Android roars back in strongest growth in two years, as Apple iOS shrinks
Google's Android smartphone operating system has reported impressive growth as competition with Apple intensifies in the months before the release of the iPhone 7.
Android's market share increased 7.1 per cent across Europe in the first three months of the year, where it now holds 75.6 per cent of the market to Apple's 18.9 per cent, which fell from 20.2 per cent.
In Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, Android grew largely at the expense of Windows Phone, whose sales fell 5 per cent, while close to 7 per cent of first time Android users were migrating from Windows, according to research from analysts Kantar Worldpanel.
In Italy and Spain, formerly the strongest and most loyal Windows Phone markets, close to 10 per cent of Windows Phone users chose to switch to Android during the three months ending March 2016, the report found.
The migration was largely driven by mid-range Chinese handsets made by Huawei, Wiko and Asus, whereas in Britain, Samsung continued to dominate Android growth. The market share increase was the strongest across Europe in more than two years.
Android sales in the US, which were up 7.3 per cent to 65.5 per cent, were also boosted by unexpectedly strong sales of Samsung's flagship handset the Galaxy S7.
Despite only being available for the last three weeks of the first quarter of the year, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge managed to account for 5.8 per cent of all smartphone sales, making the Galaxy S7 the fifth best-selling model during the period.
Samsung was praised for addressing many of the issues consumers had with its predecessor the Galaxy S6 - notably the lack of microSD card for expandable storage, battery life and water resistance. The South Korean company also invested heavily in promoting the handsets, offering bundles with its Gear VR virtual reality headset and slashing prices in deals with vendors.
The strong sales will come as a relief, following heavy advertising spend but weak sales for last year's Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.
"Despite the launch of Galaxy S6, improvement to earnings was quite marginal due to low smartphone shipments and an increase in marketing expenses for new product launches," Samsung said in a press release last July.
Google is due to announce the newest version of Android, codenamed Android N, at its annual Google I/O developers conference this week.
Meanwhile Apple's next version of iOS, expected to be called iOS 10, will be revealed at WWDC next month.
Apple's iOS share fell 4.9 per cent in the US and 5 per cent in China, although sales of the new iPhone SE were not included in the data, as it went on sale on March 31.
The new iPhone is Apple's cheapest handset to date, and represents a key opportunity for the Californian company to appeal to consumers in emerging markets including India and urban China, and take on more affordable smartphone manufacturers.
Apple is readying itself to reveal its next flagship smartphone, the iPhone 7, in September, which is expected to see the removal of the headphone jack and two rear-facing cameras.