Android will continue to grow at more than twice the rate of its major smart phone competitors in 2011 despite market concerns over platform fragmentation, says a report by Canalys.
According to Canalys Q3 2010 estimates, the Google-backed platform already claims a 25% share of the worldwide smart phone market, with over 20 million shipments of Android-based worldwide.
Canalys principal analyst Chris Jones said: ‘The growth of Android has been phenomenal, but so too has the number of related devices launched with different hardware and software specifications. This has led to the market perception of it as a fragmented platform, though we believe that growth will continue as the pace of Android OS upgrades slows.’
Gingerbread (Android 2.3) is already Google’s eighth update, with its forthcoming Honeycomb (Android 3.0) pad-focused release set to appear on devices in coming months.
The platform’s rapid evolution has required increased resources from both smartphone manufacturers and app developers to support the operating system, the report notes.
Jones said: ‘The need to differentiate has pushed vendors to create customized user interface overlays for their Android devices. As additional investment is required to ensure compatibility with each operating system upgrade, this has hampered vendors’ efforts to stay up-to-date with the latest Android iteration on current devices.’
He added: ‘Fragmentation affects all OS platforms, though it is particularly visible with Android due to the fast pace of upgrades that has characterized its growth.
‘The problem has been less pronounced on competitive platforms, such as Apple’s iOS, as devices have been able to support the iOS 4 upgrades since the iPhone 3G. Nokia has also sought to minimize its fragmentation issues by utilizing the cross-platform Qt framework.’
Vendors working on Android have leveraged the open source platform to push prices down and bring smart phones to the mass market. As a result, Android shipments grew more than 1,000% through the first three quarters of 2010 over the same period in 2009.
The platform has also opened up the smartphone market to new entrants. Established vendors, such as Samsung and HTC, have benefitted but so have PC vendors, such as Acer, bringing a broad product range to market, spanning smart phones and pads.
Canalys senior analyst Daryl said: ‘Vendors are trying to differentiate further on the hardware front, with faster and more powerful processors, as well as larger screen sizes.
‘Last week, LG announced the first smart phone to support a dual-core processor, while Acer and Samsung showcased smart phones with screen sizes of 4.8 inches and 4.5 inches respectively.’
Chaim said this evolution will benefit developers too.
‘With Android’s momentum expected to stay strong, the installed base of Android-based smart phones and pads will rapidly increase – good news for developers.
‘To be successful, developers must be prepared to cater to the abilities of the different device categories, tweaking the user experience of their applications accordingly. This additional effort is well worth the potential benefit of broader application distribution.’
‘To support developers, Google must also make substantial enhancements to the Android Market, including the ability to detect device platforms, highlighting the applications suitable for each, which would improve the user experience and increase the number of downloads,’ said Chiam.