With figures like that, it may not seem quite worth it for companies, or customers, to invest in smartphone platforms for such a comparatively small portion of the market. Many have certainly found it easier to close or all but abandon their in-house systems. Samsung’s bada, Nokia’s Symbian, Intel’s Mobiln and HP’s webOS are all examples of systems that fell off their companies’ priority lists after failing to gain much traction.
Yet while it may be difficult, if not impossible, to unseat either Android or Apple in the near future, there is still an argument to be made for supporting a strong third-place option. Carriers, for example, want a third option in operating systems, and have lent their support to Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Samsung’s open Tizen platform and (overseas, at least) Firefox because it leaves them less beholden to companies such as Apple and Google.
That’s something consumers should think about as well. Choice, after all is a good thing. Say, for example, you don’t like Apple’s generally closed policies toward app development, or are worried about security risks that come with Android’s open system. Should it be a given that you have to opt for one or the other?
This issue is particularly interesting to look at in markets that haven’t jumped on the smartphone bandwagon quite the way the U.S. has. A look at the countries where Firefox is planning its releases for its $90 phone — Spain, Colombia, Poland and Venezuela — show that it has an eye on newer smartphone buyers who may not be ready to commit to the high cost of an iPhone or premium Android smartphone right off the bat.
These are some of the most valuable customers in the smartphone world, because they hold nearly all the growth potential for smartphone firms. Offering a viable third choice, even if it doesn’t have much chance of unseating numbers one and two worldwide, means more competition. That, in turn, normally means good things for consumers, such as more innovation and — just maybe — lower prices.