Android surpasses iOS in race for U.S. subscriber supremacy

Jason Ankeny


Another week, another milestone for Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android mobile operating system. Days after technology analysis firm Canalys reported that worldwide shipments of Android smartphones surpassed Symbian device shipments for the first time in Q4, digital researcher comScore now says that as 2010 drew to a close, Android also outdueled archrival Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)'s iOS in the battle for U.S. smartphone subscriber market share. As of December 2010, Android represents 28.7 percent of the American smartphone market, surging from 21.4 percent three months earlier--iOS captured 25.0 percent market share, up from 24.3 percent in September. Both trail Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry at 31.6 percent, down from 37.3 percent three months earlier--if current trends continue, Android will surpass BlackBerry sometime during the next few months. (Bringing up the rear: Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone at 8.4 percent market share, down from 9.9 percent three months previous, and Palm's webOS at 3.7 percent, off from 4.2 percent.)

Given Android's astounding growth spurt, it seems like a safe bet that next week's Mobile World Congress 2011 event in Barcelona will yield an impressive array of new Android smartphones and tablets. Nor is it surprising that developer interest in the Android platform is at an all-time high: According to a new survey conducted by mobile software platform provider Appcelerator and research firm IDC, 87 percent of developers are "very interested" in building applications for Android smartphones, tied with interest in Apple's iPad and five percentage points behind the iPhone. Moreover, 74 percent of developers express strong interest in writing for Android tablets, up 12 percentage points over three months.   

The iPad is already a hit, of course--Apple sold 7.33 million units during its fiscal first quarter alone. Developers tell Appcelerator that for Android tablets to enjoy similar prosperity, pricing is paramount: 57 percent of respondents believe price is the most critical factor in Android tablet success, ahead of fragmentation minimization (49 percent), hardware capabilities (41 percent), the quality of the Android 3.0 operating system (33 percent), new app retailers like the forthcoming Amazon Appstore for Android (26 percent) and OEM adoption (15 percent). "Developers eye the enticing possibility of a sub-$100 tablet and think mass-market opportunity," Appcelerator notes. Who knows what kind of Android devices Mobile World Congress 2011 might yield? Be sure to check back with FierceDeveloper next week for live coverage and commentary direct from Barcelona. -Jason