Samsung reigns, HTC falters with Android handsets in Q4

by Kristen Nicole

The lull between the holiday’s shelf-clearing sales and CES’s futuristic gadget fest happens to take place at the turn of the year, a prime time for Android reflection and review. Everyone seems to be throwing out numbers signifying Android’s successes and failures, such as the likelihood of the OS taking 50 percent of the global smartphone market this year. As shipments of Android phones reached 206 million in 2011, and Android Market apps exceed 400,000, Android’s ecosystem is certainly blooming. Samsung’s doing its part, reporting some of its best handset sales yet.

The South Korean manufacturer released its fourth-quarter earnings guidance today, expecting revenues between $39.6 billion and $41.3 billion. Both are bar-setting figures, moving swiftly past the $36 billion made in Q3. It’s been good all around for Samsung, from hardware to software. It’s Bada platform was the only other smartphone OS to grow in both market share and unit sales in Q3, stretching Samsung’s territory despite the scores of lawsuits from Apple.

Samsung’s achieved a great deal since 2010, even as a latecomer compared to other Android manufacturers. Their meteoric rise to the top has dimmed the spotlight on early Android supporters like HTC, which had a very different Q4 experience. Asia’s second-largest smartphone maker posted its first quarterly profit decline in two years, as competition from both Samsung and Apple quietened demand for its products. Android is large enough to make rivals of its manufacturing partners, with Samsung and HTC demonstrating two ends of the Android spectrum.

Device diversity and software are key

Samsung’s diversity is important. As well as a wide variety of hardware products, Samsung also has its own software platform, providing an alternative channel for connecting content across its many products. HTC has indicated strong interest in developing its own software platform, but its lack of variety in both hardware and software has limited itssuccess.

CES is often the perfect time for companies to show off a prototype or launch a new product, reviving faith in their vision. Hopefully this will be the case for HTC, which will be showcasing a new Android handset or two, including their first 4G Android phone for AT&T.