The Android Device Disruption Conundrum

There’s no doubt that Android has been a success as far as pure activation of handsets is concerned. There’s one major stumbling block among the plethora of device manufacturers that I see, and that is how they can differentiate between competitive devices running the same OS. This is by no means an easy feat, so how exactly can one differentiate and offer value to the consumer?

It’s well known that many consumers make purchasing decisions based on emotion, and not solely on technical specifications. Choosing to focus your primary selling points on the value of the hardware alone is just not enough. Do you think your mom or dad (pardon in advance to tech-savvy parents) cares that one Android phone has more internal memory than another, or a 200MHz faster dual core processor? I think not. Then what the hell are Motorola, HTC, Samsung, LG and Sony doing right now with their mobile divisions? I personally haven’t seen any good example of these companies trying to excel in after sales services with their devices. Dealing with warranty and customer support issues is certainly no where near the experience one receives by entering the Apple ecosystem.

It’s the case that Motorola, HTC, Samsung, LG and Sony all want to dress up Android with their own UI embellishments. To much disdain of Android users this poses a problem, which typically involves rooting and ROM’ing their phones.

I put forward the following: is Android a major disruptor in the mobile space next to the iPhone? As an OS, it has been successful for Google and its development partners. The issue I see on the horizon is how all of these players — Motorola et al — can differentiate on hardware design alone. If we take away the extra UI sitting on top of Android that OEMs add (MotoBlur, TouchWhiz, Sense etc), is there really enough difference between the hardware for consumers to make a discernible difference? I would say, no there is not.

The average person looking for a smartphone will wither typically set out to specifically purchase an iOS device, or they may have a smaller budget and will just trust whatever advice is giving by the sales rep they speak with — meaning they will buy a cheaper Android phone. There’s just far too much choice right now when it comes to Android devices. Yes, too much choice can indeed be a bad thing. Before you think about criticizing, consider that the geeks out there, like yourself (myself included) probably do a ton of research before setting out and deciding what smartphone to purchase. Even if you’re not buying Android, you still are intrigued by the innards of the latest iPhone. Does it have an A5 ARM processor? What speed is it? How much memory does it have and what version of HSDPA does the GSM chip support?

Anyways, you get the idea. So for that much smaller geek niche, a huge array of choices doesn’t really pose a daunting task. Obviously for the masses, the choices on the iOS front are mainly what amount of storage you want, and would you like your phone in black or white?

We already have reports that LG’s mobile phone division is having serious issues — both fiscally and market share related — so it can’t be long before some of the current players drop out of the competition, or sell off their mobile divisions. Of course, it’s too early to tell what will come of the Google/Motorola deal. Google has made it clear: so far they have no intention of stepping on the toes of their device partners. The tides change ever so rapidly in this sector, so who’s to say what the landscape will look like 3, 5 and even 10 years out?

There’s no doubt though, for the foreseeable future, the already heated battle between iOS and Android is going to get hotter. WebOS and RIM seem to be going nowhere, and Nokia isn’t looking so hot either — being as they have yet to ship a Windows Mobile device.

Anyway you look at it, something has got to give, which means one or more big players are going to get squeezed out — whether they like it or not.