A guide to Android: Diversification amid swift growth

In October, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the launch of the G1 (the world's first phone running google's now-ubiquitous smartphone operating system), FierceWireless produced a guide to the Android phones. Since then, the Android platform has experienced significant growth. Indeed, according to a report released yesterday from NPD Group, Google's Android mobile operating system now represents 28 percent of smartphone unit sales in the U.S.--behind only Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry (36 percent) and moving past Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone (21 percent).

The reasons for this are many and varied, including Microsoft's decision to turn its attention to its forthcoming Windows Phone 7 and Palm's to-date anemic showing in the market. However, Android's strength lies mainly on the large and growing number of handset makers churning out Android devices. As the market awaits the next iPhone, Android has been the OS grabbing the attention of the wireless industry.

"Android is the go-to licensed OS right now," said Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart.

Not surprisingly, the Android space has been rife with competition and innovation. Firms such as Motorola (NASDAQ:MOT) (with its MotoBLUR effort) and HTC (with its Sense UI) are working to put their own experiences on top of the stock Android platform, Google sought to reinforce the standard Android build with its own direct-to-consumer, Google-branded Nexus One play.

"I'm not going to say for a minute that having multiple user interfaces--some of which are good, some of which are bad--is an unmitigated good," Greengart said. "What is an Android phone if they're all so different?" However, he conceded, since Android is an open platform, "that is part of the promise."

Ross Rubin, an analyst at the NPD Group, said different takes on Android, from MotoBLUR to Sense UI, reflects "competition, not variation."

"Consumers don't care if an app runs on a variety of phones," he said. "They just care if it runs on their phones." Rubin also noted that "those watching the industry tend to see a steady stream of devices leapfrogging each other in short order," citing the Droid, Nexus One and the HTC Droid Incredible. However, many of these devices are exclusive to one carrier.  "In terms of what's available to the consumer on a practical basis, it's really less a stream than what we see coming out manufacturers," he said.

Nevertheless, analysts agreed the evolution of Android is not likely to slow down any time soon. Thus, this guide--like the last one--looks at the major Android devices released (with prices) for the U.S. market, with an eye toward their pros, cons and market impact.

To be clear, this list is not comprehensive, and does not include every Android phone announced or out on the market, but rather is an evaluation of the high-profile Android phones currently available to consumers. Indeed, the sheer number of devices covered hints at should how much Android has grown over the past several months. As always, feel free to leave your comments, thoughts and criticisms.

 

htc droid eris HTC Droid Eris
HTC Droid Incredible
 HTC Droid Incredible
Motorola Backflip
 Motorola Backflip
Motorola Cliq XT
 Motorola Cliq XT
Motorola Devour
 Motorola Devour
Motorola Droid
 Motorola Droid
Nexus One
 Nexus One
Samsung Behold II
 Samsung Behold II
Samsung Moment
 Samsung Moment
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