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« Return of the Jedi: Nokia can be saved, here is the how | Main | Lets Understand Phones: Market is Shifting from Dumbphones to Smartphones »

February 01, 2011



Aren't there Android devices that do not need activation and are therefore not counted by Google? If so, can this be sufficient to explain Canalys' numbers?


Activations doesn't equal handset sales. Some sales may be for current Android account holders, upgrading their phones.

 Tomi T Ahonen

Hi SoVatar and Joanne

Good points but also Activations include Android devices which are not handsets - ie tablets and TV sets etc. The other number that is relevant is total sales of all Android family smartphone makers - cannot be 33 million, the math doesn't get us there, 29 million is ceiling of what it might be, reality is somewhere between 26 million and 29 million.

Lets see what IDC and Gartner say, I trust they'll be more careful with their math haha..

Thank you for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)


.... unless phone companies are reporting all new phones as new activations... which shouldn't necessarily be the case.


Yes, I think a lot of us who read the report called it out for being disingenuous. I think they saw an eventuality and decided to be the "first one" to call it, knowing that by the time Android actually crosses Symbian (a couple of months?) its critics might be accused of nitpicking!

Reminds me a lot of so-called analysis during the dotcom days.




google has quite specifically said, they don't count upgrades in their activations. And canalys counts OMS and Tapas platform activations as well.


Counting activations means: depending on Google and they can and will spin the figures any way they like. They don't count reactivations, they say, but what about multiple activations of the same device?


Lets see the major US technology blogs backtrack from the circus they put on celebrating these stats yesterday. The Strategy Analytics numbers also showed Symbian as still on top on top.

The US blogs will probably just do what they always do: ignore stats that don't promote their agenda of drumming the Nokia is old/obsolete/unusable/dead mantra.


so who do you depend on for stats? canalys, Apple, Gartner, Strategy Analytics, Tomi Ahonen etc. Doesn't everyone have an agenda just like google has one.


The Canalys data includes China Mobile's Android based OMS phones. Here's the relevant quote from the table in the Canalys pr (

"The Google numbers in this table relate to Android, as well as the OMS and Tapas platform variants."

China Mobile is the largest operator in China, with almost 600 million subscribers. OMS is the Android fork that China Mobile created and is pushing heavily. It does not come with Google services and so these handsets are not counted as part of the "activations" number that Google periodically announces. This probably explains the anomalous figure that Canalys came up with. China Mobile definitely has the scale to push 5 million handsets in a quarter. However, Canalys certainly deserves to be criticized for counting these under the Google heading, as OMS in no way contributes to the Android ecosystem and sales of OMS handsets do not help Google.



I can understand most agendas you mention, and I take what they say with a grain of salt. But Ahonen's agenda? What does he have to win by doing the maths that Canalys should have been doing in the first place? I mean, really.


good point, was wrong to include Tomi Ahonen, but doesn't he have a soft corner towards Nokia ?


1st: "over 300k" is different than "300k"

2nd: you do not know what kind of peak they had at xmas sales. google has not revealed any exact activations numbers for their holiday sales.


I agree with Sumit that the difference is most likely in the OMS and Tapas variants off of Android. Google ignores those, but Canalys doesn't.

Although Canalys is probably wrong to put them under the heading of "Google" as opposed to "Android" because they don't have any Google services on them, note that Google counts in their activations/day other Android phones that have Bing and carrier GPS apps (instead of Google and Google Maps).

Bob Shaw

In order for Canalys to maintain its credibility, it would need to explain exactly how they arrived at their numbers. I hope Gartner and IDC will also do the same when they report their results.



google counts all those devices which have android market on them. Even if carrier puts bing or carrier maps, user can download maps or google search from the android market.


I find all of this quite funny. Instead of people realizing the obvious trend/tidal wave that is forming right before their eyes (i.e. rise of Android and fall of Symbian), people are looking ways to ignore the reality of the situation and play ostrich.

True, Tomi may be right that the math is a bit fuzzy... but then again maybe not. Right now we have a proverbial he said/she said as we do not have enough of the raw data/fact base to analyze and make a formal conclusion.

But the bigger picture (as I am gleeming from some of these comments) seems to be that this is turning into an issue of natioal pride. The Finns feel that the US-centric media and blogs only pump stories that promote US-based interests... and downplay or ignore stories that run counter to that narrative. While there may be a kernel of truth to that, the reality is that for the past 4 years plus - the majority of major telecom news and innovation has been driven by Apple, Google and RIM. Yes, Samsung, MOT, LG and others have added substantian contributions. But those have largely been on the backs of Google (e.g. MOT Droid, Samsung Captivate/Galaxy, etc.).

So, the exact timing for when Android overtakes Symbian is somewhat irrelevant. The larger picture is that many of the Sr managers at Nokia (minus the new additions such as Elop, Greene, Martin, Skillman and Devard) and those specifically who control Symbian and Nokia's smartphones have done NOTHING in the past four years to add shareholder value. All they have done is slowly destroy what was a telecom giant. I hope in the forthcoming strategy adjustment announced by Elop - they all find themselves looking for new companies to destroy ;)


Well said, cmk011 (mostly). The growth trajectories tell the real story, not which of the analyst firms that happens to report it first.

This may well go into the MBA textbooks as a prime case of "denial of the obvious". The Gartner Q2 and Q3 numbers showed the writing on the wall in such utter clarity.

The IDC or Gartner Q4 numbers may turn out a little different, but it would take one heck of a difference to actually matter.

Bob Shaw

The Canalys number by itself would not be that big of an issue if 400 news stories would not have covered it within 24 hours. Looking at all the talk about Symbian and Nokia on the US centric blogs, one cannot be faulted for getting an impression that any piece of information (right or wrong) is used to forecast gloom and doom for Symbian and Nokia. Worse yet,not even Meego, which has still to enter the race, is spared from the gloom and doom forecast.


"The larger picture is that many of the Sr managers at Nokia (minus the new additions such as Elop, Greene, Martin, Skillman and Devard) and those specifically who control Symbian and Nokia's smartphones have done NOTHING in the past four years to add shareholder value"

so increasing profits is something shareholders does not like now then?

Increasing sales is something all shareholders dislike?

sure profits when down Q4 2010 comapred to same time 2009. But then it increased 65% 2009 so hard to follow when Android is comming so strong.

Also Ovi Store is a clear leader in China . ..beating even local solutions

Also voted the most trusted company in India.

so going pretty damn good in the 2 biggest countries in the world.


JudaZ, you are missing the forrest due to the trees. Yes, you cherry picked a few highlights over the past 4 years. But let me be clear, shareholders don't care about total sales volume, trusted brands, volume of downloads on Ovi Store, etc. They care about share price appreciation! That is the simple bottom line. Given that, Nokia has failed.

Nokia versus DJIA, S&P500 and Nasdaq:;range=5y;compare=^dji+^ixic+^gspc;indicator=volume;charttype=line;crosshair=on;ohlcvalues=0;logscale=on;source=undefined

Nokia versus Apple, Google and RIMM:;range=5y;compare=aapl+goog+rimm;indicator=volume;charttype=line;crosshair=on;ohlcvalues=0;logscale=on;source=undefined

Reality is, you can choose all the feel good metrics you want. Cherry pick until your heart is content. Most sustainable, Greenest company, Most liked, Best brand, etc. If Sr management doesn't deliver shareholder value = epic fail! Since the iPhone was launched on June 29th, 2007 - this has been Nokia's share price performance;range=20070702,20110131;indicator=volume;charttype=line;crosshair=on;ohlcvalues=0;logscale=on

Epic fail!!

Bob Shaw

Pump it up: Canalys’ Google Android counts include rival Chinese variants. Most the growth in 'Android' numbers is coming from no-name vendors selling devices in countries such as China, using devices that don't support Google's development of the OS (via ads or search services) nor even expand the platform in any meaningful way that could benefit Android users. Below is the link to the article


Bob Shaw,

please don't link sites like macdailynews to this discussion forum, lets keep this discussion fair and clean and relevant to the site. A site like macdailynews which is maintained by Apple fanbois cannot bring any objectivity to the issue at hand. There are good sites maintained by apple fanbois like appleinsider, but macdailynews is not at all good.


Evan, the article actually links to AppleInsider report.

 Tomi T Ahonen

Wow, thats a lot of comments haha.. I will respond to all, will deal with them in small groups

Hi Joanne, Romit, Bob, GJW, Baudrillard, Sumit

Joanne - ok, fair point.

Romit - haha, yeah, very similar to Dot Com analysts. There is a bit of a race, who gets to call a big number first, like who called the 5B mobile subscribers first etc.

Bob - thanks

GJW - well, there will always be some fudge, that is why we also check against the aggregate numbers (all Android family makers and because they also tend to provide Phone 7, bada even old Symbian and Windows Mobile devices, the analysts need to count all those and factor out the known numbers..)

Baudrillard - yeah, the Strategy Analytics numbers are consistent with what I reported here. What we now need is Gartner and IDC to release their final 4Q numbers for 2010, I am confident both will find Symbian ahead of Android haha.. But the Canalys story got over 400 press mentions within 24 hours and major business TV news like CBNC and Bloomberg reported it too, will anyone bother to issue any corrections when the rivals say it isn't so..

Bob - there is a likely bias in numbers that are self-reported, which are not that company's own numbers. So I have no doubt Apple's reporting of iPhone is accurate, as is Nokia's report of its own smartphones or dumbphones, but when they start to talk about their market shares etc, then there is easily a bias.

When it comes to the analyst houses, they tend to want to be known for being factually correct. But they are commercial analyst houses who want to sell their reports and their analysis services, consulting and forecasting etc services. So they have to balance the needs of reporting accurate numbers, with getting press attention haha. Thus some analyst houses will write headlines to catch the attention of the press - that sometimes leads to wrong interpretation or is even written with incorrect data.

I am here on this blog, known as the mobile industry's 'stats police' and while yes, I also sell my consulting services and my little ebooks of industry stats, I am primarily interested in the integrity of the numbers for the industry. I have been doing these stats police postings on this blog - and before that at telecoms statistics conferences and on industry discussion websites etc for the past decade. If you look over the years, I do not comment (mostly) on forecasts, that is anyone's right to look into crystal balls and foresee whatever they want. I don't bother with those. But on the reported actual numbers, that is where I get seriously cross with some analysts when they report sillyness, like in this case Canalys. That is what my followers and readers expect of me - even honstly, those other analyst houses - they all know it hasn't happened yet, and they all hate it that Canalys grabbed the headlines with the reporting of something that hasn't happened yet.

Am I without bias, of course not, nobody can be, we are humans. But am I a slave to the facts - yes. Check out how many times I have written 'mea culpa' postings here where my forecasts have been wrong - which is something I have done from my second book in 2002 haha. I am not just the stats police on my peers, I am very ruthless about my own numbers as well - something few of my colleagues do in public haha.. Maybe that is why one reason why I have a loyal readership.

Sumit - well, first as someone else pointed out here, OMS and Tapas are not part of Google's Android so its pretty weird reporting to begin with, but even so, the number of 5 million is far far too high. Total China quarterly smartphone sales (all 3 carriers combined) are roughly between 7M and 8M units - total. More than half of those are Nokia (Canalys latest numbers from Q2). And there are plenty of real Android smartphones sold by China Mobile ie on Samsung, Motorola etc. So the 5M number is WAY too big for one quarter for China Mobile.

GWJ and Bob - on my 'agenda' - I am driven by the math as I say, 'Numbers are my Buddies' - I have never put my Nokia past ahead of reporting real numbers no matter how painful they may have been about Nokia - just look at the past weekend the analysis of why Nokia market share has crashed since June. I do celebrate Nokia for what it does, and I keep reminding US based readers, that there is a far bigger market for mobile phones and smartphones outside of US borders, where Nokia tends to rule - but I have never peddled any PR numbers - in fact, I have often said about Nokia's self-reported market share numbers etc, that they have not squared with my analysis etc. I go by the numbers, even when it means coming back onto this blog (or in my book) and admitting I had forecasted something wrong. You can't really get more unbiased than that haha, can you?

I will return with more comments to the rest, soon. Please keep the discussion going

Tomi Ahonen :-)

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    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Hong Kong but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

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