Android is the most popular mobile operating system on the face of the planet. Since its inception in 2008, Android has seen dramatic growth every year, and is now used on hundreds of millions of devices in over 190 countries. According to an IDC Worldwide report featured in Business Insider, the Android operating system controls just under 80% of the global smartphone market as of Q2 2013. This is up from just under 70% one year earlier. In the second quarter, over 187 million Android devices were shipped worldwide.
Not bad for the last major operating system to enter the market.
Although Google’s technological and business savvy are certainly responsible for some of their popular OS’s success, there are a number of specific features and trends that help explain why Android is exploding on the worldwide market.
One of the most obvious and important elements working in Android’s favor is its open source and community based app development framework. According to local entrepreneur Jason Hope, “The Android app development community doesn’t have to deal with the shackles of the iOS market, and can create whatever content they want without worrying about wasting resources on apps that won’t meet stringent and disjoined criteria.” The low barrier of entry into the Android market means that more people are able to create more applications. This in turn increases competitiveness among developers, which increases the quality and quantity of offerings on the market. In this scenario, the app consumer is the big winner, and this has played out with dramatically increased sales numbers worldwide
Along with the increased competitiveness in the software side of the business, Android also enjoys an advantage that Apple and Windows never will; the ability of third party companies like Samsung, LG, and many others to create the hardware that Android will run on has resulted in hundreds of Android models. Having Android OS available to anyone that manufactures a phone has resulted in an seemingly endless combination of price points, form factors, and special features. In comparison, Apple comes out with one new incrementally improved iPhone each year. Even with the release of the iPhone “mini”, if you don’t like the form factor (or price) of Apple’s annual release but want to stick with iOS, there is nothing you can do. With Android and its hundreds of models, there is something for everyone.
The competitive and versatile nature of the Android device market has resulted in incredibly inexpensive and powerful units. While Android certainly has done well in the domestic US market, where it really shines is in the worldwide market. Developing countries like India have a rapidly growing middle class that wants many of the comforts other Western nations have enjoyed for decades. However, while middle class Indians are enjoying a standard of living dramatically higher than recent previous generations, their average income in absolute terms is still significantly lower than the average in countries like the United States and England. This means that middle class Indian consumers are particularly price sensitive than their Western counterparts.
The Android strategy of giving hardware developers the ability to use the OS for free has proven to be highly successful in developing smartphone markets. In India, over 90% of the smartphone market belongs to the Android operating system according to a report in the Times of India. The Windows Phone has 5.4% of the market, and Apple’s iPhone and iOS claim a miniscule 2.3% of the market. With over 1.2 billion people living in India, and an increasing number of them joining the ranks of the middle class each year, the value of developing markets like India are likely to greatly outstrip markets where Apple holds an advantage. This increased market share, and the exponential growth in the Android community that will follow, will further improve the robustness and profit potential in the Android marketplace.
There are other less known factor acting in Android’s benefit, including the growing popularity of third-party messaging apps in developing countries. Unlike the United States, many mobile carriers in developing countries charge a premium for the use of text messaging features on smartphones. This has led to a strong demand for third-party messaging apps. According to a report by Reuters, the third party messaging app is becoming a competitive and lucrative market for developers due to increased demand over the past few quarters. Asian countries like South Korea, Japan, and China are among the biggest adopters of the third party messaging trend.
The long term trends for Android are very positive. The market has reached a critical mass, and is now enjoying a positive feedback loop between growing numbers of users and an increase in the quality and quantity of apps.
Amy Taylor is a technology and business writer. Amy began her career as a small business owner in Phoenix, Arizona. She has taken that knowledge and experience and brought that to her unique writing capabilities. She really enjoys new business related issues that are tied directly to technology.