Is Android Really Outselling Apple Where it Counts?

Google announced today that it has 500 million devices activated with a new 1.3 million devices activated daily. This left me wondering how many high-end devices were in market in total. This is, of course, a number that Google does not report for good reason. My suspicion is that much of the in-market Android devices are lower-end phones sold in developing markets.

Indeed, Canalys reported that Q2 2012 showed Android as the clear winner in developing markets. In China, they estimate that Android represents 81% of the smartphone shipments, where Android is seen as the low-cost alternative to the iPhone. In addition, China represents the largest chunk of global smartphone shipments (27%) compared to the next largest market, the United States (16%). Putting this another way, the largest smartphone market in the world prefers cheap phones, and those cheap phones are primarily Android-based.

"Putting this another way, the largest smartphone market in the world prefers cheap phones, and those cheap phones are primarily Android-based."

Given this, I was curious as to how many of these 500 million devices in-market are high-end. The simplest way I could figure was to identify how many devices are running a current version of Android, namely Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) or Jellybean (4.1). Looking down the list of phones with these two operating systems seems to confirm this theory: Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus (4.1), Asus’ Padphone (4.0), HTC Rezound (4.0), Samsung’s Galaxy SIII (4.0), HTC’s One X, with few exceptions (for example, HTC’s Desire C). Google reports that currently, 22.1% of the Android devices that accessed the Play Store in the last 14 days had either Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) or Jellybean (4.1). Given this, one might assume that about one-fifth of these devices are high-end with the remaining being lower-end devices.

Eric Schmidt also stated that about 70,000 of their 1.3 million new activations were tablets. Now, I realize I’m mixing terms, but let’s pretend that this five percent tablet figure is applicable to the devices in market. This is not a terrible hypothesis, as devices that are activated end up being counted in the in-market figure as well. In addition, as long as tablets are cycled out of market at about the same rate as phones, these figures should be comparable. Now, given all of these assumptions, we would have that about 111 million of the 500 million devices in market are high-end, and about 287,000 daily activations of high-end devices (with an estimated 272,000 being smartphones).

It is incredibly difficult to get a comparable number from Apple as they only report iOS activations (which include the iPad, iPod Touch, etc.). The most recent figure we have to go on is 410 million total iOS activations as of July 2012. The Washington Post recently reported that Apple’s U.S. sales included a total of 85 million iPhones since 2007 and 34 million iPads since 2010. These sales are of course incredibly backloaded (read: the sales of the iPhone 4S dwarfed those of the original iPhone) and also incredibly non-Global, but lets pretend that 71% of the iOS sales were for iPhones. With this, about 291 million iPhones are currently in-market compared to roughly 111 million high-end Android phones.

"Google doesn’t want you thinking about low-end Android devices and Apple doesn’t want you to know its phones are being outsold."

This is all of course like trying to measure the volume of the sun from Earth using a ruler. There are many complicating issues. For one, both companies report data in very different ways. Adding to this, both companies have an interest in reporting the numbers the way they do. Google doesn’t want you thinking about low-end Android devices and Apple doesn’t want you to know its phones are being outsold. So sound off below. I’d like to hear how way off//right on I am. If you have any information that might make these estimates better, I’m definitely interested.