Yesterday’s news that Android is now the top mobile operating system in eight major world nations, the United Kingdom, USA and Japan included, will come as no surprise to followers of Google’s brainchild. The tech giant has always placed its marketshare above selling hardware in the same way that Apple does. After all, Google makes its money from advertising – the bigger the audience the bigger the revenue.
With half a million Android smartphones and tablets being activated every day and a UK sales rise of Android handsets from 10.7 per cent to 45.2 per cent in the past year, Google are no longer in the chasing pack. It is now the leader of a new technology generation and will be aiming to harness its massive user base of over 100 million consumers.
Unbalanced user base
Unfortunately, this is where the cracks start appearing in their world domination masterplan. Android is in the nasty spot of being adored by both hardcore nerds and smartphone amateurs without much of a balance between those extremes. Boffins have taken to the operating system because of its open source philosophy and ‘normals’ have taken to it because the handsets are generally more affordable than an iPhone or Blackberry. In the UK, 74.3 per cent of Android’s new sales came from the non-smartphone market while only 1.4 per cent are customers who previously owned an iPhone.
Somehow Google has to bridge the gap between those who view Android handsets as a treasure trove of untapped possibilities and those who are happy to shuffle along on phone calls, texts and maybe a spot of casual browsing. Apple doesn’t have this problem since anyone with the money to spend on a £35 per month contract is guaranteed to endeavour to make the most of the purchase. IHS Screen Digest estimates that Apple garnered £1.1billion of revenue from their App Store last year. Android Marketplace scraped together a measly £62m. Worse still, Android users are far more likely to download a free app than they are to shell out their cold, hard cash for one.
This issue of encouraging casual upgraders to get the most out of their phones is a tricky one, but not without its solutions. It has been said before but Google needs to needs to take out the trash that unnecessarily clogs up its Market.
Their latest app update sharpens the tools users can use find what they want but this is simply a more efficient means to rake through the muck, leaving third party operators like Vodafone to go it alone and create their own content channels with stronger quality control measure. Then there’s the issue of app compatibility across numerous platforms which the forthcoming Ice Cream Sandwich operating system is designed to nix.
Finally, users need to be encouraged to dip their toes into what can be an intimidating galaxy of apps, especially if you’ve only just had your mind blown by Google Maps. More pre-loaded nuggets of easily engaging techy goodness need to come included with Android handsets so the idea of expanding your library seems like a necessity, not a hassle.
At the moment, Apple are on the ropes but Google won’t be able to deliver a sucker punch until they garner an army of former smartphone fuddy-duddies to do it for them. Then it will truly be the champion of mobile operating systems.