August 24, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Verizon sparked Android’s rapid ascent when it released the Motorola Droid in late 2009. Nearly two years later, Verizon is still the dominant carrier in the United States, though its market share among Android devices is falling. Or is it?
Last week, Chitika released a report claiming that Verizon’s share among Android phones had fallen from 51 percent in March 2011 to 41 percent in August 2011. Meanwhile, AT&T’s carrier share more than doubled from 3.58 percent to 8.72. Chitika suggests that Verizon is “gaining market share in Apple’s prominent smartphone at the expense of its other, Android-running devices.”
The problem with that conclusions is that it doesn’t seem to mesh with AT&T and Verizon’s on-the-record statements about iPhone and device sales. While the Verizon iPhone has undoubtedly chipped away at Verizon’s Android sales, iPhone users on the network don’t appear to be enough to account for such a large change in Big Red’s carrier share.
In the first quarter of 2011 (Q1 2011), Verizon began offering the iPhone and sold more than 2.2 million units. That was before Chitika reported Verizon’s carrier share among Android phones was 51.41 percent. In Q2 2011, Verizon sold 2.3 million iPhones, yet Chitika says the carrier’s share dropped 10 percent despite selling a similar amount of iPhones.
Well, then maybe Verizon’s Android sales were stagnant while the other carriers grew enough to account for that, right? Not necessarily. AT&T also had consistent iPhone sales during the first half of the year (3.6 million in each quarter) yet it’s share of Android phones doubled. AT&T has said that its Android smartphone sales doubled in 2011 in comparison to 2010, but with all due respect, that’s not saying much based on the previously limited offerings. The HTC Inspire, Motorola Atrix, and Samsung Infuse definitely increased sales, but enough to double AT&T’s carrier share at the expense of Verizon?
AT&T reported 2.2 million Android sales in Q2, and likely had 1.9 million sales in Q1. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but with Verizon selling 260,000 HTC Thunderbolt’s in two weeks of Q1, it probably sold enough Android phones to not lose such a large market share to Big Blue. (Verizon has said demand for LTE phones is “strong” but hasn’t said how many phones are on the network. The carrier sold 1.2 million 4G devices, including mobile hotspots.)
After looking at the last 3 Chitika reports on carrier share, there’s a trend of AT&T doubling each quarter, Verizon falling, and T-Mobile and Sprint showing little change. One would think that with T-Mobile and Sprint relying on Android for the bulk of their sales would have more fluctuation in share, but that doesn’t seem to happen. What’s interesting is that the “Other” category for regional and low-tier carriers (MetroPCS, U.S. Cellular, and the like) has ballooned to 8.47 percent. What phones did those carriers suddenly release to grow from less than 3 percent market share a few months ago?
I’m not saying that Chitika’s report is completely wrong; in fact, I’m sure that the iPhone is taking away many potential Android sales. However, the cut-and-dry “iPhone is killing Android on Verizon” conclusion and the sudden changes in carrier share may be inaccurate. AT&T and Verizon have shared actual sales numbers that show the iPhone is definitely leading the pack among new smartphone buyers on those carriers, but those sales do not seem to be enough to cause the dramatic changes seen in Chitika’s reports. Because the carrier share chart relies on data from Chitika’s advertising network, it’s possible that the data may be inconsistent.
Yet another round of rumors is circulating that Sprint will offer the iPhone, so maybe we’ll finally get a complete picture of how consumers respond when both Android and iPhone are viable options on their carrier.