Since 2008, a year after the release of the original handset, iPhone has become Apple’s biggest and most important product. The company released the sixth generation model, iPhone 5 this Wednesday in a media event in San Francisco. However, analyst-opinion on the matter is mixed.

Two recent reports from research firms NPD DisplaySearch and Ovum suggest that beating Android will be a tough challenge for Apple. The volume of sales is increasing and so is the demand of Android handsets.

By 2016, NPD quoted, the smartphone shipments will surpass a billion pieces a year. This 75% increase from this year’s estimated 567 Million units.

NPD claims that most of the purchases of iPhone 5 will be as an upgrade from the previous models. It is surely a great product and will certainly force many users to get their hands on it. However, first-time purchases are expected to be low. Around 170 million people will purchase the phone for the first time and the rest 390 are expected to upgrade to it.

The sales are also expected to beat that of iPhone, iPhone 4 and 4S but still Android is the market leader by a thick margin. According to the statistics compiled by ComScore, another research firm, Android had a 52.2% share in the US market versus 33.4% slice to iOS in July.

The margin is expected to thicken if Apple does not redesign its interface, said Ovum.

“Without a redesign of the iOS user experience and underlying software platform in the next two years, Apple will find itself in a position similar to (fast-falling) Nokia  and (BlackBerry maker) Research In Motion, which found themselves with outdated smartphone platforms that needed replacing,” the Ovum report said.

Android phone are manufactured by a number of makers like Samsung, Motorola and HTC while, iPhone is made and marketed by Apple only.

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