‘Crazy’ demand in Asia key to Android’s global success

The FT has an interesting article looking at how demand for and sales of Android-based mobile phones are “booming” and the significance Asia is playing in driving them.

From the piece:

Rapid growth in Asia has been behind the latest jump in sales of smartphones running Google’s Android operating system, putting the internet group comfortably ahead of Apple in the race for leadership in mobile computing.

Going into a further detail:

Andy Rubin, the executive in charge of Google’s mobile software effort, said that international expansion lay behind the latest advance. Speaking in an interview with the Financial Times, he also predicted that a boom in sales in India, Brazil, Indonesia and other emerging countries would contribute to the fast growth rate for the foreseeable future.

While cheap, flat-rate data services made the US the world’s first big market for smartphones, recent months have seen other countries catch up fast, Mr Rubin said.

 “After the US, we saw Asia go crazy,” he said, with sales in South Korea in particular going “berserk” in the past four months.

Interestingly the article and Rubin go on to look at Android in China, a market which has frustrated Android parent Google following ongoing spats with the Chinese government over alleged security breaches and other issues – a situation which means Google must accept some limitations on Android’s presence in the country’s mobile market. Given the market potentia,l that is clearly preferable to zero presence.

Quoting independent research suggesting that Android has also come to account for half of smartphone shipments in China, Mr Rubin said that the open-source nature of the software had made it popular there. However, in the wake of Google’s dispute over censorship with the Chinese government, Android handsets shipped by China Mobile, the dominant supplier, do not carry the company’s search or e-mail services.

Further statistics from the article demonstrate that Android sales figures, according to the last quarter, are significantly higher than that of the iPhone. However, the figures are not broken down by region which makes it impossible to put a tangible figure on the significance of sales and growth in Asia. Nonetheless, they are impressive figures:

More than 300,000 Android handsets are activated each day, according to Google, up from 200,000 in August. By contrast, Apple reported shipments of 14.1m iPhones during its most recent quarter, to September 25, or roughly 150,000 a day.

I recently wrote about Android and its chief smartphone rivals in Asia – Apple, RIM (BlackBerry) and Nokia – after it was named as the region’s most popular smartphone platform by GFK Asia. However, as I concluded then, smartphones remain a niche market in Asia out of the financial reach of most of the continent. So while Android leads the pack on smarphones, its market presence and clout is dwarfed by Nokia, and other brands which dominate the regular, non-smartphone market.

That said, with operators keen to introduce smartphones in response to growing consumer demand, and because typically owners of smartphone generate greater ARPU (average revenue per user) essential for operators funding 3G licenses, explorations into 4G and/or fighting the saturation of voice revenues. For Android to hold a lead puts Rubin and the company in a strong position to negotiate with carriers and gain traction amongst consumers.

Android benefits from its array budget smartphone devices in Asia, a market where smartphones have long been tipped to be the primary access point to the internet for the majority of the continent’s citizens. While iPhone and BlackBerry devices may be more desirable/fashionable to many than high-end Android-devices, the choice of devices and lower cost of Android phones is an ideal match for Asia’s growing appetite for smartphones.