During 2010, Android smartphones were finally considered mainstream and the Google Play Store was starting to gain market share. App sales were relatively low. By then, Apple’s iTunes Store had already gained traction and unfortunately, Android was widely considered to be a weak competitor. Android devices were seen as being highly fragmented with tough barriers to entry for a developer to release successful applications. Customers were not seen as “sticky,” to use an industry term, but instead were seen as being willing to jump platform very easily. In four years, we’ve seen the Android and especially the Google Play Store transform itself into a truly global competitor. The Android marketplace is bigger than iOS with an estimated 1.2 billion active users; that’s comparable to the Windows or Facebook userbase. And that’s in four years; Google are pushing towards the next billion with Android One, which as I’ll come on to, will be more important than the first!
Yet, many financial analysts’ opinions remain largely in 2010. Their opinion is Android is a fragmented, malware-ridden, low-end operating system. Too many analysts believe Android users don’t buy applications and the platform (still!) lacks lifetime value. These opinions simply are not true. Analysts look for growth and revenue derived from Android is rising faster than competitors. Android-derived commerce is up 26% year on year and Android devices now account for over 20% of all US mobile e-commerce.
What does this mean? It means that compared with iOS, many corporations underdevelop their Android application. These businesses are severely limiting their market potential. Not only is the Android userbase enormous but it’s growing quickly and Google have a viable developing market business strategy, Android One. Google have addressed some of the fragmentation issues with different versions of Android and the Google Play Store is experiencing strong demand. Forget Apple’s reinvention of NFC wireless payments; Google working with global carriers is helping customers use the Play Store in countries where relatively few people have credit cards.
This goes back to my remark about the next billion above. The developed smartphone markets – the USA, UK and continental Europe – are largely saturated. There are still smartphone and app sales to be had here, sure. But the real growth is in the developing areas of the world, where smartphone penetration is low but rapidly growing. Who remembers buying their first app? And what happened next? Did you buy another? I’ll bet that you bought another app a few days or weeks later and you’ve probably kept this up. Now imagine the next billion Android users doing the same thing?