Tickers in this Article: GOOG, MSFT, RIMM, AAPL
We are going to take a contrarian - and perhaps a bit unpopular - view of Apple Inc (Nasdaq:AAPL)? I'm not suggesting its no longer the king when it comes to technological gadgetry. However, sometimes wonder and amazement can blind investors to numbers and data. Some recent numbers and data regarding Apple may be a glimpse of a bigger, looming challenge for Steve Jobs and his army.

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Market Share Versus Total Growth
It was only a quarter ago - in the shadow of the widespread launch of Google's (Nasdaq:GOOG) Android smartphone operating system - that the tech experts were discussing how badly Apple's phone would beat Android phones on the sales front. According to Gartner, in Q1 of this year, the iPhone owned 15.4% of the global smartphone OS market , versus Android's 9.6%. Research In Motion (Nasdaq:RIMM) was still out in front, with 19.4% of the OS market. And, as has been the case for a while, Microsoft's (Nasdaq:MSFT) Windows Mobile lost new-sales market share, about one third of it on a year-over-year basis last quarter. When you drill down into the numbers though, the picture can change dramatically.

According to admittedly arguable research from the NPD Group released May 10, 2010, Android now owns the number two spot in operating system sales with 28% of last quarter's market share in the United States, behind RIM's 36%, but in front of Apple's 21%.

But what about reports that there are three times as many Apple's iPhone OS users as there are Android users? It's true - there are. The thing you have to watch out for with off-the-cuff statistics, though, is how there's always more to the story.

The reason there are three times as many Apple OS users as there are Android users is that the iPhone was launched in 2007. Android didn't really launch - in a meaningful way - until late last year. So, there should be consideration given to the time factor contributing to how many Apple users there are. That's got nothing to do with new sales and growth though. (Learn more in Is AT&T's New Data Pricing Plan Right?)

Perhaps the most telling and alarming data on the sales/growth front come from net applications data for May. According to their numbers, the iPhone still indeed owns the most market share, with 32.8% of the smartphone market, versus Android's 6.2%. What was interesting here, however, was the rate of growth from the prior month. Google's OS increased its market share by 17%, while Apple only increased its market share by 8%. Not that one month is a game-changer, but if this is indeed a trend, it will eventually dethrone Apple's smartphone OS dominance.

To The Point
The buzz is that many potential buyers of an iPhone were aware a new one was on the way, and are simply holding out for a few more weeks rather than taking the plunge in May. Certainly that is true to some extent. Although the newest iPhone set to debut on June 24th will undoubtedly draw a crazed crowd and sales will likely total in the hundred of thousands like they did back in July of 2007 when the first iPhone hit the market, it's not a reason to invest in AAPL. I don't even see it as a game-changer for Apple, though some investors do.

While the new iPhone is indeed better in most ways - the inclusion of FaceTime video chat, a 5 mega pixel camera, 802.11n Wi-Fi and a 25% decrease in its thickness - we're getting to the point now these technological leaps are less and less impressive. In other words, it's not improved enough to justify an upgrade for current iPhone users. If anyone was on the Android/iPhone fence, then the newest version doesn't exactly seal the deal. (Find out why some companies thrive while others flounder, read Economic Moats: A Successful Company's Best Defense.)

Bottom Line
I'm a fan of Apple's stuff, but I'm also a long-time student of the market. I've seen many companies 'upgrade' product lines, but the hype and news behind the upgrade is often bigger than the upgrade itself; consumers catch on to that kind of thing pretty quickly. I can't help but wonder if Apple is getting to that point. We've not seen anything actually 'new' from them in a while. The iPad is (let's face it) just a really big iPhone. The fact that Android is gaining ground as fast as it is supports this idea.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the company. However, choosing to invest in AAPL solely based on the new iPhone is a pretty flimsy reason. Apple may be discovering that growth is tougher and tougher to come by when you're leading the race. Where's the new stuff, Mr. Jobs?

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