When will Android reach one billion users?

The latest data from Google shows that the Android activation rate is increasing at a relatively steady rate (i.e. acceleration is constant). The data provided so far is in the blue circles below. The green line is the interpolation and extrapolation of that data.

As the graph is projected forward we get an activation rate of one million per day by mid August of this year. If it continues then we could see 1.5 million per day by end of 2013.

The corresponding number of cumulative activations is shown on the following log chart (with blue circles showing the actual data and the green estimates.)

The forecast is therefore that Android activations will cross one billion by November 2013.

The following chart compares the growth ramps of the various mobile operating systems indexed from the same starting points (measured in quarters after launch).

If Android does keep accelerating at the same rate then it will reach a billion users in five years. Of course, this total will not be a unified ecosystem in that many versions of Android will be co-existing. There will also be additional variants of Android which will not include Google services (these are not included in the totals above) which will compete to some degree with this platform.

However, it’s still an amazing story. The crucial question is whether the billion Android phones will have an effect on the opportunity for new entrants like Windows Phone and future BlackBerry variants as well as Bada and other Linux-based platforms.

The answer is that there will be well over 6 billion mobile “connections” by the end of 2013. ITU reports that “By the end of 2010, there will be an estimated 5.3 billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, including 940 million subscriptions to 3G services.” It follows then that if this forecast is correct then by the end of 2013, Android will have about 17% penetration of the connections market.

  • Luis Masanti

    I would like to know the “span” of those activations.
    iPhone 3GS users are still using the device and have iOS 5 on it. This is a three year span life.The increased rate of activation could also mean that the life of an Android phone is shorter, so you replace it more frequently –maybe, throwing away the previous–. So, activations could be very far from “devices in use.”I think is similar to phone makers telling us about the “number of phones delivered to the channel” versus Apple telling us the “number of phones sold.”But, anyway, impressive numbers.

    • Anonymous

      Not sure this is adequate, since the question is also what is Android user retention, it is reported to be significantly worst than Apple iOS.  My sense is that the Android growth is new users being pushed by Telcos at lower cost in non-subscription models.  I would observe that Apple iPhones have great retention and like Window get a lot of transfers from Android.  How these numbers actually work out will play a role going forward in the market relationships, share, and most importantly profits.  Eventually, service to existing Android owners that demonstrates SW upgrades and capabilities longer than a few months will begin in maturing markets, US and Europe.  

      Moving into non-subscription markets like India, South America, etc. will complicate Apples model, but even if Apple achieves a minority stake in these markets [~15 to 20%] and yet maintains a high market stake in develop markets US, Europe, and perhaps China [30 to 40%], this is huge dollars for growth and continuing income.  

      I don’t see a lot of data driven analysis on these dimensions except with Horace in the last few months. 

      In none of the above, has Windows 8 or Bada [I discount RIM] included, but its easy for hardware vendors especially Samsung to hedge their bets.  This might be driven by market forces, but I would not discount Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle law suits.  These are a big wild card and I think in the long run will prove successful, thereby driving new opportunities for Windows 8 and Bada.

      • Anonymous

        The Android growth is a free phone user getting Symbian in 2007 and Android in 2010. That is all.

        When a free phone line that sells 100 million per year switches over to Android, yes, that really spikes the Android adoption graph. But so what? What benefit comes from that?

      • Yasir091

        I completely agree… The real telling difference b/w iOS and anriod was Q411, apple sold 80% of AT&T, 55% of VERIZON and more than 50% of Sprint smart phones… This despite the fact all these carriers never push for iPhone in their stores or sales channels… If you don’t believe me go to any of these carrier store and ask for smart phone and pretend you know nothing about smart phone… One of the VERIZON sales person told me that they never push for iPhone because of minimum commission…
        It is also important to note despite all the anriod growth rate, google was not able to make any money from it… When they are going to make that money… lot of people think that advertising will always be defacto standard for services on Internet… Google only makes money on search, all other services don’t make any money, despite huge volume… Facebook just made 1B in a year with 800B users, where as apple made 38B in a year by selling real products with a single digit market share… Just focusing on free services and advertising is a big mistake, this will not always win

    • No source, but I got the impression not too long ago (maybe when the 4S came out) that iOS users were upgrading faster than Android users…

      • Anonymous

        The point is that Android users are incentivized to buy new hardware just to run the current OS and latest apps, while many iOS users are running a 3GS that came with iOS 3 yet is now running iOS 5 and almost all of te latest apps.

      • From everyone I’ve talked about smartphones with (even enthusiastic nerds), only those with iPhones wanted to upgrade, while those with Android usually didn’t care enough.

        Either way, it would be nice if someone could pull up some real stats on this…

      • So Android is “good enough”, while iOS is not.  Yet they are very similar.  The obvious conclusion is that they are hired for different jobs.  This is borne out by app and web consumption numbers, where Android underperforms its market share (or iOS overperforms, if you prefer).

      • This is very insightful.

    • The interesting thing about the iPhone 3GS is that everyone I know who has one has it as a hand-me-down from someone who upgraded to a 4 or 4s.  People are giving them to spouses, parents, children, etc., or even selling them.  The point is that Apple is doing better than just providing something that people keep and continue to use–that could be seen as a negative on sales–but they have actually managed as well to turn their current users into a sort of sales force, introducing millions of new people to the iOS experience.

      Many of those hand-me-down users may not translate into significant new sales, as they may continue to simply be hand-me-down recipients, but some of them are going to become loyalists themselves and upgrade on their own the next time around and continue the cycle.

      • Wesley Hsu

        I’m one of those people, happily taking hand-me-down iPhones from those willing to spend $800 on the 4S. (Paid $60 for a used 3G, then $120 for a used 3GS two years later). 

        I don’t want an Android phone ever. But I don’t want to pay full price for an iPhone ever either. So to both Google and Apple, I’m just an irritating cheapskate. 

        My 4-year old playing with the 3G, on the other hand…

  • I agree with Luis Masanti.

    Numbers for units “shipped” or “activated” are not really significant.

    Is it a positive sign that many more units were shipped to retailers than were actually sold to, and used by, end users? No.

    Is it a positive sign that some products have higher activation numbers, due to a shorter usage lifespan, hardware failures, higher return rates, inability to upgrade the operating system, etc.? No.

    The numbers that are truly relevant would be how many end users are currently using a product. Numbers of products that are gathering dust on store shelves, or returns, or ones that are no longer in use, falsely inflate market share figures. 

    • Anonymous

      Not to mention that the devices in question are arbitrarily combined as though they were one Android platform when the only thing they have in common is they both used the same open source project. It’s EXACTLY the same logic as combining all WebKit devices into a WebKit platform, except the WebKit platform would have a better chance of running the same apps as each other.

  • “acceleration is constant”. That looks more logarithmic than linear if you ask me. Whatever. 

    These numbers remind me of how when Gartner predicted Android’s success about a year and a half ago, and everyone here laughed and said it won’t happen and Gartner doesn’t know how to predict because they predicted WM’s success in 2006. I wonder if those commentors are reading this article.

    By the way, Horace, you yourself mocked the “magically open” Android in that article back in Sep. ’10 as if it would hinder its’ success. And here you do it again, this time while mentioning how successful they are. I’m wondering: what do you actually believe is this “fragmentation” phenomenon and do you think it actually has any significant effect on Android sales?

    To be clear, this fragmentation of OS versions is not a fragmentation of the ecosystem, as you say in the article. It’s the same ecosystem, it’s just a difference of a few API’s. I assure you that the 30% that are on API level 8 are not missing out that much as the 60% on API level 10. The 1% on API level 4 may be missing out on some goodies though. But everyone’s still running the same apps using the same services and enjoying many of the same options all Android users are.

    I think the more interesting question you ignored is when and how much will Android sales start affecting iOS sales, not RIM or Windows – you know, someone who can try to compete. Someone in the same league. Bada? Seriously? I think there’s room for speculation as far as minor players trying to play along, but when you read these kinds of numbers, you gotta stop looking at Windows and RIM and start to wonder if even Apple has a chance of stopping this behemoth from eventually eating up the whole market.

    • [AH] : “acceleration is constant”. That looks more logarithmic than linear if you ask me. Whatever. 

      You’re right, it is an exponential growth, not linear.  That’s why it’s “acceleration is constant” rather than “growth is constant”.  Put another way, Horace is saying, “growth is increasing, and doing so at a constant rate”.  The chart is curving ever upwards, but if you took the first derivative at any point, you’d see a reasonably constant number.

      • No, if you look at the article, you’ll see what I mean. The activations graph looks logarithmic (hence acceleration is logarithmic). True, absolute activations are obviously logarithmic, but you’d understand why that is, right?

      • jawbroken

        Not really understanding what you are trying to say here at all. It’s very confusing when you say “activations graph” when there are multiple charts showing stats on activations. What on here are you calling logarithmic that isn’t the y axis of the total activations chart?

      • Did anyone here read the article or try to find where I was quoting from? I was quoting from the first paragraph. The one where he discusses daily activation /rates/. The /acceleration/ of activations. He says this write there in the first two sentences of the article. He refers to the first graph of the article in the following sentence by describing it, so you can’t miss it.

        This was kind of a side note, but in case you were wondering why I think it’s logarithmic, it’s because he draws a linear trendline of the daily activations and overlays it on top of the slope. The begining and end of the slope are higher than the linear trendline and the middle of the slope is lower than the linear trendline. You can see it even without the trendline – it just looks logarithmic. That’s all.

        I’m wondering why assume future activation rates (acceleration) would be constant if the derivative of the acceleration is positive (assuming my eyes are not deceiving me and activation rates are indeed logarithmic).

      • jawbroken

        Yes, I read the article, but you referred to both charts, apparently, in your comments and the two are somewhat interdependent. Also you seem to be confused about logarithmic vs exponential which makes your comments even more confusing because the second chart (total activations) has the appearance of being logarithmic (but isn’t because the y-axis is using a log scale).

      • Oops. You are absolutely correct. I confused exponential with logarithmic. Stupid me. (My studies of mathematics were not in English…)

        I only mentioned the other graph because if the derivative of the derivative of a slope is exponential then obviously the slope itself is exponential – however that wasn’t the point.

        Excuse my confusion…

    • Anonymous

      My son’s friends replacing their Android every six months. They coming here and showing it off-more giga this and more giga that and then they ask my son for his Iphone to play games without glitches and interuptions. These are the one that push the Droid right now, however in two or three years they will settle nicely with Iphone (8?  9?) and will stay with it. Once they have to earn their wages quality always win. 

      • To be fair, I’m sure that some of those phones run their games and apps just fine.  Not every Android phone is crap, and the experience is going to continue to get better with ICS and future releases.  Google has taken steps to reduce fragmentation, and it’s entirely likely that they will continue to do so.

        The question is, what do people mean when they say Android is “winning”?  In raw numbers, it just looks like Android is becoming the default OS for smart phones, and that’s great; having a good base-line like that is good for the entire industry as that means that there’s an easy path to get people from dumb- and feature-phones up to (nominally) higher-margin products.

        And of course, for Google, it’s a big win because the more mobile devices are out there–regardless of the OS–the more revenue they can pull down from advertising when people hit the web or run apps on those devices.  Heck, for Google, it’s a big win even if someone hates their first Android phone and moves to an iPhone; it’s likely they’re not moving back to a dumb- or feature-phone, and Google doesn’t care what platform you’re on if they can feed you ads.  As long as Google doesn’t shoot itself in the foot and turn into an untrusted brand with all the recent privacy policy claptrap, there’s no reason this couldn’t be an ongoing HUGE win for them.  They could even ditch Moto, slow down development on Android and focus efforts on advertising to platforms that people go to after leaving their Android phones.

        The fragmentation thing is a two-edged sword for the manufacturers.  If it’s 100% consistent and upgrade-able, then the only way a manufacturer stands out is if they make amazing, stand-out hardware.  But doing that would be a risk, because if someone buys a $600 device and sees that someone else is able to do exactly the same things on a free fully-plastic device, they might not be happy.  But if there’s fragmentation, then no matter how good your device is, your customers might find that their friends’ phones can do things that their own can not.  Either way, it’s a challenge to build long-term loyalty if you don’t control both the hardware and the software.

        I questioned the wisdom of this years ago when Jobs killed the Mac-compatible market.  I thought it was a stupid move.  But really, OS licensing–both for the licensee and for the licensor–is only a benefit to those with mediocre products. If you’re building the best possible hardware, you need to hold your hardware to the same high standards, and visa-versa.  You can’t put the fate of your product, as determined by its perception among its customers, in the hands of a party whose interests are not your own.

      • I’ll gladly wager you whatever you wish that Android will continue to dominate smartphones. Wanna meet back here in a year? I do this every year, wagering with Android doubters the momentum will continue… Sigh…

        I never said Android was a better experience (though I don’t believe iOS is that far significantly better as it is made out to be, yes I play with both a lot). True, game development is more developed on iOS atm, and that may be why they’re asking to play on the iPhone. But if you’ll agree with me that OSX is of better “quality” (the scale you are using) than any Windows version ever, then how can you actually believe that last sentence you just blurted?

        I don’t know how many times I need to point out to people that market share relies on a lot of things, most being totally unrelated to the user experience of the software. In fact, if I had to make a list of things that affect market share, I believe user experience would be quite close to last. Once they have to “earn their wages”, the tool’s experience quality has nothing to do with it. Try compatibility, cost, convenience, availability, or ability.

      • Or distribution.

      • That’s what I was thinking when I said availability, but distribution is indeed another independent factor (where availability is from the consumer’s end and distribution is from the supplier’s end).

        Indeed, the list of factors determining market share is a long one.

      • I believe that Android will continue to permeate the market place, and is likely to grow faster than all other mobile operating systems.  What I wonder is who will benefit most from it, i.e. who will actually “win”.

        Long term, I don’t think Google needs to care–although they might–which OS you’re using, since their major revenue source is advertising. Even if Android just acts as a feeder to other systems, they win.  And the carriers win by getting people to transition to higher-value data subscriptions.  Again, they don’t care what OS people are using as long as they’re subscribing–see T-Mobile’s last quarterly announcement for more on that.

        The handset makers, on the other hand, are running for the most part on incredibly small margins.  With the exception of a few (e.g. Samsung), most will probably have to exit the market, or at least significantly refine the area that they address, in the not-too-distant future.

      • I mostly agree with you on the observation of who ultimately “wins” from this market share struggle. I see everyone winning from this except for those investing in competing directly with Android the operating system. Whether or not Google will be able to take advantage of the proliferation of Android or non-Android web-connected phones for profit and how is an interesting debate, but it seems they are determined to invest in pushing Android regardless of the profits they are reaping from it.

        Personally, I believe Google has enough to offer as far as services that Android or not, people will turn to Google for internet solutions, but it would definitely be easier if they steer the dominant mobile OS, the dominant desktop browser, etc.

        If smartphone manufacturers exit the market due to low profit margins, then either we will suffice with less or the prices will rise, but I’m not worried about any business – you’re either directing the flow or going with it, or you’re out. Either way, things tend to flow (assuming fossil fuels keep discounting everything we do).

      • Anonymous

        Well, without namecalling–quantity they (Droid) control quality they are not. Ad money will keep on coming as long as the next billion of users will clic on ad’s (by the way two weeks ago or so an analysis of their revenew found a decrease per clic due to mobil usage in compare to regular computer). More manufectorers are utilizing Android but shying away from Google Ad’s (Amazon among others). Once Moto will be part of Google there will be more of such in order of them to distinguish their unique product from Moto. My statistic instractor at UC Berkeley use to say that give a number and the needed result and he will find the way to culculate it.

      • Space Gorilla

        I agree that Android will dominate the smartphone market eventually. Android is on track to become the default entry level smartphone platform. But that’s yesterday’s battle. Today’s battle is the post-PC market, the devices consumers are moving to for their computing needs. iOS is winning that battle, easily.

    • Acceleration is the second derivative of the second graph meaning it’s the slope of the first graph. The acceleration is therefore fairly constant as shown by the blue line and amounts to about 6500 activations/week/week.
      The fragmentation of ecosystem refers to the way Google presents the data. They don’t include devices which are not part of their ecosystem presumably because they don’t benefit from them (by definition an ecosystem is one which is mutually beneficial to participants.)

      • Like I said, the first graph looks more logarithmic than linear to me. I’m no numbers extraordinaire, but when the beginning and end of a slope are higher than the linear trendline and the middle of the slope is lower than the linear trendline, that hints it’s logarithmic, no? Correct me if I’m wrong, you’re a much bigger expert on numerical analysis than I am.

        Google doesn’t present it as “fragmentation”, rather as distribution of version numbers, which practically only means API levels, which practically means that certain apps’ functions work on some devices and don’t on others. Which in actuality means almost nothing, except for the passionate nerds (me amongst them). This is how I see the phenomenon of fragmentation, and I’m wondering how do you. I guess my question to you is what makes you believe that fragmentation is such a significant part of the Android ecosystem that made you point it out in this article?

      • jawbroken

        I feel like you might be confusing logarithmic and exponential and also overfitting that data.

      • You are abolutely correct, I confused exponential with logarithmic (my limited studies of mathematics were not in English)… I should facepalm myself for that. I stand corrected.

        However, my point still stands.

      • jawbroken

        I still think you’re paying too much attention to the first and last datapoints. The first one is just generally slow initial growth and I believe the last is the holiday quarter which you can see always comes in higher.

      • Anonymous

        The issue of fragmentation may not mean much to the average Android phone purchaser as you suggest. He chooses a phone, he does what he can with it. As you say, you can pretty much do similar things with most of the phones. The user may not see all the implications of fragmentation while using his own phone, or he may choose to ignore it or live with it. He may not even notice what limitations he is bumping up against, in terms of the user experience enjoyed by the user of a different Android phone.

        He is, however, going to wonder why he can’t upgrade his OS with the click of a button like an iOS user. He is going to be told by the likes of you that it doesn’t matter, or that it’s a carrier issue, or that Google only cares about the latest “flagship” phone, or somesuch. Of course Google doesn’t present it as a “framentation” issue — you never advertise your own weaknesses.

        But from a value and developer point of view, there is significant fragmentation. Any platform that has a wide variation in hardware and in active OS version is going to present more challenges to the developer in terms of tradeoffs (in both design and function) and in testing across devices. Period.

        Furthermore, more new phones are coming out with older versions of Android than phones with the latest version. This shows no signs of changing. One article I recently read called 2012 “the year of Gingerbread”, since Gingerbread is adding Android devices 14 x faster than ICS! (

        With these factors you definitely have a case of developers creating apps with a “lowest common denominator” approach. It’s inevitable. The apps are not going to be all they can be. Period.

        Most developers are going to concentrate their best efforts on iOS (as has been proven to be the case). They see more value in a more unified and cohesive platform where they can better address the whole pool, and one output is fully useable by allmost the whole addressable pool.

        Afterall, 95% of iPhones (not even counting iPod Touches and iPads), is a much better target than, say, 35% (to be more than generous) of Android phones that can all use the same app to the same degree and provide comparable user experience. Indeed, this is undisputable — the evidence and testimony of major developers says exactly this.

      • Why do you think the average user even knows his phone can or cannot be updated? Why do you think it makes any difference to the average user whatsoever???

        You know what? Let’s assume all Android phones are indeed running GB and ICS is far away. So what? So Google is developing the OS faster than can be distributed? Is that the problem? If ICS is out, does that make gingerbread a BAD os? Is that it? Is GB a *BAD* OS?? When Jelly Bean comes out, will ICS suddenly become bad?

        The fact that Google makes two major updates for every one that the iPhone does, isn’t inherently bad. If anything, it’s great, because it gives so much more opportunity to have something newer. As opposed to the iPhone where no matter what new technology comes along, you won’t get it until the end of the year…

        Why is it bad that Google is making updates faster than can be distributed? Should I tell you that iOS is bad because they’re being sold faster than Apple can make them? Does that make iOS worse?

        Should PC manufacturers stop making high end hardware because that means that people with older hardware can’t run the same games, and that makes Windows fragmented???

        Are you an Android developer? You can develop any app to run on any version of the OS on any device and any size. Enough with this fragmentation BS.

        I dare you:

        Name one feature — I mean, ONE feature — that is significant enough to merit calling Android “fragmented” and not backwards compatible — ONE FEATURE — that makes the whole Android ecosystem so messed up — that you can do on one device running Android but you can’t on another. ONE FEATURE. Please. Find it for me. Find something that makes Android “fragmented”.

      • Anonymous

        Oh, I see, you are trying to argue that Android is “backwards compatible” and not “fragmented”. Good luck with that. I think it has been pointed out a couple of times what people mean (including me) by “fragmented”. And you asked.

        A biggie is just what I already said: new phones are coming out with old versions of the OS installed. That *is* fragmentation by one definition.

        Another one is that the bar is low for what models Android can be installed on. Android phones run the gamut from dumb or feature phones right up to the best smart phones. Most Android users don’t get to enjoy the apps, features or functionality that you probably take for granted when the high profile flagship phones are discussed. Again, that’s fragmentation whatever way you cut it.

        Backwards compatibility is only one aspect. Yet Android is notoriously poor at this, too. With iOS you will have most iPhones going back about three years upgrading almost overnight. The owner can click, “upgrade” and voila, done. Android phones are not getting updated, whether they can handle the upgrade or not.

        In practical terms, you really only get the Android updates from Google IF you buy a new phone that carries that update pre-installed. So, you can pat Google on the back all you want for making “two major updates for every one that the iPhone does”, but that doesn’t sound very consumer friendly.

        If you are arguing that these updates don’t really matter to the average Android user and they would just as soon invest in a new phone (perhaps because it is easier), then why say how great it is that Google is providing frequent updates? Maybe there really is no killer feature difference between Gingerbread and ICS…. EXCEPT which phones are actually going to get it or not! And new phones are promoted on this basis — so it must matter to someone.

        (BTW iPhone users don’t have to wait for the end of the year to get any new technology — smaller updates come along quite frequently, automatically.)

        And no, I don’t particularly think Google is updating faster than it can be distributed. I think they are lax regarding sharing their policies, strategy and roadmap with their OEMs. I think their relationship with their OEMs is far worse than MS’ ever was with theirs.

        You have given no cogent argument as to why Android is *not* fragmented, other than “who cares, it doesn’t really affect anyone”. Nice.

        All this simply exacerbates what you are denying again and again — fragmentation is alive and well. Developers certainly do have to make sure everything works from version to version and phone to phone (whether you think this is easy or not). The value of the platform “as a *platform* ” is weakened. Not to mention the presence of clones.

        If the platform is better described as a series of specifications than as a cohesive platform (as has been argued before on this site), then, hey, sounds like a fragmented platform to most people.

      • Lots of talk, but once again, another commenter here fails to do what I thought should be such a simple task for all these people who apparently are such experts on Android fragmentation.

        You failed to give me ONE FEATURE (did I ask for that much?). ONE FEATURE. You obviously don’t understand too much about Android if you can’t name a single feature difference between different versions that causes fragmentation which obviously exists.

        And what’s up with complaining about the gap between when Google releases a new version of Android and when it actually reaches phones? If Google just released the OS of 2015 but it took two years to reach phones, are you still angry? So Androids are getting two updates of 2015 by 2014 while iPhones are getting one update of 2014 by 2014 and one of 2015 by 2015.

        The gap between Google’s release and updates on phones is an illusion of a problem because you have no reference as to when those updates should be getting to the phones in the first place. You can’t even tell me why people want those updates, yet you complain they can’t get them… What are you even arguing? I’m confused.

        “You have given no cogent argument as to why Android is *not* fragmented”
        Seriously???? WTF??? Can you give be an argument as to why you do *not* live in the Matrix??? WTF is up with that? Since when is the onus probandi on my shoulders? You’re the one claiming there is fragmentation. Get a grip of yourself.

        Oh, and remember, you failed to give me ONE EXAMPLE of the phenomenon you are so vigorously arguing is so profound. I won’t discuss this matter any more if you can’t even do that.

      • Kizedek

        I’ll give you an example from iOS.
        Just one thing introduced by iOS 5 was a completely new notification system with the universal drop down from the top of any screen, and app by app settings.

        The day iOS 5 was introduced, millions upon millions of iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users got this instantly, on units up to about three years old. It works identically across all those devices. Developers can easily add it to their apps and issue instant free updates, which the iOS user is instantly notified about. That, my friend, is unification in a platform.

        So, how about this for onus… forget the onus being on us or you about proving fragmentation or lack of fragmentation; how about the onus being on you and Google to explain why anyone *should* have or need an Android update?

        As others have posted, according to you, their is no difference anywhere between any Android phones or the versions they may or may not be running. If this is the case, what’s the point of further development by Google?

        1) are there any new or improved features from one version of Android to the next?

        2) if so, which, and how many, phones are actually benefitting from the new versions or features? You yourself implied it might take two years to receive an update… Ahh, the wonders of backwards compatibility. You yourself implied it was easier to just go get another phone — further implying that there are differences that might be desirable from phone to phone. Getting an update onto your existing Android sure seems extremely arduous and problematic. This is documented, we don’t need to prove it (go visit your phone store and find out what they can or will do for you).

      • First off, I should mention that your example only strengthens my point that Android is so far ahead of iOS. Lagging updates aside, Android users have enjoyed an awesome notification system many years before iOS users started to, when Apple swallowed their pride and slavishly copied the notification system from Android (albeit with adding some very nice tweaks). Gingerbread or no Gingerbread, old phones apparently had more, better features earlier than iOS users of any OS version. Hence, perhaps even if there is fragmentation, it seems to be doing more good than bad, because Android users are enjoying these features, while iOS users have to wait for Apple to swallow its’ pride.

        “how about the onus being on you and Google to explain why anyone *should* have or need an Android update?”

        Once again, I never said Android phones needed updates. I’m not saying they don’t or for what reasons (hint: nothing to do with “fragmentation”). But everyone here yelling “fragmentation!” seems to think it’s extremely critical, yet nobody here can tell me why. So if you believe this phenomenon of fragmentation, why don’t you tell me why an Android user should update and only then you can tell me why it’s bad if he doesn’t, hence bad fragmentation. I’m not interested in convincing anyone why people *should* have or need updates. People like you who are yelling “fragmentation” need to be the ones doing this.

        Personally, if you’re already asking, I believe the very nature of the way Android is designed gives app developers, and hence their users, all the power needed off the bat, and nobody needs to wait for Google’s permission. That’s why pretty much every feature an app can offer on Android 4.0 can also run on Android 2.0. You can say this is for the better or for the worse, but the fact is that nearly nobody actually experiences this “fragmentation”. I can explain to you in more detail, and I can also explain to you what the actual difference is between each Android version is, but the fact of the matter is that you don’t seem to know this.

        You, like everyone else here, are talking out of your a** when talking about Android, with zero technical knowledge about it, yet you very loudly protest technical aspects it. So please, just admit already you don’t know what you’re talking about, and you said “fragmentation” without being able to back up your claim in any way.

      • Kizedek

        Don’t take my word for it — educate yourself a little. Here’s a good place to start:

    • Anonymous

      90% of iPhone users and 60% of Android users say their next phone will be an iPhone. Android is in no danger of eating the market. Android takes all the table scraps. They are getting all the devices that nobody cares about. All the devices that make no money. You can pretend that this crappy, crappy part of the market is a desirable market share but it is just pretending.

      • The table scraps is everything. Most people don’t shell out hundreds of dollars for fancy new smartphones. And, as I have said before, there are many factors determining market share, and the OS developer’s profits from sales don’t have too much to do with it.

        I’ve heard those statistics before. In fact, a very long time ago. Yet here we are today and Android sales are still growing, as you can see from the analysis in this article. Who is gonna tell everyone to stop buying Android phones because you think it’s an undesireable market? Fact is, most people are buying them, maybe because they’re cheaper, which is probably what most people desire.

        Nobody knows what they’re going to want to buy in two or three years from now. You can tell me today that your next car is gonna be so and so, and I’ll say let’s wait and see, because by then who knows what’s gonna happen. I bet most peoples’ prediction of their next purchase preference is arbitrary, and so far the stats are proving it – most people say they’re going to buy an iPhone yet most people are buying Androids.

        Just don’t be surprised that people’s opinions are not a reliable metric of market share.

      • Anonymous

        “The table scraps is everything.” To Google you’re probably right, but not to Phone manufacturers. And even for Google, the higher end customers are undoubtedly worth more, per capita, than the ones buying $75 phones.

        It’s fair to say that buying intention surveys are useless, but they do indicate buyer perceptions of products. It’s also worth noting that iOS isn’t exactly struggling to grab users. It is following a very similar trajectory (admittedly not quite as steep), but is doing so with only three products.

        So yes Android will keep growing like crazy, but you take a huge leap yourself in suggesting that Android’s growth will lead to iOS’s downfall. They are growing together in tandem. Horace’s estimate of 17% total handset penetration doesn’t exactly point to global domination. He mentions the weaker players (Bada, WP) because they are not succeeding the way that the two leaders are. They also suffer from a lack of differentiation – but not in the sense that the products are identical to Android/iOS. They are undifferentiated int that they don’t appeal to buyers in any unique and compelling way.

      • Anonymous

        iOS owns the high end and Android offers something for everyone. The more time passes without a strong third player, the harder it is to grab buyers’ attention. Google is experiencing this same phenomenon with its struggles on Google+. Facebook has offered enough utility to enough users over enough time that people aren’t clamping for an alternative. Specialty networks like LinkedIn and Pinterest are succeeding because they aren’t trying to steal Facebook users – it isn’t an either/or proposition. Device purchases though do ask users to make a binding platform choice for a period of time.

      • I don’t see how “higher end customers” are any more valuable to Google than average customers. Do they click on ads more?

        Obviously there is enough room for everyone to grow – there are still loads of people without smartphones at all. Apple is selling its’ products faster than it’s making them, so Google obviously isn’t quite yet hurting their sales. But if things continue the way they do, Android will entirely saturate the market until everyone has smartphones.

        At that point, is it not reasonable to think Android will start taking share from Apple? The same reason Windows is still selling so well today – it sucks, but that doesn’t change the fact that people buy Windows because everyone does, even if there is a minority of options with OSX, and everyone is selling Windows hardware for the same reason. This example isn’t perfect because recently OSX has been growing, but my point is clear, yes?

      • Anonymous

        “Do they click on ads more?” it’s not the frequency of clicks, it’s the frequency of purchases. Advertisers have always been willing to pay much more to reach an audience who will actually buy their products. It’s the reason grocery stores want to know your education level and tv shows that do well in he 18-49 age bracket charge more for commercials.

        I really don’t wat to jump back into the debate over why this isn’t Windows / Mac, but maybe someone else on this board will take it on.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting number!
    Yet, how significant it will be if you add a formula (which I do not know but Horace might) that will combine profit, retantion, migration to/from and asign some numerical grade to better understand its true commercial value since, as mention in the article itself, this OS is very fragmented, makes such a big number somewhat hollow.

  • It seems probable that at some point the population of Android users will plateau. If for no other reason than the human population only has so many people who could use, let alone afford such a device. Is that number significantly above or below a billion? 

    Of more concern is Google’s ability to monetize Android’s penetration. And in this arena, I think there are real problems, because Android has (probably) already won the most profitable customers it is likely to get: Relatively affluent click-happy tech fans in the US and Europe. Even if Android starts getting penetration in rural China or west Africa, I’d guess that advertisers aren’t going to be paying top-dollar for information about their browsing habits or spending plans. If Google isn’t making money with ~ 300 million users, its not going to be making much more with a billion.

    UNLESS, of course, Google finds some as-yet-announced way of turning Android activations into revenue. 

    • Anonymous

      Android is no more expensive than the 5 billion phones that are out there today.

      • Thats true of the Operating System itself.

        But for the end user Android requires a) a considerably more powerful/expensive handset; and b) the purchase of some sort of mobile data

        Its one thing to sell low-income people in the developing world a $20 handset and prepaid calling minutes. Its another thing entirely to get them to buy a ~ $200 smartphone and a data plan that costs between $10 and $50 per month.

      • aaa

        Many Android phones actually come at less than $100 on prepaid plans, so that is more than affordable for even low-income people.

  • Recent Web stats from various sources show that iOS market share is 2x to 3x that of Android.

    These stats reflect the number of real devices in use, and are not affected by misleading “units shipped” or “activation” numbers.

    • Anonymous

      There have always been more iOS devices than Android. iOS went on sale first and has always outsold Android. You have to ignore 3 of the 4 major iOS devices in order to make things close.

    • Gartner are the leaders in hitech market data 

      Gartner Says Android to Command Nearly Half of Worldwide Smartphone Operating System Market by Year-End 2012Egham, UK, April 7, 2011— Worldwide smartphone sales will reach 468 million units in 2011, a 57.7 percent increase from 2010, according to Gartner Inc. By the end of 2011, Android will move to become the most popular operating system (OS) worldwide and will build on its strength to account for 49 percent of the smartphone market by 2012 (see Table 1). 

      More here:  

  • Anonymous

    There will be 1 billion Android devices and your typical Android app will run on less than half of them. So how is that a 1 billion platform?

    A billion WebKit users is more impressive.

    • Oh, now I understand why you’re so uninformed… You’ve never used an Android phone before, have you? Haha, that explains it…

      • Anonymous


        You cannot deny that Android is dysfunctionally fragmented. Try upgrading an earlier version of Android to the latest. In most cases you can’t. If you want the latest version of Android you almost certainly have to buy a new phone!

        Consequently, with Android developers have to settle on the lowest common denominator testing and retesting their Apps across numerous different phones and versions of Android. This has a negative effect, forcing Android Apps to be generally of lower quality while making it more time consuming and expensive for developers, which is one of the reasons many developers are turning their backs on Android.

        Apple on the other hand uses one iOS across three classes of devices. Furthermore, unlike Android, iOS is upgradeable and backwards compatible to all versions of iPhone from 3GS onwards.Siri is the only feature confined to the 4S, which is probably a deliberate marketing option taken by Apple to give the 4S a USP.

        Nobody can deny the extraordinary growth of Android. However I think you are mistaken in thinking that is a zero sum game and that Android will eliminate iPhones which you said in an earlier comment “start to wonder if even Apple has a chance of stopping this behemoth from eventually eating up the whole market.”

        Apple and Google are following entirely different strategies. Google is playing the QUANTITY game, giving away Android for free and trying to have as many phones sold with Android, in an attempt to create a vehicle to develop their mobile advertising model.

        Apple is playing the QUALITY & PROFIT GAME. Their unique combination of vertical integration of the software with the highest quality hardware and horizontal integration of their eco-system of Apps and media content across all their devices (iPhone, iPad and iTouch) results in by far the strongest brand recognition and loyalty with every device. They  all achieve by far the highest user satisfaction and retention rates. I know you don’t like user surveys but they do accurately reflect what happens in the market. 

        Apple users are the most affluent, better educated, travel more and use browsing, shopping and  other carriers services more. This makes them by far the most profitable, valuable and attractive customers for carriers, which is why they are willing to pay much higher subsidies for iPhones than any other make. This in turn makes Apple by far the most profitable company in the mobile sector, making three times as much profit as all other makers combined.

        But, as  I say, this is not necessarily a zero sum game. Apple and Android together have been crushing all the other OSs. Both are gaining market share. Apple’s share of the entire mobile phone market has risen from around 5% on a yearly basis to around 9% in the last quarter, with sales increasing 128% YonY. No sign whatever of the “behemoth” affecting Apple at all.

        Google does have some significant problems with their strategy. Apple’s users are far more active on the internet. As a result two thirds of all Google’s mobile searches originate from iOS devices. With Siri, Apple present a very considerable threat.

        The patent war also poses a very large risk of significant degradation of Android as features which the courts find that have take from other peoples IP are removed from Android. Google seems to have very little defensive patents which stand up in court. They seem to have relied on FRAND patents in a desperate attempt to fend off attacks, but are provoking serious backlash from the EU and US anti-trust authorities as well as the recent court setbacks of both Motorola and Samsung, which appear might leave Android almost defenceless. 

        This degradation could open the way for some other OS, such as Windows, to threaten Android.

      • I dare you:
        Name one feature — I mean, ONE feature — that is significant enough to merit calling Android “dysfunctionally fragmented” and not “backwards compatible” — ONE FEATURE — that makes the whole Android ecosystem so messed up — that you can do on one device running Android but you can’t on another. ONE FEATURE. Please. Find it for me. Find something that makes Android “fragmented”.

        You think you can do that? If Android is so dysfunctionsally fragmented, then surely this shouldn’t be hard.

        I have a felling you don’t know what you’re talking about regarding the technical differences between Android and iOS, because you miss some fundamental points and seem to be totally mislead. I don’t even think you actually know what Android is, by definition. I don’t even think you can look at a phone and tell me who was involved with the software on it.

        The fragmentation phenomenon is used as misleading propaganda against Android, and you’re spitting it out right here in front of me, so I just had to clear this up.

        You have so many mistakes in this post I’m not even going to start pointing them out. You touched on so many things that have so little to do with market share…

        Regarding market share, however, I don’t think this is a zero sum game either — at least not yet. But when everyone has a smartphone, then it is a zero sum game and any Android device sold is an iPhone’s missed opportunity. We have a while until this starts happening, but Android’s growth is growing, which means that if they keep up this pace for a few more years (probably not quite, but probably keep a good pace), then Apple will feel very tight against the corner…

      • berult

        You can’t see your eyes with your own eyes except through a mirror. This conflates to the Android quandary. A fragmented mindset fits in perfectly with a fragmented platform. A particular geometrical pattern ought to enhance rather than hinder the user experience. Google caters to ambivalence with a platform duly tailored for seasonal mood swings. I can therefore see traits of character in Android that would be imperceivable to a Google Geek. And so could the latter with respect to me…

        An Android user and the Android platform share a common experience through a common geometry, just as I do with the iOS platform through a tightly knitted comfort zone. As for the mirror narrative, up thread to where your eyes could flee…

      • A lot of words, but I honestly thought the hundreds of iOS fanboys here could take up my challange and prove they’re not bullshitting. I guess fragmentation is not that big an issue after all…

      • If Android is so fragmented then why is virtually everyone buying Android Smartphones at an incredible rate that is leaving Ios in its wake? I fear that in 5yrs time IOS will be like the mac was to the PC business.

      • Space Gorilla

        But Android isn’t leaving iOS in its wake. At the end of June 2012 Google announced 400 million total Android devices. Total iOS devices is around 420 million at the end of June 2012. I see so many people ‘forgetting’ to add (or ignoring) the iPad and the iPod Touch.

      • jawbroken

        I’m curious, if there’s no significant features in new Android OS releases then why do they bother doing them? Seems like they could just freeze the repository now and nothing would change, in your opinion.

      • Maybe. Then why is everyone so heated about this fragmentation, which I still haven’t found from any commenter (who I thought were a group of intelligent and informed people, not just internet trolls) a single practical example why it is an issue.

        Why don’t you answer the question yourself. Maybe that will clear up for you how bad this fragmentation issue really is.

      • jawbroken

        If I accept that it’s not a problem then the only reason that could be the case is that the new features in the new versions of the OS are either nonexistent or worthless to users and developers. Which one of those is the case or is it a mixture of both? Are these new android releases really that pointless? Google seems to think they are a big deal.

      • You can also accept that you simply don’t know anything about Android because you can’t even tell me what the difference is between milestone updates.

        It’s okay, you’re not alone here. Everybody here seems to be talking out of their a** when talking about Android.

      • jawbroken

        Oh I definitely could, but it wouldn’t add anything to the discussion. I don’t need to argue for the importance of an OS update because the very company that releases them already has for me. We could argue back and forth about what new features are important or essential but that isn’t interesting; we already have a way to judge importance – the money and effort Google spends making and promoting an OS update. You haven’t answered my questions about whether you disagree with them or not.

      • Anonymous

        You really are silly Ariel,

        Just read my comment, It explains quite clearly in plain English why Android is dysfunctionally fragmented.

        You are obviously in denial.

      • I read your comment. And I asked you to give me one real practical example of the phenomenon you are discussing. The only “problem” you described is that my phone, under settings > about phone > version number has a different number than someone else’s phone. That’s the only thing you mentioned. I don’t see how that makes it dysfunctionally fragmented. For it to be dysfunctional, you must give me an example of the function it is supposed to fill that it doesn’t. You still haven’t given me that and I can only conclude you are an internet troll.

      • Anonymous

        ” any Android device sold is an iPhone’s missed opportunity. ”

        That is absolute rubbish. Every survey shows that the iPhone has by far the highest satisfaction and retention ratings. 

        What does that mean in plain English? As you seem to have difficulty in understanding the language:

        Every survey I have seen shows that iPhone users are much more loyal to the Apple’s brand than are Android users to Android.  More Android users are dissatisfied with Android than iPhone users are dissatisfied with iPhones. iPhone retains more users than Android. Consequently more Android users buy iPhones than iPhone users buy Android. …..Get it?

        You seem such a Fandroid in denial that you have ignored the facts of the last quarter where Android is in face to face competition with iPhone 4s. 

        For example according to Nielsen, in the last quarter in the US Android lost market share declining from 61.6% to 46.9% while iPhone’s market share rose from 25.1% to 44.5%
        In the face os such facts how can you possibly claim that Android’s growth is growing or that with regard to the `Android you “start to wonder if even Apple has a chance of stopping this behemoth from eventually eating up the whole market.”

        You really are a Walter Mitty in denial.

      • Talking about last quarter, when I was talking about the future. In case you didn’t read my comment, I mentioned “an iPhone’s missed opportunity” after stating the following:
        “But when everyone has a smartphone, then it is a zero sum game…”
        Did you notice I was not talking about last quarter? Did you know that not everyone has a smartphone yet, so it is not yet a zero sum game and so every Android device sold is not an iPhone’s missed opportunity yet?

        Regarding the facts, I am entirely aware of Apple’s yearly cycle of product introductions, whereby every year after the launch of a new iPhone sales jump tremendously. Even after their most succesful product launch they still didn’t catch up to Android’s consistent sales year-round, as you so kindly showed me with your link.

        “how can you possibly claim that Android’s growth is growing”
        I’m looking at the facts Horace posted in this post, the one we’re commenting on, and as you can see from the first and third graph (if you know how to read graphs), that the acceleration of Android’s sales is growing, and that indeed it is faster than that of iPhones. If we decide to look at facts.

      • It seams you have never used any of the hundreds of low end Android phones that make up over half of these numbers have you? That explains it.

      • I’ve seen a good share of low end Android phones. I fact, I have a habit of picking up strangers’ smartphones just so that I get familiar with the vast amount of devices out there, including iPhones and low end Androids. They’re cheap and they’re slightly slow. But I haven’t seen an app that didn’t function the same way on a 2.2 device and a 4.0 device. Mind sharing what you have in mind? I can even test it out for you on real low end Android phones, you know.

  • There’s no churn in this model

    • That’s true. It’s cumulative activations only, however the time frame is short enough that the vast majority will be using their first Android phone within that time frame.

  • Wesley Hsu

    Does it matter? Google acquired and developed Android before the iPhone was launched, to combat the possible monopoly of Windows Mobile owning the mobile screens and dumping Google Search for Bing (which didn’t exist yet, but MS is a software company, so it was not hard to predict.) Now Windows is an outsider and iOS is the 800-pound gorilla. But despite Steve Jobs’ deathbed rants against Google, does Apple really want to get into the Search business? They seem content to use Google Maps and Search and will probably use MS Office for iOS when it comes out — in other words, let others specialize in expensive-to-develop-software while cashing in on the hardware/platform game. Apple’s success has partly come from not reacting emotionally to competition. Are they really at war with Google? 

    What makes Google an interesting and confounding company is that they are both smart and clumsy, and hard to read. Android,YouTube, Picasa, Docs, G+, Gmail — none make any or much money and are mostly defensive plays to protect Search, and yet sometimes their creations like Earth are brilliant and so far ahead of everyone else that they become default ways of viewing the world (Search also did this). 

    It’s easy to see how Apple’s ideas become money. It’s almost impossible to see how Google’s suite of products, which are mostly great and all free, become money beyond defending Search. And yet, call me stupid, but that black bar on my Gmail page is slowly becoming half my Web 2.0. (My iPhone is the other half.)

    • berult

      Look yourself up in a mirror. A full size, highly polished mirror.What you see is what Google gets …in timely installments over a lifetime. Body and soul. Now touch the mirror with a bare hand. It does feel cold and distant doesn’t it? Well, that’s because the glass surface is at room temperature, …and your soul nests at body temperature.

      The black bar delineates this boundary of alienation. Your iPhone insulates the soul and keeps it from leaking autonomy to the anthropic principle… Hang on to the proprietary nature of your soul, lest you wished it be sucked up by a coldblooded, reflective troll… Hang on to your iPhone half keeping vigil over the whole breath of you…

      • Wesley Hsu

        You’re kidding, right? Apple and Google are not all that different. Google has more data on me, but Apple has my credit card number. Neither insulates the soul; both monetize it. 

      • berult

        Temperature gradients. Ambient or nestled. In vitro, or in vivo. Go-as-you-pay, …or pay-as-you-go…

        Just as you embolden to play variations on a theme, …you’re stuck with the very chill of your meme…

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  • Ronin48

    Not sure how amazing this really is.  If you give something of even small value away for free (Android) you can reasonably expect to get a much more rapid adoption than with an even better but similar item that is not free(iOS).

    Maybe what’s amazing is that Apple is actually able to compete with a free OS.

    • Tager

      iOS is a free OS. But you can only get it on the iPad, iPod Touch and iPad… (nitpicking, I know).

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  • Scott Wilson

    So it happened today apparently.