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Analysts weigh in on Android and iPhone

Will the Verizon deal change the outcome of the race?

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Will the launch of the Verizon iPhone 4 slow Android's growth? Ask analysts and some will say yes, others no.

Charlie Wolf of Needham and Co., and Shaw Wu of Kaufman Bros. both believe Apple's deal with Verizon, one of top two US network operators, will hit Android sales. The notion is that a fair few folk bought Android phones because the iPhone wasn't available on Verizon. Once it is, they will switch when they can.

Buyers looking to move up from voice-centric handsets to smartphones will also now be more likely to adopt an iPhone, which will hurt Android growth.

"The iPhone will suck the wind out of Android’s growth on Verizon," said Wolf.

In the opposite corner is Canalys' Chris Jones, who forecasts Android will continue to grow at more than double the rate of the likes of Apple, RIM and Nokia during 2011, despite the iPhone's Verizon debut.

Based in the UK, Jones has a more global perspective than the others. Canalys' most up-to-date numbers, for Q3 2010, put Android's global share at 25.1 per cent, second only to Nokia's Symbian, which took 37 per cent of the smartphone market.

Apple came third with a share of 17.4 per cent, RIM fourth at 15.4 per cent. If Jones is right, and Android's growth continues unabated, those shares will slide this year. Unless, of course, Apple rallies on the back of the Verizon deal and is boosted further by the anticipated iPhone 5 launch at the end of Q2.

Android may also suffer from increased fragmentation thanks to the many permutations of the operating system - eight releases since the first version, posted in September 2008, notes Jones - the UIs some vendors drop on top of it and the various hardware combinations.

Slowing down its update schedule will help, says Jones, but the best thing Google can do is adjust the Android Market app to detect what it's running on and present punters only with apps that will run on their handsets. ®

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