Google Android phone on display at the Google conference in San Francisco, Thursday, May 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
With Google's Android Market brimming with more than 200,000 applications and expanding into 20 different countries, is it only a matter of time before Google takes over the mobile industry? Some reporters, like Fortune's Seth Weintraub predict a global shift to cheap ($100) smartphones (namely because of Broadcom's news release that it will create "mass-market" Android smartphones.) Once the developing world's middle class can afford one, the die will be cast.
In the United States, despite pricey smartphones and two-year contracts, the Android system continues to grow. Apple iPhone users accounted for 24.6 percent of all smartphone subscribers and Android users were 23.5 percent from August to October 2010, according to ComScore. Those are close numbers until you realize that iPhone subscribers rose only 0.8 percent from July, while Android users jumped 6.5 percent.(Research in Motion's BlackBerry line still ranks No. 1 for all smartphones in the United States, but that number has been steadily declining.)
Others take issue that Google is not creating the best user experience, but rather just an adequate one. That it's following a strategy of pulling eyeballs by offering whatever free stuff it can, selling off information to advertisers and offering lucrative returns to investors. Apple, on the other hand, may be more expensive but is "the price . . .users pay to be delighted by Apple’s stream of innovations and to be free of the lowest common denominator burdens and the pervasive harvesting of their personal info." (Ugh, there wasn't even a pretense of objectivity there.)
So, what does it all mean? It means that Android and iOS users are passionate about their views, and that obviously both platforms offer different experiences. (Full disclosure: I own and use a PC and a Droid 2, so I'm not an Apple fan, but I understand why people enjoy the devices. They are extremely intuitive and user-friendly. Android devices are less so but ofter less restrictions and more independence. Perhaps that's why I like cats more than dogs.)
However, I think the real reason Android will explode is that Apple's iOS is available only on a few devices -- namely Apple's own machines. Google's platform is used by several makers, notably Motorola, Samsung and LG, the top three mobile manufacturers nationwide. Globally, manufacturers will be even more diverse, and the number of devices will grow and multiply until they leave the iOS in the dust. Does that make Android better? No, but it certainly makes it much more lucrative and more globally relevant..If Apple wants to be part of that global market, it will have to price itself accordingly.