The market research giant Gartner published this month their annual market share data figures for global mobile phone sales. The results show that Android is now the second most used OS for smart phones on the planet(1). According to Gartner, Android increased its market share from 3.9% in 2009 to a whopping 22.7% in 2010(2). This massive jump in OS uptake is in line with the successes of Taiwanese firm HTC and the Korean giant Samsung who have been rolling out hugely popular Android-based smart phones in 2010. The HTC Desire HD and the Samsung Galaxy S won many plaudits during 2009/10, including T3 Award for Best Phone 2010 for the HTC Desire HD and EISA Award for best Smart phone 2010 went to the Samsung Galaxy S. The success of top spec handsets and the newly updated version of Android 2.2 resulted in a huge explosion of sales in 2010. Android phones in 2009 sold in total 6,7 million units worldwide yet, partly due to these new phones and OS update, in 2010 sold a total of 67.2 million units globally(3).
The Gartner results indicate Android is the 2nd most used Smart phone OS in the world with Symbian as number one and RIM Blackberry OS and Apple's iOS respectively third and fourth(4). But this research has been overshadowed by the findings of Canalys a US Tech Market Research Firm whose findings indicate that in Q4 2010 Android in fact overtook Symbian to become the market leader in the Smart phone OS market(5). Research by Canalys now indicates that in Q4 of 2010, Android captured 32.9% of the market(6). This growth can be attributed to Google's ingenious licencing structure, whereby Android is free to phone manufacturers without any software constraints. The handset controls of Apple and Blackberry mean third-party generic manufacturing is legally impossible and as such this means Blackberry, Apple and Nokia (Symbian) are stuck within a rigid framework of phone handset manufacturing and OS distribution. But Google's Android OS is free from such rigid handset licensing rules and as a result has allowed companies to release Android handsets with ease. And this has resulted in Samsung and LG being respectively, according to Gartner's Q1234 Research findings, being the second and third largest handset manufacturers in the world and only behind Nokia as handset market leader(7).
Yet, Symbian has lost ground, according Gartner, during 2010 who has seen on average nearly 7.5% of its market share disappear and seeing this market share being picked up by HTC, Motorola and Samsung whose flagship devices are all Android smart phones(8). But this research doesn't answer the question of why Apple and Blackberry have a 'perceived' image monopoly over Android. It is true that Google's first mobile phone which incorporated Android which was called the 'nexus' smart phone was met with industry-wide derision(9). And because there is no 'pure' Android handset, the Google phone was never meant to be the 'be all and end all' and this is the problem which surrounds Android this apparent lack of a central 'symbolic' phone.
Android is according to Wikipedia, Google and ZNet (A Range of Sources there!) a linux-based open handset alliance OS which has allowed it to be freely distributed and 'tweaked' by manufacturers. HTC develops Android with its own GUI (Graphical User Interface) called HTC Sense UI whilst Samsung uses Sentio UI. These Android smart phones incorporate the technical, media, memory and application-base of Android whilst creating different, yet, similar GUI environments. This does not happen with, for example, the Blackberry if one purchases a Bold, Curve, Storm or Torch the OS environment is identical (OS variants aside). But these differences along with a lack of an 'iconic' Android smart phone has resulted in Android being displaced as a mere OS as oppose to the Blackberry/Apple phenomenon which surrounds the primacy of the handset.
What Gartner/Canalys and Nielsen(11) have pinpointed is that consumer perceptions are shifting from handset to OS. This can be seen in Nielsen's research findings that 80% of consumers in Q1 of 2010 chose Android as their next phone. The apparent lack of a 'symbolic' Google handsets is in fact a bonus for Android. It has allowed Android to mature and develop a collection of handsets which suit all kinds of smart phone users. This is the edge it has over others, as an OS without a specific handset, like Blackberry and Apple. According to Nielsen, smart phones have a gender balance issue. For example, the Apple is a predominantly male handset with a 57% male sales figure whilst the BlackBerry has a predominantly female ownership figure of 54%. The Android has developed a gender neutral following which is important in developing and nurturing public perceptions of the OS and the handsets too(12).
Yet Nokia's Symbian is the biggest selling OS in the world primarily because of its sales to developing countries in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Far East. These territories haven't yet developed the full telephony capabilities whereby Android, BlackBerry or Apple are fully supported. This technical matter aside, Nokia have recently made a partnership with Microsoft. This is important as Microsoft has failed with successive Windows Mobile OS variants and its current Windows Phone 7 OS has been met with fanfare. This partnership means Microsoft, who has 4.7% market share in Q4 2010, and Nokia, who is 2nd/1st depending on whose research is used as the world's number one best selling handset supplier, will create a partnership that will be a force to be reckoned with.
Apple will be releasing the iPhone 5 in 2011 and BlackBerry is releasing its next-gen Bold variant with touch screen technology. The fanfare behind both will be huge and so will the media hype yet 2011 bodes well for Android too.
'Gingerbread' has been released with an improved 'Soft Key' Keyboard along with Flash and improved PDF support. The Android 2.3 will make HTC Desire HD or Samsung Galaxy X perform incredible media and entertainment feats for a smart phone. But all eyes are on the tablet-version of Android 3 called 'Honeycomb' which will also get a mobile release in 2011. Sony Ericsson, Motorola and HTC have Android-based Handsets being released in 2011. And as such all of this will make 2011 an interesting year for Android OS.