A mobile operating system is designed to control a mobile device such as a smartphone or information appliance and is similar in principle to the operating systems that controls a desktop computer or laptop. Smartphones run complete operating system software providing a platform for application developers. The UK smartphone market is split dominated between Apples’ IOS, Googles’ Android and Blackberrys’ RIM and companies considering developing an application need to examine the costs and benefits of developing on each separate platform.

Worldwide Share of OS Handheld market – Mobile Phones Operating Systems
(figures supplied by Gartner Research)

A clear trend is the surging growth in the number of mobile operating systems that are developed for smart phones rather than traditional feature phones. These figures show the worldwide market share of the different operating systems and any consideration of these figures needs to bear in mind that Symbian use in smartphones is very limited and it will soon be made obsolete as a platform as Nokia turns to Windows Mobile OS instead.

These figures are also skewed by the higher domination of Android in the US market so require a closer examination of the UK.

The UK Picture

These figures show that Apples IOS is still dominant in the UK. The gap is slowly closing but still represent a significantly higher amount of smartphone users in UK using the Apple IOS. Since these figures were taken in October 2010, Googles’ Android has continued on its ascendency and overtaken RIM. NB. Symbian is largely irrelevant in this context because it is largely not for smart phones.
Research by Intelligent Environments show that iPhone users are more likely to spend more time using their phone and also more likely to spend more money on applications. This could be a result of the different personalities they attract with Apple marketing its products as high end, luxury goods whilst Android is built upon an open source methodology and this low cost model is more likely to attract users who are less inclined to pay for apps.

Britain is unique in that Blackberry remains an extremely popular mobile choice and only slightly behind Apple with a 36.22 per cent share of the market. However, Blackberry users are much less inclined to download and use apps. RIM CEO Mike Lazaridis confirmed that Blackberry App store sees around 1/20thof the download level as iPhone App store and contains around a 1/20thof the amount of apps to download. Most Blackberry user use Blackberry for the email and phone function and do not put in the same level of time and enthusiasm into their phones as iPhone and android users.

Conclusion

IPhones’ IOS is still the most important market for application development partly because it still holds the largest market share in the UK for smart phones and also because of the relationship that iPhone users have with their phones. It means that the app is much more likely to be downloaded and used frequently. Android are closing this gap and with the increasing proliferation of Android and as the amount of high end Android users increase this will also mean that they are more likely to spend more time downloading and using apps.