The world of Android is fragmented into many companies, smartphones and devices. There are devices that connect to televisions and monitors, like the Remix on Kickstarter, which use Android as a desktop OS. The issue with the fragmentation has been how to get the apps to work on the different devices. Not all Android smartphones are the same.
The range of specs of each device is at the highest and lowest levels, the various versions of Android use different APIs that are tricky for developers and screen size changed dramatically in smartphones and tablets. If a developer can get their app to work on any Android device, then the number of users they’re capable of getting is immense.
Google’s Android OS is in many smartphones and tablets across the world. Apple restricts its iOS to only Apple devices, and Microsoft’s Windows mobile OS is yet to do much for consumers or the company. High-end companies like Samsung rely on Android heavily, putting their flagship models in the hands of Android designers.
Upstarts like OnePlus have used the Android OS to make waves in the market. Xiaomi is a Chinese company that has used Android to bridge cultural gaps between Chinese and consumers across the world. Android is an OS that a lot of people know, and it possibly many customers dedication is to the Android OS over the smartphone maker themselves.
For customers, the fact that they can choose from many smartphones and companies is a plus. I could be using a Samsung SIII, need to upgrade and get a Motorola Moto X Style without having to learn to use a new system. Remaining able to use the same apps and having the digital environment I’m used to. I can use a Nexus tablet that syncs with Google, change to a different tablet, all synced and familiar.
OpenSignal is a company that makes an app to create a comprehensive database of mobile device information. The database has information on cell phone towers, signal strength readings and Wi-Fi access points globally. The information gathered isn’t complete, as not all customers have downloaded this app or use its features. It is on a large number of devices and has been able to gather a lot of information on Android devices (OpenSignal is also available on iOS devices).
According to OpenSignal, in the last year there were 24,093 distinct Android devices seen, compared to 18,796 the previous year. 682,000 devices were surveyed for the report and Samsung has the leading share of Android devices in the hands of users. Of the brands using Android OS, there were 1,294 counted.
The number of Android users has risen over the past year as have the number of companies putting the Android ecosystem on their devices. Samsung was the largest last year as well, but with 43% of the market. Now, Samsung is down to 37.8% of the Android market due to the rising number of customers switching to Android and having more brands to consider. In the past, each phone company seemed different and customers had more choice between the OS on their mobile device. A Nokia user could be confused by a Motorola, an L.G. phone could make no sense to someone used to Alcatel, and so on. Now, Motorola is using the same OS as Samsung. (Perhaps a different version, such as Kit Kat or Lollipop.)
The difference in devices comes down to specs, but currently a lot of specs are similar or overkill. For me, my smartphone is used for calls, SMS, reading news, email and internet browsing. I don’t use apps that require the greatest specs and having a mid-range, or even low-end smartphone isn’t a hindrance. In fact, it’s a positive because I don’t need to overspend to get it to be average. For others, the choice in high-end smartphones means they can use their mobile devices for so much more. With many smartphones, it seems the main battleground for consumers is in the camera. It’s not the specs for performance that get customers, but familiarity with the OS ecosystem and how good they can take photos and videos to share on social media.
Samsung is sitting pretty, despite losing about 6% of the market share. Sony is coming second for Android devices, making up 4.8 percent of the market. Xiaomi is number one in China, and Samsung is behind them.