2011: Year of the Android?

As many of you began winding down from Christmas, those with their ear to the ground may have heard a thing or two about an article by Fortune that has set tongues wagging and opinions flying about the fate of Google's Android platform in 2011.

Fortune's Google roundsman Seth Weintraub certainly made his intentions clear from the get-go last week, proclaiming that next year will be the year ''Android explodes''.

''Smartphones will likely blow by traditional computers next year as the way most of the world gains access to the Internet,'' he said.

Component prices are set to plummet, with handset prices to follow suit. Mr Weintraub offered Broadcom's BCM2157 ''Mass-Market 3G HSDPA Android Baseband'' chipset as proof. Announced earlier this month, the chipset packs in a dual core ARM processor, Bluetooth, GPS, support for up to a 5-megapixel camera, support for capacitive HVGA or WQVGA displays and is apparently aimed squarely at the Android OEM market.

Drawing on knowledge gained from a discussion with Broadcom VP Jim Tran, Mr Weintraub claimed that smartphones using the new chipset are to be announced at CES next month and could retail for less than US$100. But wait, there's more:

''By this time next year, Broadcom says it will release a follow-up chip that will allow WVGA displays and as much power as today's high-end Smartphones at the same $75-$100 prices.  That Nexus S that costs $530 now off contract will cost just a fraction of that in just one year,'' he said. Mr Weintraub's implication is that only the Android platform is poised to take advantage of the low-cost smartphone market.

''Those prices will have many feature phone users saddling up with smartphones. And they may open the emerging Asian markets, like India and China, to smartphone customers on a large scale, for the first time ever. That means many more smartphone users and many more Google and Android users, too,'' he said.

Low-cost smartphones apparently mean bad news for Apple, with Mr Weintraub painting a picture of a world where Android activations are booming and the little phone that Steve built is ''at the top of the market, affordable only to those willing and able to pay a premium for Steve Jobs' aesthetic sensibilities.''

Such strong opinions were bound to have others offering equally strong opinions in response, and so they did. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson was first off the mark, urging other VCs to get behind Android.

''If you haven't put all the pieces of the story together, let me do it for you. Smartphones prices are about to plunge and the result will be hundreds of millions of people all over the world starting to use them. And many of these devices will be running Android, not iOS. And wireless data prices will likely come down too.''

Tech enthusiast Robert Scoble begrudgingly agreed, claiming that Android devices have all but shaken off the glitches and general oddities that plagued the platform in its early versions. ''Compare Android to every other platform and it stands up as the best choice,'' he said.

Next year, he said, is set to be a ''great year'' for Android, a ''moderately good year'' for Windows Phone 7, a ''struggling year'' for Nokia and RIM and a ''wildcard year'' for Palm/HP. The iPhone's continuing success will depend on the device's much-rumoured arrival on Verizon, he claimed. But even then, he failed to see how a Verizon iPhone ''will sell enough iPhones to keep it in the numbers race with Android.''

That's a shame, Mr Scoble wrote, because Android devices aren't the best designed. In terms of overall ease-of-use, app quality and interface consistency, he claimed that iOS still easily trumps Google's mobile OS. He offered a range of options Apple could take to get themselves back in the game in 2011; that list is a little long to add here, but it essentially boils down to four things - lower prices, more carriers, more innovation and more integration.

TechCrunch's MG Siegler was last to the party, but made up for lost time by hitting back at Mr Weintraub's claim that lower component costs will absolutely mean cheaper smartphones.

''I find it very hard to believe, for example, that the carriers (in the U.S., in particular) won’t find a way to screw us in 2011. It’s an artform they’ve perfected over the past two decades. But on paper, at least, it all sounds great,'' he said.

And while the line is blurring between Android and iOS-powered devices, Apple's total ecosystem control will make a complete collapse of Apple's mobile platform a slim possibility, he argued. That doesn't mean Apple can beat Android - and in fact, it may not want to, he said.

''Apple cannot win an arm’s race with Android because they will not attempt to. They’re perfectly happy “at the top of the market” where they make a ton of revenue and profit. Billions more, in fact, than Google does with Android,'' he said.

User choice will be the determining factor, he said.

''I couldn’t care less if the iPhone or Android is the market leader. All I want is the ability to choose which device I want to use. And I’m sure that’s Google’s stance on the matter as well. They love the iPhone because it brings them search revenue just as Android does. I just don’t trust what the carriers will do with their Google-powered leverage in an Android-dominated world.''

Let me make my intentions with this article crystal clear - it is not my intention to weigh in on either side of the ''Android in 2011'' debate. The so-called ''smartphone wars'' are far from over and it remains to be seen which platform will emerge ''victorious'', or if there will even be a victor at all; as MG Siegler pointed out, Apple would likely have little problem with a niche label. Instead, what I hope to do is foster debate among the Neowin community about what this next year will bring for the smartphone market and each respective platform.

So, fellow Neowinians, over to you.

Image Credit: thesearethedroids.com

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Year of the Android? Eh, so its going to take nearly 3 years now to make a Marketplace / Apps that doesn't suck? Lame.

vette said,
Year of the Android? Eh, so its going to take nearly 3 years now to make a Marketplace / Apps that doesn't suck? Lame.

Or have a 3 year App Store full of fart apps.

As one of the posters said above, the year of Android was 2010 but 2011 will be even a better year. The Android era truly started in mid 2009 with the release of the HTC Hero and Sense UI (I think that's the right date) and it continued through out 2010 and Google can thank HTC for it. HTC kick started the Android era with the release of the Hero, Tattoo and and Legend all using Sense UI. I am looking forward to get an Android with a physical keyboard but the Galaxy S seems like good phone too.

SK[ said,]Funny, the first thing I did with my HTC was root it to remove the bloat that is Sense.

I like HTC Sense. I wish it had better special effects as with some other home replacement apps.

It wouldn't take much for Google to end the fragmentation.
I think this will hurt Android as a platform. I've seen Froyo on 1Ghz Hummingbird. I can't imagine the 500Mhz chip would offer the performance, even if the other high computation tasks are offloaded to dedicated chips.

dotf said,
It wouldn't take much for Google to end the fragmentation.
I think this will hurt Android as a platform. I've seen Froyo on 1Ghz Hummingbird. I can't imagine the 500Mhz chip would offer the performance, even if the other high computation tasks are offloaded to dedicated chips.

I just limited my Nexus one to 400Mhz and the performance is just fine. In fact unless you're using several resource hungry apps at the one time you would barely notice the difference between 400Mhz and 1Ghz (Minus app start time).

Platform fragmentation is also an issue that impacts Android a great deal more than iOS, though Google are at least attempting to tackle the problem.

Matthew Jones said,
Platform fragmentation is also an issue that impacts Android a great deal more than iOS, though Google are at least attempting to tackle the problem.

How exactly are google attempting to tackle the problem?

recursive said,

How exactly are google attempting to tackle the problem?


I think Google won't tackle it. I think they took the chance that more marketshare by creeping into more market segments is more important for them than the most efficient development for their app developers.

Matthew Jones said,
Platform fragmentation is also an issue that impacts Android a great deal more than iOS, though Google are at least attempting to tackle the problem.

Most phones are on 2.1 which is the required min for most apps now. The problem will again occur with 2.3 as it supports higher resolutions and applications will be made for that instead of 2.1 and 2.2.

Personally, I see Android getting worse as a platform right now. Sure, the following might be greater, but the devices are getting worse and worse. There are so many dumbphones running android out there right now that really don't do it justice. We'll see how long it lasts.

Owen W said,
Personally, I see Android getting worse as a platform right now. Sure, the following might be greater, but the devices are getting worse and worse. There are so many dumbphones running android out there right now that really don't do it justice. We'll see how long it lasts.

Yeah but one could argue that same point with devices running on iOS......they all suck lol

Owen W said,
Personally, I see Android getting worse as a platform right now. Sure, the following might be greater, but the devices are getting worse and worse. There are so many dumbphones running android out there right now that really don't do it justice. We'll see how long it lasts.

While those phones may be 'dumb' to you, they work perfectly well for others. Android has the potential to succeed on all levels if done correctly. The new broadcom chipset (Discussed above) can provide dirt cheap handsets to potentially become the new feature phones (Or 'dumbphones') with mid level handsets providing a nice mix of performance and affordability for the general consumer. High end handsets will keep enthusiasts/techies satisfied.

While there may be fragmentation issues to consider I can't see that being a big deal to the mainstream market. Most android users probably don't know or care which version they are running as long as their apps run. Also as for how long it will last, it is clear Android already has a decent grip on the market, they don't need to simply last but to keep moving forward, something I'm sure Google have planned

Owen W said,
Personally, I see Android getting worse as a platform right now. Sure, the following might be greater, but the devices are getting worse and worse. There are so many dumbphones running android out there right now that really don't do it justice. We'll see how long it lasts.

I see Android becoming the Windows of mobile phones. (and yes, I think WP7 may fail as a major mobile phone brand - I'm not sure there's room for two fairly open operating systems) I think Android will keep being pretty strong despite this, but indeed gain some unwarranted bad reputation due to how it's also installed on cheap phones that suck. I think it'll live through this though, although it could be end up being seen as a second-class OS in some circles. *cough Apple fans*

Also, due to the very nature of Android, app development may still be a bit more attractive for iPhone, even if iPhone becomes a bit less common in the mobile phone market. I think the advantages from minimal platform fragmentation are pretty immense.

Owen W said,
Personally, I see Android getting worse as a platform right now.

That's your opinion on just about everything that doesn't carry the Microsoft logo.

Just as a example I know of at least 14 friends who all bought new mobiles in Nov/Dec
8 (including me bought Android phones)
3 idiots bought Nokia N8's lol
2 iPhone 4
1 Sony Xperia X10i

Oh and 1 of my 2 friends with a brand new iP4 dropped his and screen shattered lol (he said F^&* Apple and is looking at getting a Nexus S)

Baked said,

Oh and 1 of my 2 friends with a brand new iP4 dropped his and screen shattered lol (he said F^&* Apple and is looking at getting a Nexus S)

Wut? That would happen to any phone

Owen W said,

Wut? That would happen to any phone

Nope I've dropped my Samsung Galaxy S 3-4 times and still works perfectly!

iPhone4 failGLASS sucks

Baked said,
Just as a example I know of at least 14 friends who all bought new mobiles in Nov/Dec
8 (including me bought Android phones)
3 idiots bought Nokia N8's lol
2 iPhone 4
1 Sony Xperia X10i

Oh and 1 of my 2 friends with a brand new iP4 dropped his and screen shattered lol (he said F^&* Apple and is looking at getting a Nexus S)

The SE Xperia X10 is an Android phone as well

Owen W said,

Wut? That would happen to any phone

The way that the glass goes to an edge on the iPhone 4 makes it more prone to cracking from a drop because there is nothing to absorb the impact in the design. Plastic bodies (although look and feel cheap) provide pretty decent protection for the glass. iPhone 4 has a glass back, as well, that is just a prone to crack if dropped...although less of an issue since that would just be cosmetic.

Baked said,
Just as a example I know of at least 14 friends who all bought new mobiles in Nov/Dec
8 (including me bought Android phones)
3 idiots bought Nokia N8's lol
2 iPhone 4
1 Sony Xperia X10i

Oh and 1 of my 2 friends with a brand new iP4 dropped his and screen shattered lol (he said F^&* Apple and is looking at getting a Nexus S)


The SE Xperia X10 is an Android phone as well

We went from blind iOS users to now blind Android users...

Ci7 said,

i see nothing wrong with N8

For all people looking to buy N8 :
One of my friends bought N8. He is regretting hard after realizing that there is nothing much in N8 except 12 MP camera, which is not-so-good at taking pictures.

Too bad Maemo didn't get so much attention. I find it so much better than iOS and Android, but unfortunately, the lack of quality apps and full support of the portrait mode makes it quite unattractive for most users. Hopefully we'll see MeeGo on some handsets soon, it is quite promising.

I've been using NITDroid (Android port for Nokia tablets) on my N900 and now I really consider getting the real deal - an Android-based phone.

Nexx295 said,
Too bad Maemo didn't get so much attention. I find it so much better than iOS and Android, but unfortunately, the lack of quality apps and full support of the portrait mode makes it quite unattractive for most users. Hopefully we'll see MeeGo on some handsets soon, it is quite promising.

I've been using NITDroid (Android port for Nokia tablets) on my N900 and now I really consider getting the real deal - an Android-based phone.


MeeGo and Android (which expands this whole Year Of The Linux ****) will **** on iOS.

I myself am dying to see MeeGo and its Nokia hardware.

My fiancee's daughter gets an Apple Ipod Touch.. All the applications they have to pay for that are free for android. Hmm Sorry Android > iOS

Wir3Tap said,
My fiancee's daughter gets an Apple Ipod Touch.. All the applications they have to pay for that are free for android. Hmm Sorry Android > iOS

Such as?

Wir3Tap said,
My fiancee's daughter gets an Apple Ipod Touch.. All the applications they have to pay for that are free for android. Hmm Sorry Android > iOS

I'm dying to hear the examples.

Wir3Tap said,
My fiancee's daughter gets an Apple Ipod Touch.. All the applications they have to pay for that are free for android. Hmm Sorry Android > iOS

Sorry, but nothing is free. You either get adverts or you have to pay a buck or two. Developers need to be paid for what they do somehow. There is a reason why a lot of developers favor iPhone, and part of that has to do with the fact that the users are willing to pay for quality. On Android you have people B&Ming when an app isn't free.

I just want to slap someone silly when someone wants to make a "Year of the [insert consumer product]" prediction. As if our years were defined by the specific products everyone used.

No, How could this happen? I am Apple fanboy!!!! If that means I have to buy 100 iPhones to up iOS marketshare... so be it!!!! This is 100% without sarcasm. I will not let this happen. Go Steve Jobbbs go....

sanke1 said,
No, How could this happen? I am Apple fanboy!!!! If that means I have to buy 100 iPhones to up iOS marketshare... so be it!!!! This is 100% without sarcasm. I will not let this happen. Go Steve Jobbbs go....

....no.

sanke1 said,
No, How could this happen? I am Apple fanboy!!!! If that means I have to buy 100 iPhones to up iOS marketshare... so be it!!!! This is 100% without sarcasm. I will not let this happen. Go Steve Jobbbs go....

+1
We can't let Steve down!

Awesome image. Two geeks pushing each other over which is better Apple iPhone or Google Android. Sums up perfectly what the rest of the world thinks about the debate.

Shadrack said,
Awesome image. Two geeks pushing each other over which is better Apple iPhone or Google Android. Sums up perfectly what the rest of the world thinks about the debate.

Whoever did the image really sucks at Photoshop.

aftas said,
Whoever did the image really sucks at Photoshop.
Jeez, it's quick image for a single article. If it's so easy, make one yourself and send it over to Neowin.

The potential problem with iOS (or any smartphone OS) is the dependency on Apps, each OS needs a decent market share or otherwise new Apps will stop coming.

Although Apple would be happy to live as a niche product rather than grab the largest part of the market (similar to OSX), I'm not sure if that model works with smartphones... the minute any company looses significant ground is the moment to worry: as you need application developers. App developers exist to make money from having mass markets. It will be the same software hunt on OSX and Linux but even worse. Sure the pricey Apps will still come to fruition, but say bye to cheap/free great little apps.

This past year already was the year of the Android if you ask me. I had an iPhone 3G, and then an iPhone 4 for a month, and during this time period, I could probably count on one hand the number of people who had an iPhone. In the past several months, it's gotten to a point where it's hard to name a friend who doesn't have an Android phone now. Android has already blown past the iPhone in sales.

But now lets get to the most important part. First, it's not a fair comparison really. Android is on basically every carrier in the world, while the iPhone, as we know, is not. So certainly they will have better sales numbers. More importantly, however, is the fact that it really doesn't matter. Both offer a very capable mobile platform to their users, so the polish on the UI is basically what's left to decide. Do you prefer Android, do you prefer iPhone, do you prefer WP7?

I think (as of now) the carrier in the US is a big component because a LOT of people have the opinion (based on sound evidence) that AT&T as a provider sucks ass. If you have a good 3G connection, well then OK AT&T blows away Verizon in terms of 3G data speeds...but Verizon's coverage (even with 700kbps 3G speeds as oppose to 2-3mbps on AT&T) blows AT&T out of the water.

Most (but not all) people I know that use Android phones wanted iPhones but didn't want to switch carriers or (more specifically) switch to AT&T to get the iPhone. So, yes, Android as a mobile OS is definitely doing better than iOS when comparing mobile phone OSes (and excluding tablets and PMPs).

But if you compared actual handsets sold vs other handsets (i.e., Motorola Droid, HTC Incredible, Samsung Galaxy, etc.), there is no denying that iPhone 4 has been the biggest selling smartphone handset thus far. That makes it a HUGE appeal to the mobile gaming industry who can develop for specific hardware and hit the majority in the mass market.

Betaz said,
This past year already was the year of the Android if you ask me. I had an iPhone 3G, and then an iPhone 4 for a month, and during this time period, I could probably count on one hand the number of people who had an iPhone. In the past several months, it's gotten to a point where it's hard to name a friend who doesn't have an Android phone now. Android has already blown past the iPhone in sales.

But now lets get to the most important part. First, it's not a fair comparison really. Android is on basically every carrier in the world, while the iPhone, as we know, is not. So certainly they will have better sales numbers. More importantly, however, is the fact that it really doesn't matter. Both offer a very capable mobile platform to their users, so the polish on the UI is basically what's left to decide. Do you prefer Android, do you prefer iPhone, do you prefer WP7?

I think you'll find Android's popularity slow dramatically once the iPhone is on Verizon. Many analysts are already saying that Verizon needs the boost that the iPhone will create. Android will obviously do very well on Sprint and T-Mobile in the US. But Apple is already beating Android in countries where the iPhone is available on multiple carriers. I don't see why this would change in the US. Google's more aggressive approach with Android has helped it to, not only, close the gap that Apple had but to pass Apple. But a Verizon iPhone will help Apple move past Android again. As far as sales compare, the iPhone 4 sold much more than any single Android phone.

Ci7 said,
wrong , it is the year of linux

Just as every year for the past 10 or so has been the year of linux. Hear it every year, every year same thing, meh!

Billa said,

Again?

Hackersoft MS MVP said,

Just as every year for the past 10 or so has been the year of linux. Hear it every year, every year same thing, meh!

KSib said,

Nope.

He was obviously making a reference to Android being Linux essentially, so he's basically right (in a way). Troll harder.

Ci7 said,
wrong , it is the year of linux

Android is essentially Linux. Troll fail much?

If you wanted to troll properly you should had gone with the "year of the windows phone" or the "year of the Kin".

Lechio said,

Android is essentially Linux. Troll fail much?

If you wanted to troll properly you should had gone with the "year of the windows phone" or the "year of the Kin".

It's an ongoing joke about how Linux devs claim every year that it "is the year of the Linux desktop", when Linux stays at the .5% it always has been at.

Recon415 said,

It's an ongoing joke about how Linux devs claim every year that it "is the year of the Linux desktop", when Linux stays at the .5% it always has been at.


What's even funnier about that joke are the numbers.

Lechio said,

What's even funnier about that joke are the numbers.

Accuracy of his numbers aside, its pretty much standard form that someone, somewhere will proclaim year xxxx to be the year of Linux on the Desktop, and yet usage numbers of Linux desktops stays roughly the same

That's the joke that was being made here, and people ruined it!

Vinay Kumar said,

Isn't iOS and android are some form of Linux? I guess Linux will never die

Android , yes
iOS , Nope

Lechio said,

What's even funnier about that joke are the numbers.

What's funnier is that you go to your home, open your DVR. Oh, you're using Linux and you didn't even know it. You browse to Neowin, whoops Linux again. Amazon? Linux. EBay? Linux? Youtube? Linux? Google? Linux.

List goes on. Devices you had no idea even contained an OS do so. For example my houses electrical system has embedded Linux in it. The air conditioning system? Linux.

Desktop means very little nowadays.

Vinay Kumar said,

Isn't iOS and android are some form of Linux? I guess Linux will never die

Android yes.
iOS is based on OSX which itself is based on BSD/NetBSD which is based on Unix.

Miuku said,

What's funnier is that you go to your home, open your DVR. Oh, you're using Linux and you didn't even know it. You browse to Neowin, whoops Linux again. Amazon? Linux. EBay? Linux? Youtube? Linux? Google? Linux.

List goes on. Devices you had no idea even contained an OS do so. For example my houses electrical system has embedded Linux in it. The air conditioning system? Linux.

Desktop means very little nowadays.


That's pretty much it, every year is the year of Linux these days.

The definition of a personal computer has changed, these days people like to access information on the go, and that is achieved with portable devices. Android devices and other Linux based devices are the standard on that segment.

Ci7 said,

Android , yes
iOS , Nope

iOS...YES IT IS. The original iPhone OS renamed iOS is based on the same foundation used for Mac OSX. It uses Darwin, Freebsd and Unix as it foundation.

The foundation of OSX isn't Linux by name, its Unix...Linux is also a variation of Unix. iOS, OSX, Android, Meego all have a NIX based foundation.

So yes, iOS is not Linux, it is Unix and so is Linux.