Denis Doyle/Bloomberg News
For some time now, Google‘s Android system has been No. 1 worldwide and in the United States in terms of smartphone market share. But recent statistics suggest that the almighty robot has been losing steam in this country.
Horace Dediu, an analyst who was previously a business development manager at Nokia, published a blog post on Monday with charts illustrating a slowdown of Android’s growth in the United States, citing numbers from ComScore, the market research firm.
He notes that smartphone purchases have slowed in recent months compared with November, and much of that can be traced to a tapering off in Android adoption. Apple‘s iPhone growth, meanwhile, has remained relatively healthy.
“The concern has to be that rather than seeing the net adds growing – as they have for two years with only two contiguous months of decline – Android net adds have been falling for four months,” he wrote.” In other words, while Android is still growing, its growth is much smaller than before — and it’s questionable whether it will continue to be the operating system of choice for smartphone buyers in the United States.
Some of the slowdown for Android is also attributable to the business market. A sampling of about 3,000 businesses using by Good Technology, a major information technology firm that provides mobile management software, found that iPhone usage was increasing in the workplace, while Android phones have seen a significant dip since last year.
Jan Dawson, a mobile analyst with Ovum, said that the apparent drop in Android device purchases was related to the iPhone becoming available on other carriers last year — before, it was exclusive to ATT — so it’s natural to see a drop in the near term. However, he said that in the long term, Android is likely to win in numbers because some Android phones are more affordable than the iPhone, and thus they appeal to a broader customer base over all.
“I think you have that one-time, U.S.-specific effect, plus a broader effect that affects people worldwide,” he said. “But long term I still expect Android to dominate, simply because it appeals to a much wider base of customers worldwide, especially at the low end.”
For the first time, malware is exploiting hacked Web sites as part of a scheme to target mobile devices, researchers say. The new piece of malware—called a Trojan, because it is disguised as piece of safe software—is known as NotCompatible and is directed at Android smartphones and tablets. There is a risk that corporate networks will be compromised, but it appears for now to be low, said the security researcher who revealed the bug.
The attacker has placed the malware on dozens of low-traffic websites as a proxy pretending to be the device’s owner, and attempts to use the device to make unauthorized transactions, such as ordering tickets from Ticketmaster or downloading applications from Apple’s App Store, said Lookout Mobile Security CTO Kevin Mahaffey.
Mahaffey, who studied Internet browsing data from Android gadgets to draw his conclusions, also said an attacker could latch on to a business or government network if an employee whose Android device has been infected with NotCompatible accessed their corporate information via Wi-Fi. Mahaffey said he has found no evidence yet that corporate networks have been compromised. But CIOs need to be aware of NotCompatible because many of them allow Android devices in the workplace.
Mahaffey, who studied Internet browsing data from Android gadgets to draw his conclusions, said an attacker could latch on to a business or government network if an employee whose Android device has been infected with NotCompatible accessed their corporate information via Wi-Fi. Mahaffey said he has found no evidence that corporate networks have been compromised. But CIOs need to be aware of NotCompatible because many of them allow Android devices in the workplace. Good Technology, a corporate email platform, said Android accounted for nearly 30% of devices activated on its network in the first quarter this year.
Some IT leaders, such as Terex CIO Greg Fell, don’t allow Android devices at work because they mistrust the open source software that enables employees to download Android software from several application stores. He supports iPhones and iPads because employees can only download software from Apple. “The fact that [Android] is an open system as opposed to a closed system like the Apple Store means there are no controls on what gets installed, and this increases the risk of picking up some malware that could compromise the device,” Fell said.
Android users and their network managers have little to fear at this stage, said Mahaffey. NotCompatible is an automated script, which suggests the attacker is just trolling to find vulnerabilities rather than targeting specific Android device users. “So far we have not seen any clear pattern as to what constitutes a site that was compromised … It seems to be scattershot,” Mahaffey said.
Also, NotCompatible can only harm people who have enabled their devices to download software from unofficial sources. The mechanics of the infection are simple. When users of Android devices navigate to an infected website with their device’s browser, the “Update.apk” malware package automatically downloads to the device. The Android software alerts the user to the download, and the malware can begin its mischief once a user clicks the install prompt for the application.
This approach to malware is a common threat to personal computers, said Eric Maiwald, a mobile security analyst with Gartner. However, Maiwald and Mahaffey both said this appears to be the first time hacked websites are being used to target mobile devices. That in itself if noteworthy, Mahaffey said.
Tony Avelar/Bloomberg News, left; Jerome Favre/Bloomberg News
Google’s Android is installed on more devices than any other mobile software system in the world. But beyond sheer quantity, it doesn’t seem to have much going for it among American businesses. Its prominence is eroding in the smartphone market here.
Android is in steep decline in the workplace, according to an analysis by Good Technology, a major information technology firm that provides software for about 3,000 businesses to manage Android and iOS devices.
The company said that from tracking device activations among clients using Good’s software, it saw that 73.9 percent of smartphones in use were iPhones and 26.1 percent were Android devices. The iPhone’s share is up from 62.3 percent in the similar period last year and Android is down from 37.7 percent.
The numbers for tablets are even uglier for Android, partly because they haven’t changed from last year. The iPad accounted for 97.3 percent of tablet activations for the quarter, compared to 2.7 percent for Android.
When the tablet and smartphone categories are combined, about 80 percent of Good’s clients are using Apple devices, including iPhones and iPads, up from 70 percent in the year-earlier quarter.
John Herrema, a senior vice president at Good Technology, said businesses probably preferred iOS over Android because of the overall simplicity of managing iPhones and iPads as opposed to Android devices. He explained that many models of smartphones and tablets are running different versions of Android, which makes it difficult to manage them, whereas iOS is a more unified platform.
He said the growth of iOS was largely driven by companies that permitted their employees to bring their own devices to the office. In the last quarter, the iPhone was the best-selling smartphone for ATT, Verizon and Sprint; many of these customers probably use their iPhones in the workplace, Mr. Herrema said.
Jan Dawson, a mobile analyst at Ovum, said the near future for Android looked grim. He explained that iPhone purchases were surging in the United States because of the handset’s availability on multiple carriers. Previously, the iPhone was exclusive to ATT, but in the last year it became available to Verizon and Sprint customers. The iPhone also recently became available in China.
“Android’s going to have a bad few months in the U.S.,” he said in an interview. “And in the whole world we’ll continue to see dips in Android performance around the launches of new iPhones.”