February 7, 2013, 10:12 AM

Android continues to lead in smartphone market share

But iPhone users engage in more mobile commerce, experts say.

New research from web and mobile measurement firm comScore Inc. shows that Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system continues to dominate the smartphone market.

For the three-month period ending Dec. 31, 2012, 53.4% of smartphones in use ran Android, up 0.9 percentage points from 52.5% for the three-month period ending Sept. 30, 2012. Apple Inc.’s iPhone accounted for 36.3% of smartphones, up 2.0 percentage points from 34.3%; the once dominant BlackBerry accounted for only 6.4% of smartphones, down 2.0 percentage points from 8.4%; smartphones running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Phone accounted for 2.9% of the market, down 0.7 percentage points from 3.6%; and Symbian phones accounted for 0.6% of the market, staying flat for the period, comScore finds. Other minor mobile operating systems account for the remaining portion.

In the battle between Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, sales numbers do not correlate with usage numbers, says Tom Nawara, vice president of digital strategy and design at Acquity Group LLC, a digital marketing firm that specializes in e-commerce and m-commerce.

“One of the primary reasons for this is that although Android is available on many more smartphones than iOS, many of those devices are sold or given away to consumers who are just looking for a phone minus the ‘smart,’” Nawara says. “Consumers purchasing an iPhone are usually making a conscious decision to buy and use the capabilities of a smartphone, and that’s why we typically see greater mobile commerce usage on iPhones over other platforms.”

Retailers, affiliate networks and mobile commerce platform vendors report iPhone users browsing and buying much more than Android users.

Apple continues to lead in sales among smartphone manufacturers, comScore says. For the three-month period ending Dec. 31, 2012, 36.3% of smartphones were iPhones, up 2.0 percentage points from 34.3% for the three-month period ending Sept. 30, 2012. 21.0% of smartphones were from Samsung, up 2.3 percentage points from 18.7%; 10.2% were from HTC, down 1.8 percentage points from 12.0%; 9.1% were from Motorola, now owned by Google, down 0.7 percentage points from 9.8%; and 7.1% were from LG, up 0.5 percentage points from 6.6%, comScore says. Various other manufacturers account for the remaining portion.

When it comes to figuring out where to devote mobile commerce resources, retailers should study their analytics and see which operating system leads the way, Nawara says.

“Although it is almost always a good idea for retailers to ensure they have a usable mobile web site experience across all of these platforms, decisions on mobile applications need to be determined based on the business needs and customer metrics of each retailer,” he says. “If a mobile app is warranted, iOS is most likely the first choice for retailers, and serious consideration needs to be given to Android.”

Once a retailer sets a mobile platform course, it will have some tricky waters to navigate.

“While Google holds greater share by operating system, if you break it down by screen size and other peculiarities, you’ll find that lumping all Android smartphones together is not really feasible from a development standpoint,” says Nikki Baird, who covers mobile commerce as a managing partner at Retail Systems Research LLC. “Even Apple is making this more challenging with the new screen size on the iPhone 5. It will only get harder to develop mobile apps as more device configurations enter the market. From that perspective, retailers have to do what they should be doing all along—paying attention to who their customers are, what devices they use now and are likely to use in the future, and follow that path along a development cycle.”

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