Android continues growth in US as developers anxiously await Ice Cream Sandwich

by Kristen Nicole

With a hungry consumer market at its feet, Android’s OS continues to dominate in the US market. According to the latest Nielsen report, Android’s share of the smartphone market grew to 43 percrnt in the third quarter, up from 39 percent in Q2. Apple’s share stayed flat at 28 percent, while RIM’s BlackBerry OS continues to fall, dropping another 2 percent in the past three months. Microsoft’s mobile platforms combined make up 7 percent of the market, while Nokia’s Symbian OS and HP’s webOS have been relegated to the “other” category.

Android 4.0 to be open-sourced in coming weeks

It’s a promising outlook for Android’s ongoing efforts, especially with the upcoming availability of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Designed to fuel Google’s big push in the smartphone, and especially the tablet market, ICS could prove a worthy contender against Apple’s iOS. Ice Cream Sandwich will be available to the open source community in the “coming weeks” according to Google, and many in the mobile sphere are hoping it will be a crowd-pleaser. It’s meant to reunify the Android platform for both tablets and smartphones, making the app development and publishing process a little easier for developers.

Developers share early praises and concerns

And from what some developers have already seen of ICS, the unified perspective is a pretty good improvement. “Google has really done an amazing job giving us a way to build on the phone and tablet,” says Siamak Ashrafi, a developer at YLabz. The revised user interface has also earned high marks, helping developers lay out their design with good use of fragments (first introduced in Honeycomb). Fragments work like dynamic HTML, enabling a screen to be updated independently and making it easier to reuse interface components.

But until Google actually releases ICS to the open source community, much of this early praise is based on limited experiences with the ICS software development kit’s emulator. We won’t really know what ICS has to offer until it can be tested with real applications on actual devices. “Presumably, Google's own apps are written properly and take advantage of this new hardware-rendering pipeline, but there's no way to know how well it all works until I get a chance to play with some new [Android 4] devices like the Galaxy Nexus,” says Meridian CTO Nick Farina.

Finally, accessibility around ICS devices could pose a problem at first. There’s only a handful of Android devices that will support ICS early on, and consumer uptake will affect how many developers will build for Android 4.0. Nevertheless, ICS seems full of promise and could have a bright future in the mobile realm.