Google’s mobile operating system picked up tremendous momentum from July to September. Today, during Google’s Q3 earnings conference call, CEO Larry Page said that the total number of activations had reached 190 million — that’s up from 135 million three months ago. Last week, Apple reported that it had sold 250 million iOS devices to date, up 25 million during the same time period.
It’s no secret that Androids are outselling iOS devices on a sheer volume basis, but based on these numbers, and recent analyst data, momentum is increasing. Whether or not Android can sustain the gains depends on much occurring this month that foreshadows the future. Tomorrow, iPhone 4S officially launches at 8 a.m., local time, whatever that is for you. While many people have expressed disappointment at there being no iPhone 5, Apple cofounder Steve Jobs’ untimely death last week could spur a rock star effect of sudden sales. It’s now social media-spread folklore that 4S is “For Steve”. Similar Jobs allure could likewise lift already hot-selling iPad 2.
Five days later, October 19, Google is expected to formally launch Android 4.0 — aka Ice Cream Sandwich — during an event in Hong Kong. The new OS brings together Android 2.x for smartphones and 3.x for tablets, closing the fork between them. “You won’t believe what we managed to get done in this release”, Page said on a conference call with investors, late this afternoon.
Maybe, but who will believe in something they can’t see? Android 4.0 isn’t religion. Yesterday, Apple released iOS 5. How well — or better — Ice Cream Sandwich compares and how quickly it is available for existing handsets will be essential to effective competition. Availability is key. Apple released iOS 5 to any iPhone 3GS or 4 users willing to take time to download the software and install it with supporting updates. Ice Cream Sandwich is nothing to everyone who can’t easily get it, and right now Android has a huge, unresolved fragmentation problem. Major part of the problem: Cellular carriers, not Google, control updates.
More broadly, Android and iOS sales are disproportionate, with the overwhelming number of Google OS device sales smartphones. During second quarter, Apple sold more than 20 million iPhones and nearly 10 million iPads.
That raises something else: While it’s clear Android activations increased by 55 million during third quarter, iOS sales remain uncertain despite the figure given last week. Apple hasn’t released quarterly results (they come next week). The final numbers could be higher.
By the way, Page released some other numbers of note today. Google+ has now more than 40 million users, a stunning achievement in less than four months. New users are “flocking” to Google+ at an “incredible rate — and we are just getting started”.
Meanwhile, Page said there are now 200 million Chrome users worldwide, in 130 countries.