Apple has sold more than one billion iOS devices since 2007, Microsoft is chasing one billion Windows 10 devices by 2018, but Google is way ahead now with 1.4 billion active Android users.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the new milestone on Tuesday as the search giant unveiled the new Nexus 5X from LG and the Nexus 6P from Huawei, which both ship with Android Marshmallow 6.0, the latest version of the mobile operating system due for release this week.
Pichai said many of the users are coming from emerging markets such as Vietnam and Indonesia, ZDNet's sister site CNET reported.
He also noted that 10,000 companies have adopted Android for Work, as part of Google's effort to deliver a more secure and manageable Android for the enterprise.
The new figures comes amid some turmoil among established Android OEMs, such as Samsung and HTC, which have seen their share of shipments slip to not just Apple but also relative newcomers such as China's Xiaomi, which runs its own flavour of Android, and Huawei.
As analyst firm Gartner noted in its second-quarter smartphone report, Android unit shipments grew 11 percent year on year -- the lowest in Android's six year history -- and its over all share fell from 84 percent to 82 percent off the back of a weak quarter in China.
Still, the number of active Android users makes Google's ecosystem by far the biggest on earth. Apple announced at the beginning of this year it had sold one billion iOS devices but that doesn't equate to active users. Asymco mobile analyst Horace Dediu estimated when iOS unit sales reached 700 million units in 2013 that the number of devices actually in use was about 500 million. He predicted it would take until 2018 for Apple to crack the one billion active user mark on the assumption that each iOS device owner had two iOS devices.
Another way to look at it is though version fragmentation, by comparing how many devices are using the most current OS. On that count Apple may be ahead of Android in total active users, thanks to the swift uptake of each new software update when it's released.
With Google's new figures out, and 20 percent currently running Lollipop, it means just under 300 million Android users have installed the latest version. However, Andreessen Horowitz partner Benedict Evans estimated that with iOS 9 already running on 52 percent of Apple mobile devices, Apple has 350 million to 400 million on its latest mobile OS.
Besides that, iOS owners spend more on apps than Android users do. Mobile analytic firm App Annie noted in its second quarter report that App Store revenues are about 70 percent higher than Google Play, thanks largely to Chinese consumers who are both keen on the App Store but also don't have access to Google Play. If a report from The Information earlier this month is correct, the Huawei Nexus device could help change this.
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