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Summary:

Google is activating half a million Android devices a day, a major surge in just the last couple months, a sign of growing momentum for the platform. Google’s VP of mobile Andy Rubin says activations are growing 4.4 percent week over week.

android

UPDATED: Google is activating half a million Android devices a day, a big jump in just the last couple months, a sign of growing momentum for the platform. Google’s VP of mobile Andy Rubin tweeted out the new milestone, saying activations are growing 4.4 percent week over week.

At Google I/O in early May, the company boasted that activations were up to 400,000 a day with 100 million cumulative device activations, representing 36 OEMS, 215 Carriers and 310 devices. The pace of growth has been staggering for Android, which hit the 100,000 activations per day milestone in May 2010. By December 2010, that number was up to 300,000 a day. 

Now with Honeycomb (an Android variant) tablets hitting the market, the device activations are being supplemented by larger tablet devices, not just smartphones. Indeed, almost every company is putting out a tablet these days, most built off of Google’s Android operating system. The rise of Android has helped lift the fortunes of a number of companies, making HTC a household name and at the same time helping Samsung emerge as a major player in smartphones.

All this growth has not come without headaches. Fragmentation is still an issue. Developers are still not seeing the same type of money making opportunities they experience on iOS. Developers are also now having to face patent cases from Lodsys, the patent troll that has turned its eyes toward Android. Malicious apps are also a growing concern for Android users. And as Android grows, it makes it more of a target for patent royalties by companies looking to extract more out of their patent portfolios. Just yesterday, General Dynamics Itronix agreed to pay Microsoft  for use of patented technology found in Android, an agreement similar to one HTC also struck with Microsoft.

The more royalty payments manufacturers pay out, the more it undercuts Android’s promise of being a free platform. But with all the momentum it’s seen, Google’s Android seems hardly fazed.

UPDATE: Some of the commenters are curious about what the activation number represents. I reached out to Google and a representative said that it does not include upgrades and only includes devices that run Google services. So forks of Android built by some Asian manufacturers who don’t license Google services would presumably not be counted. I wasn’t able to get a geographic or device category break down so there’s still some question about how it all shakes out. But this gives us a little better insight into what activations represent. Will update if I can find more.

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  1. “All this growth has not come without headaches. Fragmentation is still an issue”

    Oh will you stop with that falsehood. 80% of all Android devices run 2.2 or higher.

    http://developer.android.com/resources/dashboard/platform-versions.html

    Why publish a post if you’re not going to take 30 seconds to fact check? What is this, TMZ?

    1. @Todd, it might be true that 80 percent of devices are on the same version of Android, but even so there are serious issues with developing for the OS. Take companies like Netflix, for example. It’s available on just SIX Android devices. That’s because Android effectively lacks standard streaming playback features, so Netflix has to go device-to-device to make its app work. If that’s not fragmentation, I dunno what is.

      http://gigaom.com/video/netflix-android-app/

      1. False.

        Netflix has to validate *HANDSET* capabilities on a device-to-device basis…which has nothing to do with the operating system.

        Sheesh. Come on man.

      2. Are you seriously saying that’s not an issue of fragmentation for someone developing for the Android platform?

    2. Didn’t even Google admit to fragmentation issues or is Google just spreading anti-Android FUD?

      1. They have admitted to it and have said it is a serious issue.

    3. What Todd doesn’t understand is that Google consistently lies about their numbers.
      Android developers say fragmentation is a serious issue and an obstacle to development. But Google says it isn’t so it must not be,
      Fragmentations and lack of security are why Netflix is on so few devices and that is certainly down to the OS. You have to be willfully ignorant to deny that.
      Most importantly do numbers translate into increased revenue for Google? Doesn’t look like they are making much from Android ads. Which is the entire reason for Androids existence. Not quality, user satisfaction etc…selling ads to eyeballs. Thats why Adnroid is such a mess in so many ways.

      1. A loyal Daring Fireball reader, I assume?

        I laugh at your response to my other post. The Verizon iPhone was supposed to annihilate Android: So much pent up demand, hitting a carrier with 100 million+ subscribers…and there was a small bump (and despite some of the hilarious interpretations, the net result was that in the quarter Android STILL activated twice as many handsets, but “lost” because it didn’t gain even more ground). I would say you’re the one hoping reality matches your imaginations.

        The rest of your posts…just as humorous, so not really worthy of reply.

    4. @Todd

      And 90.2% of devices out there aren’t running the latest version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread released over 7 months ago.

      It’s easy to spin numbers to say what you want.

    5. 30 seconds of fact checking with your link shows <75% of all Android devices run 2.2 or higher.

  2. Posts like theses don’t improve the OM brand. Much better analysis and comments everywhere else.

    1. Right, there is no analysis here at all. Basically Google PR. Oh well, its all about page views and link whoring anyway right?

      1. This was a quick pass at the news. But we’ll try and get more analysis in and a better sense of what this number represents. Thanks for reading.

  3. Hmmm – We get reports that android has peaked, leveled off, even declined in the last quarter and then Google puts this out — Wonder what the truth is or how many of those activations are from totally incompatible chinese handsets or reactivations, or whatever. Numbers are fungible.

    1. Those “reports” were laughable. During the Verizon release, two months ago, new activations of Android devices eased slightly while iOS saw a smaller than long anticipated bump. At 50%+ of new activations — a number very few would have predicted even a year ago — there isn’t a lot of space for it to move up in a robust, competitive market.

      1. You are saying what you would like to believe instead of fact. The fact is that two months ago the numbers weren’t in. Now they are and it shows a huge boost to iOS from Verizon. This is data not just reports and the data is provided by the carriers. The same carriers who love Android because they can install tons of bloatware on Android handset but Apple won’t let them do the same to the iPhone. Plus iPhone will be on T-Mobile and Sprint soon to and then no US customers will have to choose between and iPhone and a half baked Android copy. This has been true for awhile in Europe which is why the iPhone has absolutely slayed Android in market share. Androids advantage will come down cost at the expense of malware, bloatware, fragmentation, poor app and handset quality, and little to no service or support.

      2. The Google numbers are what’s laughable – We don’t know what they include – What the hell is an “activation”? – Do they include chinese forks? – On, & on & on – Rubin plays extremely loose with his numbers.

  4. As usual Google and especially Rubin are playing loose and fast with their numbers. For example they count Chinese Baidu devices which are an Android fork which use no Google services and for which Google sees no revenue, as activations. Thats a sizable number right there. But you wont see that from GigaOm. No instead GigaOm says that Android tablets, which nobody is buying, contribute significantly to the activations. Right.
    Even the flagship Samsung tablet is readily available in stores but its still hard to find an iPad 2.

    1. Darwin actually what we are saying is “the device activations are being supplemented by larger tablet devices, not just smartphones. Which is different that saying contribute significantly as you point out. Sure iPad is hard to find but doesn’t mean that Android tablets are not getting sold at all. It is a big planet and given the discounts :-)

      That said, I wonder who really has a clue about how many Android activations are happening in China or India with open version of the OS. Any suggestions on where to find that information?

      1. The fact is there is no evidence that Android tablets are selling at all, discounts or no. And while the article judiciously avoids saying they are selling — it certainly implies it — why else devote an entire paragraph, extolling the vast number of Android tablets in an article about how well Android is selling if not claim the tablets are greatly contributing.

        Also while some comments say that Android forks like the Baidu search based Chinese fork, indeed one comment saying that every upgrade in this fork is counted as an activation, yet the the article is completely silent on the subject.

        It seems to me any journalist worthy of their profession would call up Andy Rubin or someone at Google and find out what counts as an “activation” and what doesn’t. It seems to me if the comments are true, than Google is out and out lying, and true Android sales are a small fraction of what is being claimed. Or, if only official Google supported devices count as Android activations, and each device can be “activated” only once, then Google is getting an unnecessary and unfair black eye by not making that clear.

        It is GigaOm’s job dig up and report the facts on this very important subject.

    2. The butthurt is strong in this one.

      1. Carlos Spicyweiner John Seyton Tuesday, June 28, 2011

        Yes. The butt was ripped in half. The mention of Android… goes deeper than a submarine…

  5. Some organizations are already starting to prohibit the use of Android devices on their networks due to rampant security issues. Much like Flash, the Android Marketplace poses a very real and serious threat to most companies, but one no one seems to want to talk about.

    1. Cool story, bro. Got any more fiction you can entrance us with?

  6. Oh and besides the Chines Baidu Android forked devices Google also counts upgrades as activations. Stay classy Google.

  7. Oh come on. This is PR regurgitation unless you can break out things like “Are upgrades of an OS counted as activations?” (hint, they shouldn’t be) and start breaking the aggregate number down into geographies, how many are official Google activations ( the Baidu issue) and how many are phones vs tablets. Yes, yes, I know, you didn’t say tablets were significant… but it’s important whether they’re 1% or 10% of this number.

    Come on guys – that’s basic reporting. Ask some questions and get us more than the press release.

    1. The story has been updated with some clarification on what activations represent. It’s not upgrades and only counts devices with Google services, so some of those forked versions won’t count if they don’t use Google services. Still no word on phone to tablet break down or geographic distribution.

  8. All you people getting up in arms about how activation numbers are being counted… good lord, we’ve been through this before. Don’t you remember? Here, let’s do a simple Google search to refresh our memory:

    http://www.google.com/#sclient=psy&hl=en&site=&source=hp&q=how+does+google+count+android+activations

    Fourth link down:

    http://phandroid.com/2010/09/02/google-hey-jobs-we-arent-counting-upgrades-in-our-activation-numbers/

    The quote from Google: “The Android activation numbers do not include upgrades and are, in fact, only a portion of the Android devices in the market since we only include devices that have Google services.”

    I know, I know, Steve Jobs told you that Google is fudging the numbers by counting upgrades and such. And I know it is difficult to imagine this, but it just might be possible that Steve Jobs is wrong.

    If not fudging things a bit himself.

    Not that he would *ever* do that, oh no.

    1. Diane, guess what — your google search points right back to this article — which has now been updated, clarifying activations — in Google’s favor. That wasn’t so hard, was it? It is a better article now.

      1. Yes I am aware this article has been updated. My point is that all of the whining about the original author not doing proper investigation and the questioning over the information was baseless, because this same material had already been gone over long before now.

        Okay so maybe these people who care so much about relative activation numbers between Android and iOS just didn’t realize that this was already known. But if they actually care so much, not knowing that Google had already previously very clearly announced how activations are counted is bordering on willful ignorance.

        And… seriously… “Google is counting upgrades in their activation numbers?” Who in the world would count free upgrades (as all Android software upgrades are) or would think such a count is meaningful? I mean, does that mean each 2.3.1, 2.3.2, 2.3.3 upgrade is counted as an activation? That is basically saying that Google is flat-out lying about the numbers. I am pretty sure the only reason anyone would make such a claim is because of Steve Job’s original (and quickly discredited) claim.

        And as far as counting activation numbers of devices in China or whatever… if you just think about this a little bit, how can Google even know the number of “Android” devices activated that don’t have any Google code on them? What does it even mean to be “activated” in that case?

  9. “Every day.” EVERY_DAY.

    It’s right there in the tweet.

    /facepalm

  10. Yeah, right. Companies allow windows PCs, but not Android phones for security concerns? Sure.

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