The Smartphone Wars: Andy Rubin brings the news

Over on Google+, Andy Rubin says:

There are now over 700,000 Android devices activated every day…and for those wondering, we count each device only once (ie, we don’t count re-sold devices), and “activations” means you go into a store, buy a device, put it on the network by subscribing to a wireless service.

This does clear up some points people have been wondering about, but it raises larger questions. Like, why aren’t those users showing up in the comScore statistics?

700K users per day ought to translate to about 21M a month. But Android has only been gaining 2M U.S. smartphone users and change per month. If comScore isn’t way undercounting, that implies than a bit less than 9/10ths of daily Android activations are tablets or overseas.

That percentage seems pretty high to me. But I don’t have any alternate theory.

85 thoughts on “The Smartphone Wars: Andy Rubin brings the news

  1. Some (probably significant) percentage are replacement of existing phones.
    But I have no data to figure out what that number actually is.

  2. 1. Phone refresh. Android isn’t gaining 21m *new* users every month. Lots of those are replacing older Android phones.

    2. “Android” means a lot of things. If you’re replacing a dumb-phone with a cheap android — you’re not sued to using a smartphone. You may not percieve any value to be gained from using the internet on your phone – it’s for calls and txt.

  3. I also suspect that “activations” may include first-time registrations of WiFi-only devices like my Thrive tablet, which I would expect to make up a larger share among Android devices than WiFi-only iPads do among iOS.

  4. What’s odd about the figures? The US has about 7% of the world’s mobile phones, and while it has a far above average proportion of smartphone usage, that doesn’t necessarily convert into a relatively high rate of recent smartphone activations.

  5. ESR: thank you for starting this thread.

    I have been waiting for another smartphone thread to start to ask this online community about something that has been bothering me for months, and which makes me quite angry and depressed.

    As most of you know better than I, MS is collecting fees for supposed patent infringement from several smartphone makers, which number is growing. It seems as if, just as open-source software has a huge breakthrough in a mass consumer market, instead of only server rooms, it is getting perverted, blunted, and maybe even stopped.

    Where might this likely lead? Is there some positive news or viewpoint here? I know that Google may get Motorola’s patents. Is this an overwhelming advantage, or merely one more battle in a seemingly endless war?

    Please, have these issues been treated in this blog before, and if so where? Or, where is some material I should read so I don’t feel so hopeless?

    Please know that I am not trolling and trying to start any flame war or other controversy, or to insult anyone. Instead, I only want to feel better about matters.

    I find this blog one of the more interesting things to read on the web lately.

    Thank you all very much. Have a good day. Happy holidays.

  6. According to Gartner, 47 million Android smartphones were sold worlwide in their second quarter in 2011:

    http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1764714

    That is around 500,000 per day in the second quarter. So 700,000 per day now is not exceptional. That is an increase of around 30,000 per month.

  7. Interesting. The last time I bought a PDA it turned out to be unsatisfactory, so it became just an expensive white elephant. So I’ve been testing the waters carefully… I recently bought a used G2 and signed up for an interesting plan (that ESR may find blogworthy in its own right)- Tmobile’s new Monthly 4G plan. 100 talk minutes, unlimited texts and data (first 5GB/month at highest-available speed, anything over is EDGE) for $30/month, no contract or ETF. It’s offered only though the Tmobile website and through Walmart (that last part makes it REALLY interesting). You can use any phone at all, though they offer a few new low-priced Android models for use, retail at Walmart.

    So, despite (or maybe because) of Tmobile’s uncertain situation, they’ve come up with a plan to appeal to the cautious late-adopter/value shopper type, which in this case includes myself. There are still a lot of dumb/feature-phone users out there.

    I just thought it was funny that apparently, after finally joining the smartphone user ranks and converting from a dumbphone, I don’t even get to be counted as an activation.

    As to the original thread, from speaking with other Android owners in person and online, I could believe the replacement explanation. I know a number of folks who are on their 5th or 6th Android phone by now.

  8. “That is around 500,000 per day in the second quarter. So 700,000 per day now is not exceptional. That is an increase of around 30,000 per month.”

    A fairly high percentage of that can be explained by the Kindle Fire, assuming Rubin’s counting that.

  9. @Bryant @Christopher Smith
    I believe kindle Fire and WiFi devices actually aren’t counted in that figure because they aren’t signing up for cell phone service.

    “…and for those wondering, we count each device only once (ie, we don’t count re-sold devices), and “activations” means you go into a store, buy a device, put it on the network by subscribing to a wireless service.” – Andy Rubin

    https://plus.google.com/u/0/112599748506977857728/posts/Kkjf8oESTZs

  10. Huh, you’re right. I keep forgetting the Fire doesn’t have wireless. Welp, it’s got to be replacements, then.

  11. There are now over 700,000 Android devices activated every day

    Just curious, is there a similar kind of figure for iOS somewhere? Obviously the comScore numbers aren’t directly comparable.

  12. @bryant
    An increase in daily Android activations of around 30k per month has been there for well over a year now, if not 2 years.

    I have no idea why this linear growth is so stable over the years

  13. If China was included in that number, I could definitely see this as being the case. When I was in China just a few months ago, Android phones and tablets were all the rage. I saw more varieties of Android phones and tablets than you can shake a stick at, easily 10x the variety you can find here in the USA.

    Too bad that Google makes about zero dollars out of it, as absolutely nothing from Google works in China. No gmail, no search, no youtube, no maps, no marketplace (instead there is close to 50 alternative marketplaces – this also means that ad supported apps do not get any ads either, at least no ads served by Google). Even in supposedly “free” Hong Kong, google.hk is a mere shell of what google.com is (far slower, far less useful results, obviously censored). Even with a vpn connection, certain Google services were still useless (tip: do not trust Google maps in China, even in Shanghai, even for a big road, as the map will be wrong).

    If China is indeed Google’s big growth market for Android, it means that USA customers are effectively subsidizing that growth. Which really sucks as a USA citizen. I know, free market and all, but it would be nice to see a more equitable relationship.

  14. You can come fairly close based on the quarterly earning results. For Apple’s fiscal Q4 2011:

    “The Company sold 17.07 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 21 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 11.12 million iPads during the quarter, a 166 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter.”

    So a maximum of 313,222 per day. But this includes non-wireless models, and without knowing the percentage of iPads which have wireless, we can’t compare directly. Also those are numbers for the pre-holiday sales rush, and they don’t include any effect from 4S sales, so I wouldn’t compare them to Rubin’s cites of current numbers. He cited 550,000/day on the earnings call on 7/14, which is probably a better comparison point.

    I recommend the informative chart here. Yes, the author’s opinionated, but the numbers are valid. The increase in activations is good for Google, but the rate of increase has dropped off a lot after a summer spike.

  15. >So a maximum of 313,222 per day.

    Comparing this to the range of 500K-700K Andy’s been talking about, I believe it. It matches what we’ve been seeing in the comScore figures, which is a growth rate advantage of roughly 2:1 for Android.

  16. @Marshall, @Rob:

    No, it’s not replacements. Rubin debunked this when Jobs tried to assert it over a year ago.

    @esr:

    The US is a relatively price-insensitive market. This, in and of itself, means more iPhones. In a perverse twist of fate, this also means that iPhones (especially old iPhones) are cheaper in the US than elsewhere, because Apple is more interested in the prospect of getting their 30% cut for apps here than in a more price-sensitive market.

  17. @Mark:

    I think Rubin’s statement was a bit simplified. At least in the past, activations used to mean “signed up for access to the Android Market.” So this wouldn’t cover the Kindle Fire…

  18. Wait, did he change the definition of activations? If so, ignore that chart I linked to… but which definition is more favorable?

  19. As most of you know better than I, MS is collecting fees for supposed patent infringement from several smartphone makers, which number is growing. It seems as if, just as open-source software has a huge breakthrough in a mass consumer market, instead of only server rooms, it is getting perverted, blunted, and maybe even stopped.

    Actually, if Microsoft is getting payolla from Android phones, might that work out in Open Source’s best interest in the long term.

    Its been said Microsoft is not one company but many. A better analogy is that they are many pirate ships, and Balmer is the Commodore. Certain factions want Android dead, like the WP7 team. Other factions stand to make a great deal of money if Mono for Android starts selling. First of all it means more Visual Studio licenses. Most of these licenses will be sold to people that are paying full price because they are small shops or independent developers. Secondly, the server side of these android applications will probably also be written in .NET and hosted on Windows servers.

  20. “Like, why aren’t those users showing up in the comScore statistics?”

    90-day moving average.

  21. >90-day moving average.

    No, I don’t think so. The huge mismatch between activation numbers and userbase increase per month has been going on much longer than that.

  22. @Maupin

    “No, it’s not replacements. Rubin debunked this when Jobs tried to assert it over a year ago.”

    No, he didn’t. All he said was that these were “new” devices, not resold devices. An upgraded device would fall into this category.

    “But the article also seems to indicate that tablets might already be at 150K activations/day. So that could shed some light on comparison vs comscore numbers.”

    You seriously think that Android tablets (with a wireless plan) are selling at 150K a day? Kindle Fire’s wouldn’t be in this group, and the notion that the sum of Android tablets on a plan are selling in the neighborhood of 4.5 million a month is a joke. Amazon is claiming that it sells 1M Fires a week (not counting returns which seem higher than expected according to many sources).

  23. @Pinhead:

    No, he didn’t. All he said was that these were “new” devices, not resold devices. An upgraded device would fall into this category.

    Well, maybe Rubin didn’t say that specifically, but somebody at google did:

    http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/10/04/google-approaching-quarter-million-android-activationsday/

    You seriously think that Android tablets (with a wireless plan) are selling at 150K a day?

    I’m not the one who says they have to have a wireless plan. I’m the one who said it was probably a simplification on Rubin’s part to say that. I can easily believe 150K tablets/day are signing up for google services at this point, but most of those will be outside the US, of course.

  24. @ Maupin:

    Ok, I mistyped. I mean upgraded to a new device, not upgraded to a new version of Android (which is what your link seems to imply).

    “I can easily believe 150K tablets/day are signing up for google services at this point, but most of those will be outside the US, of course.”

    Can you clarify this? Do you mean 150K Android based tablets? Again, if that’s the case, the idea that Android based tablets are selling at an annual rate of 54 million defies belief. Selling, not shipping or stuffed into channel.

  25. @Pinhead:

    > I mean upgraded to a new device

    So do I.

    > not upgraded to a new version of Android (which is what your link seems to imply).

    Not sure why you think that. I was paying attention at the time back when it was in the news and certainly didn’t get that impression. Still don’t.

    > Do you mean 150K Android based tablets?

    Sure.

    > the idea that Android based tablets are selling at an annual rate of 54 million defies belief. Selling, not shipping or stuffed into channel.

    Certainly if you include the Nook and Kindle, Android is already at that run rate — the Kindle itself is probably there already (at least for the holidays). Even without those, I can easily believe that if google picked the day after black Friday to count activations, that many second tier tablets were sold. In terms of sustained sales, though, I don’t know. IDC and Gartner don’t always appear to have a handle on third-tier vendor shipments to other countries, but at least in cellphones those mostly uncounted shipments appear to be big enough to be the elephant in the room. Google, of course, would know about any such shipments that got activated.

  26. @Bryant “Yes, the author’s opinionated, but the numbers are valid. The increase in activations is good for Google, but the rate of increase has dropped off a lot after a summer spike.”

    I hope you mean his non-projected numbers are valid. Because both of his projections have proven quite unfounded, poorly extrapolated off of two data points.

    @esr “No, I don’t think so. The huge mismatch between activation numbers and userbase increase per month has been going on much longer than that.”

    And the same smoothing has been at play as well. Of course, between Marshall’s first comment (“Some (probably significant) percentage are replacement of existing phones.”), Charles Stewart’s comment (“What’s odd about the figures? The US has about 7% of the world’s mobile phones, and while it has a far above average proportion of smartphone usage, that doesn’t necessarily convert into a relatively high rate of recent smartphone activations.”), Winter’s (“That is around 500,000 per day in the second quarter. So 700,000 per day now is not exceptional. That is an increase of around 30,000 per month.”) — AND the 3 month smoothing, I find nothing unreasonable about this data.

    @Patrick Maupin: “Well, maybe Rubin didn’t say that specifically, but somebody at google did.”

    I think you are confusing the difference between software upgrade (and/or a system restore) with a carrier client “upgrade” to a new phone. A “new phone” is certainly any new or reconditioned phone that when activated on the network creates a new and distinct IMEI; in other words, activations does not correlate with new users. This is a perfectly reasonable definition of “activation.”

    “But the article also seems to indicate that tablets might already be at 150K activations/day. So that could shed some light on comparison vs comscore numbers.”

    I don’t see this at all. The # of activations has actually grown from 550 to 700 over the month (and allowing for the high probability that the 550 milestone occurred even earlier), and the difference is not solely attributable to tablets. I’d also wager that Schmidt was not talking solely about phones — either the number of tablets with carrier activations for 3G/LTE service is so small as to be negligible and/or there’s little reason to differentiate between a phone and a tablet with carrier service. It’s far easier to imagine Schmidt being imprecise with “phone” for “device” than it is to imagine Rubin is being vague about clarifying the term activation; the man seems to have little to no control over what he says.

    “I’m not the one who says they have to have a wireless plan. I’m the one who said it was probably a simplification on Rubin’s part to say that.”

    No, I think it’s the only specific, well-clarified term in his definition. To think that he misspoke in shifting from Google services activation via the marketplace to “”activations” means you go into a store, buy a device, put it on the network by subscribing to a wireless service” accidentally for purposes of simplification seems highly problematic. Particularly as this was his attempt to be as “clear” as possible re: what he is really measuring.

    “I was paying attention at the time back when it was in the news and certainly didn’t get that impression. Still don’t.”

    Unsure why you insist that you are right. Because the implication by Jobs supposedly being fired back at was that system restores, loading custom ROMs, and OS upgrades were being counted as double dipping. Most definitions of “activation” have always accepted the definition of “new” as in “new to the user.” Steve Jobs wouldn’t “accuse” Google of double-dipping on counting a refurb being activated by a new owner because Apple DOES IT, always has.

    “Certainly if you include the Nook and Kindle, Android is already at that run rate”

    But they aren’t counting them. Neither Amazon nor B&N are permitted to use the copyrighted name “Android” because it is not ANDROID. Nor can Google count either one as a Google Android activation. I don’t see why Google would have any insight at all into Kindle and/or Nook unit shipments/sales. And I would wager that it is precisely the rise of AOSP-based devices without Google services, nor 3G/LTE subscriptions, that has led to the change in activation definition. For all the Fires and Nooks, there is no “activation” whatsoever (unless custom ROM installed/rooted) and they aren’t accretive to Google’s platform of services; therefore, there is no way, nor rationale, to count them.

    So your claim is that the major, and minor, vendors of Android tablets with 3G/LTE service — who have announced or disclosed quarterly sales below 500,000 per quarter previously — are now selling/activating 150,000 per day amongst all of them without any public announcements, leaks to reporters, or bluster of any kind on their part, or any attention whatsoever from the two leading global market data sources? Okay.

    “Wait, did he change the definition of activations? If so, ignore that chart I linked to… but which definition is more favorable?”

    Yes, I believe he has, from activating Google services by visiting the Android market to activation of a data plan with a carrier. The new definition is actually less favorable but cleaves closer to Google’s true platform and sources of potential revenue (i.e. the carriers) and removes the “fuzz” of potential “activations” which are not accretive to Google services or sources of revenue.

    It seems like quite a fair, even overly conservative, count of “activations” at this point. There is still quite a bit of room for clarification, and it’s disappointing that Rubin hasn’t responded to any of the comments to either post on +. There is also likely an advantage to obscuring the counts by shifting the definition at a key phase in mobile OS adoption.

  27. Argh! I muddied the waters stupidly here: “Most definitions of “activation” have always accepted the definition of “new” as in “new to the user.” Steve Jobs wouldn’t “accuse” Google of double-dipping on counting a refurb being activated by a new owner because Apple DOES IT, always has.”

    I did not mean to say a refurb there — brainfart. Google does not count refurbs. It should be a new phone to an existing user that is counted as a new activation. I actually do not know if Apple counts refurbs. They may since they actually have more accurate “user” data based off of AppleIDs in addition to carrier activation data and their own shipment data along with much insight into their retail partners. But the point being, Apple counts a new phone being activated by an existing user (i.e. an upgrade) as an activation; so there is no reason for them to be concerned if Google does as well.

  28. Argh! x2 I didn’t realize my brainfart reached further into my comment: “A “new phone” is certainly any new or reconditioned phone that when activated on the network creates a new and distinct IMEI; in other words, activations does not correlate with new users.”

    To clarify, “a new phone” may or may not include refurbs — Google does not include them, however. However, an existing user activating a “new device” is counted as an activation, this is not treated as an “upgrade” that is not counted. Of course, this is as a understand it and have had it explained (excepting by brainfart)… It certainly shows that even when concise and clarified, there is still much confusion and interpretation at play.

    Another small error: “The # of activations has actually grown from 550 to 700 over the month (and allowing for the high probability that the 550 milestone occurred even earlier)…” Obviously not over the month. This is since July. And Schmidt was more likely using a number they felt comfortable publicizing at the beginning of December (likely hoping to make sure that any announced spike could be considered long term and not just related to a holiday spike).

  29. @Tim F:

    > So your claim is that the major, and minor, vendors of Android tablets with 3G/LTE service … are now selling/activating 150,000 per day

    So you can’t read worth shit.

  30. I promise you don’t know how many people use android phones here in China. If you do, you won’t doubt the ’700K/day’. ;-)

  31. Refurbished Android phones?

    Daily activation rate increases 1000/day. This means that 230M phones have been activated in the last 18 months. Starting from a ~50M userbase.

    Who suggest every phone is triple activated?

  32. @Mark: I saw the original quote. I’m curious, though, how my non-cellular very-much-official-Google-Android tablet gets integrated into the statistics, since “activations” appears to be the primary number touted.

  33. @Winter
    >Kindle sales are 1M/week for three weeks. That is 20% of Android activations

    Most Kindle devices do not run Android, though.

  34. @Maupin

    “Certainly if you include the Nook and Kindle, Android is already at that run rate — the Kindle itself is probably there already (at least for the holidays). Even without those, I can easily believe that if google picked the day after black Friday to count activations, that many second tier tablets were sold. In terms of sustained sales, though, I don’t know. ”

    Nook and Kindle aren’t Android. They use an Android base, but they aren’t part of this activation “total” since they don’t use Google Services. And yeah, if you want to cherry pick sales over very short periods, you can squeeze out some great numbers. For example, the Touchpad firesale would imply that Android Tablets are selling like hotcakes, but you can’t extrapolate that to the magnitude of 45million tablets annually. Apple, which unarguably has a demonstrative lead in tablet sales (just in iPad alone, not even mentioning iPod Touch) won’t sell 45 million in 2011.

    @Winter

    “Kindle sales are 1M/week for three weeks. That is 20% of Android activations”

    Amazon doesn’t release the breakdown of normal Kindles versus the Kindle Fire. You can’t attribute that sales rate all to the Kindle Fire which doesn’t even get “activated” with the Google services, thus is excluded from the figures.

  35. What about Reuters showing a whopping 36% market share for Apple? They’re numbers are WAY off what ESR has been posting from ComScore. They can’t possibly swing that much because of a run-up to Christmas. And they’re in direct contradiction to the statements from Rubin.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/22/us-smartphones-europe-idUSTRE7BL0FU20111222

    “Apple’s market share in the 12 weeks to end-November rose to 36 percent in the United States from 25 percent a year earlier and in Britain to 31 percent from 21 percent, Kantar said.”

  36. In addition, the Kindle Fire is wifi only, so it doesn’t meet Rubin’s clarification of:

    “…and for those wondering, we count each device only once (ie, we don’t count re-sold devices), and “activations” means you go into a store, buy a device, put it on the network by subscribing to a wireless service.”

    So again, someone tell me who is selling 150K Android based tablets that use a wireless service? I’d love to know, because I’ll divest all my other stock holdings and invest in them. Bueller? Bueller?

  37. >What about Reuters showing a whopping 36% market share for Apple?

    I don’t know how Kantar collects its numbers, so anything I could say would only be speculation. I will, however, note that comScore’s numbers for U.S. share are broadly conformant with those coming from other U.S.-based market-research outfits such as Nielsen and Gartner.

  38. @Pinhead
    Kindle sales track predictions of the fire very well. I have trouble believing that there is a tremendous upsurge of non-Android kindles in the wake of the new release.

    And whoever suggested Amazon was publishing channel stuffing numbers should clarify what channel Amazon can stuff, UPS?

    And the kindle being not Android but Android based? How pathetic.

  39. The Kindle Fire is obviously an Android device, but by Rubin’s own definition isn’t included in the 700k activations per day sum. Don’t be obtuse. And since Amazon has never released anything more than the vaguest sales figures for any of the Kindles, it’s foolhardy to assume the majority of Kindle sales are the Fire model, and not the more affordable e-ink e-readers. And 1m a week for three weeks is great, as long as it’s sustained. If it’s just a holiday surge that dwindles quickly, then it’ll have no lasting effect on the tablet market.

    Again, I have no trouble believing that there are peaks of 700K activations per day, with the majority being smartphones. But the notion that there are 150k Android tablets (not Nooks or Kindle Fires) being activated is just preposterous, and not based on any evidence.

  40. The most recent comScore numbers are from the period ending October 31st, and are a rolling average for the last three months. The Kantar numbers go to end of November. Also, last time Kantar was discussed, Patrick postulated that Kantar was tracking sales rather than installed base. This matches the quote from Kantar: “In Germany, Android achieved a dominant 61 percent share of smartphone sales in the latest 12 weeks, with the Samsung Galaxy S II the top selling handset,” Sunnebo said.

    So I think this is probably a reflection of the iPhone 4S launch.

  41. @Pinhead:

    > Again, I have no trouble believing that there are peaks of 700K activations per day, with the majority being smartphones.

    Me neither.

    > But the notion that there are 150k Android tablets (not Nooks or Kindle Fires) being activated is just preposterous

    Others were postulating tablets as a mechanism to explain the gap between Schmidt’s 550K cellphone number a couple of weeks ago and Rubin’s 700K number a bit later.

    I agree that the sale of Android phones probably also spiked recently as buyers snap them all up before they’re gone for Christmas, so it’s entirely plausible that the bulk of that 150K discrepancy is smartphones. But I think we also both agree that it’s more than plausible that tablets could be at 150K/day (at least right now, maybe not sustained into the new year) if you count the Kindle and the Nook. This is where it gets interesting. In the past, Google counted “activations” as “signing up for Google services.” But in his “clarification”, Rubin didn’t say that at all. He said:

    “Activations means you go into a store, buy a device, [and] put it on the network by subscribing to a wireless service.”

    Everybody jumps all over themselves thinking this means cellular service. But if it does, why the heck didn’t he say cellular service? Wireless sounds so 1927. And why, just when Android tablets (most of which are WiFi) are finally starting to take off, would he restrict the definition of an Android device to exclude the bulk of shipping tablets? That makes no sense at all, because then he’d have to change his definition again in 3 or 6 months to capture those tablets.

    I am speculating that this statement was carefully crafted to include Kindle and Nook numbers while attempting to show how strong the Android platform is by letting others carelessly assume that he’s not including Kindle and Nook numbers. After all, an Amazon Kindle owner will typically subscribe to a “service” that his device accesses “wirelessly”. Personally, I think it’s plausible that Rubin has good insight into official Kindle and Nook activations even though those devices don’t access Google services — Amazon, B&N, and Google are fighting a common enemy after all. So why not publish them as part of the aggregate? That even helps Amazon and B&N, because it shows they chose a winning platform to build on.

  42. >After all, an Amazon Kindle owner will typically subscribe to a “service” that his device accesses “wirelessly”.

    Yup. I noticed the careful non-specificity of the language too, and made the same guess you did. I think he was counting Kindles and Nooks, too.

  43. @ Maupin

    “Amazon, B&N, and Google are fighting a common enemy after all. So why not publish them as part of the aggregate? That even helps Amazon and B&N, because it shows they chose a winning platform to build on.”

    It’s not Axis Versus Allies here. B&N is only fighting one company, Amazon. And it’s an uneven fight. If Amazon “wins” with the Kindles, B&N dies. If B&N “defeats” Amazon, it barely hurts Amazon.

    And I’m not sure how Amazon actually helps “fight” Apple. It’s just another walled garden, even redirecting browser searches from the Android marketplace to the Amazon marketplace. The e-ink Kindles are good devices, with a great niche that will grow over time as dead tree books dwindle. But the Fire is more like the Home Shopping Network selling TVs at a loss, and when you try to change channels, switching you back. At least B&N embraces rooting the Nook tablets.

    So I’m having a hard time seeing how Amazon’s “success” with the Fire being a good thing from the general perspective of most readers here.

  44. @David, @Bryant:

    Yeah, I think last time I actually saw a Kantar graph that said “sales.” Note that ComScore specifically doesn’t say that — they survey users for what they have in their pockets. Nielsen is also survey based, but will sometimes also have surveys for “recent acquirers.”

    My understanding is that one difference between the UK and most of the rest of Europe is that the UK is a bit more like the US, in that it is easy to find subsidized iPhones and iPads in the UK. This could help explain the discrepancy between the UK and France/Germany iPhone numbers.

  45. @Pinhead:

    It’s not Axis Versus Allies here. B&N is only fighting one company, Amazon. And it’s an uneven fight. If Amazon “wins” with the Kindles, B&N dies. If B&N “defeats” Amazon, it barely hurts Amazon.

    And yet, that doesn’t at all contradict what I just wrote. If I’m a consumer sitting on the fence (maybe even one of those iPhone toting ones), and I know that Kindle/Nook is based on Android, and am uncertain if that is good or bad, I might find comfort in large numbers of Android device sales.

    And I’m not sure how Amazon actually helps “fight” Apple.

    Are you serious? For one thing, the numbers look good, especially if Rubin can include them without letting people know they’re included.

    It’s just another walled garden, even redirecting browser searches from the Android marketplace to the Amazon marketplace.

    Yeah, it’s an Android tablet with training wheels, and a great placeholder until the perfect $100 tablets are available.

    At least B&N embraces rooting the Nook tablets.

    Is that true? It’s my understanding the bootloader is locked.

    So I’m having a hard time seeing how Amazon’s “success” with the Fire being a good thing from the general perspective of most readers here.

    I actually think it is, but of course, I never argued this particular conclusion.

  46. How would Google be able to count Nook activations? (Or Kindle Fire activations — does it touch Google services at all?)

    B&N no longer embraces rooting Nooks, btw.

  47. @Bryant:

    Not directly, of course. My speculation is that Amazon might be friendly enough with Google to share the numbers.

  48. @Bryant:

    Or….

    Would the browser user agent string uniquely identify a Kindle? Google might know quite a lot about a lot of them…

  49. but of course, it would be hard to avoid double-counting that way.

  50. @Bryant:

    “B&N no longer embraces rooting Nooks, btw.”

    I’ve seen nothing that indicates a change in how B&N views rooting their devices. It’s trivial to do, and they even train their employees on how to handle reverting back to the stock build. Rooting doesn’t affect the warranty at all.

  51. @Pinhead:

    > I’ve seen nothing that indicates a change in how B&N views rooting their devices.

    You don’t think that locking the bootloader on the tablet makes a statement?

  52. @Winter:

    It may be that Eric Schmidt was simply behind the times/reporting old news, but he apparently said 550K phones two weeks ago:

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-57338276-264/googles-schmidt-android-leads-the-iphone/

    This led others to claim that there must be 150K tablets. Absent other evidence than a possible brain fart by Schmidt, I have no reason to suspect that there are 150K tablets hiding anywhere, but I was simply playing along and trying to offer ideas for where 150K tablets might be hiding…

  53. @ Maupin:

    “You don’t think that locking the bootloader on the tablet makes a statement?”

    My mistake. I missed that the update a week ago shut this down. Despite ways to circumvent the locked bootloader, that’s disappointing.

  54. @ Maupin:

    ” If I’m a consumer sitting on the fence (maybe even one of those iPhone toting ones), and I know that Kindle/Nook is based on Android…”

    Other than the technorati, I’m not sure that it’s widespread amongst Kindle Fire buyers that it is based on Android. Amazon’s own page for the Fire only has two mention of Android at all, one from a review snippet, and the second mentioning that additional email clients are available from the Amazon Appstore for Android. Most buyers don’t know the underlying OS of the e-ink Kindles, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Fire was viewed in the same fashion. The same is true of the Nook Tablet. There’s no touting of any involvement with Android.

  55. Here’s a good story, you’re gonna love this:

    The developers of Linux Mint, itself a fork of Ubuntu, are forking GNOME 3 to make it less shite.

    I know, not Android-related, but a sticking point with Eric and plenty of other Linux people.

    Me, I don’t much like “desktop environments” and do my best to avoid them.

  56. Side note: a while back I was arguing that default search placement in browsers was a big deal. There was some dissent because surely users would just change their default search to Google if it wasn’t there already. Google just renewed their deal with Firefox; this time it’s costing them three hundred million a year. Why so much? Competition from Microsoft and Yahoo. I rest my case.

  57. “Neither Amazon nor B&N are permitted to use the copyrighted name ‘Android’ because it is not ANDROID. Nor can Google count either one as a Google Android activation.”

    A rooted Nook Color running a proper ROM, on the other hand, can run Android Markert and most Android apps. (Google has put some silly blocks in the market that prevent some, such as Google Maps, from being downloaded to a Nook, but if you bypass the market and install from an apk they run fine.) I would say that it’s clearly an Android device.

    Do we have any data, however, crude, on what percentage of Nooks are running Android ROMs? (It’s too soon to know how this will play out for the Fire.) My Nook Color definitely has Android Market running…

  58. @ Patrick: “You don’t think that locking the bootloader on the tablet makes a statement?”

    @ Pinhead: “My mistake. I missed that the update a week ago shut this down. Despite ways to circumvent the locked bootloader, that’s disappointing.”

    I was also highly disappointed. I had hoped that since B&N (unlike Amazon) seemed to be making a small profit on their tablet, they would be happy to sell as many as possible even if rooted and re-ROMed.

    The locked bootloader makes me think that they recently became concerned specifically about Nooks running the Android Kindle reader application, and took steps to make it more difficult to do this.

  59. The ability to root and sideload accomplishes about 90% of what I want from the Nook Tablet. Not saying I prefer a locked bootloader but I dunno that even for many tweakers that the NT is that much worse a choice than the KF. There’s lots of stuff Amazon can fix via software.

    The device turning off because in a moment of brilliance they put the power button on the bottom not so much…and I’d miss the hardware volume buttons.

  60. @Patrick:
    I find the numbers by Staska suspect. (Actually, I consider them non-sense).

    These are the reported daily activation rates of Android. This was as official as I could get.

    60,000 01-04-2010
    160,000 01-07-2010
    200,000 01-09-2010
    350,000 01-02-2011
    400,000 01-05-2011
    500,000 01-06-2011
    550,000 01-07-2011
    600,000 01-10-2011
    700,000 15-12-2011

    You can see that from the ~May 2010, the daily activation rate increases with around 30k per month (almost fixed over 18 months), but with variation as it is often unclear when the exact numbers were determined. 350k was reached already in February 2011.

    The idea that daily activation rates (NOT installed based) remained fixed for periods of months is not supported. Both the comScore and reported installed base track a continuous increase in activation rates and not sudden jumps.

    I have no idea how Staska got monthly (weekly?) numbers out of Google, but personally I think he simply took the same published numbers and interpreted no-numbers as equaling no-change. His extrapolation the USA buying cycle to Europe and Asia is a stretch.

    Also, his exponential fit is wrong (I made the same error). The numbers best fit a simple linear increase in activation rate with occasional jumps in the slope (e.g., around May 2010), just as the comScore numbers do (see Eric’s page). This indicate that there is some limiting factor in growth that only increases linear. I have no idea what that is, capital, production capacity, the declining price, or the buying power of the public.

    Btw, the remarks of Eric Schmidt are puzzling. The best explanation I can think of is that he used the “official” numbers from July while the new 700,000 number was not yet officially released. Google will have to do some averaging internally before they releaser numbers. The last time they did a “maximum” number (a year ago), this lead to all kinds of wild speculations. It is also best to make the competition guess before the festive buying spree.

  61. @Winter:

    > personally I think he simply took the same published numbers and interpreted no-numbers as equaling no-change.

    I think the same numbers get repeated multiple times until there is an update…

    > This indicate that there is some limiting factor in growth that only increases linear.

    Probably multiple different factors, based on production capacity for various components, etc. that nobody wants to increase unless the demand is proven.

    > Btw, the remarks of Eric Schmidt are puzzling.

    Yeah, that’s how this whole thing started…

  62. @Cathy:

    The locked bootloader makes me think that they recently became concerned specifically about Nooks running the Android Kindle reader application, and took steps to make it more difficult to do this.

    Running the Kindle app is just the symptom. The disease is not being in B&N’s walled garden. They were more than willing to tolerate that before, but something changed. It might be as simple as them worrying about being production-constrained, and wanting to insure that people weren’t buying them specifically to root.

    @Nigel:

    Yeah, I agree that Nook > Kindle.

  63. @Cathy and Patrick

    My bet is a simple support issue. I’ve mentioned this before, but for major companies, if you support something, even unofficially, you in the consumer’s eyes then become responsible for fixing anything that could go wrong with it. An example I’ve used before, Apple’s official policy towards boot camp is “We make it, we can help you start using it, we don’t support windows or any of the side effects of installing windows.” Over and over in fact the order from above was “We don’t support windows”. Yet within mere weeks of boot camp being officially released, Apple retail stores were indeed supporting windows issues on macbooks. Part of it are people who ignore the warning box that says “If you do this, we won’t support you” and part of it are people with well meaning relatives that don’t think about what they’re doing. I had one customer come in ranting and raving and telling me what a horrible piece of garbage her macbook was because she had always heard how different they were, but she was still getting viruses and spyware and crashing etc etc etc. Turns out her nephew who had bought her the machine had repartitioned it and removed all of OS X except for what was necessary to get boot camp running, then installed windows and set it to boot to windows by default. It turns out she had never even seen the OS X side of her computer, and didn’t even know it was there. And this (not always as extreme) seems to happen more often than I would have thought before I got into retail support.

    My guess is B&N’s unofficial support for rooting was costing them too much in after market support.

  64. Damn, beat me by an hour. I was just about to post the same story. 20 million or so people bought those things, too. And they won’t be getting ICS because Samsung won’t give up its crapware.

  65. >And they won’t be getting ICS because Samsung won’t give up its crapware.

    Yeah. What a colossal blunder. If I were ITC or any of the other competing Android vendors I’d be popping champagne corks right now. That’s a lot of customers Samsung has just pissed off for no good reason.

  66. I bought a ZTE Blade Android phone last spring. It was intended to be a stop-gap measure until I felt like forking over hundreds of dollars for a top-end version that would be a bit further along the development curve. When I bought it, it was priced at a bit under $200 and the price has dropped to about half of that now.

    What is interesting about this is that right now I have the opportunity to switch to either an iPhone 3S or a Samsung Galaxy, but I’m not really interested. The Blade is smaller and fits nicely in several small pockets where I want to keep it. The others are much larger and clunkier. The phone itself does everything I ask it to do. It handles contacts and wakeup calls and browsing and maps and picture-taking. It even does rather well as a phone. Sound quality is often atrocious on cellphones, but this one does a decent job of it. The only shortcoming I have seen is that the phone can be a little sluggish when you play action games.

    My conclusion is that unless the premium segment comes up with something really differentiating, it will be dead rather soon.

    Btw, I trust gs.statcounter.com to be a better reflection of the actual use of smartphones than the comscores and other measurements. While unit sales are interesting to the manufacturers, the actual usage is of much greater interest to app developers and other content providers.

  67. Am I the only person who thought “just like a new iPhone release” immediately on reading this story?

    The only incidents of violence in lines for iPhones has been from scalper gangs in China and Hong Kong, not from customers. The people who actually intend to buy and use them get along quite well.

  68. Turns out her nephew who had bought her the machine had repartitioned it and removed all of OS X except for what was necessary to get boot camp running, then installed windows and set it to boot to windows by default.

    I’d call that “intentional damage”.

  69. >The only incidents of violence in lines for iPhones has been from scalper gangs in China and Hong Kong, not from customers.
    >The people who actually intend to buy and use them get along quite well.

    To be fair, a good chunk of that is the control Apple exercises over their stores and the line. On iPhone release days, Apple does little things like making sure everyone in the line has water available, and even one year, ice cream. They keep the line policed by employees, make sure that only so many people are allowed in the store at any given time, and are not at all afraid of removing (backed up by mall security if necessary) unruly customers from the line.

    I’m not so sure your average shoe store has the staff or the resources to coordinate something like a major product launch.

  70. >Yeah. What a colossal blunder. If I were ITC or any of the other competing Android vendors I’d be popping champagne corks right now. That’s a lot of customers Samsung has just pissed off for no good reason.

    Well, I’m on my second Samsung smartphone (original Omnia, now Fascinate) and am used to Samsung’s lack of support. Both phones were characterized with pretty decent hardware made acceptable only through the efforts of the modding community. So my grand plan to show those bozos at Samsung how pissed off about their lousy upgrades I am will be to buy a Galaxy Nexus after the holidays. That’ll fix ‘em! Oh, wait…

    Seriously, there is a solution that Google could implement. I would call it “AOSP Certification Program” (I’m sure that they could come up with a sexier name), and it would work like this…

    To certify a phone for a particular Android version, the OEM would have to do the following…
    (1) Provide the end user with a simple means for loading the certified AOSP version on the phone.
    (2) Provide the end user with a simple means of reverting the phone back to as-sold condition for warranty and troubleshooting purposes.
    (3) Get the phone certified by Google. Actual certification would involve…
    (a) Google publishes a test protocol to verify functionality.
    (b) The OEM sends Google ten production samples, three of which are chosen at random to be run thru the above test protocol.
    (c) If the phones pass the test protocol, the OEM can market them as “AOSP Certified version a.bb.cc”
    (d) When Google releases an uograde, it tests the upgrade on three of the samples it has. If the hardware passes, Google notifies the OEM that they can extend their “AOSP Certification
    to the new version. If it doesn’t, Google notifies the OEM that they can’t.
    (4) The end user who buys one of these would be able to leave their phone stock or convert it to AOSP.

    The program would be voluntary and would get off to a slow start. But imho demand for these phones would accelerate. No one could complain about Google throwing its weight around since the whole thing would be voluntary. Carriers would have the ability to deny tech support to phones not running the original “carrier-approved” software, taking them off the hook.

    I don’t know how technically feasible the above is, but if it were, I think those phones would sell well after a while.

  71. “a bit less than 9/10ths of daily Android activations are tablets or overseas. That percentage seems pretty high to me.”

    Dude, you do realize that the population of the US is less than 300million, while the number of people who can afford a phone globally are probably numbered in the billions? The 9/10ths don’t sound so strange now, right?

    Not want to troll or something, but the US is not the most important market nowadays, just an important market, much like Japan, Europe and China are an important market. Just look at Chrysler. They are the 4th larger

  72. “a bit less than 9/10ths of daily Android activations are tablets or overseas. That percentage seems pretty high to me.”

    Dude, you do realize that the population of the US is less than 300million, while the number of people who can afford a phone globally are probably numbered in the billions? The 9/10ths don’t sound so strange now, right?

    Not want to troll or something, but the US is not the most important market nowadays, just an important market, much like Japan, Europe and China are an important market. Just look at Chrysler. They are the 4th larger carmaker in the US, but a minor carmaker globally, because they fail in the other important markets.

  73. I came across this in a comment about the Kindle Fire on HN:

    It’s actually a really interesting strategy, although from an Open Source perspective it’s always a shame when companies fork successful projects for their own goals.

    But that isn’t how I would have thought at all. Isn’t it better, since Google’s Android and its users aren’t harmed in any way, and it increases the ecosystem for Android apps just as much as if it hadn’t been “Amazonized”?

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