According to the recent figures, Android is dominating the smartphone OS market worldwide, holding a market share of 59% of the 152.3 million smartphones shipped in the first quarter of 2012 (1Q12). This is expected to peak at 61% this year and steadily decline to 53% by 2016. It is still expected be the market leader considering its massive market presence. This staggering hold is a reflection of the major players sailing on Google’s mega-ship (OHA).
Mass Market Approach
Device manufacturers viz. Motorola, HTC, Samsung, LG, Sony have enabled Google to convert Android OS into a mass-market offering. The search engine giant teamed up with these manufacturers, has successfully covered a wide array of mobile market segments by offering handsets varying in price, specification & design. This strategy is one of the vital reasons for such astounding success though Google’s Open Source Approach (AOSP) cannot be discredited.
Challenges faced by Developers
So we have the software & hardware side of the table satiated, but the main spinner falls on the ultimate growth & sustainability determining side of the smartphone industry platter – developers side. Though open source gives developers more freedom and flexibility to experiment with their creations, it has its disadvantages.
The open nature coupled with the wide range of devices (from Rs. 3,300 – Rs. 39,000) each having its own hardware capabilities transforms the fun-loving app development task into a rather tedious one. This variability has fragmented the market to an extent that writing and testing apps for Android has become cumbersome. Each app must be tested on devices differing in aspects from screen resolution to processing power and the list of those devices can’t be counted on fingers.
Consequences of the open-source approach
The outcome of this is reflected on the statistics, stating that developers build two iOS apps for every Android app. Also the revenue developers generate from an iPhone app is four times more than they generate from an Android – the counter-effect of the open source approach.
Furthermore Apple’s move to replace Google Maps with its own mapping application will cost Google about half of its map traffic that comes from iPhones and iPads. The loss here is in terms of valuable location data generated from mapping apps that helps improve the service and provide utility based features (traffic updates, nearby locations etc.) which creates brand recall and builds strong brand association, serving best as a future investment.
On the basis of the current situation only 7% of the total Android devices in the world are running ICS which include just the high-end devices like the Galaxy Nexus, Note, HTC One X, Galaxy SII & SIII. So a large number of device users who form a major chunk of market are left with outdated OS versions, which is one of the reasons why the growth is peaking. Sadly, most devices aren’t configured to run the likes of ICS but a lighter versions of upgrades can possibly help satisfy the majority and also help sustain the growth.