Android Continues to Dominate – Here's Why

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The idea that Android could be a top dog OS would have been laughable just a few years ago but as of 2013 it had the largest user base of any mobile operating system. Android tablets, which had long played second fiddle to the iPad, finally outsold Apple's signature tablet in that same year (note: now they're well in the lead). That was also the year that Google's OS hit 1 billion activations and Android's share of the global smartphone shipment market was a whopping 81.3%. Now according to a report from research firm Gartner, actual Android device shipments will top 1 billion in 2014. Not too shabby!

But if you're looking for the hype you're not going to find it. Even though the first quarter of 2014 saw almost 58% of all smartphones worldwide powered by Android, the OS's dominance is simply seen as less newsworthy because of the lack of a single branded Android phone or tablet. Those billions of Android equipped devices that will ship in 2014 will come from a wide range of manufacturers – OS being the unifying factor. That doesn't mean, however, that Android's success is merely the result of a glut of devices. There are plenty of good reasons this operating system is a user favorite in the US and in emerging markets around the world.

The Options are Endless

Apple is Apple because Apple has an image to maintain. That means that options in the world of Apple translate to case colors and memory figures. There are simply more choices in the world of Android – spend a lot or a little; big or small; grownup workhorse or family-family entertainment center – chances are that whatever the consumer's needs there will be an Android device that's a perfect fit thanks to hardware diversity. But let's take the concept of choice one step further. For the layperson, there are widgets allowing for customization beyond the normal range of options. And for the developer, the sky is the limit.

It's User Focused and User Friendly

Google's OS is just plain solid. Apple enthusiasts love to talk up the benefits of the iOS, but for those who aren't in the Apple fan club Android can seem more intuitive and overall easier to use. There are also more sharing opportunities, more apps and more opportunities to customize the user experience – and at this point, no sacrifice in computing power compared to the iPhone or iPad.

The Price Can't Be Beat

There is an Android device for nearly every budget. At the top of the scale there's the cream of the crop and at the bottom there are tablets so inexpensive you can put them in a toddler's Christmas stocking. In between there are plenty of high quality devices that are more than adequate for the average user. Buying through a carrier can sweeten the deal.

Service providers such as T-Mobile frequently offer Android smartphones and tablets at even better prices than consumers can get when buying off the rack, and the carrier is now considered to have the fastest 4G LTE service in the US. So, whether customers are using a Samsung, Sony or HTC device, they will have access to the best coverage. Additionally, T-Mobile even includes free 4G LTE data on certain models which means you're getting more than just a device.

So that's what's happening now. The question people are asking is "What's next?" And the answer depends largely on whether Android is thriving simply because it's the default OS on the low-cost alternatives to Apple devices or on the momentum created by its own virtues. A couple of years of strong sales showings mean chances are good that Android has now come fully into its own but in either picture, 2014 is shaping up to be a defining year in the OS race.

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