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Apple faces far-reaching foe in Android

Time will tell if a Gartner forecast of explosive Android market growth is true. But a simple example in the present makes an equally compelling argument for Android's potential.

A Gartner forecast on Friday showed Android's market share surging past Apple's iPhone operating system by 2014. Who knows if this is an accurate assessment of the future, but one simple example in the present demonstrates that Android has the potential for more market reach than Apple's iOS.

Gartner shows Android passing Apple's iOS in 2010 and crushing it by 2014.
Gartner shows Android passing Apple's iOS in 2010 and crushing it by 2014. Gartner

This mini epiphany happened when I was boasting about a great app (BirdsEye Lite) I had just downloaded to my iPhone. One of the people I was talking to, however, was thoroughly unimpressed. The reason: he had just snapped up a Nextel Motorola i1 phone for his business and, for him, this was the answer to all his smartphone prayers.

Nextel Motorola i1 Nextel

Let me back up for a minute. This person has a small business that employs about 20 people and Nextel's DirectConnect Walkie Talkie Service is the deciding factor for a smartphone purchase. The iPhone, for him--and his employees--just isn't relevant.

He explained how he had been waiting for a new Nextel phone with this feature for a long time and how the new phone exceeded his expectations. In fact, he sounded as enthusiastic about the i1 as any new iPhone user. And, oh, by the way, he could also download a similar birding app to his phone, he added.

What got my attention was that the i1 runs Android 1.5, an older version of Android. But he was blissfully ignorant about this fact--and didn't even seem to know or care that the OS was Android. Nonetheless, he was in love with the phone and the interface.

So, Gartner forecasts aside, my not-particularly-bold prediction is that Android will be the OS for a lot of workaday phones--i.e., not headline-grabbing Motorola Droids--with more pedestrian yet practical applications.

Yes, Apple will continue to ship tens of millions more iPhones every year but that won't be enough to offset the viral popularity of Android.