New 4Q 2013 data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech backs up earlier IDC figures for 2013 smartphone sales that suggest Android is continuing to extend its lead across global markets, especially outside the U.S. According to the Kantar analysis, “the three-month period ending December 2013, shows that Android closed out the year strongly across 12 global markets including the United States.  The operating system ended 2013 with a sales share of 50.6 percent, a gain of 4.4 percentage points from the final three months of 2012.”

Android remained especially strong in Europe, “with 68.6 percent share, while Apple held second place with 18.5 percent.” However, the analysis continued, “Apple has lost share in most countries compared with this time last year, but importantly it has held strong shares in key markets including 43.9 percent in USA, 29.9 percent in Great Britain and 19.0 percent in China.”

Interestingly, Android’s strong performance is not translating into commensurate success for Samsung. “After years of accelerated growth, Samsung is now coming under real pressure in most regions, with European share down by 2.2 percentage points to 40.3 percent and in China its share ended the year flat at 23.7 percent,” according to Kantar.

That disproportionately high figure for Apple in the U.S., though, suggests that Apple itself, and U.S. companies and consumers as a whole, will have a radically skewed perspective of what the smartphone market is, and where Apple fits within it, compared to the rest of the planet. Google, remember, has a built-in bias towards global thinking because of its emphasis on search and mapping, even before it steps into the smartphone OS arena. It would be interesting to speculate how the pro-Apple tilt is reflected in, for instance, app development or accessories coming out of the U.S., and whether it is causing Apple to slip even further behind in other markets.

For example,  points out Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech: “It’s no surprise that everyone is concentrating on high growth China, but currently local brands are proving clear winners. In December, Xiaomi overtook both Apple and Samsung to become the top selling smartphone in China – a truly remarkable achievement for a brand which was only started in 2010 and sells its device almost exclusively online. The combination of high spec devices, low prices and an ability to create unprecedented buzz through online and social platforms has proved an irresistible proposition for the Chinese.”

Note how Sunnebo emphasizes the tight platform integration driving Xiaomi’s success. Android may be flexible (or even flaky) enough to be reshaped into propositions that fit local Chinese needs, but it’s a really open question as to whether Apple’s walled garden model, conditioned by one single market where it enjoys nearly 50 percent dominance, is adaptable enough.


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