Android growing much faster than expected, say analysts

Better backing from operators and phone makers is boosting Android

Google's Android was expected to become the world's second most-used smartphone OS by 2012, after the Symbian OS, but now accelerating sales will help it get there this year, according to analysts.

Android was in fourth place during the first three months of 2010, trailing the Research In Motion (RIM) and Apple smartphone OSes by a margin of about 5 million and 3 million, according to market research company Gartner, which tracks the number of smartphones sold to end users.

However, since then sales have picked up significantly. In February, Google said 60,000 Android phones were sold per day and in June that number had gone up to 160,000, according to Google. Today, 200,000 Android-based smartphones are sold every day, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said on Wednesday.

The reason for Apple's 3 million unit lead in the first quarter was that the iPhone is more popular than Android-based devices in Europe and Asia, Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said at the time. In North America, Google and its partners outsold the iPhone. However, sales of Android-based started to pick up toward the end of the second quarter, thanks to new smartphones from Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson, she said.

Gartner's second quarter numbers will be presented next week, and even if the Android camp doesn't surpass RIM and Apple this quarter, it will before the end of the year, according to Milanesi.

Francisco Jeronimo, research manager for European Mobile Devices at IDC, also expects Android to become the second most-used mobile operating by the end of the year.

Both IDC and Gartner have in the past predicted that it wouldn't happen until 2012.

The explosive growth has been helped by a growing number of devices at different price points, and increased backing by operators. For example, Verizon's big Android bet, in lieu of the operator getting the iPhone, has helped Android a lot, according to Milanesi.

Worldwide marketing efforts by both operators and smartphone makers have increased consumer awareness, according Jeronimo. Last year, not many people knew what Android was, but that is now changing fast, he said.

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