As we usher in 2010, the blogosphere—including Endgadget, Techland and Geek.com—is abuzz around Google's Android-based Nexus One. So, it seems like a fitting cue to take a look at the smartphone OS market, consider some of the newest data rolling in from 2009, and consider how the market might impact freelance developers.
Mobile Phone Market Data
While sifting through the available data on mobile phone sales, smartphone OS market share, and Internet traffic by mobile OS, it became very clear that the relevant market leaders for developers were different than the global leaders in terms of sales volume.
By this metric, Nokia - with their Symbian OS - is the global smartphone leader. However, if you look at how people are using their phones (by how many requests they make to Admob's ad network) you'll find that the iPhone has the highest amount of requests globally and in the U.S.
oDesk Market Data
The first chart on global market share by sales does not necessarily translate to jobs on oDesk, but the traffic requests in the U.S. do have a strong correlation to the volume of job posts on oDesk. For more, take a look at the job post trends in December 2009 for iPhone, Symbian, Android and Blackberry (or click on the charts below).
The demand for iPhone developers on oDesk is still larger than its competitive mobile operating systems. It was recently reported by Brighthand.com that the soon-to-be-released Apple iSlate tablet will run the still-unreleased iPhone OS 4.0. While it's still unconfirmed, that would give developers a third hardware platform running iPhone apps, including the iTouch and iPhone. The overwhelming volume of iPhone development jobs might be due in part to the suspected "App Store Bubble" reported here by MocoNews.net.
Google's mobile OS, Android, is featured on the new Nexus One, with devices from HTC, Motorola and Samsung, shows steady growth in demand. (For a full list of Android devices you can visit this wiki entry.) The important thing is that the Android OS is growing both in market share, device support and development jobs here on oDesk. For more in depth coverage, Techie Buzz has a great quick blurb on Android's market gains.
Blackberry is the leader in the enterprise level smartphone market. Its QWERTY keyboard has always been a symbol of no nonsense emailing and texting. There is still a growing demand for Blackberry developers and -- as the market data shows -- a growth in user base as well.
Nokia's Symbian, Meamo and the Others
The above report can't simply indicate that everyone is winning. The platforms above are gobbling up the lost market shares from Palm, Windows Mobile, Symbian and a small number of Linux variants. One of the others that is too big to ignore is Nokia's Symbian.
While there hasn't been a historically high demand for Symbian developers on oDesk (nor is Symbian necessarily the ideal platform for an entrepreneur's next killer mobile app), it is the utilitarian global mobile OS of choice and the OS of the declining (but still largest) manufacturer of smartphones. Recent reports have pointed out that Nokia's open-source, Linux-based Maemo OS is slated to replace Symbian, however the official word from Nokia is that the two operating systems will coexist. At present, Maemo only runs on Nokia's flagship N900 smartphone, and its Internet tablets. However, it seems that Nokia will be moving to replace Symbian on their high-end N-Series smartphones. Fierce Wireless has more in-depth coverage of these OS changes.
The current development market for Maemo is truly in its infancy, while the incumbent Symbian has a historically large global market share, and if Nokia does end up shifting more phones to the Meamo OS, then we may see a shift in the demand for developers in the future.
The Cautiously Optimistic Outlook
The mobile OS market is far from having a true winner yet, and while that may mean developers' skill sets are far from settling in, there is going to be plenty of work adapting -- and re-adapting -- applications to the changing platforms.