Andy Rubin: “Android daily activations top 700K”. On the way to 1 million a day in Q2 2012

Oh my. Just when I almost made up my mind that Android growth has stalled, Andy Rubin comes out with another growth data point to mock all of us, doubters.

According to Google’s mobile chief, they are now activating 700K Android devices a day. And, just to dispel any doubts that are indeed all new handsets and tablets:

..and for those wondering, we count each device only once (ie, we don’t count re-sold devices), and “activations” means you go into a store, buy a device, put it on the network by subscribing to a wireless service.

To be fair to those of us who thought that Android growth had already peaked, Google itself is somewhat to blame for creating the appearance of a slowdown. Android daily activations reached 550K a day level on July 14th and stayed there at least until Dec. 7th. When Eric Schmidt used the same 550K data point in his LeWeb conference keynote. Almost 5 months without any reported growth is a long time.

So what happened in three weeks between Dec. 07 and today, to add additional 150K new Android devices to daily activation count? Holiday Shopping Season, most likely.

To make new claim about daily Android device activations, Google has to observe that number for a certain number of days. So in the beginning of December, less then 2 weeks after Black Friday/ Cyber Monday, it was probably too early to give any solid growth updates. But sometime in December, with Christmas gift shopping kicking into high gear all over Western Hemisphere, Android device activations topped 700K a day, and are staying there for a while now.

Looking back to the days when the explosive Android growth just started, it has been exhibiting the same pattern for 2 years in a row now:

  • From January to March, there ‘s little to no growth in daily activations
  • Between April and August– when Android flagships announced during CES and Mobile World Congress start shipping- we get a huge jump in Android activation count. In 2010 daily activations jumped from 60K in April to 200K in August (140K unit, 230% growth). Between April and July this year, Android went from 350K to 550K (200K additional daily units and 57% growth).
  • August – December, a period of little to no growth again, until Christmas Shopping Season starts
  • December – a smaller, but still impressive jump in Android device activation numbers. In 2010 it increased from 200K a day to 300K (+100K, 50% growth), this year – from 550K to 700K (+150K, 27% growth)

To see where Android daily activations may get next year, if the same growth patterns continue, I plotted the numbers Google already gave us. Looks like by the end of  Q2 2012, new Android device additions can easily top 1 million units a day.

Overall,  the relative Android growth is slowing down. In 2010 Google’s mobile OS grew almost 1000%, this year the growth is “only” 133%. But that’s just the law of big numbers. In absolute terms Android continues to grow at an amazing rate. During 2010 Google added 240K new devices to Android daily activation count. This year – the growth is 400K. To manage this in Q4 2011, when Google has to compete for every customer against newly released iPhone 4S, plus cheaper iPhone 4/3GS, is even more impressive feat.

While I expected Android absolute numbers to grow by a lot, I must I admit I was too skeptical about it last year. The actual daily activations topped even the optimistic part of my range by 100K. I thought that other platforms – Symbian, Windows Phone or Bada – will slow the Android onslaught, but none of them managed to put a dent into Google’s OS growth.

The mobile device market is not infinite, and Android will reach its saturation level sometime. But I have to admit that I have no idea when it will happen. The pressures of patent litigation, and more skeptical carrier and vendor attitude is still there. But so far Android seems to be resilient to them, and anything else competitors throw at it. So I will have to see a much more clear break in Android growth patterns before proclaiming the slowdown next time.

Getting back to the newly reinvigorated Android growth. Here’s a quick take about the winners and losers among vendors in Q4 2011:

  • Q4 was the launch quarter of the next generation iPhone 4S. Despite the pent up demand and  launch hype, much wider carrier and price tier availability, iPhone failed to have meaningful impact on overall Android device sales growth. At this point in time these two platforms are growing together, mostly taking the sales from everyone else, but not each other.
  • The big winners among Android vendors this quarter will be Motorola and Samsung
  • Motorola’s new Droid RAZR is the main Verizon smartphone for the Holiday Season, and, by all indications, a huge hit. Its international version is also quite competitive in those markets where the device was released. Expect some nice upside surprise when Motorola reports Q4 numbers in January
  • Samsung’s Galaxy S2 flagship continues to rule the sales charts of most operators worldwide, together with iPhone 4S. With smartphones like Galaxy Mini, Ace, Y, R and S Plus; Sammy also has an incredibly strong Android device line-up at every price point down to $200. Expect some huge October- December smartphone sales numbers from them. Though whether Samsung will be able to beat huge iPhone shipments and keep #1 smartphone vendor spot, is anyone’s guess. Probably not, but it should be close.
  • The big loser among Android vendors will be HTC. Due to the poorly balanced device portfolio in Q4 2011, I expect their Android smartphone sales to drop by about 3 million units. With most of the lost HTC sales going to Samsung and Motorola.

Were you impressed/surprised by 700K Android activations number today? Do you you think they will get to 1 million a day this summer? And how high can Android go?


Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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