Big phones, phablets & tablets account for just 10% of Android's installed base

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
While many pundits insist that Apple must make a larger screen iPhone to keep pace with the offerings from Android licensees, Google's own stats indicate that all big phones, tablets and phablets put together are a tiny 10 percent fraction of active users.

Android screen size report May 2013
Source: Google

Google's screen size stats

According to the company's latest May 1, 2013 figures on the Android installed base of users accessing the Google Play app market, 80 percent of devices fit into the "Normal" category with screens about the same size as Apple's iPhone 5.

In fact, there are nearly as many devices reported to be in the Small category (9.8 percent are 3.5 inches or less) than in the Large (5.6 percent are greater than 4 inches to about 7 inches) and XLarge (4.9 percent are 7 inches to more than 10 inches) categories put together. Google provides screen size ranges as shown below.

Google screen ranges
Source: Google


That means that Android phones shaped like the iPhone 3GS are selling about as well as all of the Android-based super-sized smartphones, tablets and "phablet" hybrids put together, data that does not support the idea that most users are shopping for a very big smartphone.

Will Apple go full phablet?

Apple's chief executive Tim Cook refused to issue any definitive plans to make or not make a larger screened iPhone in the future, but did comment, when asked about screen sizes during the company's recent quarterly earnings call, "my view continues to be that iPhone 5 has the absolute best display in the industry and we always strive to create the very best display for our customers."

Cook added that "some customers value large screen size. Others value also other factors such as resolution, color quality, white balance, brightness, reflectivity, screen longevity, power consumption, portability, compatibility with the apps, many things. Our competitors have made some significant trade-offs in many of these areas in order to ship a larger display. We would not ship a larger display iPhone while these trade-offs exist."

Very large screen phones from Samsung and other Android licenses certainly are more profitable, premium models. However, the initial crop of Android phones supporting LTE had to be large to accommodate big batteries and larger chipsets, making it unclear how much of the demand for large phones was an interest in size versus the very real utility and marketing-driven demand for speedy 4G service.

Apple's iPhone 5 introduced a taller, slightly larger screen alongside new support for 4G LTE networks. Critics have worried the premium model hasn't dominated the demand for iPhones in Apple's product mix (iPhone 5 is estimated to account for "only" about half of Apple's sales), leading to widely voiced concerns that its profit margins might suffer as it sells more units of the cheaper iPhone 4 to bargain hunters.

However, the fact that a much smaller minority of Android users have adopted large, high end smartphones or phablets appears to render those concerns pure flawgic.

Google uses "security by obscurity" to address Android fragmentation

Google provides screen size and other installed base statistics for Android developers in order to help them make decisions between supporting specific features (such as devices running a given version of Android or a particular screen size or pixel density) or targeting a lowest common denominator that will work across the most devices.

The company said it introduced plans to change the definition of screen sizes to instead specify a screen width in Android 3.2, but nearly half of the active installed base of Android users are still running a device that's older than Android 3.1 Honeycomb, first released in 2011.

Android versions May 2013
Source: Google


And that's the case even a month after Google changed its platform reporting to exclude active devices that were "activated" and contacting its servers, but not visiting the Google Play store.

That move dumped the reporting of devices that run Android but can't access Google Play, such as Amazon's Kindle Fire and the B&N Nook, both of which also debuted with old versions of Android.

Google's new style of accounting allowed it to claim that 25 percent of "active users" were running the latest "Jelly Bean" version of Android (4.1 or later), a big jump over the previous month's report which indicated only 16.5 percent were. Jelly Bean was released a couple months before Apple's iOS 6.

The accounting move helped to shave off 7 percentage points formerly attributed to very old versions of Android (3.6 from Android 2.2 Froyo and 4 from Android 2.3 Gingerbread, both of which appeared around the same time as iOS 4 in 2010).

Samsung and other Android licenses continue to sell lots of devices that still run these outdated versions of Android, a fact that prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to look into the policies of U.S. wireless carriers. The ACLU said carriers are too slow to upgrade the operating systems of the Android phones they support.

Schiller strikes a nerve at Google

Google's move to change how it reports Android's installed base figures appeared to be in response to comments made by Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller in mid-March, right before Samsung's debut of the Galaxy S4.


Schiller


Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller


Schiller told the Wall Street Journal that fragmentation continued to be a problem for Android developers, and specifically noted to Reuters that "with their own data, [Google reports] only 16 percent of Android users are on year-old version of the operating system. Over 50 percent are still on software that is two years old. A really big difference."

Google made the necessary changes in its reporting two weeks later in its April report, instantly inflating the proportion of its users reported to be using a less than year old version of Android and scaling back the number of users reported to be stuck on a version from 2010 to be slightly below the 50 percent mark.

The company explained "we believe the new data more accurately reflects those users who are most engaged in the Android and Google Play ecosystem," which is the stated purpose of reporting the numbers to developers.

However, the shift also helps hide the fact that the huge shipment numbers of Android devices and "activations" that Google likes to cite when they flatter the platform are not directly comparable to iOS devices, because a significant percentage of the Android installed base is not engaged with Google Play ecosystem, even among devices that are designed to actually use Google Play.

A large number of devices that use Android do not (and in many cases can not) access Google Play, a fact that explains why Android shipment figures from companies like IDC bear little correlation with real world usage stats that indicate the vast majority of smartphone and tablet app and media sales, web browser use, ad network representation, enterprise adoption and retail shopping are occurring on iOS devices.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 102
    irelandireland Posts: 17,749member


    10% now. The key word being 'now'. I'd say it'll be a bigger number by 2014.

  • Reply 2 of 102
    Dan_DilgerDan_Dilger Posts: 1,583member
    Android phones have been big since 2011 Ireland.
  • Reply 3 of 102
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    More [I]proof*[/I] that Apple knows their product mix and customers better than Wall Street.

    *"Proof" based on the assumption these numbers are correct.
  • Reply 4 of 102
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 20,185member


    LOL. Yet another confirmation of the idiocy of the forum trolls.

  • Reply 5 of 102
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,003member


    Except that the article is based on a false premise, a misunderstanding of the Google data on screen sizes. Normal is not restricted to 4" and under devices as the author would like you to believe, iPhone-sized according to this article. For instance the Galaxy S3's rather large 4.8" display is still included in the "Normal" category. Devices like the 5.1" Note may fit the "Large" category, and certainly the 7" tablets like the Nexus 7 would.


     


    It's a nice article I suppose, but the writer obviously didn't understand nor bother to double-check the Google data he used to try to "prove" that there's no real market for smartphones with screens larger than what the iPhone offers. Worse, it was already pointed out to the author earlier today before he posted this article.


     


    http://forums.appleinsider.com/t/157343/another-apple-supplier-cites-slipping-demand-from-its-largest-customer#post_2321217


     


    http://stackoverflow.com/questions/11036158/android-samsung-galaxy-s3-screen-size-for-layout


    http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/screens_support.html

  • Reply 6 of 102
    pedromartinspedromartins Posts: 1,333member


    Stupid conclusion.


     


    10% of Android activations but 90% of android's high-end offerings (or more, as of right now.).


    Anything highend from the Android world is 4.5"(s3, s4, note2, xperia Z and other xperia models, htc one and other models, moto RAZR, etc) and up, and these are recent phones.


     


    Does it mean (since they are so recent) that Android's high end offerings (all of them with more than 4.5") are already selling as much as Apple sells iPhones?


     


    If Apple wants more market share, especially on the high end, they MUST make another iPhone line with a bigger screen.

  • Reply 7 of 102


    Note: These minimum screen sizes were not as well defined prior to Android 3.0, so you may encounter some devices that are mis-classified between normal and large. These are also based on the physical resolution of the screen, so may vary across devices


    http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/screens_support.html


     


    The metrics are generalities, not exacts. You can even see in the included image there's a good sized overlap a little beyond 4in, which is where OEM's 'flagship' devices all fall. Space filler article. 

  • Reply 8 of 102
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    Stupid conclusion.

    10% of Android activations but 90% of android's high-end offerings (or more, as of right now.).
    Anything highend from the Android world is 4.5"(s3, s4, note2, xperia Z and other xperia models, htc one and other models, moto RAZR, etc) and up, and these are recent phones.

    Does it mean (since they are so recent) that Android's high end offerings (all of them with more than 4.5") are already selling as much as Apple sells iPhones?

    If Apple wants more market share, especially on the high end, they MUST make another iPhone line with a bigger screen.

    Perhaps, but how much more market share would Apple realistically capture?
  • Reply 9 of 102
    what is the actual range for the "normal" size? it looks to be about 3.5-4.5"... and the overlap doesn't really help the visualization.
  • Reply 10 of 102
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,003member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by OllieWallieWhiskers View Post



    what is the actual range for the "normal" size? it looks to be about 3.5-4.5"... and the overlap doesn't really help the visualization.


    See post 6.

  • Reply 11 of 102
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,949member
    gatorguy wrote: »
    See post 6.

    Maybe, maybe not. They need to provide better boundaries than silly curly brackets. A histogram would be nice.
  • Reply 12 of 102
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    There is all sorts of wrong with this. Besides the aforementioned comments on using Google's sizes you have consider the installed base unit number that percentage accounts for. Then from within that tally you need to out how many units are high-end to figure out Apple's interest, which still needs additional calculations to see how an iPhone in that category would work for their market.

    The part I find most depressing is simply how vanilla Google's own stats are that they can't be more exact regarding screen sizes, resolutions, and pixel densities to developers.
  • Reply 13 of 102
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,789member


    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Very large screen phones from Samsung and other Android licenses certainly are more profitable, premium models.


     


    And they allow for slightly more sloppy engineering.  


    Bigger internal volume -> bigger margin for error in design + manufacturing.

  • Reply 14 of 102
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,003member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post





    Maybe, maybe not. They need to provide better boundaries than silly curly brackets. A histogram would be nice.


    They have a lengthy discussion/expanation, linked here:


    http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/screens_support.html


     


    and here:


    http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/screens_support.html#DeclaringTabletLayouts


     


    The second link explains why there's no hard boundary and why that's important to know. Technically 5" smartphones (ie Galaxy Note) are in the same category as 7" tablets (Nexus 7),"Large" (Not Xtra Large)

  • Reply 15 of 102
    gwmacgwmac Posts: 1,799member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MacBook Pro View Post





    Perhaps, but how much more market share would Apple realistically capture?


    No one can answer that until it happens. My question would be how much more market share will Apple lose by not releasing a larger iPhone. I certainly don't want to spend the next 2 years staring at a tiny 4" screen especially now I have unlimited LTE. A larger display just makes far a far more useful and enjoyable experience. I love everything about my iPhone 5 except for the miniature display and I will wait and see what Apple releases later this year but if they stick to this long and narrow 4" screen I will buy an Android that offers a display that meets my needs as a user.


     


    As others have already pointed out this article is also misleading. There seems to be some confusion as to what was classified as a normal sized phone. Not to mention that Apple doesn't compete in the dirt cheap bargain phones. They compete with the Galaxy series and the HTC One and other higher end Android phones all of which have larger displays. What percentage of Android phones sold so far this year that cost more than $450 unlocked have a larger than 4" display? Now that would be a far more meaningful assessment of Apple's potential in this segment since only that group would be able to afford an iPhone. 

  • Reply 16 of 102
    michael scripmichael scrip Posts: 1,915member
    More proof* that Apple knows their product mix and customers better than Wall Street.

    *"Proof" based on the assumption these numbers are correct.

    Don't forget... there are a lot of 3.2" Android phones sold in emerging markets... with 480x320 screens... today.

    How else could they possibly sell a smartphone for $150 retail?

    I wouldn't say people "prefer" small phones... it's just that there are some very populous parts of the world where people simply cannot afford large expensive phones.

    So they're buying those smaller cheaper phones by default... and those numbers are being averaged in here.
  • Reply 17 of 102
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    Perhaps, but how much more market share would Apple realistically capture?

    How much did they lose to big phones? They've gained far more than they lost.
  • Reply 18 of 102
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,949member
    gatorguy wrote: »
    They have a lengthy discussion/expanation, linked here:
    http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/screens_support.html

    xlarge screens are at least 960dp x 720dp
    large screens are at least 640dp x 480dp
    normal screens are at least 470dp x 320dp
    small screens are at least 426dp x 320dp

    Yeah, that's stupid. Sure, that distinction might be a benefit to devs, but then, not really in the absence of dpi factoring, which still works back into inches anyway because the constraint is still fingertips and eyes.

    and here:
    http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/screens_support.html#DeclaringTabletLayouts

    The second link explains why there's no hard boundary and why that's important to know. Technically 5" smartphones (ie Galaxy Note) are in the same category as 7" tablets (Nexus 7),"Large" (Not Xtra Large)

    That's insane.
  • Reply 19 of 102
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,003member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post



    There is all sorts of wrong with this. Besides the aforementioned comments on using Google's sizes you have consider the installed base unit number that percentage accounts for. Then from within that tally you need to out how many units are high-end to figure out Apple's interest, which still needs additional calculations to see how an iPhone in that category would work for their market.



    The part I find most depressing is simply how vanilla Google's own stats are that they can't be more exact regarding screen sizes, resolutions, and pixel densities to developers.


    Considering so many variations in physical display size, pixel density, whether 4:3 or 16:9, intended use (tablet or phone or even "other"), I don't see how any hard boundary could be set Soli. 

  • Reply 20 of 102
    michael scripmichael scrip Posts: 1,915member
    gwmac wrote: »
    I love everything about my iPhone 5 except for the miniature display and I will wait and see what Apple releases later this year but if they stick to this long and narrow 4" screen I will buy an Android that offers a display that meets my needs as a user.

    Just a clarification.... that "long and narrow" screen has the same 16:9 aspect ratio that you'll find on just about every smartphone these days.

    It's small, yes, but not any more "narrow" than the competition :)
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