Almost three and half years after Google's confectionery shop started dishing out Cupcake (Android v1.5), and four years after the first commercial version of the smartphone operating system was released, IHS iSuppli forecasts that 1.1 billion global shipments of Android smartphones will have accrued over the years in 2013.
Globally, annual shipments of Android phones are projected to rise to 451 million in 2013, a leap from the 357 million figure of 2012, as per the IHS iSuppli Wireless Communications Smartphone Report. Apple's iOS, at the second position, is predicted to reach the one billion mark in 2015. What’s more, Android is expected to grow exponentially in the future, with cumulative shipments reaching almost 3 billion in 2016.
Cumulative Android phone shipments projected to reach the 1.1 billion mark in 2013
Apple and Google put together encompass 76 percent of the market share knocking out the rest of the competition: Microsoft's Windows Phone, Nokia’s Symbian, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, Samsung's Bada, Linux and other platforms, all of which comprise the remaining 24 percent. The IHS isuppli report attributes the skew in favour of Apple and Google to their “strong emphasis on a meaningful user experience coupled with new software business models”. The figure is a pointer to how two contradictory approaches – open source software and proprietary software – co-exist and flourish because of the onus on ‘providing a compelling user experience’. “While Google has taken the advertising-revenue-supported model, Apple makes its money by controlling both the hardware and software portions of the design. By integrating the design of both the hardware and software components of the iPhone, Apple delivered a tightly optimized smartphone with a superior customer experience and tremendous innovation. Apple's model built on the prior example of RIM's BlackBerry but differentiated by the level of innovation”, states an official release on the report by IHS isuppli.
The past few years have seen the astounding and speedy growth and acceptance of software that is ‘free’, ‘libre’, ‘open source’ or ‘open access’. Android’s forecast lead indicates the success of open source software that has now come to be widely embraced and popular. While there are many willing to give an arm and a leg to own Apple products, the parallel evolution of Android contravenes the idea that only proprietary software can meet with market success. “The Androids are taking over the world of smartphones,” said Daniel Gleeson, mobile analyst for IHS. “We expect the Android operating system to become the first to reach the milestone of 1 billion shipments during its lifetime. For Google, this accomplishment highlights the success of its growth strategy for Android, which is based on providing the operating system as an open-source platform to third-party smartphone brands free of charge. Google hopes to make significant revenues from mobile advertisements and other services. Such an open-source model means that Google offers handset makers the ability to customize Android easily, and by also eliminating licensing fees, is greatly encouraging adoption among smartphone handset manufacturers.”
The report highlights that competition in smartphone-making now is not centred at the hardware design cycle alone. Both Apple and Google have taken operating systems to the next league by introducing app stores, turning OSes into ecosystems, and transforming phones into comprehensive lifestyle-centric products. These ecosystems have set the stage for the future of smartphones and defined the direction of competition within handset manufacturers. Android's trump card may well be its 'openness' — its ability to include all and sundry who wish to tweak Android's offerings with their own innovation and spin. The result is a snowballing effect in which everyone in the community uses and builds upon Android. The report concludes, “Ultimately the most important lesson of the past few years in smartphone innovation is that handset manufacturers must continue to innovate, differentiate and provide a unique branded smartphone to the marketplace. In this new ecosystem-based smartphone marketplace, the most effective lever for market success is to create a recognizable user-experience franchise, pairing innovative hardware with a compelling environment of applications able to continually captivate the user base”. The secret of the deliciousness of Android’s dessert line-up may well be the appeal of its inclusive community participation.