TL:DR Low end hardware and outdated software pushed by OEM’s is going to burst the Android bubble. It is not sustainable and will bleed customers to iOS, sooner rather than later.
It happened again. Not for the first time I’ve over heard someone expressing their extreme dislike for Android. The mobile OS that now now ships on over 75% of global smartphones. Wow. In 4 years is has gone from 0% to 75% of the monthly shipped market share. I’m sure Google will not be complaining, but is this short sightedness that is going to come back and bite them. Hard.
In the office today I heard a disgruntled colleague complain about her Android. A Samsung Galaxy Ace. I didn’t see what version it was, and the colleague didn’t mention it, but lets assume it is the 2nd version, the Ace Pro, released in January 2012, and month before the 3rd version (which is significantly more powerful, but still falls under the “I have to rant about it” category). It is not just this phone, of the 126 million Android phones that were shipped this quarter, the vast majority were not high end phones, or even last gen phones. Most of them were old, under performing phones.
This is where the problem starts. My colleague was recommended an Android phone by a friend who had the new Galaxy. Based on the age of the Ace, I’m going to assume it was either the SII or S3, either way, not important. This will happen all the time. User of a good Android tells a friend to get one and the get an old one. The friend has good intentions and the colleague goes and gets a shiny new smart phone, most likely their first smart phone (or they are coming from a really old iPhone).
This is when some big exec at Google/Android goes “awesome, we have another user!”. It’s all down hill from here. In the 2 minute rant about the Ace, (which was on a 18/24 month contract) all I heard was, “it reboots all the time, it drops calls, it’s sluggish, it takes forever to start in the morning, it’s sluggish, the camera is not good, it’s sluggish”. It ends with “I will never get another Android, I’m getting an iphone next time”. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this. My girlfriend had the same experience, she also had an Android while I was still rocking a Nokia N95. This is going to be a massive problem for Google. Of those 126 million devices, I would estimate that ~45 million were from a western country, such as UK/EU/USA, where generally the S3/One X/iPhone 5 are more accessible, rather than emerging countries such as India and Africa (which should be discounted in this rant, I don’t think they are choosing a cheap entry Android off the back of a recommendation from a friend with a S3). Of this 45 million, ~20 million will be low end hardware. The problem with this; the Galaxy Ace Plus (stupid name) was released in 1/12 with a CPU that was first seen in 1/10. That is at least 2 years old. Go and give anyone an iPhone 3G or even a 3Gs and let them have a play with it. They will not like it. It is slow and sluggish, it doesnt play todays games and is slow and sluggish. So why would they like an Android phone with 2+ year old hardware? They won’t. And they will be put off for life.
Herein lies Google’s problem. While they are trying to put out guidelines and minimum spec for Android (as well now now very accessible pricing for their Nexus line) companies continue to ignore them. Pushing outdated software and really really crappy hardware. This is a very quick one time sell. User sees cheap Android, it has the Galaxy name, “this must be like that Galaxy S3 that everyone has, I will get this”. Joe average doesnt care about CPU speed or how many rams it has. They then get really annoyed that their crappy Android is crappy, then they go and buy an iPhone. The customer is Android for 18months, then never again. They can’t even get invested in the Play ecosystem because the hardware is to awful to do anything with.
The user seems to be prepared to splash the cash on a shiny iPhone, so it would be reasonable to think they would on an Android phone. Allowing them to save money for their first 18months is letting them spend money on a rival down the line. This is not something Google can fix, with Android being open source and all, this is something Samsung and co (HTC I’m looking at you, although they have toned down their crap and the One V/Desire C are decent phones) are causing, and giving them really nice figures this month, but I think they will struggle in 18 months time, when a lot of these users go and get an iPhone.
Carrier skins go a long way to causing this problem as well. Touchwiz I, II and III were bloated crap, as was Sense 1-3.6. This is what is on the old slow phones and doesnt help. Another rant for another day.
Google need to find a way to educate end users that their devices probably will not be as good as an S3, one X or N4. That or they have to make sure that the 50+% Gingerbread install figure dies and goes away. Nobody likes a stale piece of Gingerbread, especially when there are tasty Jelly Bean’s to be had.