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Here’s a 3-D visualization of how Google’s Android OS became the world’s most popular smartphone OS in under 3 years.

The initial global view is interesting, but it’s the “closeups” of individual regions (like North America, Europe, and East Asia) that make this video shine. In each region, a few low-level blips flit across the darkness… and then the Motorola Droid launches, and BLAMMO: fireworks!

The pulsing cascade of Android activations in the Droid’s wake never subsides — it’s like watching a dormant global brain suddenly jerk awake. (A metaphor many iOS-hating nerds would appreciate, no doubt.) The animation has some really intelligent design touches, too. The date readout at the bottom clatters in fast-motion like an old-school train schedule, adding a giddy momentum to Android’s inexorable rise. And the little “countdown” in the upper left, cueing you to get ready for major events like that Droid launch, is just genius.

Android beat out Nokia’s Symbian (which is also open-source) as the world’s top mobile OS, and this map raises an interesting question. Even as whole continents seem to burst to Android-ey life, others — notably, Africa — remain mostly dark. Symbian held the top spot for as long as it did in part because it ran on Nokia’s cheap, simple phones — the device of choice in those parts of the world where cell phone networks are often the only technical infrastructure anyone can count on. And those markets are, apparently, still sealed off from major Android adoption. Instead of joining Microsoft to grovel with consumers over Google and Apple’s scraps, should Nokia focus instead on those empty parts of the map where they already dominate — and might actually still have a fighting chance? Or maybe they should just pack it up, milk their cash cows, and go out of business.

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