Why publishers should care about Android

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The popularity of the iPhone and iPad has put a lot of focus in the publishing industry on building mobile products for Apple, but publishers shouldn't forget about Google's Android mobile platform, which has been making a steady push to claim its share. 

It seems like a new Android-operated phone pops up every week (this week it was the Charm). By the end of the year we should be seeing 18 Android phones (according to Google) as well as an Android tablet. In launching its latest smartphone, Google claimed 160,000 Android-powered devices are activated every day ― up from 100,000 in May

Several studies have highlighted the Android growth. A recent Nielsen report showed that Android is growing U.S. market share as fast as the iPhone (both of which are growing faster than other segments), when looking at quarter-over-quarter results in the first quarter of 2010. As of Q1, the iPhone held 28 percent and Android held 9 percent. Here is the full chart:

 

 

While Research in Motion's Blackberry still reigns, it didn't demonstrate as much growth or loyalty as Android or iPhone. Unlike Blackberry and Windows Mobile users, 80 percent of iPhone users want their next device to run iPhone OS and 70 percent of Android users want another Android device. Publishers looking to reach the younger crowd should note that Android users tend to be younger than iPhone peers (more than half are under the age of 34).

Just to throw a few more numbers into the mix, in the first quarter, Gartner found Android claimed almost 10 percent of  worldwide sales, not far behind Apple's 15 percent. Another study, just released by comScore, reveals that Android's smartphone market share in the U.S. jumped 4 points in the three months ending in May (to 13 percent). Meanwhile, Apple's iPhone share dropped slightly. 

Yes, Android has far to go, but it is revving up. 



As Matt Snyder, president of MediaMob, recently put it: “Up until last year, this really was a one-horse race.” Android came on board and might have surprised some people, Snyder told publishers at the recent Magazine Mobile Imperative luncheon. “It’s a real player and a real opportunity to reach consumers.” 

A fragmented market?

One thing for publishers to keep in mind is that, unlike Apple's iPhone, there's not one device maker for Android, and as of right now, no Android device seems to be in the lead. Although Google says different devices shouldn't cause problems for developers, critics say the myriad of Android devices can be a headache.

Google-owned mobile ad company AdMob reported in April that 11 devices now make up 96 percent of the Android traffic. Compare that to back in September, when only two devices dominated the Android traffic, according to a report in Business Insider.  Users are also split across different versions of Android OS ― Android 1.5 (38 percent), Android 2.0 / 2.1 (35 percent) and Android 1.6 (26 percent), according to AdMob. Since the report, Google has also released Android 2.2 a.k.a Froyo, now available to its Nexus One users.  Starting with Froyo, Google plans to squelch the perceived fragmentation problem, according to a report in engadget

On the upside for Google, Constantine von Hoffman says that Google might have a market advantage over Apple  by offering so many devices. He writes: 

Google has even more of an advantage in that the its several different phone makers are producing many different Droid configurations to fill many different market needs. Some will fail and some won’t ― but Google can let the market sort that out. Apple, on the other hand, doesn’t have the benefit of that market-driven evolution. Apple can only sell its OS to people who want exactly what the iPhone is.

For publishers, the challenge is determining which mobile platforms to devote resources to. Not all publishers will think the Android is worthwhile right now, given the higher sway of the iPhone-toting audience, but it's clear you might not want to rule out the Android. For more help figuring out where to put your resources, check out Mitch Speers' post about deciding which mobile platform to focus on.  

 

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