Android Growth Slows As It Passes The 1 Billion Active Device Milestone

Has Android peaked?

Google’s mobile operating system has surpassed the 1 billion active device milestone, according to Android executive Sundar Pichai, who made the announcement via Google+ September 3.

That’s up from the 900 million active device-mark reached in May of this year.

But a closer look at Google’s activation announcements indicates Android’s global growth is slowing considerably.

Counting the 100 million or so active devices added during the 111 days between the May and September announcements, that translates to an an average of around 930,000 daily activations.

(To be conservative, we assumed activations had actually surpassed the billion mark by the time Pichai’s announcement was made public, bringing total activations in the interval to 103 million.)

The daily activation number is much lower than it has been in the recent past. Between April and May of this year daily activations spiked to 1.9 million, and in early April Google Chairman Eric Schmidt claimed 1.5 million Android activations per day.

It should be noted that we take Google’s activation announcements with a grain of salt, and view them primarily as guides for our estimates instead of hard numbers that are up-to-the-minute accurate.

Still, it’s clear there has been a significant slowdown, as the flatter recent growth trajectory in the first chart shows.

The sharp spike in daily activations earlier this year may have been caused by the Samsung Galaxy S4, released in late April. It sold 20 million units in its first two months.

Android has not enjoyed a boost from a major smartphone launch since then.

But even before the S4 release, Android daily activations were exploding, making this period’s sudden decline more drastic. Between June 2012 to April 2013, daily activations grew 67% from 900,000 to 1.5 million. Now, the daily activation rate has plummeted to where it was 10 months ago.

Android has still finished the race to 1 billion quicker than many anticipated. Horace Dediu of Asymco predicted last year that Android would accumulate 1 billion users by November 2013.

It should also be noted that Google’s version of Android and the overarching open-source Android software are not synonymous, as Kevin Tofel of GigaOm recently argued. There may be millions of smartphones and tablets being activated with Android versions as their operating systems, but without Google’s blessing, and without integrating Google’s apps and services. This is particularly the case in China and India. These would not be counted in Google activation data.

Click here to download the chart and data in Excel

Click here to see a larger version of this chart

Below is a look at Android device activations per day. You can see the sharp spike and hard landing.

Click here to see a larger version of this chart

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