iPhone Versus Android: Who's Winning the Smartphone Smackdown?


According to a recent report from Morgan Stanley's (MS) Mary Meeker, Apple (AAPL) appears to be the big leader in the explosive mobile segment -- for now. In the first quarter, the company generated $5.4 billion in revenues from the iPhone and $1.3 billion from iTunes. At the same time, the iPad is seeing exceptionally strong growth, as is the iPhone 4.

But Google's (GOOG) Android operating system is gaining ground and activating 160,000 phones a day. It certainly helps that Android is free, which can boost the bottom line for mobile carriers. Just look at a recent report from HTC. In June, the company saw a stunning 63% increase in revenues. Yes, HTC is the largest developer of Android phones.

No doubt, there are a slew of industry reports that are gauging the race between the iPhone and Android. So what do they show right now?

App Developers: Appcelerator surveyed more than 2,700 mobile developers. When it comes to operating system features and capabilities, Android has an edge: It's preferred by 55% of respondents. This seems reasonable in light of Google's engineering focus.

But when it comes to revenue opportunities, Apple is the clear winner -- with a whopping 89% of the survey respondents calling it the better platform. Android got only 10% and RIMM (RIMM) showed a meager 1%.

Of course, monetization is likely to be the primary factor in attracting top-notch developers. This creates a network-effect that is likely to ensure the iPhone remains a viable platform for the long term.

But that's is not to suggest this is a winner-takes-all situation. It's certainly possible to have several platforms in a market -- after all, the PC market has no difficulty supporting Windows, Linux and Mac. A report from VisionMobile shows that mobile developers create apps on an average of 2.8 platforms.

Operating Systems: A report from the NPD Group shows that the Android OS surpassed Apple's iOS for the first quarter, in terms of market share in the U.S. Its penetration went from 20% in December to 28%, while Apple's iOS remained at roughly 21%. The biggest chunk, though, is still held by RIMM's BlackBerry, with a 36% share.

A key driver for Android was the Verizon (VZ) Droid. However, if AT&T (T) loses its U.S. exclusivity and Verizon eventually begins offering iPhones, the result is likely to be take a bite out of Android's market share growth.

Ad Market: AdMob, which operates a network of 23,000 websites and mobile apps, publishes a widely read survey on mobile ad marketing. While Apple's iOS is the clear leader in ad requests, Android has been gaining lots of ground. Its share went from 5% to 26% over the past year. As for the iOS, its penetration fell from 50% to 40%. (It should be noted, of course, that AdMob was recently acquired by Google.)

In light of the strong volume gains for Android-based phones, the momentum is likely to continue. Keep in mind that it took 14 phones to account for 92% of Android sales, compared to just one phone a year ago. The Motorola (MOT) Droid is the most popular this year.