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Having established a solid foundation among smartphone users across Latin America, Android is now taking over the tablet market as well. In a January 2015 Internet Media Services (IMS) and comScore study, 78% of smartphone owners in the region said they had a phone powered by the Google operating system (OS). A closer look by country shows that 82% of respondents in Brazil owned Android devices—the most among the six countries tracked in the study. On the opposite end of the spectrum, only 70% of respondents in Chile said they had an Android device. Chile was also the last iOS “stronghold,” with 36% of respondents there who owned an Apple smartphone.
BlackBerry/RIM, which has consistently lost ground worldwide since iOS and Android were released in 2007 and 2008, respectively—and took a turn for the worse in the past two years in Latin America—managed to muster a still-relevant 19% ownership rate among respondents in Peru.
Severe protectionist measures that dramatically increase consumer prices on imported Android and iOS devices are a concern in Argentina. The measures are aimed at boosting domestic production, though not necessarily the development of homegrown original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and other manufacturers. Meanwhile, relatively cheap device imports from China are likely increasing the apparent preference for alternative operating systems among consumers in Argentina. Fully 15% of smartphone owners polled by IMS/comScore in the country said they had a phone running on an OS different than the top three systems by market share (Android, iOS and BlackBerry/RIM). That said, a sizable 75% of respondents in Argentina also owned Android smartphones.
Android has also taken Latin America’s still-nascent tablet market by storm. Though iOS mentions among tablet owners across the region were 8 percentage points higher than among smartphone owners in the same context, Android ownership was more than twice as common.
Broken down by country, the picture was not very different, with Android and iOS already far ahead of the competition in every individual market. But while Android has opened a substantial gap with second-place iOS in most nations, Apple appeared to still be in contention in Mexico, where it trailed the incumbent by a “mere” 22 percentage points.
The two-horse race in Mexico may soon come to an end, though. In August 2014, the country’s education bureau, Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP), set out to distribute 700,000 Android tablets to students and teachers in five states and the Federal District (Mexico City). That Android was the chosen OS for a federal program is not surprising—it has also been the case in Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay. It is an adaptable, open-source system powering less-expensive devices. Those very traits have encouraged OEMs to expand their Android offerings, particularly among entry-level devices. Hence, Google’s OS has captured large market shares around the world, and it is not far-fetched to theorize it will further widen the gap in Mexico’s tablet market in the near future.
Meanwhile, consumers in Peru appeared to give a chance to an alternative—and perhaps more affordable—OS option for their tablets; 10% owned a Windows 8 tablet, the highest such rate within the six markets polled by IMS and comScore.
eMarketer predicts there will be 152.6 million smartphone users and 92.3 million tablet users in Latin America in 2015.
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