One of the biggest problems Google faces with Android is avoiding a situation where one manufacturer controls so much of the market that everything else falls by the wayside. As study after study shows, though, this is becoming an increasing risk as Samsung gobbles up more customers. To wit, this survey from Localytics—a company that provides analytics for mobile apps— showed that of the top ten Android devices its customers used, eight were made by Samsung, and seven had the Galaxy brand attached.
The trend is staggering, but not surprising. After all, between Samsung and Apple, the two companies account for somewhere between most and more than all the smartphone profits. However, even when you look at products that we assume are doing very well (because they are!) like the Nexus 7, Samsung is still taking the lead. You'll notice in the chart above that the most used Android tablet that isn't a Kindle is the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. That's more than a little astounding.
A few things to keep in mind about this study, however: for one, this is a worldwide analysis and Samsung happens to be leading the pack in global distribution of Android handsets. HTC still hasn't quite mastered the whole "one product, many carriers and countries" approach yet, except on the One series to an extent. Plus, the Nexus 7, despite being wildly popular in countries where it's available, is still not sold in nearly as many markets as Sammy's products.
It highlights an important trend, however. Android has always had a problem with branding. Since the very beginning, labels like "with Google" were slapped on to devices, leading to consumers calling them "Google phones," then there was the Droid campaign which led to people calling them "Droids," and even today if you want a pure Android device, they're called "Nexus." In fact, Android as a platform might just always be subject to this type of second-class brand ranking.
The Android ecosystem seems to take it in shifts. HTC used to be the big name in high-quality handsets until Sense started to become less of a benefit and more of a detriment. Motorola seems poised to make a resurgence as its handsets have been fairly popular with people who like them, but the company hasn't had a breakout success in years. Though the anticipation over what Google might do with it is building. Ultimately, if we've learned anything from five years of Android, it's that the brands and major players on top of the platform come and go.
However, at the moment, HTC, Motorola, Sony, LG, and all the other major players should see this as a challenge that not only should, but must be overcome. Localytics is just one company, but the conclusion its study reflects is by no means isolated. Samsung is running away with the market. Contrary to popular belief, there is still plenty of room for the trends to shift back in another company's direction.
Unless everyone is just cool with Nature UX. Which is nice, I guess.