Google Chasing Apple in Smartphone, Tablet Popularity

IDC and Appcelerator said Android smartphones and tablet computers are gaining in popularity on Apple's iPhone and iPad. The survey sets up some interesting competition in 2011.

Google has nearly caught up to Apple in smartphone popularity and is closing the gap in tablets, according to 2,200 developers polled by Appcelerator and IDC earlier this month.

The joint survey showed 87 percent of respondents are "very interested" in writing applications for Android smartphones, compared with 92 percent who selected the iPhone as the top device. Android handset sales have passed iPhone in the U.S., comScore said.

Developer interest in Apple's iPad rose three points to 87 percent. Android tablets are hardly equal to the iPad in market share, which saw 15 million-plus computers ship this year.

However, interest in writing applications for Android tablets jumped 12 points to 74 percent from the previous IDC-Appcelerator survey three months ago.

Respondents said they are "very interested" in developing for Android tablets. More than half of developers claimed price will be the most important factor for success, followed by minimized fragmentation and the availability of the Android 3.0 Honeycomb build.

Price and minimized fragmentation could be big sticking points. Android platform head Eric Chu said Jan. 25 that he was displeased with the amount of money rolling in from paid applications.

Meanwhile, phone makers such as Samsung have been slow to roll out upgrades from Android 2.1 to Android 2.2, which has been out since the beginning of the summer.

Despite these issues and the immense popularity of the iPad, Apple will face challenges from several Android machines this year.

IDC and Appcelerator said "85 new, primarily Android tablets" were unveiled or announced at CES, though the Consumer Electronics Association compiled this chart showing more than 100 touch-screen computers.

Two of those shown off include the Motorola Xoom, which is expected to launch Feb. 17 from Best Buy and Verizon Wireless, and the Toshiba tablet, which does not yet have a name.

Both are powered by Nvidia Tegra 2 processors and are based on Android 3.0, which is imbued with 3-D capabilities and has been optimized for the tablet touch-screen to make inputting more enjoyable.

View the full IDC-Appcelerator report here.