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Google’s Android Operating System has undoubtedly come a long way since being tied for last place in consumer preference in 2009. In the past two years, the popularity of Android has increased dramatically -- some reports state that usage of the Android OS skyrocketed with a 200% increase in the first three months of 2010, and according to Jolie O’Dell on Mashable, sales figures showed that the devices were selling faster than they could be manufactured. According to Reuters, the craze continued into 2011, when first quarter profits suggested that Android’s popularity has tripled, exceeding manufacturers’ expectations. With a variety of new and popular devices carrying the Android OS hitting the market, it may at first appear that there is no stopping its growing momentum.
Despite this prominence in the global mobile market, the 2011 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference showed that Android still has a long way to go before overtaking iOS as the market leader in mobile platforms. The figures released show that Android falls short in almost every way to Apple’s iOS -- in most cases, by a significant amount.
For example, Apple’s App Store boasts roughly 425,000 mobile apps while the Android Market, as of May 2011, had only 200,000. In addition to having double the amount, it is also commonly agreed that Apple’s applications are of a better quality than Android’s. Apple estimates that 14 billion downloads have taken place over the last three years, while Google reports that the Android Market has only had 4.5 billion installs.
Part of this disparity is due to sheer quantity of devices that carry each platform: Google estimates that 100 million Android-equipped smartphones have been shipped. Though this number is huge, it still cannot compete with Apple, whose iOS platform is available not exclusively on smartphones but also on non-phone devices like the iPad and iPod Touch. The amount of iOS-equipped devices sold is estimated to be roughly 200 million, a wide gap that Android will likely have problems closing.
The popularity of the iPad is perhaps the biggest obstacle that Android will need to overcome, one that becomes all the more daunting considering that 25 million iPads alone have been sold since their release in April 2010. Google’s attempt to compete in the tablet market, the Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet, has sales significantly lower than that number (estimated to be under 2 million) and had roughly 100 apps available in May 2011. When compared to Apple’s over 90,000 apps for the iPad and the fact that payoffs amount to over $2.5 billion for developers to create new software, to consider Android a competitor in this market will be a a difficult, if not nearly impossible, task.
With over 130 million iBooks downloaded from Apple’s App Store and 15 billion songs downloaded from iTunes, Apple has a stronghold on the electronic book and digital music industries as well, particularly since Android’s attempts to enter these markets are either very new (the music digital locker just launched to beta) or comparatively unpopular and less well-known (eBookstore was launched in December 2010, and though Google declines to release figures, it is certainly trailing Apple). Considering Apple took a fast lead by putting deals in place with music publishers before Google could, it appears that Android will a tough time taking the lead here as well.
The open approach that Android adheres to allows for their platform to be available on more devices, and instinctively it seems that this would translate into profitability. In the long term, this may ultimately be the case. However, when dealing with such a strong force as the Apple brand, with its astronomical sales and institutionalization in both the smartphone and tablet markets, Android still has a long way to go to become the preferred platform in the mobile market.
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