Here’s a puzzle. How come Android’s brand is diminishing at the same time the OS now dominates the smartphone sector?
Gartner’s February 2013 smartphone sales report estimate’s Android’s worldwide market share at 70%. That’s more than three times Apple’s iOS which has a 21% market share. Microsoft Windows Phone is on just 3%.
Android dominates, so why doesn’t Google’s smartphone software command consumer mind share?
The answer is simple. Nobody aspires to buy an Android handset.
Ordinary smartphone buyers don’t chose operating systems, they choose brands. They want an Apple or a Samsung, maybe even an HTC or Nokia.
Only a particularly rare breed of geek would talk of buying an Android.
This is a direct result of the way Google developed Android. The software is open to all comers. Samsung, HTC and the like take the basic Android OS and overlay it with their own software. They do their level best to hide Android from users.
Android was barely mentioned during Samsung’s Galaxy G4 launch. Other smartphone makers do little more than nod at Google when announcing and promoting their products.
Efforts to hide Android stepped up a notch last week when Facebook and HTC took the wraps off Facebook Home. The software is an overlay that pushes Android even further into the background.
Google’s efforts to protect the Android brand haven’t succeeded. The company bought Motorola and sells Google-branded Nexus phones which are conspicuous by their absence in New Zealand.
It isn’t entirely clear how Google makes money from Android. One theory says an Android user plugged into a Google account using Google apps delivers a steady stream of data to the company that can be mined to sell yet more advertising.
But this doesn’t always apply – certainly not in China where Google is blocked and not on an Android phone running Facebook Home. Maybe those smartphone maker software overlays also block Google’s data collection – or will do in the future.
So here’s another puzzle. If Google isn’t making money from Android, how long will it go on spending large sums of money developing the OS? Might Google unsentimentally drop Android the way it dropped Google Reader?