Google Android Gaining as Mobile Phone Market Sleeper

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-09-08

Google Android Gaining as Mobile Phone Market Sleeper

Google's Android platform isn't often cited when end users discuss the leaders in the mobile phone market. Typically, those discussions are dominated by companies such as Apple, Research In Motion and even Microsoft. But it's Google that's quietly gaining ground in the space.  

The company is behind more phone releases running its Android operating system than you might think. Aside from the T-Mobile G1-the first Android-based phone to hit store shelves-HTC's MyTouch 3G is currently offered to consumers. HTC also announced the Tattoo Tuesday that promises some neat functionality for European users. It's the company's fourth Android-based phone.

But HTC isn't alone. Companies like Motorola, LG and even Acer have signed on to produce Android-based products. Google's partners in the Open Handset Alliance have joined at such a rapid rate that the company hopes to have up to 20 Android-based phones available by the end of 2009. It could more than double that number by the end of 2010. And yet, Android doesn't receive the kind of respect or attention Apple does. It's an afterthought when it comes time to analyze the mobile phone market.

Admittedly, that is mainly due to the fact that Android doesn't hold the kind of market share its competitors do. In fact, it's trailing far behind Apple's iPhone, RIM's BlackBerry devices and even Windows Mobile.  

But it may not stay that way much longer. Unlike Apple, which has tied its future to one product, Google decided to follow in Microsoft's footsteps and open up its software to vendors. And unlike Microsoft's Windows Mobile, which provides a subpar experience, Google's Android mobile operating system is a fine alternative to the iPhone.

The Experience

In the cell phone market, providing an experience is a key success factor. If a phone doesn't have a touch-screen, doesn't sport some kind of multitouch technology and doesn't have an App Store, most users won't find as much value in it. Those are requirements that Apple has put in place, and like it or not, its competitors have to play ball.

And Google is playing ball. Its Android operating system boasts outstanding software that appeals to just about anyone who uses it. In fact, it's a nice alternative to Apple's iPhone software.  

Google Playing Catch-up with Apple


Beyond that, the software is responsive when users tap the touch-screens. And for the most part, Android phones boast a design and feel that compares nicely to anything Apple releases. Simply put, Android phones have the looks, design and software to make them a compelling product for end users.

The App Store

But it doesn't end there. Users are still looking for an app store. Although the Android Marketplace doesn't have the more than 65,000 applications offered in Apple's App Store, Google has done a good job of bringing apps to its platform. Right now, the store has over 3,000 applications. Although that number pales in comparison to Apple's store, Google's marketplace has many more applications than RIM's BlackBerry World (about 2,000 applications) and Palm's Pre (approximately 30 applications).

There might be more variety in Apple's App Store, but many of the applications that users find in Apple's market can be downloaded onto Android phones from the Android Marketplace. Porting applications designed for the iPhone to Android-based phones isn't difficult for developers. That's a key feature as Google tries to bring more apps to its store.


But perhaps the most important reason why Google has a good chance to become a leader in the mobile phone market is its strategy. Instead of offering a single phone, like Apple does, Google has partnered with several vendors to provide the software and let them do all the hard work of selling the devices. And since it's an open-source platform, those vendors can tweak the operating system to make it unique to their vision.

It's doubtful that any single Android-based phone will sell better than the iPhone. Apple's product commands too much attention in the marketplace for that to happen. But it's not beyond the realm of possibility for Android itself to capture more market share than Apple's venerable device. With more available products, a compelling selection of apps and some nice software, many users might find that it's a solid alternative to the iPhone.

And in the process, they might just find that, at least so far, Android's experience is second only to the iPhone's.

So maybe it's time Android gets a little more respect.

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