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After Five Years, Dominant Android OS Increasingly Identified With Samsung
- Roughly 1.3 million activations per day globally
- More than 500 million phones sold/shipped (CNET estimates 570 million to date)
- Nearly 600,000 smartphone apps
- Nearly 600 unique Anroid devices in the market
IDC simultaneously reported last week that 75 percent of global Q3 smartphone shipments were Android devices. While this is not the same as actual market share or device sales, it spectacularly underscores the fact that Android is the dominant smartphone platform today — and seemingly gaining momentum.
Top Six Smartphone Mobile Operating Systems Q3 2012 (Shipments in Millions)
By contrast Windows Phones represented a tiny 2 percent of global Q3 shipments (though up from 1.2 percent a year ago). For its part Apple’s iOS constituted only 15 percent of Q3 shipments on a global basis. In the US the numbers aren’t quite as dramatic. Apple controls 34 percent of the market compared with Android’s 52 percent.
For all the volume and apparent diversity in the Android ecosystem, beyond Google itself, the story is increasingly about just one company: Samsung. The Korean conglomerate is by far the leading Android OEM (according to numbers from AppBrain, presented below). There’s Samsung and then there’s everybody else. Even Google-owned Motorola is now a relatively minor player.
Ironically Samsung has a well-documented relationship with Apple and the iPhone. Apple and Samsung of course have sued each other for patent infringement around the world. That litigation has become increasingly bitter and Apple is now trying to extricate itself entirely from its supplier relationship with Samsung. For now, however, Samsung still makes the chips that go in the iPhone and iPad.
In another Apple-Android patent dispute, Apple and HTC just settled their mutual claims and entered into a global licensing agreement. That settlement was likely precipitated by a setback for HTC at the hands of the International Trade Commission, which banned its Android imports into the US.
While the settlement removes a cloud over HTC’s head, it may be “too late.” The Taiwanese company, once the leading Android maker, is in an increasingly precarious financial position seemingly unable to reverse its slide vs. Samsung. The speculation is that HTC will pay Apple $6 to $8 per Android handset sold. It also has a licensing deal with Microsoft.
As Samsung becomes established as the dominant Android OEM, its relationship with Google is becoming more complex. When Samsung was just one Android OEM among many — as it still technically is — Google held much of the power (witness Google’s ability to block Samsung from using Skyhook Wireless’s location technology). But now the balance of power may be tipping toward Samsung. And that has to make Google a little nervous.
Samsung is clearly the Android OEM that matters most right now. Its Galaxy S3 handset is the single dominant smartphone on a global basis. And were it not for Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and marketing budget Android wouldn’t be in quite so dominant a position today in all likelihood.
Google created the Nexus 7 in part to fight the ascent of Kindle Fire and prevent Amazon from controlling the Android tablet market. And even though Samsung and its marketing muscle are driving much of Android’s recent adoption and success Google may soon try to boost some of Samsung’s competitors (including Motorola) to prevent the Korean company from gaining too much brand identification with Android or becoming a little too successful selling Android handsets.