Andy Rubin, the head of Google's Android mobile platform division, quashed rumors he plans to leave Google and advised his Twitter followers on Sunday that more than 900,000 Android devices are being activated each day -- up from 850,000 on Feb. 27. However, the pace of growth for Android, which powers smartphones, media tablets, e-reading devices and other gadgets, is clearly slowing.
According to Rubin's Twitter log, more than 700,000 Android devices were being activated every day as of Dec. 20, 2011 -- a hefty hike from the 500,000 that were being powered up in late June of last year. By contrast, Google's daily Android phone activations stood at a mere 300,000 in December 2010.
Based on the mobile platform's slowing growth over the past five months, it would seem that Google won't see 1 million Android devices being activated each day until sometime next year. We asked Al Hilwa, director of Applications Software Development at IDC, for his assessment of the slowdown in Android's activation growth so far this year.
"Android's activation numbers are still pretty big," Hilwa said. "And we are bound to see some flattening of smartphone adoption as we cross the 50 percent mark of smartphone penetration in some geographies," he said.
Android's Tablet Shipment Shortfall
One of the biggest obstacles to Android's device activation growth is Apple's domination of the global tablet market. The iconic device maker shipped 11.8 million devices in the first quarter of this year -- equivalent to a 65 percent share, according to ABI Research.
By contrast, Samsung's 1.1 million Android-based Galaxy tablet shipments were less than 10 percent of Apple's iPad sales. What's more, sales of the Kindle Fire, which has Android buried under Amazon's custom interface, fizzled during the three months after last year's Kindle Fire holiday shopping season spree.
"Apple and Samsung have demonstrated staying power while other tablet vendors ebb and flow like the tide," said Jeff Orr, group director of consumer research at ABI Research.
Apple iPad sales during the first quarter were driven by the launch of new third-generation models as well as iPad 2 price reductions. Going forward, however, Google is hoping to get a tablet boost of its own through the release of a new Nexus Tablet in partnership with Asus this summer. (continued...)