This week’s Canalys smartphone sales stats make for nothing but good reading for Google. Android is now number one in the smartphone arena, a little over two years since it was first trailed and barely twelve months after the first truly iPhone-bashing handsets hit the market.
Android grew by an unbelievable 615.1 per cent year on year from Q4 2009 to Q4 2010. It had just 8.7 per cent of the market at the back end of 2009 compared to Nokia’s 44.4 per cent. Now it’s topped out with 32.9 per cent, compared to Nokia’s 30.6 per cent. Apple sits in third with 16 per cent, up 85.9 per cent. This is all the more impressive considering analysts across the board last year predicted that Nokia would retain its number one position until 2012, before Google edged ahead.
Google has done it more quickly thanks to OEMs offering touchscreen phones that rock ace software at low prices, with easy UI’s and excellent connectivity. What’s perhaps more worrying for Apple, RIM, Nokia and Microsoft is that Google hasn’t quite hit its straps yet. The Android Market is nowhere near the finished article, although the mooted announcement of a web-based version is set to give it a timely boost in its battle with Apple’s App Store.
Then there’s the dawning of PlayStation Suite and the possibility of top-end games finally hitting a vast array of Android phones, and not just those made by Sony Ericsson.
Chuck in the forthcoming Honeycomb release, which will see the OS take on a far sleeker and more intuitive look, Google Music, a cloud-based music service accessible on Android devices and NFC-touting hardware set to be revealed at MWC, and it’s easy to see that Google has yet to fully hit its stride.
There are of course issues. Fragmentation remains a concern for avid Google watchers, even if end users are not so worried about which version of the OS they’re running, as long as the hardware is smart and does the business. Then there’s the competition factor, with iOS 5 mere months away, Windows Phone 7 getting updated and Nokia’s MeeGo set for an imminent debut.
Google will always face these issues and will be hampered by OEMs doing as they please with the open source software. But in 2011 and 2012 at least, it’s hard to see anyone touching Mountain View when it comes to smartphone share. Rivals, especially Nokia, need to look and learn very quickly indeed.