Android, Android, everywhere, and not another platform to seriously challenge it in Barcelona. As this year’s Mobile World Congress heads into the last day, it’s clear that the big winner is Android. From the announced handsets and awards, to the hardware and the hackers, Google’s mobile operating system has been part of every major story coming out of the event.
Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is probably the biggest story, with the flagship Android handset for the South Korean company debuting an iterative update to the specifications, while adding in new hardware and capabilities to help a user get through the day.
Not far behind Samsung in the ‘stories with impact’ is Sony as the Japanese company debuts a flagship that is arguably higher specced than the Galaxy S5. The Xperia Z2 builds on Sony’s previous classic smartphones and tablets with a consistent design pushing the envelope.
Even the smaller handset manufactures are relying on Android. Russian based Yota Devices have been demonstrating the second generation of their dual-screened YotaPhone concept. Naturally it’s powered by Android. Companies such as Jolla may have their own operating system in Sailfish OS, but the story of the OS includes Android compatibility so users can run their favourite applications without waiting for someone to port it.
Oh, and Nokia decided to release an Android powered handset, but as the Nokia X family has forked the Android Open Source Project, as opposed to the version with Google Play, don’t expect Mountain View to push that handset to the fore in any publicity.
With a worldwide market share approaching seventy percent, the ability to dominate a news cycle at a high profile media event, and acceptance by the industry that the platform should be considered by ever manufacturer in some form, the Android team can depart from Barcelona feeling on top of the mobile world.
Look a little deeper at MWC, you’ll find that the long-term result might not be as simple as that.
For starters, Apple never showed up, and Tim Cook’s hardware release cycle is nowhere close to satisfying an event like MWC. That doesn’t mean their presence was not felt. Peripheral manufacturers still love supporting Apple devices, and the ecosystem in extra hardware that has built up around Apple is formidable. Only the Galaxy S handsets can get close in terms of volume, but the accessories market does not have the same depth as Apple’s.
Android may be a wonderfully technical solution to the OS problem, but the ecosystem and accessories market is one that Apple still rules over.
Then there is Microsoft. Windows Phone 8 handsets were noticeable by their absence, but the news points that Microsoft did look to get over (hardware reference designs, nine manufacturers on board, and preparing the ground for the launch of Windows Phone 8.1 at Build in April) as well as some smart positioning statements as to their third place in the EU5 market, left Microsoft posted as missing but with an obvious counter-punch waiting to be thrown.
It’s not quite all about Android just yet, even if the size of the Android platform dominated this year’s MWC. The other players in the smartphone space are simply picking their battles, and Barcelona was not one of them. So it’s a victory for Google, almost by default, but the competition has not been extinguished.