Android: Now and then (Dec 2011 to Dec 2012)

December 7, 2012
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As the end of the year draws near it’s a time for reflection. After drinking and eating yourself into a stupor it’s nice to kick back and cast an eye over the year that was. It’s been a tumultuous 12 months for the world of mobile. We’ve seen the smartphone war rage on in the stores and the courtrooms. We’ve seen the tablet battle shift up a gear. We’ve seen new platforms emerge, old platforms die off, and the leading platforms grow. Specs have continued to improve, expectations have soared. When the snow settles we can see our favorite little green Android perched atop the tree.

It’s been a good year for the best mobile platform around. Join us for a gentle stroll down memory lane as we take a look at Android now and then.

Growing up fast

In the third quarter of 2011 Android accounted for more than 50 percent of worldwide smartphone sales and that lead increased slightly in Q4. In the last year the smartphone market has continued to grow at a phenomenal pace, but Android has grown even faster to claim an ever increasing share of it. In Q3 of 2012 Android claimed 72.4 percent of the market in terms of sales.

We don’t know the Q4 results for this year yet, but it looks like Android has gone from accounting for half of all smartphones sold in December 2011 to three quarters of all smartphones sold in December 2012.

From ICS to Jelly Bean

It was the night before Christmas and not a mouse stirred…actually it was about a month before Christmas and Google unleashed a tasty treat in the shape of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Cast your mind back to November 2011 and the Galaxy Nexus which first brought ICS onto the scene. It was a major update for the platform with an improved user interface, better notifications and performance, and more baked-in features.

The jump to Jelly Bean, version 4.1 of the platform, happened this summer and it was, as the name suggests, a little more subtle. While ICS was an overhaul, Jelly Bean was a refinement. Smoother, more stylish, and easier to use, the highest profile new feature was probably Google Now – the smartphone butler you’ve always wanted.

To see how Android has changed check out our ICS vs Jelly Bean comparison. Just last month we got another incremental improvement from Google in the shape of Android 4.2 which brought us Photo Sphere, expandable and actionable notifications, and a bit more polish.

Flagships

If we rewind a year Android was already inspiring some pretty impressive devices. We called the Samsung Galaxy S2 as the best Android phone of 2011 back in February, just before it was released. So it proved, as Samsung’s high-spec beast made its way into the hands of over 30 million people. Even by December of 2011 there was nothing really challenging the Galaxy S2. The Google-branded and Samsung-manufactured Galaxy Nexus was probably the closest thing to a rival and it was released in November 2011 just in time for Christmas, but it didn’t please everyone.

Other highlights in 2011 included the Motorola Droid Razr and the HTC Rezound, but it truly was Samsung’s year as the South Korean company sold more smartphones worldwide than Apple and everyone else was left far behind the two market leaders.

We still think HTC needs to raise its game, but at the beginning of 2012 optimism reigned and many of us expected a comeback for the Taiwanese company. Many critics and analysts called the HTC One X as the Android phone of 2012. In straight up comparisons between the HTC One X and Samsung’s Galaxy S3 it was HTC’s smartphone that generally prevailed. Consumers disagreed and the Galaxy S3 completely dominated the top end of the Android market. Samsung has already sold more than 30 million Galaxy S3 handsets worldwide and it’s still going strong.

End of year competition has popped up in the form of Google’s latest flagship, the Nexus 4, which was manufactured by a resurgent LG seeking to stake its own claim on the top end of the smartphone market. You may also consider Sony’s Xperia range, then there’s the monster battery of the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD, and the super-sized HTC One X+.

Specs have continued to improve over the last 12 months, but not quite so fast as the leaps we saw before. At the cutting edge we’ve gone from dual-core to quad-core, LTE and NFC have become standard, and displays are bigger and better.

We’ve also seen a new category emerge in the shape of the “phablets” like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and the HTC Butterfly or Droid DNA. One thing’s for sure – there will be plenty of high-end Android smartphones being unwrapped this Christmas.

Ecosystem: from Market to Play

Back in December 2011 the Android Market passed the 10 billion download mark and was closing in on 400,000 apps and games. In March of 2012 Google decided to merge the Android Market with Google Music and Google Play was born. A true content portal offering apps, games, movies, music and books to a hungry audience. The refinements for Android carried through to the content portal and the whole experience with an Android device improved. The rough edges were gone, Android truly came of age, and 2012 was to be its best year yet.

Now, in December 2012, Google Play boasts over 700,000 apps and games and it passed the 25 billion download mark a while back. The experience of buying and downloading content on an Android phone has really improved in the last year. The interface is more stylish, it’s faster and easier to use, and there is a greater choice of content than ever before.

Android marches on

In the coming year Android is expected to increase its lead. As smartphones reach saturation levels in some markets the battle could grow fiercer and tablets have opened a new front. We’re expecting Key Lime Pie to be the next Android release and it’s sure to bring more refinement and new features to an already strong platform.

It will be tough for anyone to catch Samsung as the Android leader and there’s a Galaxy S4 on the horizon. HTC, LG and Sony will fight it out for second place with improved line-ups, not to mention Motorola, and we can’t forget the Chinese competitors Huawei and ZTE. It’s shaping up to be a great 2013 for Android. Just look how far it has come in the last year, who knows what treats are in store before next December. Stick with us at Android Authority and we’ll make sure you’re always up to date with the latest Android developments.

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