The growth of smartphone usage is astounding, even in technology terms. Apple’s iPhone brought the idea of an everyman smartphone to the market in 2007, and today an estimated 109.5 million people in the US, or 59.3 percent of the population, own smartphones. eMarketer analysis predicts that by 2019, 71.4 percent of the US population will own smartphones.
Smartphones are so ubiquitous they’re actually replacing computers and tablets as Internet users’ first point of access. Pew Research reports that 15 percent of US adults ages 18 to 29 use smartphones as their main source of Internet connection, while 13 percent of Latino Americans and 12 percent of African Americans are smartphone-dependent for Internet access. The smartphone, it seems, is transitioning from a secondary Internet device to a primary one. This shift results in even more people owning smartphones and using them as lifelines to the Internet.
One of the most surprising developments when it comes to smartphone sales is that as demand has risen, competition has actually shrunk. Statista reports that in 2009, Android and iOS combined represented less than 20 percent of the worldwide market share for operating systems. Windows, BlackBerry, Nokia, and other operating system users comprised the other 81 percent. Fast forward to today, and the statistics look completely different. In 2015, iOS and Android devices made up 97.5 percent of smartphone sales worldwide, essentially knocking once-popular names like BlackBerry off the smartphone stage completely.
So what does the future of smartphones look like from an operating system perspective? Let’s delve in a little deeper to find the answer.
Android vs. iOS: Worldwide Growth
Though the iPhone gets a lot of press, Android is actually the world’s leader when it comes to operating systems and Android is showing stronger gains than iOS. In December 2015, Android accounted for 59 percent of the US smartphone operating market, and 71 percent of the Chinese smartphone operating market. Comparatively, iOS held just 39 percent of the US market and 27 percent of the Chinese market.
Android isn’t slowing down anytime soon, either. Android sales in the US were up 7.3 percent in the first quarter of 2016 due, in large part, to the popularity of Samsung’s Galaxy S7. By contrast, iOS market share fell 4.9 percent in the first quarter. Expect those number to rise again, though, in the third quarter when the iPhone 7 hits US markets.
On a global scale, Android is doing well in other markets outside the US and China. The Telegraph (UK) reports that in the first three months of 2016, Android’s market share in Europe grew 7.1 percent to a total of 75.6 percent. Apple’s iOS holds just 18.9 percent of the market share in Europe. A lot of Android’s recent growth is credited to a decline in Windows phone users who are migrating to Android instead of iOS. Asian smartphone handset manufacturers like Wiko, Asus, and Huawei are driving a lot of this migration with inexpensive devices that run with the trusted Android operating systems.
Android vs. iOS: Security
Despite popularity, though, it’s important to look at the security of the two operating systems that dominate the mobile landscape. There’s so much personal data available on smartphones that it’s practically taunting malware developers and hackers of almost every shape and size.
A study conducted at the University of Cambridge found that 87.7 percent of all Android devices unfortunately have a minimum of one security vulnerability. By the same token, a security analyst recently bypassed Apple’s security features on iOS devices and could access sensitive information and data on users. Both revelations are troubling, particularly since most smartphone users would readily admit that their whole lives are on their devices.
Compared to Android in IBTimesUK, iOS was the clear winner in terms of security. Security engineer, James Maude, evaluated both and offered the high-level explanation that iOS security is easier to maintain because it’s owned and operated solely by one company, Apple. On the other hand, while Google (Android) may work tirelessly on their OS security, the fact is that hundreds of different manufacturers use the Android OS, making it much more difficult to control from a security perspective—and much more difficult to fix problems promptly.
Both iOS and Android are constantly working to enhance their security, though. One method is through regular security updates. However, those updates rely on users to actually take the time to install, and even then they are not devoid of flaws. Android security updates are typically slower to emerge as they need to go through the individual carriers.
All this to say, it’s important that consumers are aware of the data vulnerabilities of the OS they choose and that they take additional measures if they feel it appropriate. For businesses in the healthcare industry, for instance, extra security measures are a requirement, not an option. In this case, third-party mobile security experts can do the trick.
Who Will Win in the End?
If the smartphone operating system war were to end today, Android would win from a popularity standpoint. Apple’s iOS is no slacker, though, especially in the area of security, and the company continues to churn out devices that change the way consumers interact with the mobile space. From a consumer standpoint, having at least two choices in operating systems is an advantage because each will push the other to offer better features at lower prices with greater security and attention to detail.
In the nearly 10 years since the first iPhone brought the term “smartphone” home to many Americans, the market has soared globally and forever changed the way people communicate.
What is your preference when it comes to operating systems?