Who wears the pants in the Android family, Google or Samsung?

by: ŠtefanNovember 15, 2012

We all tend to forget that Android is nothing more than just another mobile operating system. Is there something special about the OS that has propelled it to the pole position that it now enjoys? IDC says 75% of all the smartphones shipped during the third quarter of this year were powered by Android. That number isn’t an accident. Horace Dediu, an analyst who is known for keeping his eye on not only Apple, but the mobile industry in general, made a keen observation yesterday.

He said that in Q1 2010, when Samsung started taking Android seriously and launched the first generation Galaxy S, just 3% of the mobile phones they sold during the quarter were smartphones. Today that number is 54%. In terms of actual units, IDC estimates that Samsung shipped 56.3 million smartphones in the latest quarter. Assuming that number is accurate, and assuming they’re also correct with their figure of 136 million Android smartphones being sold in Q3, that means Samsung made 4 out of every 10 handsets powered by Google’s software during the quarter.

Dediu focuses on Samsung because along with being the dominant Android handset maker, they’re also the only company in the mobile industry, other than Apple, that’s making serious money. HTC’s margins are barely break even, and everyone else is bleeding.

So again, why is this the case? There are many theories, but here’s what we believe: Samsung is in the unique position of manufacturing many of the components that they use in their consumer facing products. Yes, Samsung sells their components to other handset makers, but the bulk of what they output goes into their devices. The only other company that can claim to be even remotely in the same situation, in terms of controlling their own supply chain, is LG.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but without Samsung backing Android, something you could say they did by sheer accident, we’re pretty sure that the OS wouldn’t be where it is today. And that brings up a really important question: Who controls Android’s destiny? Is it Google or is it Samsung?

  • The buyers controls android.

  • deliberately inflammatory?
    If Samsung didn’t make the handsets then another manufacturer would step in to fill the void and make a ton of money, in fact HTC must dream about this. The market exists now it’s not going to go away, it’s about the platform not any one oem, bloody stupid article.

  • Consumers are brilliant. SUXERS!!!

  • DEVIOUS Blackwood

    I guess by moving with LG and Asus for the new Nexus devices while Samsung still a player with some brilliant which is Nexus 10 i guess Google calling the shots here because this year we’ve seen LG and Motorola going toe to toe against Samsung when it comes to Android Smartphones so i guess with or without Samsung Android was destined to shine and Samsung was just one of the major players in the game .. that doesn’t mean samsung is bad not at all i see samsung pushing the technology forward but i think Google is pretty in control of how things goes with Android and again moving with LG and Asus for the Nexus brand indicates that

    • phemark

      Nexus 10 is Samsung

    • Goonie

      Where is motorola going toe to toe? Releasing 3 lack luster iterations of the droid x is not exactly going toe to toe with anything like a nex 4 lgog or s3. Id say they are just cleaninig out whats left over prior to google taking the helm. Keeping their head abive water is more suited for this instance.

  • BrandoHD

    Hindsight is 20/20, but if it wasn’t Samsung, then someone else would have stepped up, I am as sure about that as you are sure about Samsung being the reason Android is where it is

    • Goonie

      It was htc with the evo, incredible, thunderbolt g2 mytouch etc. They are the reason everyone cries about build quality today. I held an evo the otger day and reminised abot how good that phone felt and was. Moto was even doin well ata the time with the photon bionic, x etc. I think somone would have done well with andy. Not like samsung. Lg had/has good potiential but for now looks like they just wish they were samsung.

  • d62782

    well we have to give credit where its do and that is samsung is by far the king of android no one is even close!! i know quite a few people that switch from apple to samsung..not lg,sony or whoever but samsung. if it wasnt for the galaxy s3 there would be alot more isheep out there not to mention the note 2 just came out:)

  • Samsung has definitely helped but I say Google > Samsung. Android would still be a huge platform without Samsung phones. Think about it:

    The first Android phone was the HTC made G1. Android really took off soon after with the Motorola made Droid, Droid Incredible, and Droid X. To be honest, if anyone made Android truly popular I’d say it was Verizon. Verizon created the “Droid” brand and to this day many people still refer to ANY Android phone as Droid.

    The Droid brand has diminished significantly in the past year and half because of a vast over-saturation of the market with “Droid” devices. Droid no longer represents the top-of-the-line phone option that it did when it first came out but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Verizon Droids are what made most consumers consider a smartphone other than the iPhone.

    In the past 2 years Samsung has become the new “Droid” in that there flagship phones are usually on the cutting edge of Android tech. While Motorola has diminished, Samsung has excelled

    But don’t get it twisted, Google’s mobile OS has made Samsung popular, not the other way around.