Android and iOS dominate the overall operating systems market for smartphones with the two operating systems accounting for 96.3pc of all smartphone shipments, according to IDC.
In terms of year-over-year shipment growth, Android outpaced the overall smartphone market for 2014 (32.0pc vs 27.7pc, respectively) while iOS beat the market in the fourth quarter of 2014 (46.1pc vs 29.2pc, respectively).
"Many of the same drivers were in play for Android and iOS to tighten their grip on the market," said Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's mobile phone team.
"A combination of strong end-user demand, refreshed product portfolios, and the availability of low-cost devices – particularly for Android – drove volumes higher.
"What will bear close observation is how the two operating systems fare in 2015 and beyond. Now that Apple has entered the phablet market, there are few new opportunities for the company to address. Meanwhile, Samsung experienced flat growth in 2014, forcing Android to rely more heavily on smaller vendors to drive volumes higher,” Llamas said.
Apples versus Androids
Android pushed past the 1bn unit mark in 2014, a significant milestone by itself but also because total Android volumes in 2014 bested total smartphone volumes in 2013.
Samsung retained the leadership position by a wide margin, shipping more volume than the next five vendors combined. At the same time, Samsung's total volumes for the year remained essentially flat while Asian vendors, including Huawei, Lenovo (including Motorola), LG Electronics, Xiaomi, and ZTE fuelled the most growth for Google's platform.
iOS saw its market share for 2014 decline slightly even as volumes reached a new record and grew at nearly the same pace as the overall smartphone market.
Much of this was due to the strong demand for Apple's new and larger iPhones and the reception they had within key markets. What remains to be seen is how Apple will sustain demand going forward, as larger screens were among the last gaps in its product portfolio.
A cracked pane for Windows?
Windows Phone had the smallest year-over-year increase among the leading operating systems, growing just 4.2pc, well below the overall market.
Having finalised its acquisition of Nokia in the spring of 2014, Microsoft relied primarily on a long list of entry-level Lumia devices to maintain its position in the market, and relied on its partners HTC and Samsung to provide cover on the high end of the market.
With the launch of Windows 10 later this year, Windows Phone stands to make a more concerted effort to return to the high end of the market.
BlackBerry posted the only year-over-year decline among the leading operating systems, falling -69.8pc from 2013 levels. The year 2014 marked a year of rationalisation for the beleaguered platform, and by the end of the year the company had revealed multiple enhancements to its platform and new device additions with the BlackBerry Passport and BlackBerry Classic.
CEO John Chen anticipates 10m units will be shipped in 2015, returning the company to profitability and marking a 72pc increase over the 5.8m units shipped in 2014.
"Instead of a battle for the third ecosystem after Android and iOS, 2014 instead yielded skirmishes, with Windows Phone edging out BlackBerry, Firefox, Sailfish and the rest, but without any of these platforms making the kind of gains needed to challenge the top 2,” said Melissa Chau, senior research manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.
“This isn't to say that vendors aren't making moves, especially for the growth segments – the low-end markets,” added Chau.
“With Microsoft bringing ever-cheaper Lumia into play and Tizen finally getting launched to India early this year, there is still a hunger to chip away at Android's dominance.”
iPhone and Android phones image via Shutterstock