Android Uptake Slow in Europe as Google Phone Rumors Persist

Google Android phones are slow to catch on in Western Europe, researcher IDC said. However, rumors abound that there are several more smartphones in the works based on the Android mobile and wireless operating system, including an iDEN device from Motorola and the Espresso from HTC. Also reportedly on tap is the Google Phone, code-named Passion, from T-Mobile.

Uptake of Google's Android operating system in Western Europe Android OS is below expectations despite the fact that Android market share grew from 4.2 percent in the second quarter to 5.4 percent in the third quarter.

Research firm IDC said several operators listed Android devices in Q3 for the first time, which helped Android shipments to grow. However, most consumers ignored Android in the early going out of ignorance, not some sort of anti-Google aversion.

"Consumers recognize the Google brand, but still do not understand what Android is," said IDC analyst Francisco Jeronimo. "The lack of devices available didn't help to raise awareness, though this is expected to change, with more handsets from LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and other vendors hitting the market soon."

Indeed, reports of new Android phones in the U.S. and abroad are coming fast and furious. HTC is expected to unveil the HTC Espresso, a new Android-powered smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard, during the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2010 in February.

Motorola is expected to release the Opus One, its first handset based on the phone maker's iDEN technology, which provides wireless telephony, a nationwide and international two-way radio, packet data for Internet access, two-way e-mail and text messaging, and wireless modem capabilities.

Google continues to extend the capabilities of existing Android phones. While the company is bringing the Google Maps Navigation GPS apps, originally launched on Android 2.0, down to Android 1.6, Verizon Wireless will upgrade the HTC Droid Eris Android 2.0 in the first quarter of 2010.

Meanwhile the latest Google Phone rumor comes courtesy of TMONews, which said the Google Phone, code-named "Passion" will launch from T-Mobile in the first two weeks of January. TMONews bills itself as the unofficial T-Mobile blog (read: T-Mobile fanboys). David, who mongered the latest rumor, wrote:

""Some lingering questions remain, such as what will the price be? Will there be any kind of a subsidy or is that just wishful thinking? Will Google only sell this product? Will this be offered with the recently launched standard Even More/Even More Plus rate plans? What about the rumors regarding VoiP service on the Google phone? We hope there is truth to the notion that the Google phone successfully landed in the T-Mobile network, as it would be a huge win for T-Mobile.""

VOIP consultant Andy Abramson said Clearwire would be a better choice for a Google Phone over a traditional mobile operator such as T-Mobile, Verizon or AT&T.

"Honestly if I was Google I'd build the phone for the only operating 4G network in the USA, Clearwire because from the start Clearwire (ex Xoom) executives has been saying they want a different experience in VoIP and that experience wasn't Skype," Abramson wrote.

And why not? Google is an investor in Clearwire even though it abstained from the latest round.

One thing that isn't rumor is the rise of mobile phones in Europe, according to these IDC stats, which found that the Western European mobile phone market rose for the first time in the last 15 months and grew 5 percent year-on-year in Q3. Some 46.8 million phones shipped, which means consumer demand is picking up.

"The mobile phone market is showing strong signs of improvement since the onset of the economic crisis," Jeronimo said. "The quarter's growth was supported by the traditional mobile phones (TMP), the biggest segment of the market, but affected by the trend towards smartphones.