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androidHere’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?


5 thoughts on “Android brand fades as numbers climb

  1. I think Google maybe doesn’t have to giant overarching goal other than to further the web, further their cataloguing of the world’s data and using it to supply what you need before you need it (yes that does cover having ads for stuff you may want to buy).

    When you think of it like that, and ask that question of everything they do it can make a bit of sense in a long timeline, where current actions may seem stupid business-wise in the short-term. I think this is where Android sits; as they have said before they saw what was being done in mobiles and realised an open OS needed to be made to allow companies to compete in the mobile space. This will evolve into where Google Now and Google Glass are going. Eventually Android will give way to what they truly want; to know enough about you that they can predict what you want before you realise you want it.

    If they didn’t start Android when they did and if they didn’t keep up with it do you really think they could just jump into augmented reality and virtual assistants with the competence and ease now? I doubt it if Apple/Microsoft/RIM was the top, I could see Nokia being a more fair player, but Apple/Microsoft/RIM would probably be impossible to get enough flexibility in their platforms.

    • Yes, there’s something in this. After all it took Microsoft a long time to develop a near-monopoly in PC software and longer still to find ways to exploit it.

  2. Google wants to know everything about all of us, it wants to be able to predict our behaviour even before we know what it will be and then it wants to make offers to us through paid advertisers based on our location, context, profile and the time of day. It doesn’t need a revenue stream from mobile manufacturers, it just needs access to the global population through their mobiles. It doesn’t need people knowing that their mobiles are powered by Android. IMHO of course:)

    • ” It doesn’t need people knowing that their mobiles are powered by Android.”

      Good point Luigi.

      Now if I was *really *feeling cynical or paranoid I could say Google’s goals would be better served if people weren’t aware Android was collecting all this data.

      • I think Google more than most companies doesn’t want to do this behind your back. The problem is the zealousness of techies outstrips a lawyers ability to intervene.

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