Over the last few years, Android has cemented itself as the dominant force in the mobile market. And 2012 might just be its best year yet, according to IDC. The research firm says Android will secure 61 percent of the market this year and maintain nearly 53 percent by 2016. Meanwhile, every platform from iOS to Windows Phone 7 will be forced to battle it out for second place.
But how did this happen? For years, Android has been called the second-rate version of iOS by some mobile customers. Although devices from Samsung and HTC have proved popular, no single Android phone has yet to match the success of Apple's iPhone. Still, with solid branding, a high-quality experience and some help from a boatload of vendors, Android is the top player in the mobile market. That won't change over the next several years.
Here are the reasons why Android is so dominant today.
1. It's a numbers game after all
When it comes to Android dominance, pointing to the sheer number of devices on store shelves and in users' hands is arguably the simplest reason for its success. There are now hundreds (if not thousands) of different mobile device models running Android in one form or another, ranging from mobile phones to tablets and enterprise products. Blanketing the market with product is a great way to win the market share game.
2. Apple's only offering three devices
Meanwhile, Android's chief competitor, iOS, while highly popular and extremely profitable for Apple, is suffering in market share, at least, because of Apple's policy to keep it in-house. Apple currently only offers the operating system on its iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch. Because of that, there's simply no way for Apple to keep up with Google's mobile operating system.
3. RIM's decline
RIM was long a thorn in the side of Nokia's Symbian platform and Windows Mobile when that operating system had considerable market share. In the past year, however, RIM has watched its market share plummet to just 6 percent, according to IDC. What's worse, that figure will drop to 5.9 percent by 2016. RIM's decline has helped Android in a big way.
The consumerization of IT is something that a host of CIOs and IT decision-makers hear about, and as of late, it's something many of those folks have been forced to deal with. Although the iPhone is the most popular consumer product to be brought into the office, Android is also gaining some ground with the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend. Without BYOD, it would be impossible for Android to keep up.
5. Microsoft is offering little competition
Microsoft arguably has the best chance of one day overtaking Android. After all, its operating system, Windows Phone, offers the same kind of licensing strategy as Android. However, through 2012, the OS will only be able to muster 5.2 percent share, according to IDC. With Microsoft's poor competition, Android is surging.
6. Vendor support
Google's Android platform would be nothing without its vendor support. With this in mind, Google has gone out of its way over the years to bring as many vendor partners into the fold as possible. Once in the Android fold, the search giant has encouraged mobile device makers to invest as heavily as possible into the platform. It was a smart move that's paying serious dividends.
7. Remember the Google factor
It's important to acknowledge the value of Google's brand recognition on the success of Android. The search company's brand is trusted among third-party vendors and consumers alike. It's another significant reason why smartphone makers are investing in the platform and another incentive for people to buy Android phones. Without Google's immense resources and market influence, Android wouldn't be Android.