T-Mobile this week marked the one millionth sale of an Android-based G1 phone. Coupled with the news that a recent report found the mobile OS posting modest gains in market share, the industry’s mixed reaction might seem jarring.
Instead, while some pundits declaring victory for Android while other industry insiders proclaim that Google’s open-source mobile platform is in serious trouble.
The reality is that the potential of Android lies in between those two extremes, one analyst said.
While the T-Mobile G1 sales clearly aren’t as spectacular as the iPhone — one million were sold in its first two months for the original model and one million iPhone 3Gs were sold within several days of release — it’s a milestone for Google, HTC and T-Mobile as industry watchers have been waiting to see how the device will do with consumers.
The news comes as mobile marketing firm AdMob reports that Android now totals six percent of the smartphone market in terms of operating systems and is tied with Palm as the fourth-largest OS based on ad impression data collected by the firm.
The G1 itself appears to be gaining some traction. In the US in March, it was the number 10 overall device and the number four smartphone, after the iPhone, BlackBerry Curve 8300 and BlackBerry Pearl 8100, the AdMob Mobile Metrics report says.
One factor fueling growth is the Android Market app store. Android-based ad requests increased an average of 47 percent per month in the first five months following the app store launch in November 2008, the AdMob report says.
And yet, reaction to the G1 sales is mixed. On one hand, some see one million in sales as a clear victory for Android, but other industry watchers disagree. Some critics say that Android is failing to deliver on its promise to provide a platform more affordable than Windows Mobile, more widely available than Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) OS X and more customizable than Research in Motion’s (NASDAQ: RIMM) BlackBerry OS.
“The G1 sale figure is a milestone, but it’s not a clear victory for Android either. There’s a couple of issues with Android, the first being that Android was so overhyped to begin with, it was almost assured that it wouldn’t meet expectations. On the other hand, Android isn’t dead, as Twain says, ‘the rumors of its demise are highly exaggerated,'” analyst Jack Gold of J.Gold Associates told InternetNews.com.
The speculation and hand-wringing is due to the fact that hardware makers, with the exception of Samsung, HTC and possibly Acer, are not showing any signs of jumping on board. Sony Ericcson (NASDAQ: ERIC) just backed out and Motorola hasn’t announced any Android plans yet either.
Plus, observers cite a lack of interest from carriers. Sprint is working on the Palm Pre for now and Verizon and AT&T (NYSE: T) have made no announcements about Android to date.
The reality is that the G1 may have been rushed to market before the majority of developers, carriers and handset makers were completely comfortable with the Android platform as it existed six months ago, which resulted in the long lag time between the G1 and other products, Gold said.
Another reason why Android is slow out of the gate is that the G1 wasn’t very appealing in terms of design and function.
“The G1 was underwhelming, people don’t buy an OS, they buy an experience, and it wasn’t that great, which is OK for the first device. And a lot of vendors and developers looked at the first version of Android and said we’ll wait for the next version that has more capability, and rightly so,” said Gold.
Google did, however, just unveil Android 1.5 SDK, which includes support for soft keyboards, speech recognition, and third-party widgets on the home screen. But aside from some comments made recently by CEO Eric Schmidt during the company’s earnings call, Google has not said much about Android.
“This is just the beginning for Android, but we’re very pleased with the success we’ve seen thus far. As Eric Schmidt mentioned last week on Google’s quarterly earnings call, 2009 will be a ‘very strong year’ for Android. As the world’s first open mobile platform, we believe Android will help spur greater innovation, for the benefit of mobile users everywhere, and we look forward to what the future holds,” a Google spokesperson told InternetNews.com.