According to a Nielsen report, in 2010 Android-based phones accounted for 27% of the overall smartphone sales in the United States compared to iPhone sales that only accounted for 23%. And that includes the iPhone4’s opening weekend sales of 1.7 million units.
As great as the iPhone is, the Apple walled garden is starting to wear a little thin. In the US the jail cell is even smaller since we are tied to AT&T, a shit overpriced network. AT&T has finally allowed tethering with the iPhone 4, but at a $20 per month surcharge. That’s on top of capped data plans of 200 megs or 2 GB. Stream a couple of movies and you’re screwed.
The surge in Android is creating an opening for digital music services that are not iTunes. I’m not suggesting that iTunes will be toppled, but with iTunes being taken off the table for the surging Android market, users will look for similarly user-friendly alternatives and this could result in a significant market share gain for competing services. If you look at the mobile digital music market by itself, Apple has one carrier—number 2 AT&T—and Android has all 4 major US operators.
The most likely beneficiary of the download services will be Amazon. Android gives the retail behemoth the mobile platform that they have always needed. And when Spotify launches in the US, which most likely will happen this year, it is sure to be the market leader of the cloud-based subscription services. Napster and Rhapsody just don’t figure into the picture. They’re way too lame. And newcomers Mog and Rdio just don’t have it all together like Spotify does. I think that they’ll both be playing catch-up to Spotify.
Granted that there are not a lot of people who want to switch from iPhone to Android, but I’m one of them. I loved my iPhone 3G, but its way too slow and I got so sick of AT&T that I unlocked it and moved back to T-Mobile, my previous carrier. But the iPhone can only connect to the T-Mobile Edge data network, not the 3G. And that’s a real pain in the ass as well.
So this week I decided to ditch my iPhone 3G and get the new Samsung Galaxy. The Galaxy is a powerhouse media machine and just sings on the T-Mobile data network. It’s a gorilla. I must confess that I don’t like the idea of carrying around a device that says “Samsung” on it—unless it’s an HDTV. But with devices like the Galaxy, the HTC Evo, Motorola Droid X and the upcoming HTC 4G handsets, Apple will start to feel the heat very soon unless they start cutting deals with all of the major US carriers. These smartphones just rock. (Remember the old days when you couldn’t have this conversation without mentioning Sony first?)
Android could be the one bright spot in the mobile space that saves the major record labels from the iPhone/iTunes chokehold. But then again, when has a major record label ever failed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?