Android is Eating the World

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Benedict Evans has a must read slide deck from his mobile is eating the world presentation. I’m going to piggyback on his title a little and tackle the narrative that Android is eating the world. It is the narrative that is hard to escape and it would be a significant point if it was a unified version of Android which was eating the world. However, when you take a step back, and view Android in the big picture, you learn it is in fact an extremely fragmented Android which is eating the world.

I’m fond of saying that Android in its purest form is not a platform. It is a technology which enables companies to create platforms. Samsung is using Android to create a platform. Amazon has used Android to create a platform. Nearly every major OEM in China is using Android to create a platform. ((There are 100 different app stores in China based on Android. 20 of them are the major players and each has its own billing and certification process)) And Google is using Android to create a Google specific platform. ((Consumer behavior, by way of app download trends and purchasing vary greatly by each app store)) All of these companies and more are taking Android to create their own platform and their own ecosystems. There is no single unified Android codebase which is dominating the world. There is no single Android app store, there is no single Android ecosystem. What does exist is a vast array of different platforms and different ecosystem running this underlying kernel called Android.

Where I think the confusion in the Android is eating the world narrative exists is the line of thinking that Google = Android. That every bit of the Android is winning narrative is a narrative that benefits Google. This view represents a clear mis-understanding of Android and what it is and why it exists.

The Role of the Android Platform

There is only one company in the market right now that does not need platform assistance from a third party. That is Apple. Every other hardware company needs a third party to provide them with software to run on their hardware. Microsoft has been this company for most of the computing era. Google, with Android, has provided the Microsoft alternative to the mobile world. Hardware OEMs need this third party software support because they need a company to provide a platform and standards support for a wide variety of technologies.

However between the two, Android offers to hardware OEMs what Microsoft does not, the ability to differentiate. Ship Windows or Windows Phone and your product from a software standpoint is no different from your competitors. Which means your basis to compete is extremely limited to form and price. Android, on the other hand, allows hardware companies to take the platform which Google is supporting with standards and driver support and customize it in a way to offer some level of visual and feature differentiation at a software level. Microsoft is providing a standardized unified platform. Google is providing a standardized platform to create other platforms / ecosystems. These solutions are very different and enable entirely different ecosystems.

The Multiple Android Markets

I wrote a few weeks ago about how Android is enabling appliance electronics to get more intelligent. In this regard, Android is very similar to embedded Linux. Android is likely poised to power refrigerators, thermostats, coffee pots, robots, you name it. Android as a platform in this regard is very interesting. But again this the embedded version of Android not the one that powers smartphones, tablets, TVs, etc. That is a very different Android. This version of Android is the most interesting to me.

The other Android market is the one for products like smartphones and tablets. This market is the one that garners the most attention. Yet when you look at Android’s smartphone and tablet market share you see that the bulk of it is made up from devices that are considered in the mid-low range of price points. Android’s share of premium handsets is very small, less than 15% globally. The vast majority of Android’s market share rise over the past few quarters has come from the low-end or devices costing wholesale less than $250. ((Creative Strategies, Inc estimates.))

The same is true in tablets where last quarter Android white box tablets costing less than $100 made up just over 30% of device shipments. ((IDC estimates.))

Looking at the share of devices at certain price points, and what OS they run, it is clear that Android owns the low-end and Apple owns the high-end. In many emerging markets there will be a battle for the mid-range between Apple and Android OEMs. Looking at Android in this light highlights its importance. Had Google not released Android what platform would have risen to serve the low-end? Android is in fact helping develop, developing parts of the world. From a technology standpoint, Android’s role in helping to develop emerging markets is in fact a good thing.

So while is true that Android is eating the world, it is doing so in a very non-unified way outside of driver and standards support. This adds to the level of complexity to any analysis about Android. Android is eating the world but what is interesting is that not only Google owns Android. Android is owned by all and benefit all in entirely different ways.

When you take a step back you realize that we have never had anything quite like Android before. While we may make assumptions about what Google may do with their version of Android, we can’t make the same assumptions with what other hardware companies will do with their version of Android. To keep enabling this multiplicity of Android ecosystems all Google simply has to do is keep up with driver and standards support. Perhaps this was the point of Android all along.

What remains unclear is how Google can benefit, which may not be the point or even necessary, from the landscape Android is enabling. They have all but given up in China. iOS devices are worth more to them in every major developed market. They would of course love to see this change but there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. So Android dominants the low-end of the tablet and smartphone market and commodity connected electronics. Time will tell in what ways this benefits Google. But as I mentioned, it may not the point of Android or even necessary for Google.

Google does not equal Android. You understand this when you can see the forest in the trees.

Published by

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

99 thoughts on “Android is Eating the World”

  1. Nice article, Ben. I’ve really been enjoying your recent podcasts at Vector and Cubed, too.

    You can’t compare two things until you’ve defined the things you’re comparing. iOS is easy. Android is an amorphous blob that no one seems to have a handle on.

    Sure makes analysis interesting… 🙂

    1. I like the “amorphous blob” description. Once it went out “open” you could faintly hear Dr. Franenstein saying “It’s Alive!”

  2. Just as a thought experiment, what if Apple released a “platform” that would do for OEM’s what Android is doing? What if they did that for the internet of things only?

    1. What is Android doing for OEM’s? Not much. They are all losing money except for Samsung and Samsung won’t say how much they are making. Wonder why that is…

      1. The Internet of things will be rather big and could potentially be very fragmented with different protocols and mechanisms that silo the devices. A standard will emerge and if Apple doesn’t get involved it will be a standard that could marginalize Apple products. If they could qualify as some kind of iOS variant it would be interesting to see how these devices would be counted.

    2. The “Internet of Things” is probably iBeacons and/or Siri – once Apple gets all those pesky kinks worked out – though they are a great band!

  3. it’s weird Ben, that even in 2013 as an analysis you still do not understand how Google makes money with Android.

    The last time I remember, there was over 1 billion and counting certified Google android device out there, without even counting Amazon and all the cheap Chinese OEM that you like to focus on as a way to minimize Android dominance and that 1 billion is twice that of Apple

    when you said that Apple controls the high-end segment, what do you make of the fact that Samsung is the only OEM to successfully sell the most expensive phone on the market

    1. I’m actually intimately aware of how Google makes money, or tries to at least, with Android. Given your statement I’m not actually sure you understand how Google makes money with Android. The answer is it is not much. As evidenced by many recent lawsuit data where lawyers laid it out. But the bottom line for Google is they are not getting the value out of search monetarily, and play store revenue to them is much less than Apple gets even with 350 million (iOS has an active install base of 650 million while the billion you figure you use for Android is activations not active install base, which we don’t actually know but I am certain it is less than a billion given Android device churn of the low end.)

      You can use the angle that Google is gathering data, however, that assumes a high usage level which is not what we see when you look at usage trends in many emerging markets and the low-end segment where the bulk of Google’s Android base is.

      Again, the fact that they make significantly more money on iOS than Android is a very telling statistic. It speaks to usage, actual revenue and more disparity on Android and iOS.

      I have as much data on this as anyone, and my goal was not to knock Android but in fact help people to see the forest in the trees of what it is doing in the market. Android has helped develop markets and this is important. But Google does not have control of it, and to my point, that isn’t necessary. Android is an embedded technology that allows people to do what they want with it. This is a good thing. It doesn’t need to be about Google.

      And congrats to Samsung on releasing the most expensive phone on the market. Unfortunately it isn’t selling in huge volume comparatively to other devices and price segments.

      1. 1 -Ben can you please show me the evidence that said Google make more money on iOS vs Android?

        2 – As many as said Before Google is an advertising company that make money on people using the web hence It’s not about smartphone and tablet rather about making money on users using the web more,

        it is very ridicule from many of you to keep on saying that Google doesn’t make money on android when you actually have no clue of what they are doing.

        3- Google doesn’t have to control the mobile market because it is so huge that the idea that one company controlling everything in my opinion is absurd

        4- the 650 million IOS that you are talking about is a Spin because a huge chunk of that are made of IPod and very old version of iPhone which in term of capacity is on par to any cheap android device from China

        5- the 1 billion Android activation are certified Google with Bundle Apps install

        6- Samsung Galaxy Note is a Huge success

        1. #1: In lawsuits last year court recorders reported that Google disclosed they made 4x the amount of money on iOS than from Android. Now, while I’m sure it is not 4X any longer, I am confident it is at least 2X if not 3x. The reason I know this is because, as you say, Google makes money from web search primarily therefore will make the most money on the platform that has the higher web usage. Right now that is iOS. With Statcounter and NetMarket share recording at least 2x higher web usage on iOS than Android on a world wide level. Therefore, easily, when it comes to Google’s advertising strategy of monetizing search, displaying search ads, etc., it is easy to conclude that Google will make more money on iOS than Android.

          As I pointed, out the bulk of Android devices are in use today are in the sub $250 category. This group does has caps and can not spend much to liberally browse the web. Nor do they have home wifi. So as you can see there is not much web browsing being done just simply because they can’t afford it. Someday perhaps they will but I’m painting the picture as it is right now.

          #4 No that is not a spin, iPod’s contribute almost nothing to that number. It is made of iPhones being in use for multiple years and iPad. Unless you have hard statistics to back it up. I have a wealth of data to the contrary.

          #5 – Show me the evidence where Google stated these were active devices in use?

          #6 You are projecting your own grand ideas on this. The Note has sold approx 40 million with over half of those sold in S. Korea in Samung’s home country. This means less than 20m are in use outside of S. Korea and less than 4m are in use in the United states. I see actual data from carriers on device sales so this is not a debate you will.

          Keep in mind, I am not just wildly speculating about of this. I have as much data as any firm on global economics and technology statistics. That data I have informs how I do industry analysis. So while much of my data is not for public (free) consumption, it tells a very different story than the one you are trying to latch on to.

          Again, my point of this column was not to knock Android. I’m glad it is in the market and that it is helping bring affordable mobile devices to the masses. My point is that the belief that Android = Google is a weak understanding of what Android is and what it is doing on a world wide basis.

          1. Your last point is spot on! Because Android Google, and not under ONE company’s control is a large part of it’s appeal.

          2. Exactly, and in fact that is what makes it quite powerful and interesting. It can and will be used for things we haven’t thought about yet that are important to technology. What matters, however, is that someone (hopefully Google, or the community) maintain consistent driver and standards support.

            This is quite the undertaking and one I’m not sure Google anticipated.

          3. I think Google is still happy, though, as long as a lot of consumers are using devices where Google Search is the default and can’t be trivially turned off by someone in Cupertino (e.g.) deciding that it’s time to switch search providers.

            That’s all Android ever really was, in business terms: insurance on the mobile search (and ads) provider industry.

            Android’s decentralization means no one person can cut Google out.

          4. That is true, except in the case of China where Google has been essentially cut out and blocked from 90% of the Android devices in use there. Android in China is something completely different. It is a platform that uses Android but does nothing for the so called moat for Google services.

            This is one example of many where the forks of Android are creating separate ecosystems that do nothing for Google. But these devices aren’t running Windows phone. So that is a key point also. I’d guess Google would rather they run Android and get no benefit from it than run a competitors OS.

          5. First of all I do not consider what some defence lawyer say in court as hard facts, given that there was no clear number to back it up

            2- Android enable Google to make a lot of money on the web with people using their computers etc. in so many that is difficult for you to quantify with regular metric, unless you are an insider at Google.

            4 I do not consider web usage statistic to be precise, because they rely on plugin that only a small number of people will install on their phone.

            3- the Galaxy Note is a Huge success 40 million in 2 year at 299$ which is close to half the number of Iphone 5 sold worldwide without taking into account more than 150 and + million galaxy S3 & S4,

            4- Samsung and Apple are both dependent on their domestic market to be a dominant player therefore there is no big difference between the two

            5- those who think that Google need to control Android entirely to be successful are absurd

            6- can you show me the evidence that proves that Apple has 700 million users from iPhone and iPad?

          6. How do you expect anyone to take you seriously when you’re so sloppy you put 4 before 3 and use 4 twice?

          7. 1: Cumulative iOS sales surpassed 700 million last month. Based on the evidence of 2-3 year life cycles of Apple products, including the large secondary market, meaning devices that were traded in or sold after market going to verticals using them for specific tasks, it is easy to assume that that a % of of those are still in use. Nearly all estimates I see peg it at 500 million to your point, however, given the after market sales data I see in channels I can safely add estimates of 100 million at a minimum to that number. That is why I use the 650 approximate estimate due to the bulk of volume coming in the past three years. Feel free to disagree but these are my educated estimates based on market data.

            2. Show me hard data you trust on the exact break down of revenue for Google as well as how it is helping others make large sums of money. Samsung makes the most of all Android vendors and all recent financial data shows Apple and Samsung the only two companies making money in mobile.

            3. It is going to be very difficult for us to have an intellectual debate using hard statistics and data if you choose to subjectively believe some and data and not others at will. You can object to data just because it doesn’t fit your opinion. But you will need to present a very good reason to not. Web data that I trust and use tracks hundreds of millions of impressions on every continent. Hard to argue with that level of data. So this is a non-debate IMO. I don’t know anyone in the industry that has a problem with this data and I work with the most senior folks throughout the entire ecosystem.

            4. Incorrect, Apple is growing outside of the US more quickly than here at all tiers. While it is slow it is still growing. India and China are great examples.

            5. I never said Google needs to be in control of Android. I just said they need to maintain driver support to enable Android to also be the embedded platform for the Internet of Things.

            Again, I don’t know what you are really disagreeing with since this article was not a knock on Android just a view of what it is doing on the global market. I’ve pointed out the important and valuable things it is doing and you seem to be just getting hung up on one part and not seeing the whole picture.

          8. 1- the 700 million number are IOS base which include IPod Touch that also run on IOS.

            2- Just as you i am not a Google insider therefore i cannot claim that their not making any money on Android simply because a defence Lawyer said so in a court.
            i prefer to look at their financial performance since their introduce android and many other aspect which by the way point to a different story

            why do you think their stock has more than doubled since android?

            3 – is not that i do not believe in these stats,
            they just are not sufficient enough as a metric to have a clear idea of ​​the use of almost 3-4 billion people on the web, there are many other factors that you rarely take into consideration, before spinning on it to make your point.

            4 – i never said otherwise
            I was referring to your comment, trying to minimize the success of the Galaxy Note by saying that half the sales come from South Korea their home market when in fact that same reality exist for Apple in the US as well.

            5 – my point was with many of your comments about the fact that Apple controls the high-end segment of the mobile phone market, which is untrue, because the sale of the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, Note over the last two year was on par with that of the iPhone 4S,5,5S 5C.

          9. Google’s stock has nothing to do with Android. Google does not give out their revenue breakdowns of Android so investors likely would not know it. Google’s stock affirmation has everything to do with their services not Android. Wall St. believes Google has no competition, in search and other core services, so they are a sound investment. It has nothing to do with android.

            S3, S4, and Note sales have not been on par with 4S, 5s, or 5C.

          10. 1 – that’s ridicule
            that’s Like saying Google’s stock has nothing to do with YouTube, Gmail, Google map, Chrome, calendar etc.. since investors likely would not know about them because Google does not give out their revenue breakdowns

            2- they’re close in total sells

          11. Delusional fan-boi, enough already. No need to dig the hole you are standing in any deeper, you are embarrassing yourself with incoherent rambling and non-points. Data is not on your side, therefore your argument is moot.

          12. Kenny – crawl out of your box (or basement?) … there is a big wide world out there. So far Android and Motorola Mobility have been (huge?) drains on Google’s money … though I think Google’s Android play – over all – is sound (probably).

          13. Kenny, if you’re irrational enough to say Samsung lied in court about their own numbers, committing perjury, then why wouldn’t you believe everything else Samsung says is a lie?

            You’re just lacking any credibility, when you selectively grant credibility to whatever you want to believe, while dismissing people who actually deal directly with these firms, carriers, and other industry inside sources, such as Ben Bajarin.

          14. You’re being patient, and doing a fine job. But this guy has his nose pressed against one tree, so he’ll never admit to the forest.

        2. Even when the author can provide you with facts and unbiased opinions, you argue. It is like talking to a hardcore Windows guy who, in 2013, will do his best to convince you that Macs have no software, cannot right-click, etc. Just spouting nonsense.

    2. “what do you make of the fact that Samsung is the only OEM to successfully sell the most expensive phone on the market”

      It’s weird Kenny, that even in 2013 an an analysis you still have not heard of Vertu.

      As I posted elsewhere in this thread, according to Samsung’s lawyer, they make less than $5 in profit on their smartphones. That’s on par with Lenovo only making about $10 a PC.

    3. From Kenny, “last time I remember, there was over 1 billion and counting certified Google android device out there…”
      Who, pray tell certifies all these devices? What happens when they are:
      1) returned
      2) tossed in the trash
      3) tossed out the window
      4) discarded
      5) fail/break down
      6) forgotten

  4. Another excellent piece.

    Android is the software enabler for all sorts of devices. Although as you point out this diversity of differentiation will not help Android as establishing widely held standards. Thats not a problems though for the inexpensive devices it services it will do fine. Most of these devices are use as they are until they die or the user has the restless urge for something new and different.

    Android’s success on the low end will only further the fragmentation that we are already seeing in the Android smartphones. I suspect Google will try to reboot their smartphone efforts with a Chrome Phone at some point. With a browser based phone they can steer more traffic their way.

    Apple on the other hand will NEVER license iOS. That is a race to the bottom, and not a one horse race at this point. When Windows effectively commoditized the PC Microsoft had no competition. They defined the bottom such that they could profit at will. Mobile was lost to Microsoft the moment Android was released for free.

    What is left for Microsoft? Samsung has taken some of the high end and most of the middle.

    1. mobile industry is huge, there is still a lot of potential for Microsoft to become the third or even the second platform after Android and still be very successful

      1. Yes its large. Microsoft is hoping that the acquisition of Nokia will allow them to carve out a profitable space in mobile. I still think Microsoft has to really improve Windows Mobile in a way that will give them momentum. I am not a fan of the tiled interface but, at least it is different. Differentiation is a great thing if enough people like what makes you stand out from others. Tiles do little for me.

  5. Well thought out, but….

    -We’re getting lost in the language and semantics. Among other things, OS’s are a platform for running applications. What Jobs (and you) call fragmentation used to be called different hardware/software requirements. This is nothing new, and it’s ubiquitous. I’m not saying this in a negative way, in this context, even iOS is fragmented. Siri only runs on certain models. iOS7 runs best on certain models. Why? Hardware/software requirements. All post 4 (and most pre 4) Android applications run on all Android devices, provided any necessary hardware is present (say, and SD card). Unless there is ONLY one device per platform, this is a natural state, fragmentation.

    -“There is only one company in the market right now that does not need platform assistance from a third party. That is Apple.”
    Whoa! One of the biggest sellers of iOS (or any platform for that matter) is the application ecosystem. Those hundreds of millions of “Apps” were all written by Apple? I’d say Apple needs it’s development community, those third parties.

    1. Good point. Apple realized it needed developers, in the thousands, and built the App Store economy. What Apple never wants again is a critical, single third party developer, as Microsoft was once, as Adobe was once. With friends like that …

    2. Fragmentation does NOT simply mean “different hardware” requirements. When people say Android is fragmented, they don’t mean that because there’s an assortment of hardware variations on the market. Sure, thats part of it. But thats not why Android is called fragmented. I think Ben did a decent job explaining part of it in this article. There’s a multitude of software ecosystems within the bigger Android picture. Developers releasing applications in the Play Store cannot reach customers in China or elsewhere running “incompatible” (as Google calls it) versions of Android. There’s no consistent UI and user experience.

      However, the biggest issue with this fragmentation mess is the lack of a standardized codebase and API framework. Since the broader Android market is split pretty well among 4 or 5 different versions of Android (Gingerbread, ICS, Jelly Bean, Kit Kat), that means developers can’t just target a single set of frameworks and APIs without avoiding a large segment of the market. If a developer wants to write an application that takes advantage of the latest and greatest APIs and technology that Google has included in the latest Android release, they’re only going to target a very small percent of the install base. So instead, developers will rely on the older frameworks that is guaranteed to reach a larger share of the install base. Not only that, it makes testing and debugging the applications much more complicated. What if your code runs great on Gingerbread, but runs awful on KitKat due to changes Google has made to the codebase. Well, then you’ve gotta figure out how to optimize that.

      Even worse, it is just bad for users and bad for security. Users are not getting timely security patches if their OEM/Carrier is refusing to release any future software updates. Oh yea, there’s also that, where cellular carriers and OEMs can refuse to offer any OS updates to customers. That could be bug fixes, patches, security fixes, or even feature updates.

      So I really fail to see how this can be categorized as anything but “fragmented.” Windows NEVER ran into issues like these, since Microsoft maintained a level of control and consistency for the entire install base. Even customers running XP could receive security patches long after XP was taken off the market.

      1. I understand what you’re saying, but I was perhaps too subtle in my point. If an App requires a specific version of Android to run, that is a software requirement. When Siri requires an iPhone 4s to run, that is a hardware requirement (intentionally limited in software). Just about every App since ICS (and dare I say Gingerbread) runs on every Android device.

        There were programs on DOS/Windows that required specific hardware and software to run. Just about all programs with 386 in their name for instance.

        I do agree with you on the codebase issues. And these don’t exist on iOS? With even fewer devices? Again, if you code past Android 4, you’re in a pretty good place. These have been issues with computers, since the chips were sand…

        As far as timely updates, I completely agree with you. I don’t blame Android, I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the carriers and manufacturers.

        1. Forget timely updates, how about the fact that many android phones never get updated? What incentive does a phone manufacturer have to release updates to a platform that didn’t sell well, or has been replaced with the Johnny-come-lately model? ZERO, there is no money in it for them, it is a losing proposition for both the consumer and the manufacturer.

          This “fragmentation” is an obstacle to Android developers, why invest in developing new apps, or leverage new capabilities of current android code, if a significant percentage of the installed base cannot use it?

          This is where your Apple analogy fails, while the older phone may not be able to use Siri, it can still run the latest iOS version, and accordingly apps which require it. So while that feature may not be available, the consumer still gets the rest. Apple enjoys a very high update rate, it users tend not to lag in this regard.

          1. This might be one of the best rebuttals I ‘ve heard so far.

            Why would a manufacturer update a model that didn’t sell well? Like anything else, it helps establish the reputations, and expectations, of a given brand. If it’s a bottom of the barrel phone it’s one set of expectations, a premium phone has another. Samsung, LG, Motorola, etc. have been rightly slammed for being so slow to update, if at all. Some have improved somewhat. Anyway, the more competition within a given platform, the more choices, the better.

            Forks, “fragments”, versions are not new. My previous post was about the “rebranding” of Hardware/Software requirements as “fragmentation”. What you, more substantively, cover is how it’s handled. That’s more important. Having a central, single provider, that controls the whole ecosystem does indeed make easier to handle, at the expense of perhaps not having your new application approved. So you invest your time, talent, and treasure, and you “takes your chances”.

        2. New technology in hardware comes along all the time. The 5S has a fingerprint scanner. A feature of the OS deals with it. That doesn’t mean the iPhone userbase is fragmented, nor does it mean that those users without a 5S are getting a “crippled” version of iOS 7. Most iPhones will simply act as though that one particular feature doesn’t exist. 5S users get everything, PLUS what’s new.

          Just about every app written TODAY runs on every iPhone too — because most phones are on iOS 7, or certainly iOS 6. There may be a few apps whose main function, whose reason to exist, revolves around a specific hardware feature.

          The point about Android is that developers NOW can’t write an app that uses the latest APIs and features without missing out MOST of the userbase. So, as you note, they target an earlier OS version or set of APIs to ensure that most Android phones can run it! Glad you agree! And you act like this is a FEATURE?

          1. If you say I’m coming across as if it were a feature is probably because:

            -These are problems that affect all ecosystems to varying degrees. So only Apple has license to use their latest and greatest OS as a reason to upgrade?

            -Most of 4.4’s improvements are efficiencies in how existing functions work. I can’t tell you just how different the API’s are. I don’t know. Care to tell me the difference between API’s on iOS 7 and 7.0x? 6 and 7? Just how much more limited is an iOS 5 user over a 7 user?

            -Multiple manufacturers providing multiple devices is a feature. It might not be a feature everyone is interested in, but the size of the Android market indicates otherwise. Would many Android users switch to Apple if they could afford it? Probably, but having affordable devices is a feature.

            -You can buy Android apps from multiple vendors, or download an apk (Androids version of dmg) and install it. No jailbreak required.

            -Unless they write malware, Android developers are virtually guaranteed approval in the Play Store. Should that change, then being able to shop elsewhere needs to change too, in which case Android would have another opponent.

          2. “So only Apple has license to use their latest and greatest OS as a reason to upgrade?”

            No, you’ve got it backwards: iOS is free. Rather, a good reason to purchase an iOS device is that Apple cares about your experience and improves it year after year — on the device you purchased; whereby, at the push of a button you will have the latest version of the OS for at least three years, giving new lease of life to your already purchased device. It’s quite simple, and it really is a good selling point.

            Who does the Android user turn to for support? The carrier, the store, the manufacturer, Google? They all pass the buck.

            Re: development on diff OS versions and using various APIs:
            The ins and outs of APIs, the benefits of using the latest APIs, and what real life testing on various devices involves, has been debated all over the place. Suffice to say, one real world example that comes up is that the BBC’s iPlayer Android team is twice or three times the size of its iOS team, and still hasn’t been able to deliver the capability across Android devices that they have had on their iOS app.

          3. I think I need to clarify my comment on “license to upgrade”. It was a semi-cynical response towards all manufacturers (in this case Google and Apple). Of course, I meant to upgrade their device in order to accommodate an updated OS. There’s times when that’s warranted and times when it’s not. It’s more warranted when the hardware can’t keep up with the software, over the situation where a designed obsolescence is built in. I see that happening in both camps.

            iOS is not free. iOS is as free as my steering wheel. Neither is Android, for that matter.

            You’re right about the “passing of the buck” on support. I strive to make parties accountable. In Androids case, it’s the carriers and the manufacturers. That aside, I had the most dismal experience, with no recourse with Apple, while on AppleCare, on a failed iOS upgrade (done on a Mac) on my 3GS. The “genius” said the phone was water damaged and that there was nothing he could do. I won’t go into the whole scene here, but I can point you to where I describe it elsewhere if you like. The short story was… jailbreaking fixed it! It’s the only time I jailbroke a device.

            There’s a larger issue at play here, however. It’s both great and terrible. For all intents and purposes, Apple is their non-corporate customers IT department. It’s great if you like it, and sucks if you don’t. This accomplishes at least two things for Apple. It puts it in a position as the ultimate authority, and it’s perceived as such among “most” customers. Cynically, it also helps Apple save money in support costs by restricting what the device can be used for. Most see that as a positive. I don’t.

            Your point on the benefits of upgrading is well taken. Being an “upgrade junky” myself I get it.

            Regarding development… Of course the BBC’s iPlayer Android team has to be bigger. It supports so many more devices! I sympathize with developer’s to a point, but I’m a customer. Not to be crass, but “earn your money”. The PC is able to accommodate so much more diversity, so I only have so much sympathy.

    3. Look at the rest of the context in that second point: I’m fond of saying that Android in its purest form is not a platform. It
      is a technology which enables companies to create platforms. Samsung is
      using Android to create a platform. Amazon has used Android to create a

      iOS is a platform all by itself; the platform is the base product, and doesn’t include any third-party applications installed by end-users, no matter how much the end-users value those applications.

      The developer ecosystem greatly increases the value of iOS, but it’s not “platform assistance”. The platform itself was All Apple.

      1. Okay, but if we don’t count Apps as an integral part of the ecosystem, which the Apple community in fact brags about, then iOS is truly overrated.

        1. The platform is “all Apple”, but it is the “all Apple” that allows 3rd party applications (apps) to run, so you really (since iOS 2) do not have one without the other.

          Since most (some?) of Android is ‘open’ … other companies, people or groups are able to fork the “plaform” which may or may not allow all other 3rd party apps. Also, because Android is open, the manufacturers have little to no pull with the carriers (or choose not to use their “pull”), which often is why Android phones never see any updates.

          Apple is not nearly perfect – they could and should be much better (and I’m not just talking about iPhone/iPad/iPod (hardware) or iOS/Mac OS X/Darwin (system/kernel/plaform) …

          if anything iOS is under rated. Often the reason given for Android’s superiority is the reason it is not – depending on your point of view (which appears to be lost on many).

          1. True. By the same token, because BSD is open, Apple was able to fork it and develop OSX.

            There are levels of openness. You mentioned them at the topmost level. As you say there is openness in source code such as Linux, Android, BSD, etc.. Android, Windows, and OSX are open at the application level. Anyone can write an application for them without approval. iOS is completely closed.

            Anyway, my comment above was regarding the hypothetical “independence” of Apple from third parties. If there’s a practical independence, it’s because of the controls (and vindictiveness) they employ. Make no mistake about it though, without third party apps, iOS wouldn’t be as successful as it is. They do have thousands of third party partners.

      1. According to Samsung’s lawyer, they only make $4.85 a smartphone, that retails for an average of $330.

        “Samsung argued that it earned “nowhere close” to $3.5 billion on the infringing devices, instead stating that it earned only $52 million. “And that, he says, is what Apple should get in damages,” Mintz reported.”

        The above is from the recent trial, where damages on 10.7M infringing Samsung devices were being debated. Do the math, and you get the average price of an infringing phone was $330, and that Samsung’s average profit was less than $5 a phone.

        Either the Samsung lawyer is a good liar, or Samsung, is making very, very little from Android, and if true, then Microsoft is probably making more on a Samsung Android phone than Samsung is. Of course, I think the Samsung lawyer had his fingers crossed behind his back when he talks.

        1. I followed the trial. Samsung’s lawyers said one thing, their expert tried to support it but Samsung never entered documents to prove that those numbers were true. Facts under oath and legal scrutiny were never provided, just expert estimates, not SEC verifiable truths.

        2. Samsung sells a TON of phones … they may be ‘dollar cost averaging’ their Android phones across the line … and they are probably losing money on a lot of phones, though maybe not the top end phones.

          Also, figures never lie, yet liars always figure… and Samsung never cheats on benchmarks either!

  6. More excellent food for thought.

    Android is free and somewhat resembles iOS. It has enabled hardware manufacturers to try and stay in the Smartphone game. It has expanded to tablets and as platform basis for touch based interfaces. Most people use it because it is free and there are a large number of programmers. It has enabled all sorts of low end products that did not exist before.

    For people who have seen Android as the next Windows there are a few things to keep in mind. Android is free and in a race to the bottom. When Microsoft commoditized the PC first with MS-DOS and later with Windows, Microsoft set the standards and had no meaningful competitors during this commoditization. (Commoditizing is racing to the bottom.) What made this work for Microsoft is that they controlled what was the bottom for themselves since they controlled the software standards, not for the Hardware manufacturers. Microsoft set the licencse fees and terms raking in Billions of $$$.

    A few points to consider here.

    First Apple will NEVER license iOS and enter a race to the bottom.

    Second Microsoft lost Mobile the very day the Android was put out on a so called open license. Can they get back in? I think that Windows mobile will have to get a lot better, MS will have to make their own hardware, and they must draw in a lot more people into their ecosystem. Where in the Smartphone market can they effectively compete? The high end is owned by Apple and to a lesser extent Samsung. Samsung dominates the middle and is at the low end too. Where can they wedge in??

    Is Oracle’s infringement appeal against Google over mobile Java the best hope for MS? I don’t think so. I think that even if Oracle wins in the end, the cat is out of the bag. Android will continue beyond Google in places on the Earth where Intellectual Property rights effectively do not exist.

    1. Where Microsoft is going to win in mobile is in payments for patents that they hold and every Android OEM will have to pay. So ultimately it may not end up mattering if Windows Phone 8 or Windows RT does well at all. Microsoft still will be making Billions anyways.

      1. Yes theres money there where there is legal protection for Intellectual Property. Microsoft has pride at stake as well as $$$. Intel also wants the Mobile world to use x86 despite evidence to the contrary. Intel can’t make money off Android unless it can convert the Mobile Android world to a 64 bit Atom base.

        Intel continues to pass up the enormously profitable opportunity to become Apple’s mobile fab.

        1. Yes. That is true. I should have not said every Android OEM as I am sure that in places like China it will be hard for Microsoft to collect on their Intellectual Property. I also agree that Microsoft has $$$ at steak, however i am not sure about the pride thing.

          In regards to Intel, Yes. They do have a problem as the world beyond x86 Desktops and Laptops is being built on ARM chips and not Intel chips. Also, I do not see Intel being able to change Mobile Android to 64 bit Atom base as I think that battle is over. For now, the market has spoken and it is an ARM and Android world.

          I also do not get why Intel has not become a mobile fab for Apple. In this case I can go with the pride thing as I think that it would be a sign that they are not confident that their x86 technology can scale down to mobile in numbers that matter to the market. I think that Intel still thinks that they can get back in the mobile game. The thing is that at the end of the day business is about making money and hard choices do have to be maid. If that means that x86 is not the future for Intel but ARM designed chips, so be it. They have the fab’s and the know how. Not only that but I am sure that Apple would love to move to someone else to provide their mobile chips instead of Samsung. Why prop up your competition?

          No question, Fun times ahead.

          1. I remember reading Intel was going to fab ARM … I’m pretty sure I was not dreaming (or in a nightmare) but I can not find the link.

            Apple designs its own chips. I’m pretty sure Apple bought at least two engineering firms (fabless firms) that design chips. Apple is strong with ARM (pun? – yikes) but they do have their own spin and design. Apple was first out the gate with 64bit ARM while everyone on the Android side was bragging about the (useless) quad core, higher clocked mobile CPUs on in their devices (and fake benchmark scores).

            I also remember Apple telling Intel, early on, that they really needed to reduce the power/thermal issues on their chips… this is when the Mac Book Air was new and large and before mobile started to take over…. back in “olden times”… I wonder if the Atom will fail like Intel’s first 64bit efforts failed (Itanium).


  7. The song that needs to be shouted from the mountain tops here is that Android does not equal Google. These two terms cannot be used interchangeably. They are often confused into meaning the same thing.

  8. For iOS figures, only iPhones and iPads count.
    However, for Android figures, there are a lot of 69€ garbage tablets that are getting registered and will only last for some weeks until they end up getting on a drawer or even stop working.
    Plus, even those android usb sticks to plug into the TV are beying registered as one more Android.

    1. It appears to be so that in China, those incredibly cheap garbage tablets are real tools for watching video and maybe using the internet a little.

      In the West they’re a cheap curiosity with no staying power. In China they (as I understand it) replace a TV.

      (Which is, to be fair, one reason why including them in “Android” and then talking about the Western market – especially on the high end – is misleading.

      They might as well be in different universes, as far as network/ecosystem effects on the competing platforms are concerned.

      But they’re a real product filling a real niche, too.)

    2. About those Android USB sticks reported just recently…

      Has anyone tried to estimate the % of the counted Android marketshare they make up?

  9. I am an Apple user. However, I am glad that Android came along. Competition is necessary to keep companies in check. Without Android, Apple would have had absolute monopoly. Or Microsoft’s system would have been the only alternative. I am glad Android has become the dominant system and unlike Microsoft, Google has done the right thing by offering it free, allowing companies to customize the software to their needs.

    1. I think it would have been Windows. I also don’t think Apple sees all that much competition pressure from Android. I also don’t think Apple has any interest in dominating smartphone use per se. Apple is the luxury brand of smart phones and they seem content to stay that way.

      1. Correct, Apple is not focused on ‘winning’ when measured by market share. When viewed by segment, Apple doesn’t have much competition. But that’s also great for Android. Apple is always going to leave the majority of the market to others. Apple can’t possibly serve a majority of the market, that’s simply too many customers. As we can see, it takes a number of manufacturers to serve that portion of the market. Even Samsung can’t do it alone, they’re what, roughly half of Android, or a bit lower? And Samsung is huge.

        1. Yeah, Apple wants all the profit in smart phones, not all the sales.

          Which is, admittedly, a problem for their competition, since it’s profit, not sales, that keeps a company going.

          (Remember a few years back when HTC was #1? That didn’t last, either. Samsung isn’t safe.

          Hell, Apple isn’t either, in the long run, but they have a different set of worries, in their segment.)

  10. I think this is a vital point that is often missed. Android is, to use the Buffet analogy, the moat around Google search. If a different platform had developed to support mobile then just by pure network effects search could be walled off from Google.
    The biggest benefit Google gets is pure data. The customer of Google is someone who purchases add views. The service they sell is superior targeting of ads. Thus, as long as they know more about me they will gibe me all the free Google goodies I want. To keep me there they demolish any other business that could cut them off from their supply. This is what the moat is about. This is what makes android vital to the consumer.

    This is the problem with Apple. Apple has the control to cut off Google. So, they must make a product superior. Luckily Apple isn’t very good at services. Apple maps will never be superior to Google because in the end it isn’t that important culturally to Apple. Google is about data. Serving data to users is at the core of their business while Apple will always be about hardware first.

    1. Culturally Apple is focused on their customers, and that could mean in the very near future that Apple gets very, very good at services. What then? It’s a dangerous assumption to just write Apple off re: services.

    2. Apple maps are already better. I was plotting a route from southern Netherlands to Amsterdam and Apple showed me two different instances where sections of highway were actually closed, that day, for repair (icon of no-entry sign on the route) and plotted my route through the detour I found was correct when I got there. Google didn’t show the road closed nor the detour route.

  11. In this regard, Android is very similar to embedded Linux. Android is
    likely poised to power refrigerators, thermostats, coffee pots, robots,
    you name it.

    But in those uses, why not just use non-Android Linux?

    If you’re not leveraging the Android APIs for UI/UX purposes, there’s no benefit to using it.

    (There’s already, as I understand user polling, no benefit to the Android Brand, since as far as I can tell only the most tech-geeky customers have any idea what Android actually means – and those users are equally the ones that won’t be real impressed to see Android running their thermostat or coffee pot.)

    (Now, a fridge with a serious UI might well get there easier with the Android API, yes.

    But then there are also very lightweight Linux UI kits now, as well, so… I can see any such product trivially going either way, and away from Android if there’s any licensing fees at all, or if anything becomes simpler in non-Android Linux.)

    1. “Why not just use non-Android Linux?”

      The companies making the refrigerators, washing machines, coffee pots etc already make Android Smartphones aka LG, Samsung, etc…

      Android killed Linux in embedded consumer hardware.

      You can praise or hate Google for that, depending on your own opinions, I have no opinion that segment.

  12. Apple has never released device specific sales broken out by device. So one can not claim that the SIII outsold the 4S on a global scale. What was released was that there was one quarter the SIII sold more than the iPhone. Samsung stopped breaking out quarter devices sales as well shortly after.

    My firm does estimates based on a number of data factors and channel sources but even then only Samsung and Apple know for sure how many they sell of each product. Neither company breaks out specific devices sales but just says how many mobile device they sell in general but not the mix.

    You are also incorrect in that Apple’s sales are declining. They are in fact still increasing on a YoY basis. That growth is slowing, as is Samsung’s but it is not declining.

  13. mobile guy – what has Samsung done that is innovate – besides “innovatively” and blatantly copying of Apple (or anyone else that puts forth a successful product?

    Much of the Android ecosystem is a cheap copy of iOS. Some would argue it has more:
    1) its “open”
    2) its “free”
    3) it has quad core mobile CPU hardware!
    4) it runs Adobe’s ‘Flash’….
    but none of this is really true – except the quad core mobile CPUs, but AFAIK, Android systems do not really take advantage of quad cores … or maybe the batteries drain twice as quick?

    Apple’s sales have only increased. Maybe by some measures their market share has gone down, but that does not mean sales numbers have gone down. I know why you agree with Kenny.

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