Rise of the Android
What this sort of speculation obscures is the fact that there is plenty of room in the market for more than one insanely popular mobile device, and that's good news for device makers, as mobile manufacturers appear to be spitting out new devices as though they were dollar menu items during a fast food lunch rush.
While it may be entertaining to engage in conjecture about the prospects for individual devices, from a developer and mobile content marketer's standpoint, the specific device is less important than the question of what the dominant smart phone operating systems will be in the months and years ahead.
It's pretty clear that Apple's iPhone OS is going to continue to be a player in the market, and with the metrics being reported between September and December 2009, another good bet has emerged: Android is on the rise as a mobile OS, and it is projected to expand market share considerably in 2010.
According to AdMob, one of the world's largest mobile advertising networks, worldwide requests on their network coming from Android devices increased 97 percent from October to December, 2009, and there was a significant increase in device and manufacturer diversity in that same period of time. In October, 98 percent of Android requests served by AdMob came from devices manufactured by HTC. By December, that number had dropped to 56 percent, as new Android devices from Motorola and Samsung had hit the market, producing brisk sales.
While Motorola's Droid hasn't taken the world by storm to quite the extent predicted by some analysts, it still made a significant splash, and already represented 30 percent of the Android-based requests AdMob observed in December.
What all this adds up to, especially in light of the launch of Google's Nexus One phone, is a substantial increase in the number of Android-based devices on the market in a very short period of time. It's also a good sign for mobile developers in the adult entertainment sector, for several reasons.
First and foremost, Android is a far more "open" platform than is the iPhone OS. Whereas app developers targeting the iPhone essentially find themselves at the mercy of Apple's notoriously unclear content policies, Android app developers are not fettered by such restrictions. True, your porn app is highly unlikely to make its way into the native, on-deck Android app store, but you can develop true apps for Android and sell them to consumers directly, and there are bound to be multiple adult-specific Android app markets appearing to take advantage of that fact. (One such app market, MiKandi.com, is pushing very hard to establish a presence in the market as I write this, in fact.)
From a programming perspective, developing apps for Android is no more difficult than creating iPhone apps, and depending on the specific nature of your programming background, you may even find it easier. Developers familiar with Java will have a leg up when doing the Java-based Android development, while iPhone is based on Objective-C. Whether one is "better" or "harder" than the other is largely dependent on your specific expertise as a programmer. (When I asked TopBucks Mobile's senior in-house app developer which SDK was easier to develop with, his response was "they're about the same, really.")
There is ample reason to believe that Android's rise will continue in the months ahead, and that manufacturers will continue to unveil new Android-based devices at a quick clip in 2010. Why? Among Android's most attractive features from a manufacturer's perspective is that it is free for them to use, as Google released it under the Apache License, a free software and open source license.
Android developers also get the benefit of the OS being supported and rapidly developed for by Google itself, which has been very active in creating and distributing tools and apps of its own that augment the Android user experience, from their Sky Map star-watching utility to the extensive and flexible maps editor for customizing the MyMaps service.
At the moment, Android is strongest in the American market, which as of December was the source of 90 percent of the Android traffic crossing AdMob's network. After the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Canada are the markets producing the most Android traffic (in that order). While the U.S. figures to stay at the top of the Android traffic list for the foreseeable future, most analysts agree that the OS will see a significant increase in market share internationally in 2010.
Android's international expansion will be driven in large part by widespread adoption of Android by device manufacturers, but consumer survey results suggest that users are becoming increasingly aware of Android, and progressively more interested in buying Android devices as time goes by. In a December survey of mobile users conducted by ChangeWave.com, 21 percent said they would be purchasing an Android-based device in the next 90 days, up from only six percent in ChageWave's September survey.
No matter how you slice it, it would appear that Android is rapidly establishing a foothold in the mobile market, and as a function of that foothold, you are bound to see more and more Android users landing on your sites. The time to prepare for that Android influx is now, while the market is young, growing, and in its pre-porn-saturation phase.
In other words, as Obi-Wan might put it: "These ARE the droids you're looking for."