Can Tuesday's Android launch eclipse the iPhone?

Maybe T-Mobile doesn't have its own Steve Jobs, and maybe it's difficult to get worked up over something as nebulous as "Android." But some analysts do expect it to pick up considerable steam over the coming months and years.

At the most optimistic end of the scale, Strategy Analytics has predicted that the Android platform will grab a four percent share of the US smartphone market in the fourth quarter of this year. Yet the success of Android will hinge in large part on the impact of carrier subsidies on pricing, analysts at the firm acknowledged.

The Gartner Group, on the other hand, is projecting that Android will reach a 10% market share, but not until three years from now.

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Google's long-term vision for Android calls for features ranging from sensor-enabled "augmented reality" and "smart alerts" that bring your attention to important information about your "situation," said Google engineer Andy Rubin in a blog today.

Although the T-Mobile-enabled HTC Dream, set for rollout on Tuesday, "will give us a taste of what the platform will be able to do, we are expecting some limitations given this is the first device," admitted Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner, in a research note.

Beyond technical growing pains, Android also needs to nail down larger manufacturers like LG and Samsung before making a big impression on consumer and business users, suggested Colin Gillis, an analyst at Canaccord Adams.

"While many are likely to call this 'The G-Phone,' we point out it really is just 'a G-phone' as Google seeks to have Android power many handsets across all the carriers, in our opinion," according to Gillis.

Also, unlike Apple's iPhone, which launched with a huge Mac-saturated market and international telco contracts already firmly in hand at the outset, Android is a brand new platform with only a firm commitment from T-Mobile so far, other analysts observed.

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