Apr 02 AT 8:56 PM Dustin Earley 101 Comments

Time and time again, Android’s demise is spelled out by bloggers all across the globe. Whether it’s because of a lack of revenue generated by Android itself, fragmentation, a new iPhone or a patent lawsuit, someone, somewhere is always predicting Android is on the way out. Well if you haven’t noticed, that’s far from reality. Android is doing just fine. But it may not always be the super behemoth we’ve come to know in the past two years.

The mobile technology industry could see some major changes as 2012 plays out, all of them affecting Android in one way or another.

Nokia Lumia, and what it means for Windows Phone

With the Nokia Lumia 900 available for free to new AT&T customers, with a two-year contract, set for release on April 8th, Microsoft may just finally see a substantial gain in smartphone marketshare.

Until the Lumia 900, one of the most obvious things holding Windows Phone back was the devices the OS was being slapped on. They were essentially all older Android phones. There hadn’t been a single Windows Phone device that didn’t have a better Android equivalent. And then came the Lumia 900.

The Lumia 900 has everything needed to become a blockbuster hit. The internals are good enough to last the average smartphone user a couple years, the display is top notch, it has 4G LTE and it looks absolutely fantastic.

It’s totally unique in design. The Lumia screams for attention. It’s how a smartphone should look in 2012. Bright, bold, masterfully crafted. Windows Phone fits the Lumia 900 like a glove. And it’s available to new AT&T customers for free on contract. If you’re upgrading to the Lumia 900, it’s still only $99.

Nokia is going to bet the farm on the Lumia 900. AT&T will be pushing the Lumia, Microsoft will be pushing the Lumia and Nokia will likely drop everything they have into ads and marketing campaigns for the Lumia 900.

When the Lumia 900 launches on April 8th, and you can find it sitting among the Galaxy Note and iPhone 4S, for less than half the cost of either of those devices, consumers will finally struggle to pick between three operating systems. Not just two. And someone will lose marketshare to it. The question then becomes, who?

The iPhone is still on the rise, and that’s just the 4S

No matter how the readers of this site view Apple’s iPhone, there is absolutely no denying it is the most popular phone in the entire world. The 4S has shattered previous sales records held by earlier models of the iPhone, and Apple is far from done.

According to some recent reports available online, the iPhone is outselling all other smartphones combined on both Sprint and AT&T, and is neck-and-neck with all Android phones combined at Verizon. It’s been this way since October of 2011. That’s half a year of iPhone domination, with no end in sight. And its design dates back to nearly two years ago.

Apple is set to release the iPhone 5 this year, sometime between June and October. Not much is known about the iPhone 5, but rumors indicate that it might see some sort of radical redesign and feature access to the three largest carrier’s LTE networks in the US. Whatever it ends up looking like, and whether it’s LTE enabled or not, it’s still going to be an iPhone. And realistically, that’s all it needs to keep selling well. Although a new design and LTE access will definitely help.

With AT&T, Verizon and Sprint all selling the iPhone 5, there’s reason to believe Apple will take back some of the market share it once lost to Android. Android certainly won’t just shrivel up and die, but one way or another there’s going to be a shift in the numbers.

RIM for sale?

If Microsoft and Apple spend all of 2012 gobbling up market share in the US, will Android simply see a sharp decline? I believe there will be a decline, but it will be closer to a leveling out than a sharp decline. There’s still plenty of ways for Android to build and maintain market share, like feature phone users turned smart phone users, and the business sector who previously relied on BlackBerry devices. Recent studies do show the adoption rate of iOS devices in corporate America skyrocketing, but Android could easily jump to the head of pack with one simple move: buying RIM.

There’s no way RIM is going to survive the next two years at the absolute most. RIM is hemorrhaging money and losing market share on a daily basis. The next big thing from the company isn’t due out until the tail end of 2012. And by then, we’ll see the next iPhone, next generation Windows Phones and a new breed of Android phones as well. So what is the company going to do? If they’re smart, they’ll sell now while they might still be worth something.

RIM still owns some good software. They’ve talked about licensing it in the past, but it may be time to just get rid of it. I doubt Apple would be interested, and Microsoft has their own enterprise solutions. Google’s the only one I could see being really interested.

Imagine a line of Android devices built around everything Google would acquire from buying RIM. Imagine being able to merge your BlackBerry Messenger account with Google Talk. Or Google Talk with all the best parts of BlackBerry Messenger thrown in.

It could work. Giving Google not only access to the most well known tools in business, but access to some great consumer software as well. Whatever RIM ultimately decides to do, it will undoubtedly impact every industry the company has touched on. I can’t help but wonder just how involved Google will be.

Between Amazon and Google, something’s got to give

The Android tablet market is sad to say the least. From where things are sitting right now, it looks like Apple has turned the tablet industry into another iPod scenario. But there’s still hope yet. Amazon proved they can move some hardware with the Kindle Fire, and Google is looking to get into the tablet game themselves. Could this spell success for Android tablets in 2012?

iPad sales didn’t exactly suffer in 2011. In fact, they were quite the opposite. That doesn’t mean other tablets didn’t do well either. The Kindle Fire was a huge success. Amazon sold a boat load of Fires during the holiday season, and they certainly aren’t done yet.

2012 will see the introduction of Amazon’s newest tablets. A larger Kindle Fire that’s priced accordingly could make a killing in 2012. The 7-inch Kindle Fire sold well for just $200, but a $300, or even $250, 10-inch Fire could possibly sell even better. If there are two things consumers care about when purchasing things like electronics, it’s the name and price. Amazon has both going for them. Look for another big year for Amazon in 2012.

Google isn’t done trying to make their mark on the tablet market either. During CES, we saw the unveiling of a Tegra 3 powered 7-inch tablet from ASUS that was marked as coming to retail at about $250. There’s good reason to believe that very tablet will end up coming to market at around $150(!), with Google Nexus branding.

Between a new Kindle Fire, Google’s tablet, Motorola and Samsung’s continued tablet efforts, Android just might see a considerable gain in tablet market share this year.

Galaxy S III, Razr 2, G4X, EVO One

Android has plenty of momentum pushing the platform forward. Google is constantly working to improve the software side of Android, and manufacturers are always working on new hardware.

We already know the Samsung Galaxy S III is almost upon us, but what other kinds of Android devices can we expect in 2012? The Motorola RAZR, T-Mobile G2x and HTC EVO will all see follow up devices. And they’ll probably all be some of the most popular Android devices launched in 2012 too.

There’s also another Nexus coming in 2012, a million Galaxy S III variants and some more DROIDs in the works at the very least. There’s still another trade show to get through before summer is underway, which always ends up revealing some of the hottest Android handsets of the year, and we can’t even begin to predict all the Android handsets that will leak from now until Q3 2012.

There’s going to be a lot of awesome Android phones coming out this year, and as usual, they’re guaranteed to be on the bleeding edge of technology.

Wrap up

Of course, I’m no psychic. For all I know Android could totally bomb, or see another huge gain in market share and leave the competition in ashes. But I don’t think either of those will happen.

I really don’t think 2012 is going to play out like 2011 did for Android. Android exploded in 2011. For the most part, it totally dominated the competition. 2012 is going to be the year where things start to level out. Windows Phone gains in popularity, iOS takes a little bit of its pie back and Android comfortably settles in as one of the top operating systems in the world.

What do you think will happen to Android in 2012? What kinds of major industry events will shape the future of Google’s mobile operating system? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments.

Image via LadyDragonflyCC – BDay Weekend, Holland, Michigan with Creative Commons

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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