There was an air of inevitability surrounding Monday’s news that Android had doubled its market share in the past year.
The figures, from researchers Kantar Worldpanel Comtech reveal Google cornered a whacking 47.1 per cent of the UK smartphone market in August, up from just 22.9 per cent this time last year.
These chime with US stats from NPD released last month, which showed Android taking 52 per cent in the second quarter of 2011. Whichever way you look at it, the open source operating system is storming ahead, while rivals are struggling to keep up. So, why has Android grown so quickly? And is there any way iOS, BlackBerry and Windows Phone can stop it?
The reasons for such rapid growth, and iOS’s relatively weak showing of just 20.8 per cent (down from 28 per cent in 2010), can be put down largely to the lack of a new iPhone this summer.
Apple’s annual cycle has been stretched, with the iPhone 5 not expected to be released until the first week of October. That’s certainly an important aspect and one that should not be overlooked.
But why the huge jump? Quite simply, the breadth and quality of Android software and hardware has come on leaps and bounds in 2011.
The Galaxy S2 and HTC Sensation are phones which gazump the iPhone (not to mention Windows Phone and BlackBerry) in many ways, thanks to stunning implementations of the OS and hardware and video recording smarts which are streaks ahead.
There’s also a fantastic array of Android phones available on dirt-cheap packages that still have the latest software and can do many of the same things that their more expensive stablemates can handle (lower-end Galaxy handsets and HTC’s Wildfire S being great examples).
So, can Android be caught? It’s unlikely. But it’s also unlikely to maintain such an imperious lead as 2011 comes to a close.
Apple should be able to fire back in two ways. Firstly, with the iPhone 5. But more importantly with the rumoured iPhone 4S, the budget version of the current iPhone.
Getting more punters into the iOS ecosystem at a knockdown price is Apple’s best bet if it wants to claw back lost market share. Windows Phone may take the odd percentage point, but while its usability is not in question, Microsoft’s penetration remains woefully small.
The fact the OS can’t be customised and is tightly controlled does not appeal as much to OEMs as Android. Conversely Google’s loose controls over its OS means it can find its way into areas of the mobile market that others can’t get to. Android domination can be checked. But there’s very little chance it can be stopped