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Android market share stays steady in US but sinks deeper in Europe

More than a quarter of smartphone buyers across Europe jumped ship from Android to iOS, which saw solid gains across most of the continent, says research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Android remains top dog around the world but continues to shed market share in Europe.

CNET

Android remains by far the top mobile OS throughout the world, but its market share continues to lose ground except in the US.

For the three months ended July, Android's slice of the smartphone market for the top five European nations (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) dropped by 4.1 percentage points to 71 percent from 75.1 percent for the same period a year ago, Kantar reported on Wednesday. The changes in market share varied across the board. Android's share tumbled by 8.7 points in Germany and 5.4 points in France but inched down just 1.5 points in Italy and actually gained almost a point in Spain.

But in the US, Android's market share grew by 1.7 points to 65.6 percent from 63.9 percent during the same three months in 2014.

The situation was the reverse for Apple's iOS. The iPhone's market share for the three months ended July grew by 2.5 points across Europe's top five countries to reach 17 percent. Apple's smartphone market share declined by 1.3 percent in the US, though was lower than the 2.3 percent drop for the prior three months.

Why is Android losing ground in Europe but staying steady in the US, while Apple's iOS is doing the opposite? There are several reasons, Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, told CNET.

The smartphone market in Europe is facing challenging conditions. Certain flagship phones, such as Samsung's Galaxy S6, have received a muted response from buyers. Also, Samsung and other Android players are facing increased competition from local vendors, especially those in China.

Another reason is the maturity of the European market as evidenced by fewer first-time smartphone buyers, according to Kantar. That type of maturity increases the churn rate, meaning the rate at which existing smartphone buyers switch to a different mobile operating system. And in Europe, that hit Android harder than it did Apple.

"This type of market maturity increases the impact of churn on overall performance as we have seen with Android this time around -- 27 percent of smartphone buyers across Europe left Android for iOS versus 9 percent in the US," Dominic Sunnebo, business unit director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe, said in a press release.

Switching to a different carrier typically occurs less in the US than in Europe. That's because more people in the US are on contract or installment plans, while many of those in Europe are on prepaid plans, which lead to longer replacement cycles.

"I also feel that the 'I am an Apple' and 'I am an Android' groups are more clearly defined [in the US] than in Europe," Milanese added.

In the United States, Apple's Android rivals provided a tougher fight than they did in Europe. Apple and Samsung still reign supreme in the US. But other vendors such as LG have gained market share due to the impact of new mobile data plans on mid-range phones, Milanesi told CNET in August. Early demand for the iPhone in the US was strong, so sales would naturally be leveling off by this point, especially with Apple due to unveil its next iPhone lineup on September 9.

This is expected to be an off-year for the iPhone in which Apple introduces interim models -- the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus -- with perhaps one or two major new features but mostly minor upgrades in processor speed and a few other factors. But that doesn't mean iPhone sales will suffer, especially if Apple lowers the price on the current iPhone 6 lineup.

"While all eyes will be on Apple's new products, I would suggest people pay close attention to the current iPhone 6 and 6 Plus market performance, should the accustomed price drop occur after the September 9 product announcement," Milanese said. "In the U.S., 32 percent of the overall sales of the iPhone 5s were generated after the launch of the iPhone 6."

And how did Android and Apple fare across other regions of the world?

In China, Android's smartphone share dropped by 5.5 points, while the iPhone's slice rose by 5.9 points. China's smartphone market has weakened as of late due to oversaturation, but the iPhone is still a hot device. For the quarter ended June 30, Apple reported that sales in Greater China more than doubled to $13.2 billion.

In Australia, Android's share plummeted by 10.5 points to 56.1 percent, while Apple's cut rose by 7.9 percent to 34.9 percent. And in Japan, Android's slice of the market dropped by 7 points, while Apple's increased by 6.3 points.

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech derives its data from consumer panels in 12 countries: the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the U.S., China, Japan, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.