Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report is available for viewing or downloading, and this monster 213-page PDF covers a whole lot of ground. Meeker herself discussed the report via a 25-minute speech at Recode. There are a lot of interesting nuggets to be pulled out and considered, and one of those has to do with the historical rates of adoption of iOS versus Android phones.
Charts from Meeker’s report show that there was a thriving smartphone market in other operating systems in the years before the introduction of the iPhone and Android, and it took until 2011 before combined device sales surpassed those other OSes—and even then, it was mostly Android. Even as the rate of growth in the smartphone market slowed, Android took off like a rocket while iOS grew little by little over time.
The Verge pegs this difference in adoption rates primarily to price. While Apple has kept its iPhone prices consistently high ever since their introduction, Android device prices have fallen year by year as a result of the price war between different Android device manufacturers. It’s effectively Mac versus PC all over again—the more-expensive boutique brand versus the wide open market of PCs all sharing the same architecture and operating system with each other.
But Android versus iPhone might not tell the whole story. Another strong competitor for iPhone is Amazon’s Echo speaker, which is starting to rise just as the iPhone is starting to fall. Meeker devotes an entire section of the report to discussing how more and more people are using voice command as word-recognition approaches 95% accuracy and the interfaces get ever easier to use. 61% of voice users say it’s useful when their hands or eyes are occupied, while other reasons given are that it provides faster results, is easier than typing on some devices, it’s just plain fun, and it avoids confusing menus.
Though there’s not much directly about e-books in the report, it’s interesting to consider the implications. Whereas the iPhone launched the modern smartphone market, it’s Android that’s really democratized it. Some Android smartphones have even dipped as low as $10 on salesite:, and then there’s Amazon’s Fire tablet which is a fully useful color e-reader (especially if you add the Google Play store) for $50 new. If any gizmo is going to bridge the digital divide and bring e-books to the low-income, it’s probably going to be running Android.
As for voice command, consider how much better mobile devices have gotten at responding to spoken orders over the last few years. Iron Man’s “Jarvis” once seemed like complete fiction, but it’s getting gradually closer to reality. Just because we’re busy doing things that require our hands or eyes doesn’t mean we don’t still need to get information—and even if we can still be distracted by voice, at least we won’t take our eyes off the road. And depending on the voice command system we’re using, we could tell it to read or play an audiobook for us, too—which might be an easier way for people to consume books if they’re busy doing things or suffer from LCD eyestrain.