What About Android Deactivations?

The rise of Android

Just over a month back we were told that Google has cumulatively activated 200 million Android devices, rapidly closing in on the 250 million+ iOS units Apple has reported.

How many of those remain in play?

I strongly suspect that many more early Apple devices remain “on the road”, and the operational current count heavily favours iOS.

Rapid Obsolescence

I currently have four Android smartphones. The original HTC G1 and Magic+, a Nexus One, and a Galaxy S II. Add two Android tablets (a viewSonic gTablet and an Acer Iconia A500). The HTC G1 and Magic+ inhabit the bowels of some drawer somewhere. The Nexus One sees periodic use only when my oldest son wants to watch some YouTube videos on the couch and can’t find my S2. The gTablet is derelict, while the A500 sits broken. I have six Android devices, five legitimately activated through

Google, of which one sees real use. Many early Android devices were, in many regards, the Hyundai Pony’s of the technology world, quickly rendered unusable or with limited resale value.

Speaking of which, resale value is a good indicator. Early in the era of the Magic+ I considered selling it to get a better device, my hopes dashed seeing Craigslist jam packed with people trying to do the same, pricing down to “not worth the trouble” prices. At the same time the few used 3GS units were barely discounted from retail price.

The same was true of the Nexus One, the Galaxy S, and various other Android devices. The resale value just isn’t there, and I suspect that rather than supporting a robust second-hand device market, most simply got abandoned.

The same certainly isn’t true of the Apple devices. I would wager that the overwhelming majority of Apple devices from the 3GS on are still in use, whether by their original, second, or third owner.

Like a Toyota, the value (and corresponding resale value) is still there.

Supporting Metrics

All of this is just speculation. Further, it’s from someone who loves what Android has become, and what it represents. Android is big enough, and successful enough, that we don’t need to hide from this reality.

There are some metrics that support the hypothesis. Look at the Facebook metrics for iOS versus Android – 79 million monthly average users on the former, versus 45 million on the latter. Despite having some 80% of the reported activated base of iOS, Android only sees just 56% of the Facebook use. Vast differences between the demographics might explain the usage difference, but if that were the case then it should actually skew things in favour of Android: it is the platform that is preferred by younger adults where Facebook use is saturated, while iOS has primarily taken off in the 35+ realm.

It isn’t demographics. Any nonsense about people getting Android phones and using them as dumb-phones ring ridiculous. Among devices still in use I would guess that Facebook usage rates are similar. It’s simply that tens of millions of Android devices are no longer in play. Which is a number far more relevant than the gross sum of ever activated devices. Tell us how many devices are still in use, and strive to keep that number as high as possible.