What market share numbers tell us about Apple's future

Android is pulling away and Windows Phone is catching up. So where does iOS stand?

I'm usually not one to worry much at all about market share numbers. If a platform has enough of an install base to attract some quality third-party developers, what more is really needed, right?

RELATED: 6 easy steps to make the iPhone relevant again

That said... looking at changes in market share, from quarter to quarter, can give you a good notion of how things are going and what needs to change for those that are losing ground. With that in mind, let's look at the mobile operating system numbers from last quarter. Here are the highlights.

  • 177 million new Android devices sold.
  • 31 million new iOS devices sold.
  • 7 million new Windows Phone devices sold.
  • 6 million new BlackBerry devices sold.

To put that in perspective:

If the total number of new iOS devices were represented by a single, 1997 Ford Focus... the total new Android devices would be five 1997 Ford Focuses (and a 1994 Geo Metro thrown in for free).

Also interesting, at least to me, is the fact that the difference between Android and iOS is greater than the difference between iOS and Windows Phone (both in terms of number of new devices and percentage of market share). Microsoft's mobile platform saw its adoption rate increase roughly 78% from the previous quarter. Sure, that may mean that Windows Phone only accounted for 3.3% of the market... but that's some major growth.

And, with iOS market share sales for the quarter dropping down to 14.2% (from 18.8% - a drop of nearly 25%), one has to wonder how much longer Apple can hold on to its No. 2 spot in the smartphone world. At the current rate of change, Windows Phone will overtake iOS in six months.

Apple's one saving grace is this: at least it's not doing as badly as BlackBerry.

And, realistically, Apple is likely to see a significant boost in iOS sales numbers for the third quarter thanks to the new iPhones (5s and 5c). That said, there's not exactly a shortage of new Android devices - including the new Note 3 from Samsung (which is, by far, the largest smartphone maker, with nearly 32% of the market). So any boost Apple sees is going to be pretty short-lived.

All is not lost for Apple. The company simply needs to start working to make the iPhone (and all iOS devices) interesting again. With Android absolutely dominating the market, and Windows Phone rapidly gaining on iOS market share (not to mention the forthcoming competition from multiple new mobile operating systems such, as Ubuntu Touch and FirefoxOS)...Apple needs to get to work. Quickly.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10