The second quarter of 2010 was an especially eventful one for mobile, where the landscape shifted dramatically even during the relatively humdrum times. Perhaps the biggest story of the quarter was the ever-escalating battle between Apple and Google: Android continued to close the gap with Apple’s iOS in terms of market share, according to multiple reports, and Android Market’s library of apps continued to swell.
Apple’s App Store didn’t lose any momentum though, and the iPad has thus far been a huge success, sparking a new wave of applications created specifically to take advantage of the device’s larger screen and multi-touch functionality. With the iPad, Apple may have single-handedly defined the market for tablets that other manufacturers have futilely tried to tap over the years. Finally, Apple raised the stakes in the mobile advertising game with iAd, an ad platform unveiled in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, AT&T became the first U.S. operator to move to metered billing for mobile data usage, killing the all-you-can-eat plans that are a staple for American operators. While AT&T’s competitors have yet to follow, Verizon Wireless executives for months have spoken of the need to move to metered billing to ease congestion and better monetize data usage; other carriers are sure to follow.
Months of speculation regarding the fate of Palm ended in the second quarter when Hewlett-Packard said it would acquire the beleaguered manufacturer for $1.2 billion. Palm failed to gain much traction with webOS, which launched last year to solid reviews; its Pre and Pixi handsets saw disappointing sales despite being available through three of the four largest U.S. carriers. HP plans to leverage its new OS to become a player in the smartphone space, and in the tablet arena too. It has the potential to see huge growth in the near future.
The race toward 4G escalated in the second quarter. Sprint hastily built out its WiMAX network across the country in advance of LTE networks that will come to market from AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Many industry onlookers are currently focused on those two 4G technologies. T-Mobile USA, meanwhile, is countering by upgrading to HSPA+, which offers speeds that rival WiMAX. T-Mobile will have to continue moving quickly to leverage its higher network speeds as the nation’s two largest carriers prepare to deploy LTE.