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iPhone loses ground to Android, Symbian and BlackBerry. Will this cause an 'almighty stink' among app developers?


Apple’s iPhone took the telecom world by storm and blazed a trail for the uber-addictive hobby that followed in its wake; the acquisition of apps.

All around the world, grown adults download supplementary applications for their devices to increase their functionality for conducting business or easing life’s mundane tasks. (Or so we tell ourselves.)

In reality, for example, one of the most popular apps mimics the auditory crackle and hum of a lightsabre as the device is manoeuvred through an imagined duel with the minions of the Dark Side.

Business apps, huh? Don’t kid yourself. We know what’s really going on.

In a development that’s unlikely to be nearly as amusing as a toilet flush simulator (at least to Apple), iPhone is losing ground to its competitors, according to a report from Ovrum, the independent telecoms analyst.

Though it’s still, by far, the largest destination for smartphone app downloads, with 67% of app downloads in 2009 heading for Apple’s flagship device; top-heavy traffic for its 14% market share.

By comparison, Symbian controls 49% of the smartphone market base but only 9% of the downloads.

The Ovrum report, co-authored by principle analysts Michele Mackenzie and Adam Leach, projects the market share in both smartphone saturation base and app downloads until 2015, extrapolating from current trends.

The authors suggest that, by 2015, iPhone apps market share will drop to around 22%, while Symbian will more than double to 19%. Google’s Android phone is predicted to penetrate further from 5% to 18% with a download market increase of 14% to 26%.

BlackBerry will lose some ground in device saturation, but overall share of the app download sector will increase from 5% to 17%. Microsoft will experience a similar transformation.

Ovrum predicts the next large increase in market activity will be seen in Asia Pacific areas, as device saturation begins to top out in the west. With the advent of penetration into this growing zone, locally relevant apps will become more prevalent, giving rise to a larger slice of the app download pie.

The North American global market share will drop from 57% to 31%, while Asia Pacific will rise from 5% to 20%.

Naturally, this is likely to heighten rivalry between hardware and app developers alike. We’ve already seen how an almighty stink can arise over iPhone app developers. Take the case of Pull My Finger versus iFart.

Powerful (or should we say ‘pungent’) stuff.

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Stefan Abrutat is an award-winning freelance writer, blogger and editor in a wide variety of fields, from sports to science, the philosophy of science, humourism, history, travel and food.