ARCore Will Reach 3.6 Billion Phones by 2020

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Just like Apple’s June ARkit launch, Google’s recent ARCore unveiling has bred lots of interest its addressable market. And just like with ARkit, ARtillry has applied best practices in market sizing and forecasting to pinpoint that figure.

The verdict: There are 26.5 million ARCore-compatible  phones today, growing to 71.5 million by the end of 2017. Based on the size of the Android universe, this will quickly accelerate over the next few years, reaching 3.6 billion units (92 percent Android coverage) by 2020.

How did they arrive on these figures? The starting point is ARCore’s current compatibility, limited to Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8, running Android 7.0 (Nougat) or greater. Looking at cumulative sales figures for both devices, we’re at roughly 26.5 million total units in market.

But that’s the easy part. The hard part is projecting forward. Based largely on the size of the overall Android installed base — 2.9 billion global devices today, growing to 3.8 billion by 2020 — number crunching ensued. One key forecast input is upgrade cycles in the Android Universe.

About 16 percent of Android devices usually run OS versions released in the prior year, while 32 percent run versions older than one year, 29 percent older than two years, 15 percent older than three years, and 8 percent older than four years (hence ARCore’s lack of full coverage in 2020).

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There was also a major hint from Google: The company noted in ARCore’ introduction that it’s working towards a goal of 100 million compatible phones — including Huawei, Asus and LG — when the platform launches. It didn’t provide a date but we’re predicting Q1 2018.

Stepping back, one takeaway is that ARkit has a slight advantage in being first to market with a head start in developers’ invested time. But the lifespan of AR will eventually diminish Apple’s three-month head start. Greater developer attraction will ultimately come from platform reach.

Apple also has a near-term lead in the installed base of ARkit-compatible iPhones (380M), but one hardware replacement cycle (2.5 years) will give most smartphones AR-compatible optics and processing. And the Android universe exceeds iOS, by more than two billion units.

Other points of differentiation come down each platform’s approach for delivering AR. Apple’s DNA is an app based framework, while Google’s web-based DNA will be reflected in its use of Web AR. The latter could have less friction (in addition to more scale), as we’ve examined.

There is of course a lot more to these competitive dynamics and addressable market sizes, and they'll be included in ARtillry Insights' latest report, available tomorrow. It will take a deeper dive on ARCore and ARkit, and the strategic implications for everyone. Subscribe here.

For a deeper dive on AR & VR insights, subscribe to ARtillry Insights. See ARtillry's market-sizing and forecasting credentials here. 

Mike Boland

Michael Boland is Chief Analyst and VP of Content for BIA/Kelsey, covering online and mobile media. Mike is a frequent speaker at top industry conferences such as BIA/Kelsey events, Search Engine Strategies, ad:tech, and WHERE 2.0. He has authored in-depth reports on the changing local media landscape including online video, social networking and mobile. He contributes regularly to highly read online news sources such as Business Insider and the Huffington Post. A trusted source for reporters covering the interactive media space, his comments have appeared in major news and trade media, including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Forbes. Previously he was a San Francisco-based freelance writer for business and technology magazines, such as Red Herring, Business 2.0, and Mobile Magazine. Mike began his career in business analysis and journalism as a staff reporter for Forbes magazine, where he covered tech & media.