Google Android hits massive growth spurt

New numbers show Google's Android stealing away even more of the mobile market. Can the competition keep up with its growth?

Observing Android is kind of like watching a child's early years: We've seen it since the beginning; we've always known it's been on the brink of a massive growth spurt. But that hasn't made it any less impressive to see how quickly it's matured.

All right, so the two scenarios aren't exactly the same. Android's formative years involve less spit-up, for one, and the parent-child attachment is slightly less strong (full-fledged Android fanboys notwithstanding). Still, Google's mobile operating system has been growing at a breakneck pace, and from the looks of it, its mobile market peers are starting to struggle to keep up.

Google Android Growth

First, the big picture: Android, according to a new analysis by metrics firm ComScore, has recently commanded an extra 5.2 percent of the overall U.S. mobile market. The analysis compares data from November 2009 with data from February 2010, the most recent complete month available.

In that same time span, Apple's market share remained essentially flat, dropping by about 0.1 percent. Microsoft and Palm, meanwhile, both lost market share, dropping by 4 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively. The only platform other than Android to expand its userbase was RIM, which increased its market share by about 1.3 percent.

That's a lot of numbers, I know. But the trends here are what really matter: Month after month, Android is making leaps in its reach. And month after month, the competition is failing to match its growth.

Now, Android's still the small fry in this giant bag of hamburgers: Google's OS is sitting at about 9 percent of the total U.S. mobile market, compared to 42.1 percent for RIM, 25.4 percent for Apple, 15.1 percent for Microsoft, and 5.4 percent for Palm. Keep your eye on the rates of change, though; those figures are what give us an educated glimpse into the future. Just ask Internet Explorer.

The Android App Question

Regardless of market share, an area in which Android is often criticized is its App Market selection. Some argue the platform's roughly 30,000 apps can't compete with Apple's 100,000-strong selection.

The disparity, too, may soon become far less pronounced. According to a report published by independent analysis center AndroLib, Google's Android App Market just wrapped up a hefty month of growth. In March alone, AndroLib reports, 9,329 new apps were added into the platform's official shelves. That's nearly 70 percent more than were added just one month earlier.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Numbers alone don't mean much when it comes to something like app selection. Is the difference between even 10,000 apps and 50,000 apps truly noticeable to us as consumers? Of course not. But for those who focus on such figures as a measure of a platform's worth, the shift may be well-worth noting.

All in all, it's an awful lot of change for Android -- hey, I told you it's like watching a child grow up. And if you think it's bad now, just wait till our little operating system hits puberty.

JR Raphael frequently covers mobile technology for both PCWorld and eSarcasm, his geek-humor getaway. He's on Facebook: facebook.com/The.JR.Raphael

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JR Raphael

PC World (US online)

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