Unlike Samsung's market-leading Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II, and Galaxy Note 10.1, the Nexus devices were designed for mass appeal. But they sported the most current Android version ("Jelly Bean") and gave the middle Android market its first stars. Meanwhile, Samsung's envelope-pushing and fairly rapid (by Android standards) adoption of "Jelly Bean" in its flagship devices propelled the Android high end into iPhone and, to a lesser extent, iPad territory.
The long-running, complex patent war between Apple and the Android community (with Samsung as the most prominent face) also reinforced to the public that Samsung was an innovator -- why else would Apple be so intent on destroying it legally? Even though Samsung lost the biggest battle, in many ways, it may have won the war, at least for buyers' hearts.
As a result, Android has become more than the Windows of the mobile market -- the more popular but inferior rival to the Apple gold standard. Android is now a legitimate competitor on its own merits. That's a sea change from just a year ago.
However, not everything is rosy in Android land. Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility appears to have been a large waste of money. Held up by regulatory approval (notably by China) for months, the acquisition finally closed in spring 2012. Those six months of stasis seem to have frozen product development at Motorola, which has made only minor revs to its Android product line and has been very slow to provide first "Ice Cream Sandwich" and then "Jelly Bean." And perhaps to prove Motorola won't get an unfair advantage over other Android device makers, Google appears to have kept Motorola at arm's length to an extreme degree. For example, LG makes the Nexus 4, Asus the Nexus 7, and Samsung the Nexus 10 -- but Motorola makes no Nexus device.