By Max Clarke

Google’s Android operating system became the largest global SmartPhone software last year, according to Ben Trewhella, CTO of Mubaloo — the UK’s largest application developer, it will take time before Android apps reach the ‘best in class’ apps available on the iPhone.

32.9 million Android phones were sold in the last quarter of 2010 just topping the 31 million phones equipped with Nokia’s Symbian system.

Google has raced to the top of the market by offering their software to phone makers for free. Their success is highlighted by the speed with which they have overhauled sales of Apple’s iPhone. In the last quarter of 2009 Android sales were at 4.7 million as opposed to 16.2 million iPhones.

The continued growth of the Android platform is dependent on how it deals with the problem of fragmentation caused by it being used by many different manufacturers — unlike Apple.

“The growth in Android has come from a large number of mobile manufacturers finding it easy to adapt to various screen sizes, hardware features and unique user interfaces,” explained Mr Trewhella.

“This in itself causes fragmentation, with developers having to test across many devices and sometimes create device specific versions. The problem is compounded as the base Android operating system is constantly being developed by Google to provide new features such as Near Field Communication, necessary contactless payment innovations.

“Once a handset has been sold, the device manufacturer has little incentive to update their customised Android interface. This inevitably results in most Android users being left with an outdated version of Google’s mobile operating system.

“This fragmentation is also an issue for developers, who may not have the different skillsets or time to develop for anything other than a single platform: most typically the iPhone, which has little or no fragmentation.

“This will prove to be a mistake in the long term. The current growth of Android consumers, and particularly the accelerated rate of growth predicted in the next three years, indicates brands and agencies should be looking to take advantage of the new markets opening up. They should select development partners such as Mubaloo who have the proven ability to deliver apps across all the mobile platforms,” he said.