Blog Post

By the Numbers: A History of the Android Invasion

Love it or hate it, Google’s Android (s goog) platform continues to storm the mobile market and is now seeing 350,000 device activations per day. The company shared this datapoint on its quarterly earnings call last night, which puts the annual activation rate of Android smartphones, tablets and other devices at a staggering 127.75 million Androids in a year’s time. That assumes sales won’t slow down, and in fact, they’ve recently been growing faster than any other mobile platform even though the first Android phone debuted in October 2008.

To put that in perspective: last September, Apple claimed it shipped 120 million iOS devices over the prior three years. Google is on pace to surpass that number in the next 12 months alone, if not sooner, staking its flag at the top of “Mount Mobile” in a shorter time than competitors. Given the quick rise of Android in 2.5 years and the fact that as of the final quarter of 2010, it was the top-selling smartphone platform, here’s a brief historical timeline of how Google’s, and its hardware partners’, journey to top-dog has progressed to date:

If the timeline doesn’t impress, perhaps this visualization of Android activations over time, put together by Google in February, will help.
While there are other factors that are arguably more important to some — developer revenues on other platforms, Android fragmentation, and malicious applications getting installed — Google has come from nowhere in mobile to surpass the sales of everyone else. No, it’s not the most important number or metric at all, but it’s no less impressive, either.

16 Responses to “By the Numbers: A History of the Android Invasion”

  1. You wrote: “Google has come from nowhere in mobile to surpass the sales of everyone else.”

    Actually, Google doesn’t sell Android. It’s easier to “win” when your product is free and your competition’s products cost money. Does Google break out advertising sales that stem from Android searches?

  2. nerdsabetudo

    The freedom will exists when we have an opensource OS that anyone can take and install by yourself, like Debian, for sample. I really would like have a Debian like Linux to install in any smartphones…

    • Google is making more and more money every day on every smartphone sold around the world. While Apple’s future revenues and profits per iOS device is very uncertain as Android competition pushes prices down fast.

  3. Al Brown

    Hmm, before Verizon got the iPhone, iPhone was outselling Android at AT&T 5 to 1. It seems to me that the iPhone would be mopping the floor with Android if you could get it on any carrier.

    Of course, one could say that all the people that wanted the iPhone were crowding on to AT&T because they couldn’t get the iPhone anywhere else. And Android users have more carrier choices.

    In the end what really matters is how good your phone works for you, not how many other people bought.

  4. Kevin, I understand the point you’re trying to make, but you make a fundamental mistake by comparing Google’s current activation number with Apple’s number from many months ago. The only valid analysis is if you compare Google’s daily numbers today vs. Apple’s daily numbers TODAY.

    Case in point – 350,000 activiations per day comes to 10.5 million activations per month, or 31.5 million devices per quarter. We’re actually being generous because Google was definitely not activating 350,000 devices per day in January.

    Let’s assume conservatively Apple will sell 15-17 million iPhones in the January-Marhc quarter, along with 6-9 million iPads, and 10-12 million iPods. We know about 50% of those iPods will be iPod touch sales. That means iOS sales will range from 26 million on the low-end to as many as 32 million at the high end.

    In other words, Apple was already close to selling 280,000 to 350,000 iOS devices per day since January 1, whereas Google only hit 350K/day in April.

    In other words, your analysis is flawed because Apple’s iOS sales are ALSO accelerating exponentially, and you’re not accounting for that. Daily iOS sales have without doubt increased dramatically since September 2010.

    • Lava, I appreciate the comments, but this was more of a post to illustrate Android’s timeline, not provide a deep-dive analysis. I completely agree with your commentary and the fact that iOS sales likely continued to rise as well since the September data point provided by Steve Jobs. But the Android growth, as I said, is no less impressive, which was really the point of the post. It’s also worth noting: Google started Android 16 months *after* Apple launched the first iPhone and even for 6 months after that, was a slow starter. It wasn’t until November of 2009 that Android really started growing at a fast pace.

    • If what you are saying is correct (and I’m not saying it isn’t), and that Android and iOS activations are about equal, then how is it that Android now has over 50% market share and Apple a much smaller percentage? I’m just wondering. I see lots of figures and projections etc regarding activations, sales, units shipped, hardware vs OS, etc etc etc and it’s hard to tell what’s what.

      • I think the type of device is muddying up the water here. With Android tablets really just arriving now, minus a few early attempts, most Android activations are phones. In contrast, iOS devices are made up of iPhones, iPod touches and iPads.

        So while “activations” or sales might be equal, Android’s mix consists mostly of phones, while the iOS mix has a fair number of non-phone devices. That would explain why Android’s smartphone market share is surpassing that of iOS phones, even with similar platform sales figures.

  5. The real issue here is the presence of a one-click-purchase customer base. thats what matters from a developers perspective, thats the only thing wrong with this ecosystem right now.

    Apple has it. Android doesnt (lets see how the Amazon App store does)

  6. RoiliDole

    even though I dont want to see mobile become another desktop (95% Windows) I just dont see how anybody can stop them anymore. too think they havent even hardly begun their PMP/tablet invasion yet.

    I dont mean this in an inflammatory way, but now that even hardcore iOS fans have moved on from arguing marketshare to “experience” shows even they given up on winning. they’ve also moved on to hoping they will win the tablet space by comparing it to the iPod’s success, which IMO is another lost cause. or even the fact Jobs spends so much time dissing Android is another sign as well.

    the only company I see right now with the ability too slow Android is MS, and thats only with some numbers trickery. if Windows 8 turns out to be a uni-core/multi-UI then marketshare numbers might take into account older desktop numbers & completely flipflop the stats into MS favor.