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After 500 Million Android Activations, Where's the Profit?

The Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone
The Samsung Galaxy S III smartphonePhotograph by Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

If nothing else, Google knows how to time an announcement. Later today, Apple is holding the event at which it’s widely expected to announced the next iPhone (we’ll be live-blogging it here), and Google has just tried to preempt the news with an accomplishment of its own: Some 500 million Android devices have been activated since 2008. Andy Rubin, who oversees Google’s Android efforts, shared the data point on Sept. 11 in a Twitter post: “There have been half a billion android activations to date, with over 1.3m added every day,” he wrote.

The number of Android activations by itself is impressive. Sure we’d all like to see sales figures as opposed to activations, but that’s like asking Microsoft to share sales numbers for PCs: The company can’t because it doesn’t sell computers. Likewise, Google’s hardware partners capture but generally do not report sales figures, so it’s simply not possible for Google to report sales. Activations, or the number of devices that are “registered” with a Google account—and therefore, purchased—are the best proxy.