Quite a few stories have been doing the rounds lately of how Apple dominated mobile device activations, app purchases, and starts this Christmas, most of them traceable to a report from analytics firm Flurry, entitled “Apple and Apps Dominated Christmas 2014.” And while I don’t necessarily doubt its stats, I do wonder about its conclusions.

For one thing, Flurry’s review period that provided the basis for the key claim, that 51.3 percent of device activations worldwide for the Christmas period were Apple machines, was December 19th-25th. Now, of course that is going to cover Christmas Day itself, but is that really representative of gift-receiving and present-opening habits? What about all the families struggling to sort through … well, family stuff over Boxing Day and the aftermath of Christmas? And how representative of Christmas gift-giving is the period around December 19th-20th? I’d be happier with a slightly different data set with different dates.

In particular, I suspect a lot of this is about the release cycle for the iPhone 6. For Western Europe, this came to market end September. For most of Asia, and crucially, China and India, it debuted mid-October. So I expect a lot of Apple device activation was about continuing takeup of the iPhone 6. It’ll be interesting to compare with next year’s Christmas figures to see if the pattern repeats.

More telling, though, is that surprising spike for Nokia. According to Flurry, “Microsoft (Nokia) rounded out the top three with 5.8 percent share for mostly Lumia devices.” Did Microsoft really grab such a big chunk of market share, so fast?

And we’re still left with this surprising picture that Flurry reports over 50 percent of newly switched-on devices at Christmas going to Apple while Gartner gives over 83 percent of global mobile OS market share to Android. Not least when Kantar figures for the fourth quarter of 2013 show Android as well ahead, if not streets ahead, of iOS in almost every major global market – except the U.S. Time to review those figures again, maybe?


  1. Device activations really don’t matter any more than market share where at least one market contender is offering their product at cost or nearly so. The metric that matters is the same old boring but inescapable notion of PROFIT. That’s total revenue minus total cost (TR-TC = P). The unexciting reality is that the firm that keeps P in the positive to the greatest degree and for the longest period of time prevails. There’s no good vs evil drama to be gotten from this.

  2. It may be fashionable today to bash corporations that make large profits (i.e. “the 1%) over those making small profits or none. But good sense for us as consumers may lie in a contrary direction. Sometimes a more expensive product bought from a profitable company can represent a better value in the long run.

    It’s those profits that finance the next generation of products, including an improved OS, more features, and faster but less energy demanding chips. Going for the cheapest product may put consumers on a dead end road. Because not much money is being made, a company may either leave or business or cut back on upgrades. Think all the music players of a decade ago including the Zune.

    That long-term values is what makes Apple mobile devices such a good deal. Look at my situation.

    * The iPod mini I got back in 2006 still works fine, synchs with iTunes, and plays audiobooks while I fix meals.

    * I gave the iPod touch I got new about 2008 to a nephew a couple of years ago, but I still enjoy the apps, music and ebooks I got for it.

    * My iPhone 3GS, which I got used about 2011, may be retired from full service. But it sits on my desk and runs Living Earth, which gives me the the time, the local weather and a beautiful and continually update cloud map of the world. I paid $125 for it used back then. I’d spend as much now to get a fancy weather device now that does.

    * My current smartphone, an iPhone 5, cost me $210 used and is an amazing product. It takes full advantage of all that I bought before and does so much more than any previous device. It’s Verizon factory-unlocked, which means it has the widest cellular service in this country. If I travel overseas, with just the addition of a local SIM, it will give me GSM cellular service almost everywhere on the planet. It really is a world phone. And while it will eventually not be able to handle iOS upgrades, until it does those upgrades come out regularly and are free.

    How do the other companies compare in value to that? How long will Amazon still be selling smartphones given the dismal sales of this one. And will they keep updating the software on their other products. My Kindle 3 got one minor update and then was abandoned. That’s not a good sign for the current models.

    In short, sometimes there’s a reason a product is cheap—it may be worth little. And sometimes there’s a good reason a company is making lots of money—what it makes is quite valuable and sells well. And because it sells so many, it can spend two or three times as much money improving its products and still make a large profit.

  3. “What about all the families struggling to sort through … well, family stuff over Boxing Day and the aftermath of Christmas?” Unless you can advance some theory as to why family-stuff-sort-throughers are likelier to be non-Apple purchasers than everyone else, this seems like an exceptionally desperate attempt to cling to your publicly-acknowledged animus towards Apple.

    An honest declaration of “This flattering story about Apple makes me angry because I hate Apple” would be more respectful of your readers than making up nonsense like this.

  4. Note that this report is not based on manufacturer’s device activation. It’s based on the number of new devices running apps that use Flurry’s analytic code. I’m not certain, but I think that Flurry is more widely used by iOS developers than Android devs. I’d take this with a big grain of salt.

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