While Apple was the first company to bring the concept of the modern touchscreen smartphone to consumers, the iPhone’s market share has drastically dropped since its initial introduction.
In 2010, Android overtook iOS in market share, becoming the world’s most popular mobile operating system. It’s a title that Android holds to this day.
And while some may argue over which operating system is better, there’s no denying which is more popular since Android maintains over 80% of the global market share. But why exactly is Android so much bigger than iOS?
We look at five major reasons that contribute to Android’s popularity and widespread adoption.
1. More Smartphone Makers Use Android
A large contributor to Android’s popularity is the fact that many more smartphone and device manufacturers use it as the OS for their devices. In contrast, iOS is limited to Apple-made iPhones and iPads only.
So why do so many manufacturers use Android? In 2007, Google and a number of mobile operators, software companies, and hardware companies launched the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) to compete with the launch of the iPhone. This alliance established Android as the its mobile platform of choice, granting an open-source license to manufacturers.
This alliance meant that when other older feature phone operating systems were phased out, most manufacturers opted to switch to Android. This increased its overall market share significantly.
In addition to this, regional brands and new startup manufacturers also adopted the OS. The boom in the Chinese and Indian markets’ demand for smartphones meant that local companies’ use of Android boosted its global share of the smartphone market.
A few other mobile operating systems continued to try to compete with Android and iOS. However, when these companies were unable to gain a significant foothold in the market, their smartphone brands eventually also moved to Android.
2. Android Devices Span All Price Ranges
Another major reason that Android is more popular than iOS is due to the varied price range of Android devices. This is particularly important for countries with developing economies and a weak dollar exchange rate, where even Apple’s most affordable smartphone is still out of the budget of most people.
In these markets, the exclusivity-based marketing of the iPhone has not been able to compete with the significantly lower prices of budget and mid-range Android smartphones. We’ve looked at great unlocked phones you can get for under $200, for instance.
According to StatCounter Global Stats, in the U.S., iOS holds 57 percent of the mobile market as of February 2019. But the picture in budget-conscious markets contrasts starkly with its appeal on the company’s home ground.
To put it in perspective, iOS has a market share of around 2.8 percent in India, 26 percent in China, 15 percent in South Africa, just under 15 percent in Brazil, and around 5 percent in Nigeria. Considering that India and China alone account for around a third of the entire world’s population, the popularity of Android in these countries puts iOS at a major disadvantage.
3. Android Has Wider Compatibility for Devices
While Apple has opened up the iOS ecosystem to include some third-party devices, it is still a relatively closed mobile platform. However, Android has a much wider ecosystem of peripheral and wearable devices.
This means you can have a Samsung smartwatch, a Google Home speaker, and a Huawei smartphone and the different devices will work together. Furthermore, transferring data and syncing devices is much simpler.
This wider ecosystem attracts users who don’t want to get locked into certain hardware brands. After all, if you change which Android device you use, this doesn’t render all your peripheral devices incompatible. You can also keep many of the same cables and accessories.
But this isn’t the case with the iPhone. The iOS ecosystem simply doesn’t offer the same flexibility.
4. Android’s AI and Software Features Have Caught Up
Android initially lacked some of the software perks of Apple—most notably, a virtual assistant like Siri. However, in recent years Android has caught up in many respects, with Google Assistant and its great voice control features becoming a major success.
Many apps that were once iOS-only have also now launched Android versions, while Google has introduced sophisticated AI to help automate your smart home.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that low-quality apps don’t exist on Android. In fact, the Google Play Store is littered with app clones and shovelware.
However, the official offerings from Google and major app developers have increased the overall quality of Android software considerably. Furthermore, Android has become a more sophisticated OS over time, integrating many sought-after features with each new version and refining the product as a whole.
5. There’s a Greater Variety of Android Devices
More manufacturers using Android as the OS for their devices doesn’t only mean there’s a greater number of Android phones and tablets. It also means that there’s a greater variety of devices to choose from.
Apple has a set number of iPhone and iPad models that it releases each year. On average, we see two to three new iPhones per year and three to four iPads. This means that if an Apple fan doesn’t like a specific year’s releases, they have to wait another year for a new iteration.
But Android devices come in a variety of form factors, have manufacturer-specific features, and are prone to more interesting experimentation. Since Android has an open source license, manufacturers have the freedom to create the hardware they want.
This contrasts with proprietary licenses, such as the one that Microsoft granted Windows Phone and Windows Mobile manufacturers. In this case, the OS came with certain requirements that manufacturers had to stick with when creating hardware.
But an open source license lets manufacturers tailor their product features to their specific target audiences. It also means that they can launch experimental and unconventional products.
Just look at the example of the foldable smartphone trend. Within a month of Samsung’s announcement of the Galaxy Fold, two other competitors announced their own take on foldable devices.
Meanwhile, many Android phones have been created for niche audiences or to accommodate specific tastes. From five-lens cameras to gaming-first smartphones, there’s essentially something for everyone when it comes to Android devices.
This variety in Android devices makes it more likely that consumers will find one that suits their specific tastes.
Android Is More Popular, But Is It Better?
We have taken a look at why Android is the more popular mobile OS. But the debate about which is the superior product continues to rage on.
Android fans point to high iPhone prices and a lack of innovation from Apple. Meanwhile, iPhone fans note the security issues and fragmented update schedule of Android. Whichever you choose, sticking to one ecosystem is definitely a smart idea.
Meanwhile, we’ve also looked at whether iPhone or Android is better for mobile gaming.