Android is not winning

Fragmentation is busy killing Google’s OS, as Apple comes close to outselling Android for the first time.

Sales of Apple iOS and Android smartphones are now neck and neck in the US. According to research outfit NPD Group, iOS phones accounted for 43% of smartphones sold in the US in October and November. Android’s share? 47%. That’s the closest Apple’s operating system has ever been to Google’s “juggernaut”.

But, “Android is winning”.

Yes, Apple’s share of sales in those months (not to be confused with overall market share) would be higher because of the launch of the iPhone 4S. It’s also managed to succeed in the “middle” market by reducing the price of the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS.

It’s these three devices that outsold all others in the US during October and November. That’s more sales than the Samsung Galaxy S II 4G and the Galaxy S – the two phones that helped propel Samsung to a record quarter.

The launch of the Samsung Nexus will no doubt change these rankings for the complete quarter (when December is included). Then again, Apple did see record activations over the holidays.

But, “Android is winning”.

HTC and Motorola’s sales are going backwards. In fact, HTC (the second-largest Android device maker) posted its first profit decline in two years. We don’t know yet how bad Motorola’s results are going to be, but they’re bad enough for the company to have warned about them before their release at the end of January. At least Samsung posted a record quarterly profit (on the back of those completely original smartphones that don’t copy a thing from anyone else).

And, Google’s deal to buy Motorola is up in the air and no one, especially the regulators, knows if it’s actually going to close. If that deal goes through, it’ll be negative for other device makers that have bet on Android. If it doesn’t go through, its arguably bad for Android as a whole too because Google loses the ability to build cohesive devices, focused on tight integration of hardware and software.

And what about that fragmentation?

Not even 1% of Android users are on the latest version (4.0/Ice Cream Sandwich) two months after it launched. In fact, according to Android’s own official stats, that number is 0.6%!

  • More than half (55%) of Android’s active users are on Gingerbread (version 2.3), which was released in December 2010. And none of these users have any hope of ever upgrading to Ice Cream Sandwich (despite what Google tells you).
  • A third of users (30.4%) are stuck on Froyo! That’s an OS that’s 18 months old!
  • And 10% (easily 12 million devices) are somehow still using Donut and Eclair!?

Let’s not even get started on the Honeycomb (tablet) stats.

Consumers are going to start figuring out that buying an Android smartphone locks them into an ageing operating system that they cannot upgrade. Unless Google fixes this mess, and quickly…

But, “Android is winning”.



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