Apple 2.0

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Google's Android falling behind the iPhone

June 1, 2009: 8:10 AM ET

iphone-magicAfter matching the iPhone nearly hit for hit in its first five months on the market, Google's (GOOG) Android has fallen behind the pace set by Apple's (AAPL) smartphone in terms of its presence on the Web, according to a report issued Monday.

"Android and the iPhone's browsing usage share upon launch were nearly identical for the first few months," the Web metrix firm Net Applications reports. "However, May numbers show that the Android mobile platform has fallen off the pace the iPhone set upon its launch." (link)

Stacking the iPhone's first six months on the market with Android's, the numbers look like this:

iPhone vs. Android NetApp

The acceleration in the iPhone's Month 6 (January 2007) occurred well before the device really took off with the launch of the iPhone 3G last summer. The first Android phone -- the T-Mobile (DT) G1 -- launched last October and had a strong Month 4, catching up to and even passing the iPhone's Month 4. But by Month 6 it had fallen badly behind.

Moreover, the iPhone's expanding Web presence shows no signs of slowing down. Its Internet share grew another 9.09% in May to reach 0.6% penetration, according to preliminary data released early Monday. Android's share has yet to break 0.08%.

"This," notes Net Applications, "may signal difficulty in moving beyond early adopters."

It may also signal difficulty for Palm (PALM), which is set to release its answer to the iPhone -- the Palm Pre -- later this week through Sprint (S). A strong launch is almost guaranteed, given the buzz that has surrounded the device since it was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show last January and voted Best in Show.

But as Google and T-Mobile have learned, sustaining that buzz may not be so easy, especially with Apple expected to introduce a new iPhone, perhaps as early as next week.

The smartphone market is still in its early growth stage, however, and things may yet pick up for Android. The G2 -- marketed as the HTC Magic -- launched in Europe in April and made a strong U.S. debut last week at a Google developers conference, where free G2s were handed out to each of the hundreds of attendees. According to the New York Times, Google expects there to be at least 18 different Android phones on the market from eight or nine manufacturers before the end of the year.

According to its Web site, Net Applications' monthly surveys are conducted by sampling browser data from some 160 million visits to Web sites operated by its clients. The firm describes the results as "market shares," but they do not actually measure share of market in the traditional sense of revenue or unit sales. They do, however, provide a consistent methodology by which to gauge operating system trends. (See Ars Technica for a good review of the different ways to measure market share.)

You can review Net Applications' May data here. The computer operating system data is free; unfortunately, a paid subscription is required to view its detailed mobile browsing data.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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