Google Android makes 2010 its coming-out party
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If 2009 was the year of the smartphone, 2010 was Google Android's coming-out party.
The Android operating system, introduced by Google in 2007, was on only a handful of phones at the beginning of 2010. But by the end of the year, dozens of new devices sporting the open OS were available on every major U.S. operator's network. AT&T was the last of the four wireless giants to get Android, announcing it would have at least five Android phones in January 2010.
Android had a heady 2010.
In April, ComScore data showed the Android mobile platform growing faster than any other mobile platform on the market. By November Gartner placed Android second in terms of worldwide smartphone market share. The OS accounted for 25 percent of the market in the third quarter, Gartner reported. The year before it accounted for only about 3.5 percent of the worldwide smartphone market. Sales of Android phones only trailed sales of phones running Nokia's Symbian operating system.
Android phones have taken off in part because they can hit different consumer segments, Gartner said. Samsung has done well with high-end phones like the Galaxy S. But lower-price models are also proving popular as evidenced by ZTE's recent launch of a low-cost Android phone available in the U.K. as a prepaid package.
Phone makers went on a tear in 2010, releasing one hot Android phone after another. Some of the most popular devices were sold by Verizon Wireless, which focused marketing dollars on Android phones. In the spring, Verizon introduced the HTC Incredible, followed by the Motorola Droid X in the summer. These devices proved to be hugely popular with consumers.
But Verizon's rivals were not to be outdone. Sprint Nextel launched the Evo 4G, Sprint's first 4G phone, which also happened to be built on the Android OS. T-Mobile came out with the T-Mobile G2 and T-Mobile myTouch, both phones made by HTC.
These phones, among other Android devices, were some of the hottest smartphones of the year. And because they were in such high demand, some manufacturers struggled to keep up. By summer, thousands of customers looking for the HTC Evo and HTC Incredible left stores empty-handed. A sparse supply of components resulted in device shortages across the country.
While Google made big strides with the Android platform, Apple also managed to have another big year with the iPhone. The company launched the fourth generation of the iPhone, the iPhone 4, in June. The device, which added a slew of new features, including a video chat app called Facetime and one of the best display screens on the market, was highly anticipated.
Enthusiasm was at its peak for the new iPhone 4 when pictures of a prototype of the device showed up on Gawker Media's Gizmodo Web site. An engineer had accidently left the prototype at a bar where someone picked it up and offered it to Gizmodo for an early look. The dustup over the lost/stolen iPhone created a big stir, as the Gizmodo writer, who published the pictures, became the target of a police investigation, which culminated in a raid of his Silicon Valley apartment.
As expected, the iPhone 4 was a hit, even despite the fact that AT&T changed its data billing plan, eliminating its unlimited data service and replacing it with a tiered offering.
During the third quarter, AT&T, which still has the exclusive rights to sell the iPhone, said it activated more than 8 million smartphones, of which about 5.2 million were iPhones. It was the "most iPhone activations ever in a quarter," the carrier said. During the second quarter of 2010, AT&T activated 3.2 million iPhones.
But some consumers were initially unhappy with the iPhone 4, as it was quickly discovered that the phone's antenna, which runs along the outside of the device, could be undermined when holding the phone a certain way. After a few weeks of bumbling explanations, Apple fixed the problem by providing free rubber bumpers to new iPhone 4 customers.
Beyond the iPhone 4 and the various Android devices, other smartphone manufacturers came on the scene with new devices. For example, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion finally released its next-generation operating system, BlackBerry OS 6. The BlackBerry Torch, which has a touch screen and a QWERTY keypad, was the first device to get the new software. Microsoft also launched its Windows Phone 7 devices on AT&T.
But other platforms that had been hyped in 2009 faded into the background, namely the Palm Pre. Palm was acquired in April by Hewlett-Packard, and soon after that, Palm became more of an afterthought in the rapidly evolving smartphone market.
What's ahead for the smartphone market in 2011? More Android devices top the list. Specifically, Verizon Wireless is expected to continue backing Android with a slew of new devices that will run on its LTE 4G wireless network. But the really big news is likely to be the end of AT&T's exclusive on the iPhone. Verizon is expected to announce a version of the iPhone for its network early in 2011. So stay tuned.
Featured stories of 2010
Shipments of smartphones using Android software more than doubled over the three months between November 2009 and February 2010, ComScore says.
IMS Research report indicates that Google needs to actively prevent more fragmentation of its Android OS or else it risks losing market share.
After weeks of rumors, HTC and Verizon Wireless finally announce the upcoming availability of HTC's latest Android device, the Droid Incredible.
Engadget posts images of a phone purportedly found on the floor of a bar in San Jose, Calif., suggesting that it's actually Apple's yet-to-be-released, fourth-generation iPhone. On Monday morning, Gizmodo follows with its own set of photos and a video.
If you're lusting for an iPhone 4, HTC Evo 4G, or HTC Droid Incredible, get in line. These are some of the hottest smartphones in the market, and supplies are limited.
AT&T seems to have made different sets of rules for its current iPhone customers who want to upgrade to the newest generation of iPhone. But the same rules do not apply to other AT&T subscribers.
Sprint Nextel's CFO says at an analyst conference in New York City that he is hopeful that the EVO 4G can keep customers from defecting to AT&T for the new iPhone 4.
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Verizon Wireless, Motorola, and Google unveil the latest version of the Motorola Droid, the new Droid X, in New York.
The company suggests buying a case or holding the phone near the bottom left corner.
In stores in just under two weeks, the Torch will feature the company's sixth-generation phone software, as well as a touch screen and QWERTY sliding keyboard.
Research In Motion selects AT&T as the exclusive U.S. carrier for the new BlackBerry Torch, which will hit stores this August, leaving some eager BlackBerry fans scratching their head.
BlackBerry OS 6 is ready to make its grand debut on the RIM BlackBerry Torch. Is RIM's revamped platform enough to take on the competition? CNET takes a hands-on look.
Research In Motion's security for its BlackBerry devices has won it many fans among the corporate elite, but it's causing problems as the company looks to enter new markets.
Company's mobile unit turns profitable in the third quarter for the first time since 2006. Motorola can thank Google's Android OS for the about-face.
Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 hit store shelves in the U.S. and Canada today, so how is it doing so far? We check in with retailers and see what the company is doing to market the device.