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Android: The Metrics to Watch

Who will win the mobile OS battle? We’re placing our bet and think we have the data to back it up.

By the end of 2014, Android will be the dominant mobile Operating System (OS). And we’re not talking about devices shipped. While that’s a useful reference, it does not get at devices in hand and really is somewhat nebulous. Instead a better measure is actual consumer activity–that means actions consumers are taking on their mobile devices.

So back to the actual bet: by the end of 2014, Android devices will eclipse iOS as the dominant smartphone activity generator and will grab at least 25% of the rapidly growing tablet market. But don’t trust us blindly, think about the big questions that will determine the victor in the mobile OS battle and look at the data.

Device Choice: One of the compelling value propositions for Android is that there is a device for every consumer. Want a big screen? Need a keyboard? There is an Android phone developed for every major consumer use case. But how many of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of Android devices available to consumers are gaining any real type of traction?

Growth in Global Markets: Who will win the competition for the huge global marketplace of consumers that want a smartphone, but are not willing or able to play the high price for it? Device manufacturers are showing a clear and growing focus on providing Android smartphones to consumers at a range of price-points. Android has a big advantage in many countries and their share of the market is important to watch closely.

Manufacturer Share: A big part of Android’s success is the manufacturers building smartphones for the OS. Four of the top five smartphone manufacturers make Android phones. According to IDC, Android had more than 80% share of the smartphone shipments worldwide in Q3 2013. This gives Android a big advantage because as these major manufacturers compete for market share they’ll drive innovation and reach of the OS overall.

Finally, it has to be said that everyone needs to continue to keep an eye on fragmentation. It’s long been a major concern for developers, but as an issue it seems to be lessening over time. In November 2013 the Gingerbread & Jellybean versions of Android accounted for 78.69% of total Android OS activity. That matched the 78% of total iOS activity on iOS7.

Device Choice

One of the compelling value propositions for Android is that there is a device for every consumer. Want a big screen? Need a keyboard? There is an Android phone developed for every major consumer use case. But how many of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of Android devices available to consumers are gaining any real type of traction?

In November 2013 we found:

  • 29 models of devices with more than one million actions. A device is defined as a distinct model number with more than one million total actions in a given month.
  • More than 234 unique active device models. Device models are defined as a distinct model number with at least one action in a given month.

But activity is still concentrated on a few top devices, in November 2013 four of the top 5 devices were smartphones and one was a phone/tablet crossover (otherwise known as a phablet).

Growth in Global Markets

Who will win the competition for the huge global marketplace of consumers that want a smartphone, but are not willing or able to play the high price for it? Device manufacturers are showing a clear and growing focus on providing Android smartphones to consumers at a range of price-points. Android has a big advantage in many countries and their share of the market is important to watch closely.

The launch of the Google Nexus 5, quickly followed by the unveiling of the Motorola Moto G show that manufacturers are putting an increased focus on value models that will let them win the low end smartphone competition.

The prize? The huge global marketplace for consumers that want a smartphone but are not willing or able to play the high price for it. This gives Android a big advantage in many countries and their share of the market is important to watch closely.

Global competition

Keep an eye on the Mixpanel Trends: Android vs. iOS report here.

When you compare Android and iOS globally, Android accounted for 38% of total smartphone activity in November 2013. While this percentage of total global activity is down 2% compared to October 2013, this number has not changed dramatically since February. But these total numbers can mask what’s happening in individual countries.

Note that Mixpanel’s rapid growth in many of these countries is likely a contributing factor to the dramatic month-over-month swings in activity. As an example, the 16% decrease in Android activity in China from October to November corresponds with a 43% increase in the total volume of data from China analyzed by Mixpanel.

Manufacturer Share

A big part of Android’s success is the manufacturers building smartphones for the OS. Four of the top five smartphone manufacturers make Android phones. According to IDC, Android has more than 80% share of the smartphone shipments worldwide in Q3 2013.

This gives Android a big advantage because as these major manufacturers compete for market share they’ll drive innovation and reach of the OS overall.

Look at this data and place your own bet on what’s going to happen in 2014. But when you do, try to avoid the tired iOS vs. Android comparisons. It’s apples to oranges (pardon the phrasing). Consumers are slower to update the version of the OS their device runs, if they can update it at all. There’s a potentially confusing range and number of devices available. But when you take a step back, it’s clear Android is on the rise and the numbers are in their favor.

The data in this report is based on an aggregated set of the more than 16 billion actions analyzed by Mixpanel each month. In Mixpanel, an action is defined by our customers and can be anything from logging in to an app to making a purchase or finishing a level in a game. This report focuses on activity on devices running the Android Operating System (OS).

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