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Google: 700,000 new Androids activated every day

In a conference call following Google's earnings release on Friday, the company's chief executive claimed the number of new cellphones running his company's Android software has hit another height. Mr Page told media and analysts:

Android is, quite simply, mind-boggling. 700,000 phones are lit up every day. And I'm pleased to announce 250 million Android devices in total, up 50 million since our last announcement just in November. In just two days over the holiday weekend, 3.7 million Androids were activated. And today, we're announcing over 11 billion downloads from Android markets. Wow.

Android phones are made by Motorola (recently bought by Google), Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC and others.

In its most recently reported quarter, Apple sold 17 million iPhones, indicating an activation rate of 190,000 a day - although its most recent quarter (not yet reported) kicked off with the release of the iPhone 4S, which achieved activations of 1.3 million per day over its first three days on sale.

The less stellar news for Google investors: Mr Page was vague on how his company could make money from its mobile software, which is free, or the Android Marketplace, which is dominated by free apps. He said on the call:

Obviously, a lot of those [Android Market apps] are free, but we also are having a lot of people buy stuff there, too. We've seen a lot of potential for us to make money on Android, and I think you'll see us increase that a lot over time. It's hard to give you details about that right now, but I'm very, very optimistic."

However, it was clear how Apple was making money from Android.

The conference call revealed Google is paying Apple, and others, a total of $US440 million per quarter to be the default browser on their desktop software, and on their mobile devices - which in Apple's case of course includes the iPhone. 

The vast majority of Google's revenue - which topped $US10 billion for the first time during the fourth quarter - still comes from its core search business, but the company sees adds delivered to mobiles running Android as a key area of growth.

The conference call also saw Google claim 90 million registered users for Google+ (aka Google Plus), its new-ish competitor to Facebook - up from 40 million in the previous quarter.

However, the company was fuzzy on how many actively used the social network each day.

NBR's anecdotal experience is that many New Zealanders, and New Zealand companies, active on Facebook and Twitter have registered Google+ accounts - but many don't actively post. "It's a giant hanger," one user told NBR. Another described it as a "wasteland."

Read a transcript of Google's fourth quarter earnings call here; see a webcast on Google's investor relations site here.