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Android Rising, Sony Poised to Join the Smartphone Fight

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Yesterday Apple (s aapl) announced the arrival date of its much-ballyhooed tablet, the iPad. It will have a staggered release throughout April, beginning on the 3rd in the U.S. Once it does arrive, we’ll see what effect it has on the mobile landscape. But right now, Apple has other things to worry about if it wants to keep its newly minted status as a leading mobile device company.

The recent threats are at least twofold, one of immediate concern and one potentially dangerous down the road. First, there’s Android’s continued growth in terms of mobile marketshare, compared to Apple’s shrinking slice of the pie. Second, there’s Sony’s (s sne) potential expansion of its mobile operations into direct competition with the iPhone.

Web analytics firm Quantcast released figures this week that show iPhone OS is still the dominant force in terms of mobile web usage, but the trend is working slowly against it. It lost 3.2 percent of its market share last month, while RIM (s rimm) and Google’s (s goog) Android both gained ground. Over the past quarter, Android has gained a whopping 44 percent, while Apple has lost between five and 10 percent during the same period.

That’s only market share percentage, though. Apple is still showing positive growth in terms of mobile users and pageviews, but Google is just doing it that much faster. Which should be worrying to the current king of mobile web. The Nexus One may have been a relatively innocuous volley in the ongoing war, but Google is gaining steam, and quickly.

Another competitor is said to be waiting in the wings, too. According to the Wall Street Journal, Sony is gearing up to offer an iPhone competitor that could have one key advantage: the ability to play PSP and PlayStation games downloaded directly to the advice. That would be in addition to music, video and e-book content that it would also offer for sale through digital distribution.

Sony is not inexperienced in the cell phone market, and it already has a successful digital distribution framework operating as the PlayStation Network store. A PSP with smartphone features could be a very attractive proposition for young customers just entering the market.

Long story short, Apple has enjoyed a lengthy head start in the mobile web generation of smartphones, but after many, many failed attempts, a few competitors are beginning to realize exactly what it will take to catch up to Cupertino. And at this crucial point, Apple is focusing on jumpstarting a brand new market that many aren’t sure even has much potential.

The danger is that the iPhone isn’t being given sufficient attention thanks to the iPad’s imminent launch. If the next generation iPhone only gets some minor incremental updates, like the iPhone 3GS did, then I will seriously begin to question Apple’s sense of prioritization. Resting on its laurels for another year won’t help the company widen the closing gap between it and its competitors, whether or not the iPad succeeds.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Is an iPhone- and Android-Only World the Best We Can Do?

21 Responses to “Android Rising, Sony Poised to Join the Smartphone Fight”

  1. davlab

    Its not surprising that Android has made significant gains since late 2009. The iPhone has only been available on AT&T and the main competitors (Palm Pre and the first Android phones from HTC) were only available on lesser players Sprint and T-mobile. There was surely a large pent-up demand on Verizon for a good smartphone (other than Blackberry) since most of what they offered in the past were locked down feature phones. Once these high end Android phones became available on Verizon, this pent-up demand went largely to these new Android phones.

    Once this demand is satisfied, we will see if Android’s growth continues at this recent pace. A lot of people won’t buy an iPhone because of AT&T. If the iPhone ever becomes available on Verizon, that will tell us a lot about the strength of the iPhone platform.

  2. i remember Sony ericcson were the first to have a smart phone with their p900 series , Phones have come along way since then, what apple has done is what they do with everything set the standard , but take too long to improve anything after they have released their hardware wether it be iphone, ipad , macs. but then i could be wrong we could eventually get the iphone that has 5mega pixel camera whilst sony ericcson have already launched there 12 mega pixel camera phone?

    we will have to wait and see

  3. Android is spiking, basically, because the first usable version was released in November. Come back in 6 months. There is no reason to expect Android’s numbers won’t resemble the Palm Pixi’s by then: new toy today; new “also-ran” tomorrow.

  4. Lack of attention to the iPhone with the iPad launch would be exactly what happened to Snow leopard with the iphone launch and is now happening to the 27 inch iMac with the iPad launch.

  5. Champs

    The fact remains that 16% is a significant share, and the gain seems to come at Apple’s expense. Apparently consumers are clued in to the fact that there are viable alternatives to the iPhone if they can (or even prefer to) live without iPod/iTunes and the AT&T network.

    • The preference for android is very understandable for windows/pc users. For all the user-friendlyness that the iPhone presents, using iTunes in windows is a real nightmare. I really can’t understand why Apple doesn’t fix this.

  6. Mike D

    Your “44%” comment is misleading … their total share is just over 15%. In reality Apple’s share fell a few points and Android’s went up a few points. Not surprising for a new entrant like Google.

  7. Darrell, Darrell, Darrell,

    You appear to be trying to make something out of nothing. Android’s share of web consumption went up a “whopping” (your word) 44%!!!! Well, yes, it did. From about an 11% share to about a 16% share. It’s easy to have high double digit growth numbers when you’re starting low. Let’s try to keep things in context, OK?

  8. It seems that the increase and decrease is benchmarked to their individual web consumption. Therefore, Android’s recent start would surely look very impressive since they started with low volume and the new DROID phone sales in exploding. The North American composite use is more interesting. DROID has a 15% share is the new DROID are only recently released. I have used both iPhone and DROID ERIS and Moto Droids. I still prefer the iPhone, but either would work for me. If I had Verizon, the ERIS would be my choice…for sure!