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Why 2010 will be Android’s year

A few decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon for sci-fi writers to predict that robots would be trying to take over the world by 2010. Well, Aibo was sent to the cyber-vet’s in 2006, Honda’s Asimo is still dogged by that embarrassing stair incident, and the Homersapien bot gathering dust in our loft shows no sign of overthrowing mankind any day soon.

If only those sci-fi writers had changed tack and predicted that 2010 would see a smartphone operating system called Android getting quite popular, they’d seem like seers now. Although that would’ve required successfully predicting smartphones, and Google for that matter.

Still, 2010 will be Android’s year. It’s already building up a head of steam in the US. According to mobile advertising firm AdMob, 27% of ad requests on its network in November came from Android handsets – up from 20% in October.

That’s on the back of strong sales of the Motorola Droid handset in November, yet by the time AdMob released its stats on Friday, the Droid had already been relegated to second place in terms of blogosphere Android buzz by the shadowy Nexus One – expected to be the first solely Google-branded smart phone when (or if) it goes on sale in January.

2010 will see many more handsets running the latest, slinkiest versions of the Android OS, with mobile operators getting behind it as an alternative to the iPhone. And where there’s handsets, developers will follow.

It was reported last week that there are now more than 20,000 apps available on Android Market, although Google reckons it’s more like 16,000. However, analyst IDC reckons this will swell to 75,000 by the end of next year – still behind the 300,000 it predicts for iPhone, but impressive growth nonetheless. Soon, if there’s an app for that on Apple’s store, there will probably be an equivalent for Android.

Meanwhile, last week saw T-Mobile USA become the first mobile operator to add ‘carrier billing’ to Android Market, allowing people to buy apps and games on their phone bills rather than using the existing Google Checkout system.

More operators will follow suit in 2010, providing more incentive for developers to bring their cool stuff to Android Market. And if you’re not a big fan of the store – which could still do with some improvement it’s fair to say – then you’ll be able to buy from the increasing number of third-party stores supporting Android. Last week also saw Motorola accidentally reveal its upcoming SHOP4APPS store, for example.

Cool phones and cool apps is a heady combination, although Android’s strength won’t just be in expensive iPhone-rivalling handsets, but in more affordable phones too, following in the footsteps of this year’s T-Mobile Pulse and HTC Tattoo.

If 2009 has taught us something, it’s that no one single handset is an iPhone killer – and nor is one single operating system. Those AdMob figures revealed that 55% of its ad requests came from iPhones in November, for example.

But as rivals jockey for position, Android is emerging as the leader of the chasing pack. We’re still waiting for those sci-fi robots to wage war on humanity, but with Android’s weapons trained on Apple, 2010 is already shaping up as a superb year for smart phone innovation.


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