Google: Android Activation Numbers Don’t Include Upgrades

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In Wednesday’s media event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs told the audience that his company was seeing 230,000 iOS device activations a day, a number that put it ahead of the competition (read: Google), and that some that competition (read: Google) was including upgrades when touring its own activation numbers. On Thursday, Google released a statement saying, in essence, “Nuh-uh.”

Responding to Fortune magazine’s request for clarification, a Google spokesperson said, “The Android activation numbers do not include upgrades and are, in fact, only a portion of the Android devices in the market since we only include devices that have Google services.”

Android devices that don’t include Google services are largely those devices being made with variants of the Android OS, which is open sourced, for overseas markets, and aren’t technically part of the Android platform.

In August, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said his company was seeing 200,000 activations per day, a figure that was still growing. Today, the company insists those numbers aren’t fudged, as Mr. Jobs said they were (though it could be argued he wasn’t necessarily talking about Google, but really, of course he was).

Still, Google’s Android OS activations currently lag behind iOS device activations, but then “iOS activations” include iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Android is predominately in smartphones, with other devices like digital media devices and tablets lagging far behind Apple’s iPod touch and iPad.

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Android devices that don?t include Google services are largely those devices being made with variants of the Android OS, which is open sourced, for overseas markets, and aren?t technically part of the Android platform.



Wording is a tricky thing.  So the Android activation numbers don’t include upgrades.  Well, what is that activation number?  Is the 200,000 number that Eric Schmidt stated the number of Android activations?  Or was it another number that did, in fact, include upgrades? 

A journalist must be careful how he asks a question, because a poorly framed question can produce a misleading answer.


The overseas market that Google obliquely refers to is China.  China’s OEMs and Telcos have gone there own way with Android, telling Google essentially to stuff it.  The contractual, licensing, access to the complete Android stack, access to the Android MarketPlace, and access to Android’s roadmap and upgrades that Google uses to control the Android OEMs and force them to install Google’s services on Android phones outside of China don’t work in China.  With the backing and support of China’s government, China’s smartphone OEMs and Telcos have branched Android, developed their own app stores, has completed the other elements of Android stack so that they can offer a smartphone, and, in short, have dispensed with Google as the controller of Android and have dispensed with Google’s services. 

This last is the most painful, because it means that Google gets no revenues in China from Android.  The whole economic proposition for Android and what allows Google to provide it for free is that an Android phone must have Google’s services so that those services generate ad revenue for Google and/or provide Google with users’ private data, which it, Google, can then either exploit to sell stuff or sell to marketers for a fee.  Thus, without Google’s services on an Android phone, that phone is non-viable business proposition for Google. 

Google use the means referred to, supra, to guarantee that Android phones in most market come with Google’s services, but not so in China.  Because China’s government insists on controlling apps and operating systems that Chinese citizens use in China, it has moved, through its OEMs and Telcos, to branch Android, provide a domestic apps store, provide domestic services, such as Biadu, provided a complete stack for the domestic version of Android, and in short, neither need or want Google for any of the support or service that Google uses to lock its services to each Android phone outside of China.  This also has the advantage of capturing for Chinese companies, the revenues and profits that would otherwise have gone to Google.

The bottom line is that for business purposes, Google can no more count Android phones in China as Android activations and sources of revenue than can Apple.  And Google provided Android to China for free, will get no revenue for its trouble and expense, and will one day have the pleasure of seeing more than one hundred million plus Android phones in China from which it receives no revenue.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I bet Apple’s PR people vomit incessantly for days before a keynote, wondering what kind of venomous BS Steve will spew that will have to be corrected. If I was in Apple’s PR, I’d try to figure out a way to gather a fake audience and make Steve think he’s doing the keynote, but have one of the adults give the real one. If we could get Woz in on the plan, we’d get away with it for a year or so.

@Nemo: I doubt Google loses any sleep over China. Just as they lose no sleep over Android installs on any device that don’t license Google services. Ultimately, they help prove the portability of the platform and popularity of the brand. You don’t have to tightly control your innovations to benefit from their widespread adoption. I think that’s the detail you just don’t grasp.


Well Bosco, I would still like to know whether the 200,000 number is solely the number of new activations or whether that 200,000 number did, in fact, include upgrades.  In its response, Google seemed to answer that question, while it in fact deftly and, perhaps, deceptively avoided stating exactly what Android’s number of new activations per day is. 

And the hell Google doesn’t lose any sleep over China.  Eric, Sergey, and Larry are sick about China.  But they did a deal with the devil and agreed to abet China’s oppression of its own people.  Now, that they are paying, as Google’s business life in China is on the brink of extinction.  The wages of sin is death.

But at least the Chinese are keeping the Android name, so that the Brand will live on even though Google’s dreams of vast Chinese revenues won’t, unless Google’s chiefs consign their souls to the PRC and agree to do its bidding.  And even then, I think the PRC will opt to have its own companies capture the revenues from China’s consumers.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nemo, their pattern is to release the number every couple of months. I’m sure you’ll see a new number at the beginning of October, and they’ll be double plus sensitive and double plus snarky in explaining that it is new activations of devices with licensed Google apps and content.

Eric, Sergey, and Larry can console themselves knowing that Apple won’t make any inroads into China either grin. It’s not like the Chinese even want to steal or borrow Apple’s mobile OS.


I doubt Google loses any sleep over China.

Google shareholders should be raving insomniacs!


Are these numbers just in the US or worldwide?

What are Apple’s numbers with upgrades? Apple has a 90% retention rate that is well above any other platform.


What good will Android be when Google declines to put it on their own devices and instead opts for Chrome? The company seems all to perfectly willing to give away Android, knowing full well it’s NOT their future. Give it to China, a country of 2 billion people, and then make it worthless. Sounds more like revenge than a business model.


I bet Apple?s PR people vomit incessantly for days before a keynote, wondering what kind of venomous BS Steve will spew

Still, they only have to deal with venomous BS from Steve a couple of times a year. You’re much more prolific than he is.


jfbiii, now don’t pick on Envyboys. They’re great for a chuckle.

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