When it comes to Android manufacturers, as years pass and the ecosystem grows ever larger, it’s also becoming increasingly harder to choose the one OEM that impresses the most.
And indeed, given that the little green robot is present in an abundance of market segments, ranging from top-end Android smartphones to entry level tablets and smartwatches, there are quite a number of companies that would consider themselves worthy of the honorific belt of “Android OEM of the year”.
Despite the fact that profits represent the ultimate objective of all Android OEMs, our title shouldn’t necessarily belong to the Android manufacturer that sold the most units or registered the highest profits. Instead, the best Android OEM of the past year is the company who has contributed the most towards the evolution of the ecosystem.
We want to reward the progress towards diversity, hardware quality, and software improvement, not the best financial results. However, it turns out that the past year has rewarded (financially-wise) the same company that made the most contributions to the Android world.
Samsung: the best Android company in 2012
I know that most of you were anticipating Samsung’s nomination since the first paragraph. And surely, when you analyze the facts, the title could not go to any other player.
Samsung manufactures components, not just devices
To start off with Samsung’s technological achievements over the past year, I feel obliged to mention that the South Korean manufacturer is one of the few Android OEMs than manufactures most components in their flagship devices.
While other firms turn to Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Texas Instruments for chips, Samsung opted to go with their own Exynos 4 Quad system on a chip in all of its flagship devices, with the exception of the LTE versions of the Samsung Galaxy S3.
On to the displays, Samsung is in complete control of the AMOLED display market, a position they’ve earned thanks to massive capital investments. AMOLED technology has issues when it comes to color reproduction, but plenty of Samsung customers find that the vivid colors and contrast levels make up for this flaw.
It’s worth mentioning that Samsung also manufactures a wide range of LCD displays, such as those on the Galaxy Tab line or its mid-range and entry-level smartphones. It’s interesting interesting to note that the LCD displays used by Samsung in their own devices don’t go beyond a resolution of 1280 by 800, although they are clearly capable of delivering LCD displays of much higher densities: they manufacture the Retina display inside the iPad, as well as the 2560 by 1600 display that goes in the Nexus 10.
But what about market penetration?
Samsung is the number one smartphone manufacturer in the world, with a worldwide market share that rests at roughly 25%. Samsung is also the manufacturer of the best selling Android device to ever reach the market, the Samsung Galaxy S3 (the S3 won our “Android smartphone of the Year” award for 2012). Samsung is a mammoth!
The diversity factor
Besides making the best selling Android smartphone ever, Samsung also manufactures the Galaxy Note line of Android phones (a market basically created by Samsung from scratch), as well as the Nexus 10 (currently regarded as the best Android tablet out there). However, Samsung’s reach goes beyond the high-end market as they have an impressively diversified offering when it comes to mid-range Android smartphones such as the Galaxy S3 Mini, the Galaxy Grand, and the Galaxy Premier.
Although I’m not going to discuss Samsung’s TouchWiz Android UI, Samsung is the one Android OEM who didn’t just modified the vanilla Android UI and called it a day. Instead, in 2012, Samsung has made impressive progress when it comes to the software functions and tweaks that they include in their devices.
Starting off with the Samsung Smart Functions (first introduced on the Galaxy S3 and then rolled out to the Galaxy Note line) and continuing with the amazing S-Pen enabled functions on the Galaxy Note 2, Samsung is the one Android manufacturer that actually improved on the overall Android experience. This is important not only because they’ve made their own devices better, but also because they’ve inspired other manufacturers to develop genuinely useful software functions and tweaks.
Meet the runner ups
HTC: the most underrated Android manufacturer
HTC is currently going through financial trouble, but the Taiwan-based company does manufacture some incredible smartphones.
For one, their HTC One line featured an awesome design, without sacrificing raw processing power. The HTC One S was a pleasantly odd smartphone, with blazing fast internal specs alongside a mid-tier display, thus placing itself in a no man’s land of sorts: somewhere between the mid-range sector and the flagship device category. A great device for plenty of people that did not afford shopping for the very best.
Another fact that you should bear in mind is that, for a good part of 2012, the HTC One X was considered to be the very best Android smartphone.
Following the positive feedback from critics and customers, but low sales figures (considering the quality of the HTC One line), HTC really went the extra mile late last year, by becoming the first smartphone manufacturer to release a Full HD smartphone, the HTC Butterfly / Droid DNA.
ASUS: quietly innovating
Asus wins the last spot on the Top Android OEMs of 2012 podium in great part thanks to the manufacturing of the most popular Android tablet ever released, the Google Nexus 7.
The Nexus 7 made Asus a force in the Android ecosystem. But the Taiwanese have also made great progress towards winning the hearts of Android fans with the Transformer line of high-end tablets. Add the unique concept of the Asus Padfone line, and it becomes obvious that Asus is probably the most unique Android OEM out there, a manufacturer that is not afraid of breaking the barriers of conventional Android devices.
That completes our podium of top Android OEMs in 2012. Do you agree with these rankings?