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A quick trip to your local Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) , Sprint or T-Mobile store is all it takes to find evidence that Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android platform is quickly joining the ranks of big-league smartphone platforms. But while the most visible evidence of Android's rise comes from the high-profile phone launches provided by Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) , HTC, and Samsung (not to mention Google itself), the statistical proof is even more impressive. Here are a few of the most recent examples:
- comScore reported last week that Android's share of U.S. smartphone users soared from 3.8% in November 2009 to 9% in February 2010. This compares with a 1.3 percentage point increase for Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerrys, a 0.1 point decline for Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhones, a 1.8 point decline for Palm's (Nasdaq: PALM ) devices, and a 4.0 point decline for Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows Mobile phones. comScore's numbers usually need to be taken with a grain of salt -- RIM's share increase is surprising given the North American weakness reported during its last earnings report -- but swings as large as the ones attributed to Android and Windows Mobile almost certainly have some validity to them.
- Mobile advertising firm AdMob, which was acquired by Google last year, reported that the percentage of its U.S. ad impressions that went to Android devices jumped from 27% in November to 42% in February. During the same time, the iPhone's share of ad impressions fell from 55% to 44%. Worldwide, Android's share of AdMob impressions grew to 24%, up from just 2% a year earlier.
- AndroLib.com counted 9,117 new apps as being added to Android Market in March. That number reflects a 65% jump from the 5,530 apps added in February, and, combined with the 3,746 apps already counted for April, brings the store's total number of available apps to nearly 44,000. While Apple remains the market leader with over 185,000 apps being reported for the iTunes App Store, the momentum that developers are providing to Android Market isn't something that Apple supporters can taken lightly.
Android still has plenty of kinks to work out. Google badly needs to develop a PC application for Android that can rival Apple's iTunes in allowing users to easily sync their media files and shop for apps. This is needed not only to make life easier for Android users, but also to give developers more confidence that the cool Android app they're working on will get discovered, and turn into a money-maker. Moreover, while Google is taking some encouraging steps to stem concerns about Android hardware and operating system fragmentation leading to serious problems with app compatibility, we have to wait and see just how successful they are.
But even with its lingering weaknesses, the numbers are painting Android to be a clear success story. If the rest of 2010 plays out the way the first months have, the operating system won't be portrayed as an upstart challenger to the iPhone by the end of the year, but a full-fledged equal.