, June 20 2012

    Android loses share?
    Saturday, June 2 2012

    Finally, Android breaks 50%
    Tuesday, April 3 2012

    Exit Blackberry, pursued by a bear
    Friday, March 30 2012

    Back to the Old Normal
    Tuesday, March 6 2012

    The market share scramble and Apple’s long con
    Wednesday, February 8 2012

    Mystery of the Android tablets
    Friday, January 27 2012

    CyanogenMOD Rising
    Tuesday, January 24 2012

    Dinosaurs mating?
    Thursday, January 5 2012

    a bit of Christmas cheer
    Wednesday, December 28 2011

    Andy Rubin brings the news
    Tuesday, December 20 2011

    A Night in the Lonesome December
    Friday, December 2 2011

    Samsung Busts a Move?
    Thursday, November 17 2011

    Signs and Portents
    Saturday, November 5 2011

    Sprint Doubles Down on Dumb
    Thursday, October 27 2011

    How are the mighty fallen
    Tuesday, October 4 2011

    Short Takes
    Tuesday, September 6 2011

    Alarums and Mergers
    Wednesday, August 31 2011

    Exit Steve Jobs
    Thursday, August 25 2011

    WebOS, we hardly knew ye
    Thursday, August 18 2011

    Google Buys Motorola
    Monday, August 15 2011

    48% and rising
    Sunday, August 7 2011

    Expectation and Surprise
    Sunday, July 24 2011

    Not the expected surprise
    Tuesday, July 5 2011

    Rumors of demise
    Thursday, June 30 2011

    Nokia’s fallback?
    Sunday, June 26 2011

    Circling the RIM
    Tuesday, June 21 2011

    The invasion begins
    Wednesday, June 15 2011

    China syndrome strikes!
    Wednesday, June 8 2011

    The world turned upside down
    Tuesday, June 7 2011

    No bump, no glory
    Friday, June 3 2011

    HTC rejoins the good guys
    Friday, May 27 2011

    More fun with statistics
    Monday, May 16 2011

    Tracking userbase growth
    Thursday, May 12 2011

    Still It Rises
    Wednesday, May 11 2011

    With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends?
    Tuesday, May 3 2011

    multicarrier breakout fail
    Thursday, April 21 2011

    Android measured at over 50% U.S. market share
    Tuesday, April 19 2011

    The Stages of Apple-Cultist Denial
    Monday, April 18 2011

    NoWin deal “more takeover than deal”?
    Thursday, April 14 2011

    Almost boring now…
    Thursday, April 7 2011

    Microsoft may win after all
    Friday, April 1 2011

    Nod and WinCE
    Friday, February 25 2011

    Bricks and Battiness
    Wednesday, February 23 2011

    Tightening the OODA Loop
    Friday, February 18 2011

    Nokia shareholders revolt!
    Monday, February 14 2011

    Nokia’s Suicide Note
    Friday, February 11 2011

    iPhone 4V Falls To Earth
    Thursday, February 10 2011

    Elop’s Burning Platform
    Wednesday, February 9 2011

    Android hits #1
    Monday, January 31 2011

    AT&T CEO reveals all
    Thursday, January 27 2011

    The Fall and Fall of Windows Phone 7
    Wednesday, January 26 2011

    Samsung folds under pressure
    Monday, January 24 2011

    Verizon gets iPhone
    Tuesday, January 11 2011

    There’s dross in them thar hills!
    Wednesday, December 29 2010

    Fortune catches up with me
    Monday, December 27 2010

    Yes, I can call them!
    Tuesday, December 14 2010

    Google changes aim
    Wednesday, December 8 2010

    Symbian Foundation folds its hand
    Monday, November 29 2010

    Android thunders on
    Tuesday, September 28 2010

    What Gassée has to say
    Monday, September 13 2010

    Google goes Taoist, Microsoft uses the farce
    Monday, September 13 2010

    a cautious cheer for T-Mobile
    Friday, September 10 2010

    a global perspective
    Wednesday, September 8 2010

    Missing the point: The real stakes in the smartphone wars
    Thursday, June 10 2010

    More dispatches from the smartphone wars
    Friday, June 4 2010

  40. And here is the Prequel to the smartphone wars (sort of all articles mentioning Android). How much difference two years make.

    The Prequel

    The iPhone 4: Too little, too late
    Monday, June 7 2010

    Steve Jobs’ Snow Job
    Wednesday, June 2 2010

    Flattening the Smartphone Market
    Tuesday, May 25 2010

    Now’s a bad time to be an Apple fanboy…
    Sunday, May 23 2010

    Android Rising
    Tuesday, May 11 2010

    How many ways can you get Android wrong in one article?
    Tuesday, May 4 2010

    G-1 to Nexus One: an informal comparison
    Sunday, May 2 2010

    The Nexus One has landed: telecomms companies, beware!
    Wednesday, April 28 2010

    Apple, postmodern consumerism and the iPad
    Thursday, April 22 2010

    Greed kills: Why smartphone lock-in will fail and open source win
    Thursday, March 4 2010

    moogly pwns the iPhone!?!
    Sunday, November 16 2008

    Net neutrality: what’s a libertarian to do?
    Thursday, November 13 2008

    Why Android matters
    Wednesday, November 12 2008

    Great googly-moogly, the sequel
    Tuesday, November 11 2008

    I have an Android phone, and its name is “moogly”.
    Sunday, October 26 2008

  41. Patrick, somehow the image of Thorstein nailing a Blackberry to a perch is apt.

    Or Thorstein could open a BlackBerry 10 Cheese Shop.

  42. Another way to analyze the (lack of a) future of Microsoft.

    As the article states, the question is not whether Windows 8 will give Redmond a much-needed boost., but why should it?

    Numbers don’t lie: Apple’s ascent eviscerates Microsoft
    How the mighty have fallen – and how swiftly
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/07/05/microsoft_slippage/

    There’s been a quite a bit of discussion – as well there should be – as to whether the consumer-friendlier, Metro-ized Windows 8 will give Redmond a much-needed boost. One question that hasn’t been frequently asked, however, is “Why should it?”

    With Android available for those manufacturers and users who prefer a more-open platform, and OS X and iOS available to those who prefer the security of a walled garden, what exactly is the crying consumer need that Windows 8 will satisfy better than Android, iOS, or OS X, other than its ability to run legacy apps?

  43. Ewan Spence argues in Forbes that an Amazon Kindle smartphone will disrupt the carrier-centric cellphone business model.

    “For all the world-changing mythos that built up around it, the iPhone never challenged the dominance of the carriers either at the US launch or anywhere else around the world. No other hardware manufacturer had the power then to do so, and arguably none of the incumbents can at the moment.

    “Just like the Kindle Fire they will be able cross-subsidize the Kindle phone with digital content from Amazon and can leverage Amazon Prime.

    “They can also negate the carriers other advantage – distribution. If there’s one thing that Amazon is good at, it’s selling boxes of ‘things’ and getting them to their customers as soon as possible.

    “The one piece remaining would be the smartphone itself…my assumption would be that a Kindle phone would carry on using Amazon’s fork of Android. The opportunity for Amazon is there. Given the drive that Bezos displayed when he announced the Kindle Fire, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a Kindle Phone at some point in the next twelve months.”

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ewanspence/2012/07/08/amazons-kindle-smartphone-will-disrupt-the-carrier-model/

  44. Winter,

    Office.

    And DirectX.

    These two things together could make Windows 8 a killer platform.

    Office on tablets will make them a must-have for corporate and business applications. (Though the iPad is also getting Office, it will be interesting to see if the better integration into Windows 8 brings benefits to the table.) As for DirectX, well, a killer app for any electronic gadget — be it a PC, smartphone, or tablet — is games. And the DirectX API and the tooling Microsoft provides to support it, integrated with Visual Studio, is the best around. Sorry, but there is simply nothing in the OpenGL or open source space that can even compare. There’s already an enormous DirectX ecosystem around Windows and the Xbox, that game devs can leverage into developing truly next-gen, AAA content for Windows phones and tablets. This could crowd Android out of contention (gaming on Android is a sucky, laggy, sad affair) and even give Windows 8 something of an edge over iOS in this sphere.

  45. @Jeff Read
    “Office. And DirectX.
    These two things together could make Windows 8 a killer platform.”

    Everybody else seems to disagree with you:
    Nokia’s Junk Status Is Spot On
    http://seekingalpha.com/article/703351-nokia-s-junk-status-is-spot-on

    Even if Windows 8 works it might not help Nokia because Windows 8 is primarily a business operating system. It is hard to see a new PC operating system is going to help a phone manufacturer increase its sales. Even if it can be easily integrated with phones so can existing systems such as Android. So Mr. Elsop’s line of reasoning is actually rather hard to swallow.

    It is also hard to see Windows 8 giving any sort of boost to Nokia’s stock. After all phone buyers are not familiar with it yet. That means there will be no boost in Nokia sales and cash flow from Windows 8. Instead the optimism about Windows 8 is probably going to drive down Nokia stock values because it is hard to see how the Microsoft operating system will translate into any additional cash flow.

    Also, DirectX is the opposite of security. Its raison d’etre used to be underpowered hardware. Now it is only kept for compatibility and lock-in. Neither iOS not Android use it, so why would anyone code for it?

    And phones are more personal than PCs. In the old days when laptops were introduced, there was a line going “A: But you can use a laptop on the beach! Q: Why would you want to work when you are on the beach?”. Now, people use their phones everywhere, from elevators to riding a roller-coaster. But not for editing office documents.

    More than half a billion Smartphones have been sold without Office support. That is one Smartphone for every 14 humans.

    We can be pretty sure that almost all of those who desperately need to edit MS Office documents already have a Smartphone that cannot do so. So it is a mystery to me why you think selling a phone that can edit MS Office documents would be an instant hit, even if it is incompatible with everything else.

    “Ah, but tablets need to be able to edit Office documents”, you will most likely say. The fact that you have to buy an app for that has not hindered the sale of tens of millions of iPads. And they are bought by those well over their ears into the MS business software mantra.

    Sorry, but to me it seems Office and DirectX are the powers of the last century. MS is doomed.

  46. Is it just me, or has MS given up on mobile phones?

    Exclusive: Microsoft’s Ballmer Throws Down Gauntlet Against Apple
    http://www.crn.com/news/mobility/240003421/exclusive-microsofts-ballmer-throws-down-gauntlet-against-apple.htm;jsessionid=eUs6b4sPRxVNFEhzLFX9Lw**.ecappj02

    Ballmer did not even discount the possibility that Microsoft’s innovation offensive could include its own smartphone to compete against Apple’s wildly popular iPhone. When asked if Microsoft might make its own smartphone, Ballmer paused and then replied: “Right now we are working real hard on the Surface. That’s the focus. That’s our core. Look, we’ll see what happens. We have good partners with Nokia, HDC in the phone space. I love what we’ve got going on with the Surface. We are going to focus on Surface and our other Windows 8 Tablet partners and see if we can go make something happen.”

    My translation: Balmer desperately needs success, any success. MS WinPhone is a killer, of companies, that is. Now jump on the next hot thing, the still not for sale “Surface”.

  47. If you have any lingering doubts about the future of Nokia, (No)WinPhones, and a few spare hours, go no further than Tomi Ahonen and his crusade against Elop.

    Includes an extensive essay on a WWII battle where Finnish soldiers destroyed two Russian (tank) divisions when they were outnumbered 4:1 by the Russians and without tanks nor air support.

    Warning: Book sized blog post

    The Sun Tzu of Nokisoftian Microkia – Mirror mirror on the wall, who’se the baddest of them all – Waterloo, I was defeated you won the war – a long trek blog in search of the worst CEO ever (spoiler alert: Elop)
    http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/07/the-sun-tzu-of-nokisoftian-microkia-mirror-mirror-on-the-wall-whose-the-baddest-of-them-all-waterloo.html

    If your retail channel refuses to sell your product, you die. This is not a ‘gray area’ matter. This is not in any way open to debate or something with options or alternatives. If your retail channel refuses to sell your product, you die. Nokia’s retail problem started last February with the Burning Platforms memo, but it has gotten progressively worse. It was at corporate suicide levels this Spring. That was before the retail channel learned a week ago with Windows 8, that all Lumia series are now Osborned. Now every sales dude and dudette fears seeing customers coming to their stores in the next weeks clutching Lumiaboxes, demanding refunds or replacements. This problem cannot and will not be solved with Windows Phone 8, because salesdudettes and dudes are not dumb. They know, their April sales job, that took 11 minutes to earn them their little Lumiacommission, was rudely revoked by Nokia’s Elop and Microsoft’s Ballmer that one July afternoon when that old lady walked in and said she wants to return the Lumia. No. These sales reps are burned for good on Lumia and on Elop and on Windows Phone.

  48. Another nugget from Tomi Ahonen’s massive blog post:
    http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/07/the-sun-tzu-of-nokisoftian-microkia-mirror-mirror-on-the-wall-whose-the-baddest-of-them-all-waterloo.html

    Give us Symbian phones instead – come on, China Mobile went so far they actually said, we’ll take this Lumia phone but give it to me without the Windows, put Symbian on it instead.

    Honest! China Mobile looked at the early specs of the Lumia 800, refused it, and said put these same specs to a Symbian device, and don’t leave out the good stuff we get standard nowadays on Symbian either.. Look at the Nokia 801T and compare to 800 Lumia. China mobile essentially forced Nokia to go back and reverse engineer the Lumia to take Windows out and put Symbian in. And its apparently a far better smarthpone for it, too. Top seller on China Mobile. TV tuner, NFC, microSD support, TV out, HDMI out, removable battery, you know, just the basic stuff any ‘normal’ Nokia phone might have. Plus the 4 inch touch screen, 8 mp camera, 3G WiFi normal stuff you get on the Lumia 800. Go check out the 801T, it is on some English-language websites too. Thats your ‘American’ design right there!

    Here is a discussion of the 801T
    http://inventorspot.com/articles/nokias_new_801t_smartphone_china_features_telescoping_tv_antenna

  49. Also, DirectX is the opposite of security. Its raison d’etre used to be underpowered hardware. Now it is only kept for compatibility and lock-in.

    That hasn’t changed. Google “webgl vulnerability” and prepare to be amazed and a bit frightened.

    Neither iOS not Android use it, so why would anyone code for it?

    Because it is — bar none — the best 3D graphics API in existence. You code to ONE api and it is guaranteed to run on every piece of hardware with drivers targeting that API. No extension wrangling as in OpenGL, whose overriding design concern — until very, very recently, was keeping crufty old CAD software running at the expense of everything else. (Newer CAD software on Windows tends to use DirectX. Especially given the shit state of OpenGL support from some GPU vendors.)

    iPhone has the advantage that all iPhones of a given generation are identical, so you can code to OpenGL ES making assumptions about what the hardware supports and it will Just Work for your entire user base.

    NOT SO WITH ANDROID!

  50. Now that the carriers that for Q3 are indicating:

    48% of all post-paid retail handsets sold were iPhones
    80% were smartphones
    i.e. 60% of smartphones sold were iPhones
    (http://ben-evans.com/2012/10/24/iphone-usa )

    which confirms what you were concerned about with Android can we go back to having the Comscore chart?

  51. @CD-Host
    I think Eric’s observation “Now the other sources are still suggesting rapid Android growth, but comScore thinks it ain’t happening.” has only been strengthened over the last months. Apple sells well, but Android sells better (3:1?). Except in the USA.

    So it seems that the iPhone, like the Zune, was designed by Americans for Americans, and, therefore, is bought by Americans. And ComScore numbers tell you nothing about the world nor the future anymore.

  52. Winter –

    I think the claim was originally that comscores numbers weren’t accurate. Comscore is tracking the US market. Now that the carriers have confirmed comscore’s numbers and what they were reporting comscore is telling you stuff about the US market that’s important. In particular information about whether Apple is consolidating enough share to create a US monopoly.

    Your point is different, that the US market is semi-permanently diverging from the global market. That is, even if Apple were on track to establish a US monopoly that isn’t going to hamper Android. So let me before addressing your point say that even if true it doesn’t contradict my point that the comscore dataset is valuable and should be updated.

    Now why I don’t think that your theory of divergence is long term true, i.e. why I think the comscore data is relevant globally is because I agree with Nokia and RIM’s assessment of the importance of the US market. Given the American and Canadian subsidies those markets are going to account for a huge percentage of the high end phones sold for the next 5-10 years. If the Android surge in the US was just a function of Apple’s exclusive with AT&T and Verizon’s consequent push for Google then over the next 3-5 years a huge chunk of the Android high end disappears. We already have a large divergence in entertainment software between Android and iOS because of the ad supported vs. sales supported models. If the high end disappears this divergence starts to make itself felt in non entertainment business applications which support verticals. That is one of the key advantages Windows has had over Linux for the last 2 decades.

    Potentially, Android high end phones, which are comparable to iOS phones may no longer be economically viable. You would see a divergence in the platforms similar to ARM vs. x86 where iPhones become an expensive feature rich phone and Android focuses on how to get 80% of that functionality for 20% of the cost. The choice for consumers and businesses globally becomes much starker.

  53. @cdhost
    Samsung sells twice the number of phones as Apple. And Samsung is profitable.

    On the other hand, The USA never lead in mobile phones. It always trailed the rest of the world.

  54. Winter –

    The #1 most popular smartphone OS comes out of California
    The #2 most popular smartphone OS comes out of California
    The #3 most popular smartphone OS comes out of Ontario (heavily dependent on US market)
    The #4 most popular smartphone OS comes out of Finland
    The #5 most popular smartphone OS comes out of Seattle

    I’m having a tough time seeing how that isn’t US leadership.

  55. @cdhost
    Lets ignore for a moment that Linux started in Finland. The OS is just a very small part of the phone.

    USA Leadership can be found in many places, but least of all in mobile phones. If you want to know how the mobile future looks you will have to go to east asia, esp Korea.

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