Mobile

iPhone sales take a big bite out of Android shipments

For the first time ever, shipments of Android smartphones fell in the holiday quarter.

Lollipop is just one version of Google's Android mobile operating system. Google

The holidays weren't so jolly for Android smartphones, after all.

Shipments of Android-running smartphones fell in the last three months of 2014 as consumers bought Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in record-shattering numbers. This marks the first decline in Android smartphones during the all-important holiday quarter compared to the previous three months, according to industry tracker ABI Research.

The holiday quarter was the first full quarter of availability for Apple's latest smartphones, which went on sale in late September.

Those surging iPhone shipments also pulled Apple even with Samsung, the leader among Android phone makers, in the global market for smartphones. Each company accounted for 20 percent of the market during the holiday quarter, according to Strategy Analytics.

Most smartphones shipped today run some version or another of Google's Android mobile operating system. Shipments of Android-based smartphones actually exceeded 1 billion units in 2014, according to researcher Strategy Analytics, a testament to the number of devices and device makers that use the mobile OS. But that was for the entire year.

In the fourth quarter, Apple shipped 74.5 million iPhones, a 90 percent increase from the previous quarter, while shipments of Android-based phones slid 5 percent, to 205.56 million units. Android's falling numbers were also affected by so-called forked Android, meaning the variations that device makers make to the operating system. In September, Google launched its Android One initiative as a way to bring affordable smartphones to emerging markets and create a consistent Android experience.

"Google's Android is being attacked by Apple's iOS at the high end and forked Android ... at the low end in high growth emerging markets," ABI researcher Nick Spencer said in a statement.

The shifting dynamics in the market represent "worrying times for Google's mobile services and Android, but it presents opportunity for other service providers and even operating systems," Spencer said.

Smartphones running Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile operating system rose 19 percent from the third quarter to the holiday quarter of 2014, to 10.7 million units, according to ABI. Shipments for smartphones running "other" operating systems plummeted 26 percent, compared with the previous three months.