AdMob released some interesting numbers today that reveal the truly all encompassing nature of Apple and their iPhone ecosystem. As reported by 9To5Mac, iPhone OS held a 46% share of all mobile operating systems and a 47% share of all smartphone devices in March. Of those devices measured running the iPhone OS, 2% were first generation iPhones, 20% where iPhone 3G devices, and 39% were iPhone 3GS devices. The remaining percentage was distributed among various generations of iPod Touches.
Whenever statistics like this come out, one of the main points of contention is their reach. It’s very common for those that question the reach of Apple and their products to say that such statistics are misleading; Apple may have a healthy lead in North America but in the rest of the world they aren’t dominant. It should be noted that these are global numbers, not just North American ones. Anyone that doesn’t believe Apple is on the cusp of a dominance in the mobile market unseen by anyone, only need to look to these numbers. A 46% smartphone operating system share approaches the kind of commonplace ubiquity Microsoft currently enjoys in more traditional computing spaces. Although I’m not suggesting Apple is the new Microsoft, they are certainly moving into the same kind of market share space. Look around you. If you personally don’t own an iPhone you probably know at least two other people who do. Look around the bus or train during your next commute. How many people are talking, using, or playing a game on an iPhone? If you didn’t realize the dominance Apple has very quietly moved into, you will with that simple exercise.
So what does all of this mean? In my mind it means two things. First, Apple knows what it’s doing. You can dislike Apple or Steve Jobs on a personal level or disagree with their business practices but the numbers don’t lie. In the iPhone, Apple has created an interesting synthesis of style, function, and approachability. To paraphrase something I heard the other day (and I apologize for not being able to attribute it correctly) “Apple doesn’t always make something new, they take something that exists and make it better.” The MP3 player preexisted the iPod, the smartphone preexisted the iPhone, and tablet computers preexisted the iPad. Apple’s genius is in taking such a product and making it so much better that it seems like they created something new.
Second, Apple is making products people want. I think sometimes we, the tech industry, get so deeply entrenched in our own niche that we lose sight of the larger world. We sit around in our closed circle of news and friends and complain about how Apple makes closed systems and how they exert a draconian authority over their device and think the rest of the world agrees with us. Lift up your head everyone and look around. The iPhone is as ubiquitous as the Blackberry and those Motorola Razrs were 10 years ago. Apple has had to delay the international release of the iPad twice because they can’t make them fast enough. What we see as “closed” and “authoritarian” the rest of the world sees as “easy” and “intuitive”. We may not like it, but Apple is making what the everyday person wants; computing devices that don’t require a manual you’ll never read or color coded connections you still can’t get right. No solder guns or pin alignments required. That may be a hard pill for a lot of people to swallow but that’s life. We’re in a new world here and all the keyboards, mice, and home brewed, water cooled computers aren’t going to change that.
Are these statistics further proof of Apple’s growing dominance in the mobile computing space? Will the revolution in computing be lead by Apple or some other competitor? Weigh in on the topic in our comments section.