Canalys: Verizon iPhone won't slow Android growth even the slightest

Today analyst firm Canalys asserted that Android handsets would grow at twice the rate of its major competitors during 2011. Canalys only named one, iPhone. The prediction comes two days after Verizon announced that it would carry iPhone 4 starting in early February. Since, and even before, numerous commentaries and punditries claimed victory for iPhone against Android. Absolutely not, says Canalys.

The research firm also said that fragmentation, while greater on Android than iOS, wouldn't stop the Google-created operating system's phenomenal growth. During third quarter 2010, 20 million Android handsets shipped, for 25 percent share of the global smartphone market, according to Canalys. During the first three quarters of 2010, Android shipments grew 1,000-percent year over year.

"The growth of Android has been phenomenal, but so too has the number of related devices launched with different hardware and software specifications," Chris Jones, Canalys principal analyst, said in a statement. "This has led to the market perception of it as a fragmented platform." Jones emphasized: "Fragmentation affects all OS platforms, though it is particularly visible with Android due to the fast pace of upgrades that has characterized its growth,"

However, he rightly observed that fragmentation is "less pronounced" on iOS. "We believe that growth will continue as the pace of Android OS upgrades slows," Jones expressed, referring to fragmentation's minimal long-term impact.

Canalys was clear in its contention that Verizon wouldn't slow down Android, contradicting several days' commentaries and punditries. For example, this morning I spotted Dan Frommer post "Only Now Are We About To See The Real Battle Between iPhone And Android" at Business Insider. He makes a good case for competition between Android handsets and iPhone in the United States. Then he stretches the implications a bit too far. Android's success is global and gaining. Here in the United States, 40.8 percent of US new cellphone purchasers chose an Android handset in November, up from 27.5 percent in June, according to Nielsen. Last week, ComScore asserted that between August and November, Android pushed ahead of iPhone -- smartphone platform share among US mobile subscribers. Yesterday, ComScore revealed that Android is the fastest-growing smartphone platform in Germany.

"With Android's momentum expected to stay strong, the installed base of Android-based smartphones and pads will rapidly increase -- good news for developers," Daryl Chiam, Canalys senior analyst, said in a statement. He cautioned developers to adapt their applications to capabilities of the various Android smartphones and tablets -- something, I should add, isn't as necessary on iOS.

"To support developers, Google must also make substantial enhancements to the Android Market, including the ability to detect device platforms, highlighting the applications suitable for each, which would improve the user experience and increase the number of downloads," Chiam added.

I have to ask: If developers and Google have to make all these adaptions to different Android versions and handsets, why isn't fragmentation a problem? One answer is increasingly lower Android phone prices, which is one factor driving the platform's rapid growth, according to Canalys.

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