More Handset Share Numbers & How Many Apps Is Enough?

Android and the iPhone are the rising stars in Gartner’s new handset figures — especially Android. RIM has also made gains internationally. Once again smartphone sales are driving the market in Q1. Awaiting the launch of Windows (7) Phones later this year Microsoft-powered handsets continue to lose ground. 

Smartphones now represent between 22% and 24% of all handsets in the US market. As these figures grow so will mobile Internet usage. In Europe several markets are in a comparable position.

Below are the Gartner global share figures, by overall handset sales and then smartphones. For reference, you can compare Q1 hardware numbers from IDC and comScore

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In the US market right now it has become a three-way race between RIM, Apple and Google. Outside the US Nokia remains dominant.

One of Apple’s competitive differentiators, the size of its app store, is going away at least vs. Android. Right now Apple has more than 200K iPhone apps to Android’s 50K or so. But 50K is probably sufficient for most consumers and the relative size of the app stores will cease to matter. Furthermore most iPhone developers are building Android versions of their apps. 

I’ve noticed that Verizon is also advertising the fact of Android apps to try and close the perception of a competitive gap between the iPhone and Android.

What’s also interesting to see develop is advertising around particular Android handsets. In one TV commercial for the Moment or Behold (I can’t remember which) Samsung is seeking to differentiate via the handset’s screen as well as seeking to create an image of mystery or sophistication around the device. By constrast the Verizon/Motorola Droid remains targeted toward males with a kind of “kick ass” attitude. This kind of image building will be both challenging and critical for the various Android OEMs in an effort to build sub-brands within the Android universe. 

Accordingly, how these Android hardware OEMs seek to both emphasize and de-emphasize Android in their marketing and TV campaigns will be fascinating to watch. They need to communicate to interested prospects that these handsets are Android devices but then quickly move on to focus on other features: better cameras, screens, proprietary UIs, etc. as principle points of differentiation from other Android devices. 

Putting aside the operating system fragmentation issues, the dozens of Android OEMs and the evolving hardware ecosystem is both a strength and a weakness for the platform.