by December 2, 2010 0 comments

Worldwide growth of 886% over last year, says Canalys. Android phone sales at 27% share, overtaking Apple iPhone’s 23% in the US, says Nielsen. Android to match Symbian’s 30% share in 2014, says Gartner.
In sheer impact, Google’s young smartphone OS was the top technology of 2010.
So should we in India be really excited, with smartphones at under five percent of the mobile installed base? Well, yes, for by sales value per month, smartphones in India are already be at 20% share, and rising.
In Asia (and the world) every fifth handset sold is a smartphone. And being way more expensive, in terms of sales value smartphones now account for nearly 50% of the Asia market.
So wherefore, the rise of Android?
It ain’t just Google. Windows Mobile is backed by Microsoft, and is almost irrelevant at 5% share and dropping. It’s not just the open source: Linux itself didn’t make it as a successful phone OS, though Android draws from the Linux kernel.
The two together, however, made a difference. Handset vendors were keenly looking for an alternative to take on the iPhone, and they saw it neither in the fuddy-duddy, Nokia-owned Symbian for which touch-screen support was an afterthought, nor in Microsoft’s honey-I-shrunk-the-desktop Windows mobile. A

Google-back open-source alternative sounded great, especially one with great touch-screen support.
Then there’s the apps. Google was able to convince the developer community that Android was their future, and they jumped into the fray with 100,000 apps. This closely matched Apple’s success with iPhone apps. But Apple tightly controls AppStore access. Android brings to the phone world what Windows users are so used to in the PC world: a huge ecosystem of free, shareware and paid apps.
As the PC vs Mac story replays itself in the phone world (but with Google replacing Microsoft), the parallels are clear.
Apple owns the hardware and software, tightly integrated, tightly controlled. Controlling most elements of the pie means Apple gets the most profits. And Apple chooses to keep the iPhone upmarket, and expensive, with very few model variants. Its sheer desirability and the brand command the premium.
Google, however, released Android under the Apache open source license, just as IBM freely allowed the cloning of its 1980s PC. The Android alliance in 2007 included chipset makers Intel, TI, Nvidia and Broadcom, leading handset makers Motorola, Samsung and LG, and operators. A year later, Sony Ericsson, Asustek and Garmin were also onto the Android party, with others.
Android, therefore, becomes a flexible, widely-supported platform for a wide range of phones, with models dropping down the price ladder. iPhone remains Apple-only, and premium, sexy, desirable, and profitable, stabilizing at about 15% market share in the mid- to long-term. BlackBerry too remains proprietary, executive- and work-focused (despite its consumer-model efforts), in the 10-12% share.
So is it Android everywhere? Not for the next five years in India, where 90% phones are in the low-cost category, below Rs 5,000. Nokia dominates, and will stay strong. In fact Symbian is already in some models in that space, unlike any of the other smartphone OSs. Second, executives and enterprises place a premium on email, and that’s where BlackBerry still beats all other hollow-and, importantly, gives a great keyboard with most models. The iPhone remains the most sexy-cool-desirable phone on earth.
And amidst this global battle of the big four, 2011 will see the smartphone, and the mobile app, making their mark in India.

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