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Android on top but dissatisfaction among developers grows

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While Android has continued its steady climb up the smartphone OS pecking order, opinion is divided on the extent to which its market influence will continue to grow

Most recent industry reports make encouraging reading for Google. Smart phone market data for Q1 2011 released by Canalys showed that Android led the global market for the second quarter running and increased its share to 35%, shipping 35.7 million units. HTC, Samsung, LG, Motorola and Sony Ericsson drove Android shipments in the first quarter, with each vendor shipping well over three million devices, stated Canalys.

Gartner is even more upbeat about Android, indicating that its market share jumped from 9.6% in the first quarter of last year to 36% in the first three months of 2011. Over the same period Gartner reckons iOS recorded a much more modest increase (from 15.3% to 16.8%), while Symbian’s loses underlined the challenge facing Nokia – down from 44.3% in Q1 2010 to 27.4% this year.

According to Gartner, Nokia will aggressively lower average selling prices in markets where communications service providers control the sales channels in order to maintain shipments of Symbian devices while waiting for its first Windows Phone 7 devices to reach the market. “This will precipitate a competitors’ rush to capture Symbian’s market share in the midtier,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst.

However, the Appcelerator-IDC Q2 2011 mobile developer report suggests that interest in Android has plateaued as concerns around fragmentation and disappointing results from early tablet sales cause developers to pull back from their previous steadily increasing enthusiasm for Google’s mobile operating system.

The survey found that while iOS interest remains high with 91% of developers saying they are ‘very interested’ in iPhone development and 86% expressing similar levels of interest in developing for the iPad, reported interest in Android phones fell two points to 85% and interest in Android tablets fell three points to 71% after increasing by 12 points in the first quarter of the year.

According to IDC, these falls are consistent with an increase in developer frustration with the operating system. Nearly two thirds (63%) of respondents said device fragmentation poses the biggest risk to Android, followed by weak initial traction in tablets (30%) and multiple Android app stores (28%). Other findings indicate that while the promise of an Android tablet is appealing, the reality of currently or soon-to-be shipping devices is disappointing to developers.

“Android remains an exceptionally strong OS but the cumulative effect of unresolved issues with its ecosystem is taking a toll on developers,” noted report series co-author Scott Ellison, vice president of mobile & connected consumer platforms, IDC. “The challenge for Google will be to better align app developer momentum with the momentum of Android device shipment numbers.”

From a developer perspective, both platforms have pros and cons – Java-oriented Android’s multivendor strategy but lack of interoperability with Microsoft Exchange versus the single version of iOS with its highly controlled app store. However, acccording to Forrester Research analyst Mike Gualtieri, developers will simply support whichever mobile operating systems are used by the most people. “The technical differences don’t matter – adoption matters.”

There are some aspects to Android apps that may benefit from femtocells’ location awareness. Consider how Angry Birds on an Android is a free app, paid for by advertising. This could be location-based advertising if the femtocell API is shared among developers. On the iPhone, Angry Birds is a paid-for app, with no embedded advertising. Are operators missing a trick?

Stewart Baines is a writer with Futurity Media.




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