Smart move in PHONE WAR
Forget internet searches. Google is poised to rule the Aussie phone market this year, writes Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
ALOT can happen in three years, but few expected Google would need only that long to join and dominate the mobile phone industry.
The internet giant is now the world’s smartphone software leader, figures revealed last week, overtaking traditional title-holder Nokia and cementing its fresh lead over Apple and its iPhone.
Research firm Canalys reported more than 32.9 million Google Android phones were shipped around the world in 2010, beating Nokia’s efforts by 1.9 million.
Telecommunications experts predict the same will happen in Australia this year as the Android army wins new fans, fuelled by coming software releases, fresh phone forms and plummeting prices.
The different elements will combine to triple the number of Google phones sold in Australia, they say, and see many more phone makers add Google apps to their handsets.
Though Google phones could be on the brink of Australian phone leadership now, the company did not enter the local phone market until February 2009, four months after its US launch.
A Google Australia spokeswoman says Android software is now available in 145 devices.
‘‘ In fact, there are now 300,000 Android activations per day,’’ she says.
The software has also come a long way technologically. While at first incapable of cutting and pasting text, Android now features app multitasking, voice dictation, simple notifications and an app store, An- droid Market, with more than 100,000 apps.
Those features will get an upgrade this year in two upcoming software releases dubbed Gingerbread and Honeycomb.
Gingerbread (v2.3) offers major speed benefits over older Android versions and will debut in Google’s own Nexus S phone ( see review, right). Honeycomb (v3.0) will be the company’s first software designed for tablets and is already slated to appear in Motorola’s Xoom and offerings from Dell and Acer.
While the jury is still out on Android tablets, IDC telecommunications market analyst Mark Novosel says Google’s meteoric rise in the smartphone market has not been seen since Apple launched its iPhone. more conservative in his estimates, he predicts Google’s mobile phone install base ‘‘ will triple this year’’ for many reasons, including price.
‘‘ A lot of people are switching over to smartphones and they are considering Android devices because of the increasing features and functions but also because of the economics,’’ he says. ‘‘ The devices are actually cheaper whereas Apple has a one-size-fits-all policy.’’
Fadaghi says Google’s open-source approach, which allows phone makers to use the software free of charge, means it has been added to many more phones, including low-cost models from companies including ZTE and Huawei, and midrange handsets selling for less than $500.
WHILE this could be seen as a risky approach for the Google brand, it gives pricesensitive, prepaid users a chance to invest in a smartphone for the first time, Fadaghi says, and could help boost Australian smartphone numbers to half of all phones by the end of 2012.
In spite of the good news for Google, the company will still face steep competition from Apple. In December, IDC revealed the Apple iPhone had become the most popular smartphone in Australia, accounting for 36.5 per cent of the smartphone market, and Novosel predicts Apple will release a new model in the coming months.
Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza also warns that Google’s lack of marketing for Android phones, its lack of paid apps and poor app store design could hold it back, though device makers, budding app developers and intense user interest could balance out these flaws.