A year ago, it was referred to as the “Google Phone.” Today, Android is gaining in brand recognition and accelerated adoption by cellular manufacturers and providers. Can Android-based devices topple the competition -- the iPhone in particular, popular but plagued by complaints about exclusive partner AT&T's coverage -- and gain market share?
Introduced last fall on the T-Mobile network and G1 handset, Android was a mere babe in the woods. Now, as Verizon launches a major campaign for their Droid phone, every major carrier in the United States has begun to, or agreed to, carry Android phones. Android fever is catching on.
Manufacturers are following suit quickly, and the rumor mill is working overtime on who will be next to release an Android device. Most notably, Motorola has dropped the Windows Mobile operating system in favor of Android. Motorola, manufacturer of Verizon's Droid, is confident in the ability of Android to win market share, and plans to carry the operating system on at least 30% of their products in 2010.
Sony Ericsson is expected to release an Android smartphone at the beginning of November, coinciding with Verizon's Droid. HTC, fighting for brand dominance, has begun to piggyback off the success of Android, planning to run Android on half of their inventory. Dell's entrance into the mobile device market, the oPhone, will run on Android as will their tablet PC. Even Barnes & Noble's Nook eReader is rumored to run Android apps. Samsung, Kyocera and LG have also announced plans to develop Android phones.
Buzz has set developers racing to flood the Android Marketplace with apps. Application project starts increased 94% from September to October, according to Flurry. Building a competitive app Marketplace is vital for Android to compete with Apple. Thanks to Android's open operating system, developers have greater ease of access to create for the OS.
The open operating system presents a branding challenge for Android. One of the selling points behind Android is its free open source code. Yet, because anyone can alter that code, not all applications will be truly universal. Additionally, because every manufacturer wants to make their Android smartphone something special, according to IDC research analyst Ramon Llamas, "It could potentially dilute what Android is." Which BusinessWeek warns will lead to "brand fragmentation and consumer confusion" -- something Google is trying hard to avoid by "corralling several companies into the Open Handset Alliance," a group of 47 technology and mobile companies committed to the Android platform.
Google remains dedicated to protecting the Android brand, which according to Gartner, will be the No. 2 operating system worldwide by 2012. The challenge is keeping in line app developers, device manufactures and wireless providers in their struggle to claim ascendancy with the operating system.