An Apple Store. (Photo/Xinhua)
As Apple introduces its next-generation iPhone 5, Android has slipped into first place as the world's leading mobile operating system, beating Apple's iOS.
Apple nonetheless retains its status as the largest single vendor of mobile phones, the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald reports.
The report said that while consumers have been looking forward to the launch of the new iPhone, it has not been a good year for Apple overall. Over the past year, Apple has relied on the sales of three models of mobile phones — the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS, giving the Android camp led by Samsung and HTC the opportunity to increase their market share.
Despite losing a recent patent lawsuit to Apple, Samsung and other Android manufacturers have posed a great threat to Apple in the past year and market observers wonder whether the next iPhone will give Apple the boost it needs.
A major authorized Apple reseller in China said it has faced difficulties because iPhone 4S sales have been weak this year, while Apple stores have grown in number over the past two years, creating stiffer competition.
Meanwhile, wholesalers in the grey market for Apple products said the sales of the iPhone 4S were weaker than expected since it was released last year. In the second quarter of this year, Apple only sold 26 million iPhones, a decline of 25% from the first quarter's 35 million units and less than the 28-30 million units the market had expected.
The slow rate at which Apple has upgraded the hardware in its smartphones is said to be a factor behind the weak sales.
A wholesaler in Shenzhen said the similarity in the appearances of the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 also put off potential buyers. In China, many iPhone users do not really understand the functions on their devices and buy them mainly to show off. Therefore, they care more about the product's appearance, the dealer said.
The iPhone 4S could not satisfy these fashion-conscious users because Samsung, HTC and Sony had launched lighter, thinner and more colorful mobile phones in the meantime.
The explosive growth in Android sales could be also attributed to the growing prevalence of smartphones at the cheaper end of the market, many by domestic companies also taking advantage of the open-access Android platform.
Meanwhile, the decrease in iPhone sales and increase in Android sales has quickly reflected in the app market.
An industry expert said the differences between the quality of applications available on Android and on Apple's iOS has grown smaller. As a result, the revenues of Android developers had exceeded those of iOS developers, according to the report.
However, iPhone is still considered by its users as the most superior device with a stable operating system and smooth interface. In addition, Apple remains the most profitable mobile phone maker worldwide. In the second quarter of this year, its profits reached US$8.8 billion, while Samsung's profits were only US$5.9 billion.