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Easy-access Android spreads more quickly than iPhone

SAN JOSE, Calif. — With sales of Android-powered smart phones surpassing Apple’s iPhone for the first time in 2010, an Android-powered Google TV built by Sony to hit the market late this year with a whole new set of app possibilities, and the potential for other new devices ranging from tablet computers to cars, the Android bandwagon is suddenly a heady ride — for developers, advertisers, smart phone manufacturers and other members of the Android “ecosystem.”

The explosive growth of Android — Google’s mobile operating system — is benefiting developers who find themselves in more demand and who make money when someone pays to download their app, or who get revenue from advertising that runs in a free app. Smart phone manufacturers like HTC are seeing their brand awareness boosted by Android phones, and ad exchanges are serving more ads over Android phones. Google said in late June that about 160,000 new Android smart phones are being activated each day — up from about 100,000 a month ago. There are now 60 Android-powered devices available in 49 countries.

For early adopters, that growth means their early bets on Android and Google are paying off.

“We wanted to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond,” Steve Brown, the CEO of San Francisco-based Snaptic, said of his company’s decision to enter the Android market early. “But it’s turning into an ocean.”

Snaptic has seen more than 4 million downloads of its three most popular free Android apps, which include a compass and a notetaking app called 3banana, and says it is seeing a 20 percent monthly growth in downloads.

With about 70,000 apps, the Android Market still offers only about a third as many apps as the more than 200,000 in Apple’s App Store. The Android marketplace is also different in that the majority of the apps are free, while most in the Apple store come at a cost.