Samsung Emerges as Android Phone, Tablet Frontrunner

Samsung has eclipsed Motorola as the Android smartphone leader and may be poised to do so in tablets. Motorola and HTC may find themselves looking up to their rival before long.

Perception and market share in the market for mobile devices can change fairly quickly unless you're Apple, which has enjoyed rock-solid launches of the iPod music player, iPhone smartphone and iPad tablet.

For devices based on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) now ubiquitous Android mobile operating system, it's another matter.

After Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI) CEO Sanjay Jha made the strategic decision to bet the company on Android in 2008, the company was the first big phone maker to bet big on Android in 2009, launching the Motorola Droid smartphone. Motorola was again first out of the gate with an Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablet, the Motorola Xoom, this past February.

The inaugural Droid smartphone captured commercial and critical success, selling millions of units and thrusting Android into the limelight as a viable alternative to the 100 million-plus-unit-selling iPhone.

The Xoom, on the other hand, was not nearly as well received and has sold only a few hundred thousand units compared to 20 million-plus iPads. Motorola also signaled some struggles when it delayed the delivery of its Droid Bionic 4G smartphone on Verizon Wireless to this summer.

These gaffes have helped Samsung emerge as something of the Android hardware standard bearer, analysts agreed.

Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin said that while Motorola benefited hugely from the marketing investment that Verizon made in their initial Droid launch, its products on other carriers-excepting the Atrix on AT&T-have been lackluster sellers.

Golvin agreed that Samsung is taking the Android mantle.

"They have incredible scale, and having made the initial investment in their internal Android software skill they are able to apply that scale-that's apparent in their execution of customized versions of the Galaxy devices for every carrier," Golvin told eWEEK.

Samsung's Android ascent started in 2010 when the company sold more than 10 million Galaxy S smartphones in 2010, helped by the bright, crisp Super Amoled screen technology.

Samsung's Galaxy S II sold 1 million units in a month in the company's home country of Korea.