The Realities of Smartphone Market Share


UPDATE: The full Yankee Group report referred to below is now available. Take a look here.

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes to us from Carl Howe, Vice President of Yankee Group’s Consumer Research group. For latest updates follow him on @cdhowe

Exhibit 1: Large Businesses in Big Cities Still Cite BlackBerry As Their Preferred Platforms
Source: Yankee Group 2013 IT Decision Maker Survey, September

Midwest and D.C. large businesses

Midwest and D.C. large businesses

“Lies, damn lies, and statistics— Benjamin Disraeli

Disraeli’s quote, later popularized by Mark Twain, is a suitable epithet for much of the analysis today regarding smartphone use and market share. If you accepted what is published in many news reports citing analyst statistics from famous analyst firms, you would believe that 80 percent of smartphone users worldwide are using Android phones, and that competing platforms from Apple, BlackBerry, and Microsoft are only fighting for scraps of the few unenlightened souls who can’t see the handwriting on the wall.

Journalists such as Charles Arthur writing for The Guardian newspaper have done an excellent job of debunking some of the myths of unit market share, and analysts such as Daniel Eran Dilger have similarly taken issue with how Android devices that don’t use branded Android software or Google services distort analyst market share results. Data from Yankee Group’s 2013 U.S. Consumer Survey analyzed earlier this year showed that when we look at U.S. smartphone ownership, Android ownership is hardly growing at all (Yankee Group clients can reference my April 2013 Yankee Group report, “Consumers will drive iPhone ownership past Android’s peak” for details). However, few have been willing to take on the question I’ll raise here: Who continues buying and using BlackBerry phones? And rather than look at the consumer business, I’ll instead look at the business market, where BlackBerry first established its smartphone brand.

Yankee Group visualized data collected from the more than 2,000 respondents to its 2013 US Enterprise Mobility: IT Decision-Maker Survey, September to understand the distribution of preferred smartphone platforms in the United States. We placed a dot for each company that responded to the question “Which of these is your preferred smartphone platform?” on a map of the United States according to the ZIP code of the respondent. We colored those dots according to the company’s preferred smartphone platform and adjusted the sizes of the dots to correspond to the size of the company.

As shown in Exhibit 1, this data regarding preferred smartphone platforms shows that:

  • Eleven percent of businesses still cite BlackBerry as their preferred smartphone platform. Despite shiny new Android phones seemingly being launched daily, most businesses are reluctant to toss out mobile solutions that they have already installed, working, and supported. BlackBerry smartphones and Enterprise Server have already proven themselves with businesses, so IT keeps provisioning the platform they know and trust instead of new ones they don’t.
  • Businesses that prefer BlackBerry tend to be large. Most of the businesses that preferred BlackBerry were either large, with more than 2,500 employees, or very large, with more than 10,000 employees. In fact, when we look at only the respondents who work at very large companies with more than 10,000 employees, 33 percent of those firms cite BlackBerry as their preferred smartphone platform, second only to Android at 42 percent.
  • Large cities are the locus of BlackBerry users. The large green BlackBerry dots in the exhibit outline many of the largest cities in the U.S. by population. This data suggests that BlackBerrys are more frequently used in the major commerce centers as well, where IT organizations are concerned about secure communications.

How can we reconcile this data with news story claims that no one wants or uses BlackBerry devices? We believe that two primary causes lead to the disconnect between press claims and actual BlackBerry use:

  • Silicon Valley isn’t a big BlackBerry hub. Not many respondents who prefer BlackBerrys were from this high technology region between San Jose and San Francisco, California. Given that a disproportionate amount of technology news comes from Silicon Valley, employees just doing their jobs with a BlackBerry in the rest of the country get overlooked in the quest to discover whether Apple’s next iPhone will have a curved screen.
  • Market share does not equal ownership and use. Much of the smartphone narrative reported in the news references quarterly shipment data, which only tracks new devices sold, not devices owned and used. As such, companies in a product transition such as BlackBerry get short shrift in market share reports, despite having a loyal customer base who regularly use company-issued BlackBerrys. Further, employees of heavily regulated and security conscious industries often are required to continue using older devices, simply because IT has proven the security and manageability of those devices over years and doesn’t yet have a similar track record with alternative solutions. Those BlackBerry-using employees will not be counted in market share reports, yet something that will take years for regulators to be comfortable with on other platforms.

Now none of this means that BlackBerry has an easy road ahead of it with business buyers. The roiling of BlackBerry’s business due to management’s pursuit of strategic alternatives has forced many of those businesses that prefer BlackBerry to create contingency plans for other platforms to manage their strategic risk. However, now that that process is behind the company, our survey data say that BlackBerry has an big opportunity to sell its products to the large businesses that prefer them.

Meanwhile, if anyone tells you that Android smartphones are 80 percent of smartphones in use, just quote Mark Twain to them:

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.

About Ali Rehman

@AliRehman81 is the Enterprise Social Marketing Manager at BlackBerry. He is involved in managing social media program for the B2B community. Also focusing on developing engagement and awareness across various social properties. Outside of work he is a massive aviation fan and big supporter of the 'Blue Angels (USN)' aerobatics team.

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