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Google’s Android Seizes Smartphone Market

Google's Android software continues to steamroll the competition in smartphones, posing bigger problems for companies like Apple and BlackBerry.

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Google Inc.'s Android software continues to steamroll the competition in smartphones, posing bigger problems for companies like Apple Inc. and BlackBerry Ltd.

New data Wednesday from research firm IDC found that Apple's share of the global market slid to 13.2% in the second quarter from 16.6% in the year-earlier period. Handsets running Android, meanwhile, jumped to 79.3% from 69.1%.

The signs are particularly ominous for one-time market leader BlackBerry, despite some high-profile product announcements recently. Devices running its software accounted for just 2.9% of global smartphone shipments in the three months ended in June, compared with 4.9% for the same period in 2012.

Android is given away free to handset makers by Google, whose strategy is to make money on advertising associated with mobile devices. It has long powered smartphones offered by industry giant Samsung Electronics Co., but has lately also benefited by Chinese companies such as Lenovo Group Ltd., Huawei Technologies Inc. and ZTE Corp. that are grabbing a bigger chunk of the smartphone market.

"You are seeing tremendous growth in the developing world," said Steve Mollenkopf, president and operating chief of mobile chip giant Qualcomm Inc. Companies selling there are "picking up Android and driving that."

Market share, of course, isn't the same thing as making money. Apple earns more profit from its iPhones because it can charge more than rivals can. Its average sales price, excluding any carrier subsidies, was $710 in 2012, compared with an industry average for smartphones that year of $407, IDC estimates.

Samsung, which is No. 1 by unit shipments, and No. 2 Apple account for essentially all the industry's profit, Canaccord Genuity estimates. The firm puts Apple's second-quarter smartphone operating profit at $5.99 billion, with an operating margin of 33%; it estimates Samsung's profit at $5.63 billion, or 19%, including both smartphones and other handsets. Many others are losing money in the business, it estimates.

But high prices aren't helping Apple's share in some markets, said IDC analyst Ryan Reith, especially in some developing markets where most smartphones get sold for $390 to $450, he said.

Apple, which is expected to announce new products this fall, has also suffered from the lack of new handsets to drive demand now, Mr. Reith said. Apple's shipments did grow 20% in the second period, IDC said, though lost share because the smartphone market grew more quickly.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

BlackBerry, which launched its new operating system in January, was overtaken as the No. 3 supplier of smartphone software in the second quarter by Microsoft Corp., whose share in smartphone software grew to 3.7% from 3.1% last year.

The Canadian company accounted for roughly a fifth of smartphone sales in 2009. But the impact of its new line of phones has been slight so far.

BlackBerry is "in a really tough spot right now," Mr. Reith said. "They've shown their cards and the industry really hasn't reacted the way they had hoped."

A BlackBerry spokesman declined to comment.

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