Android's rise is a plus for operators

13 Oct 2010

The rise and rise of Android is good news for operators.

The Google backed platform overtook RIM to become the top-selling OS in the US in the August, according to Nielsen.

It’s open source, which means lower-priced phones – LG has just launched a $49 Android smartphone, the T, in the US. That leaves more in the customer wallet to spend on services and apps.

Android offers a lot more room for operator customization than its rivals. Indeed, unless Microsoft can turn its fortunes around with WP7, it’s looking like the only alternative. BlackBerry really hasn’t expanded into the consumer space and Symbian is not even in the race. Apple doesn’t do partnerships.

The other opportunity is in the vexed area of the app store. Sure, operators labored for years and years offering collections of news, TV shows and other gear, before Apple came along and snatched it away.

Steve Jobs did everyone a favor in showing how it can be done but inevitably, the Android Market will break the App Store’s dominance on downloads. Amazon, too, is reported to be developing an Android marketplace.

That opens up the game a little. Operators should use the chance to hit the big guys at their weakest point – which is that they’re a long way from the user.

Cellcos are local businesses and should be pitching local content and services. That means they need to behave more like a media company; if there’s a concert or a major sporting event, that’s an opportunity to sell downloads, apps, and wallpapers that go with it. Those who do it well will find they can tap local brands as sponsors.

The JKontherun blog offers some smart suggestions for carriers in the app store segment. No. 1: focus on quality, not quantity of apps. The global stores offer apps in the hundreds of thousands, an overwhelming level of choice.

It’s easy for customers to get lost. Operators who help cut through the clutter can make a business out of the app store game.

Even if they’re selling the iPhone and Nokia, cellcos should be backing Android.

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