Net Applications: Android No. 3 Mobile OS After iOS, Java ME

Is the Android operating system for smartphones and tablets losing ground to competition from "dumbphones"? That was the question raised today with the release of new stats from Net Applications, a firm that tracks usage share statistics. But the real story may be booming Internet access growth in Asia.

The stats don't measure the installed base. Instead, Net Applications measures share for browser-capable mobile devices by collecting data from the browsers of site visitors to its on-demand network of live stats customers (about 160 million visitors per month, according to the company). In other words, the stats reflect the platforms people are using to access information online.

Net Applications' stats show iOS as far and away the most dominant operating system in the market, with 52.10 percent share, followed by Java ME with 21.27 percent. Android came in third with 16.29 percent of the market. This represents the second month of slipping share for Android, which held second place with18.86 percent share in October (compared with Java ME's 12.81 percent share). Android dropped to 16.72 percent in November.

Those numbers may seem strange to some, as Java ME is the runtime environment that allows "feature phones," sometimes referred to as "dumbphones," to access the Internet. And US carriers in the past had relatively little success getting feature phone owners to sign up for data plans. Also, research firm comScore reported in December that Android held 46.9 percent share of the American smartphone market, trailed by Apple with 28.7 percent and RIM with 16.6 percent.

But Vince Vizzaccaro, executive vice president of Marketing at Net Applications, explained Net Applications' stats don't tell the whole story.

"These are global numbers," Vizzaccaro said. "I think that's why you sometimes see fluctuations that aren't U.S.-based."

In fact, Vizzaccaro said the numbers are very different when one looks at the U.S. in isolation. In the U.S., iOS is even more dominant according to Net Applications' findings, leading the pack with 63.01 percent share. But Android is a strong second; it owns 30.54 percent of the market. BlackBerry comes in a distant third at 4.69 percent share, followed by Symbian with 0.68 percent share and Windows Phone with 0.50 percent share. Java ME registers even less than that.

So why are the global numbers so different? Vizzaccaro said the real story is Asia.

"Asia traffic is growing significantly, faster than anyone probably realizes," he said. "The number of people in Asia gaining Internet access is outpacing the rest of the world by a lot."

And many of those people are getting online using older technology, like feature phones running Java ME, Vizzaccaro said.

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals.



Android, mobile, IOS