Is the iPhone over?

Latest market-share data, forecasts show Apple's breakthrough smartphone stalling out

When people discuss the U.S. smartphone market, the following points usually are made:

* Google's Android is gaining market share at a furious clip

* Research in Motion's BlackBerry is losing much of its market share to Android

* Microsoft's smartphone strategy is a disaster

* Nokia is stumbling in the U.S., though still a force elsewhere

* Android, RIM and Apple are in a virtual three-way tie these days for market share

What you don't usually see is anyone pointing out the obvious, which is this: Apple appears to have reached a plateau in smartphone market share.

(Also see: U.S. smartphone market a tightening 3-way race)

Discussing the latest comScore U.S. smartphone market results, Business Insider's Henry Blodget writes that "Apple's iPhone share increased slightly, but is dead in the water and has now fallen way behind Android (in smartphones)."

So true. While Android climbed to 33.0 percent U.S. smartphone market share in February from 26.0 percent last November, Apple essentially stayed even, moving to 25.2 percent from 25.0 percent. (BlackBerry maker RIM saw its market share decline to 28.9 percent from 33.5 percent in November.) Presumably these numbers include sales of Verizon iPhones, which became available on Feb. 11.

Then there was the IDC forecast from last week, which drew a lot of attention because it predicted Windows Phone 7 would become the No. 2 smartphone platform worldwide by 2015, trailing only Android.

What people may have overlooked while marveling over IDC's predicted 45 percent global market share for Android (and perhaps laughing at the WP7 market-share prediction of 21 percent) was that IDC sees Apple spinning its wheels, falling to 15.3 percent of the global smartphone market in 2015 from 15.7 percent this year.

Since smartphone sales are expected to increase over the next several years, a vendor could lose market share and still sell more devices. That's been RIM's mantra for the past year. But I'm not sure that kind of reasoning will satisfy Apple investors as they watch the company fall into second-tier status in a market it practically invented with the release of the first iPhone in 2007.

It also makes you wonder what's in store for Apple in the nascent tablet market. The iPad may have more than 80 percent share now, but it had the tablet market to itself for the better part of 2010 and already has a new version of the iPad in stores while competing devices such as RIM's PlayBook aren't even available yet.

I'd love to hear what readers think of the iPhone's prospects down the road, as well as which tablets might challenge the iPad for market supremacy.

Apple fanboys, have at it.

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