As it turns five, Android solidifies its smartphone OS dominance

The operating system has survived challenges like legal battles and platform fragmentation

By , IDG News Service |  

Also, the user interface looked a lot like the iPhone, which meant vendors could offer a similar user experience at a much lower cost, according to Windsor. In the end, the market was wide open and Google went in and took it, he said.

However, breaking Apple's domination in the tablet market has proven much more difficult. Products like the Motorola's Xoom family and HTC's Flyer failed, while Samsung Electronics has seen some success with its Galaxy Tab family.

Recently, though, the Android camp has started to make some headway.

Sales of 10.2 million units during the third quarter this year were enough to increase its market share to 41.3 percent, compared to 29.2 percent a year ago, according to Strategy Analytics. At the same time Apple's share dropped from 64.5 percent to 56.7 percent, the market research company said.

No single Android vendor comes close to Apple in volume terms at the moment, but the collective weight of dozens of hardware makers, such as Asus and Samsung, is helping the Android platform to grow its share.

The combination of good hardware specs and low prices, along with more hardware partners, wider distribution, more marketing and a growing number of tablet ready applications has helped boost sales, according to Neil Mawston, executive director at market research company Strategy Analytics.

Amazon helped usher in the current generation of low-priced Android-based tablet with the Kindle. But its sales have been fading in the last few quarters, Mawston said. Now the company is hoping to make up some lost ground during the last three months of 2012.

But this year's holiday season is lining up to be more competitive than ever for the tablet vendors, and Android will again have to prove itself.

Consumers can choose between the new Google Nexus 10 tablet and an upgraded Nexus 7, as well as Apple's new iPad mini, Amazon's new Kindle tablets and all the products based on Microsoft's Windows 8 and Windows RT.

"Competition is going to be intense," said Mawston.

Android's current dominance is in large part due to Samsung Electronics, while long-time Android supporters HTC and Google-owned Motorola Mobility and others are struggling to find their footing.

HTC's current woes are the best illustration of how difficult it is to compete with Samsung and its Galaxy family.

"The HTC One X is a great product, but it was obliterated when Samsung launched the Galaxy S III," said Blaber.

HTC, maker of the first Android-based smartphone, saw unit sales drop to 7.3 million during the third quarter, compared to 12.7 million a year ago, according to IDC. That helped drive down HTC's net profit to NT$3.9 billion (US$133.5 million), a 79 percent drop compared to the third quarter of 2011.

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