IDC has new research that shows that 258.4 million smartphones where shipped in 3Q13. This a growth of 38.8% year on year. Apple is slowly getting squeezed out by Samsung and ‘Others’. However, note that ‘Others’ represents a lot of devices in China that aren’t a target for typical app developers. But countering this, Benedict Evans also says "there are probably more iOS devices in China than smartphones in the USA."
Whatever the real ‘catchment’ numbers, one observation is that 258.4 million smartphones per quarter is of an order of magnitude x10 compared to just a few years ago. These numbers are huge. I remember when phone hardware OEMs were quoting numbers in the 10’s of millions. Pre-iOS (mainly Nokia S60) smartphones initially sold in single digit millions and later 10’s of millions.
But what of the future? Now that the smartphone market is so large, I wonder how much more difficult it is for newcomer OSs. Is it even possible for a newcomer OS to compete now? Years ago, people spoke (and I wrote about) how personalisation could be used to retain users. Today, many people are tied to iOS and Android through the services they provide and it would probably need something extremely compelling for them to switch to a newcomer.