Google shared some interesting statistics about its Android platform during the Google Music press conference held in Los Angeles on Wednesday. More than 200 million Android smartphones and other devices have been activated around the world. That's up from 100 million six months ago. That's an incredible amount of growth for a platform that didn't exist three years ago.
Android's growth has come at the expense of entrenched platforms, such as RIM's BlackBerry and Nokia's Symbian operating systems. Their presence in the market has shrunk since Android (and the iPhone) arrived.
While Android's growth is no doubt impressive, there's an even more interesting caveat at play here.
On Wednesday, Google said that it is activating Android handsets at the rate of 550,000 per day. That's great, but that's the same rate at which Google was activating Android smartphones back in July. What's going on here? Has Android's meteoric growth suddenly come to a halt?
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Google first started sharing daily activation numbers in January 2010, when it launched the original Nexus One. At the time, Google said it was activating about 60,000 Android handsets per day. That number rose to 100,000 per day, then 150,000, 200,000, 250,000 per day and so on. We first heard the 550,000 daily activations number from Google in July during its quarterly earnings call. Taking the growth rate over the last 22 months into account and projecting it from July to December led many to believe that Google would be activating 1 million Android handsets each day before the end of the year.
Instead, the growth rate has flat-lined.
Is this a problem? Not really. Android's surging growth rate over the course of the last two years would have been impossible to maintain indefinitely. It had to reach a ceiling eventually, and it appears as though it has.
The other thing to keep in mind here is that the growth rate of the overall smartphone market slowed down during the same period. According to the latest numbers from Gartner, worldwide smartphone sales rose 42% to 115 million units in the third quarter, with 60 million of those running Android. These numbers are strong, but were down slightly from projections.
"Android benefited from more mass-market offerings, a weaker competitive environment, and the lack of exciting new products on alternative operating systems such as Windows Phone 7 and RIM," said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, in the report.
Last, Android's daily activation rate is still besting that of every other platform. iOS, for example, sees about 210,000 daily activations. Android's growth rate may have slowed down, but with more than double the daily activations of its nearest competitor, Android will remain on top for the foreseeable future.