Android eclipses iPhone in US, multiplies in NZ


Chris Keall

Market tracker NPD Group sees a sharp rise in the number of smartphones on the US market running Google’s Android operating system software - to the point where Android handsets, marketed variously by Dell, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Google itself (with its Nexus house brand, made by HTC), now outnumber Apple’s iPhone (see chart).

Some have expressed scepticism about NPD’s figures (remember, Apple sold a record 8.75% million iPhones during its latest quarter), but the group is considered the gold standard in other areas, such as game console sales.

ABOVE: As more and more phone makers release Android models, NPD sees a sharp rise in market share for the Google OS. RIM's BlackBerry still leads, on 36%, but has fallen sharply. Google Android OS-based handsets now have 28% share, zooming ahead of devices (iPhone, iPad) running Apple's software (OS X above), on 21%. Struggling Palm was recently bought by HP.

No single Android model has come close to the iPhone (the Nexus, by Google’s own admission, has sold a modest 500,000).

But collectively, phones based on Google’s software are now, undeniably, gaining serious traction.

The flow-on effect can only be that Google’s Android MarketPlace (its equivalent to the Apple’s iTunes AppStore) must now, surely, hit critical mass. Already, it’s increasingly common for hit iPhone apps to be ported for Android.

New Android sightings in NZ
Android handsets have been low-profile in New Zealand over the past 12 months, restricted to a single HTC model on Vodafone.

But Telecom has now also introduced an Android model from LG (the GW620, $699; pictured below).

And yesterday, I headed up to Sony to collect the Android-based Sony-Ericsson Xperia X10, an all-touchscreen model (left) that will be released in New Zealand during June, priced at $1399.

Sony-Ericsson commercial manager Lone Misikini told me that, all going to plan, the Xperia X10 will be on both Telecom and Vodafone (it comes in both 850/2100MHz and 900MHz/2100MHz flavours).

That will make the X10 the first Android model to appear across both networks, which can only help the Google OS cause (a key factor in its US success, recorded by NPD above, is that Android handsets span multiple carriers, while the iPhone and iPad - shades of NZ - is restricted to a single telco, AT&T).

Another reason for Android’s success is that handsets based on the Google OS tend to be cheaper.

That hasn’t been the case here yet, but the Sony-Ericsson manager said his company would release two more Android models into New Zealand in around four months.

Both will be cheaper; one will be the Mini version of the Xperia X10.

And there’s more to come. Motorola has also committed to releasing Android handsets here, although so far there’s no word on its Droid.

The right way to jump on a bandwagon
The big question now is whether Nokia will come to the Android party. So far, the Finnish phone maker - still easily the world’s largest, by market share - remains on a path toward Linux, and committed to its own appstore, Ovi.

It’s a tricky situation. Phone makers like Nokia realise that, increasingly, the mobile war centers around software, and that downloads and services are where the money is. But how to jump on the Android bandwagon without losing your identity, and becoming a commodity hardware maker?

In Sony-Ericsson’s case, it’s overlaying its own whizzy 3D interface on top of Android.

After the clean and simple, regular iteration of Android on HTC’s Magic, I’m finding that quite a change of pace.

More on the Xperia, and LG’s Android, shortly. 

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5 Comments & Questions

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These first two Android devices from Telecom represent a very poor attempt to break into the Smartphone category, and mean that Kiwis are badly served compared to the U.S.

The LG runs Android 1.5, the SE 1.6, whereas 2.1 is now common in the US with 2.2 coming around mid-year. They have very poor support for business customers and at $1399 the SE is very expensive. New software coming from Twitter and Google (latest maps with directions) only run on 2.1 or later. And the SE doesn't support multi-tap which is the whole point of a touch screen.

Given Telecom's lack of iPhone you would've thought they could try a bit harder to give us the latest HTC, Samsung or Motorola devices with Android 2.1 software.

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I'm a long suffering SE enthusiast and I must say of the mismanagement of the brand in NZ this situation may be the worst example.

The X10 was available everywhere from Europe to Asia to Canada in April and demand was reportedly very strong.

But SENZ chooses to release the phone here at the same time as the iPhone 4G announcement and at a price higher than even the 32GB iPhone 3GS, a full $500 more than the X10 price at various importers.

Unless Vodafone have decided to very extremely generous, an entry level $40 plan will only include the usual $120 subsidy compared to the $480 subsidy that comes with iPhone plans.

Android phones come and go very very fast. The Google Nexus One was announced and released in Jan and already Google has disowned it due to some software issues and are recommending potential buyers purchase a Motorola handset instead.

Sony Ericsson, Vodafone and Telecom need to realise that NZ consumers want these phones at the same time as overseas and waiting 3 - 6 months is just not acceptable. These are phones for early adopters, resourceful people who will get their devices any way they can - just look at the iPad situation.

Sony Ericsson NZ seem to live in a bubble, insulated from the outside world. After this price announcement gets around, all those still waiting for an official X10 will place an order with an importer and by June there will be no X10 buyers left. Mindshare (I hate that word) in June will be totally consumed by the next iPhone and sales of X10 will likely founder, thus enabling SENZ to continue its argument of poor sales justifying a small range and no accessories.

I'm quite livid over this. Never again will I buy a SENZ sourced device. If only Bert Nordberg knew how things went on here he'd pull the NZ license for sure.

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There is a lot of hype around Android coming out of the U.S. but that needs to be seen more accurately.

1. Of course Android is doing well in the U.S. - every other mobile carrier there is giving devices away to try and compete against the iPhone on AT&T. So huge promotional budgets have been spent.

2. Outside of the U.S. Android is having very little success as yet and there is significant fragmentation of the platform with handsets coming out with various levels of software - as per Telecom's Android handsets described above.

There is a good counter argument to the Android hype here:

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Android certainly has momentum quite impressive. More and more people are using it close to my android. While iPhone has a firm favorite. The reason seems to have a high degree of freedom.

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I agree. NZ deserves greater focus in these market changing product launches.
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