Fixing Android mobes costs telcos millions
Punters confused by versions and broken kit
Keeping up with repairs and returns on Android mobes is costing operators up to £1.25bn ($2bn) a year, according to a new study.
The very factor that's making the platform such a success - its openness - is also what's making its phones so expensive to support, wireless services firm WDS claims (PDF) in a report.
"One thing we must be absolutely clear on is that our analysis does not find any inherent fault with the Android platform," Tim Deluca-Smith, marketing bod at WDS, said in a canned statement. "Its openness has enabled the ecosystem to grow to a phenomenal size, at a phenomenal rate, and it’s this success that is proving challenging."
Because Android is available on so many different manufacturers' devices – from cheap handsets to high-end kit – and in various flavours, there's little consistency for punters, WDS notes. The failure rate is also higher as a result of varying levels of build quality.
Apple and RIM have tighter controls over the electronics and software that goes into their phones – their shiny handsets are built to their specs and tested by them – so iPhones and BlackBerrys are more predictable.
"Android deployments can never compete with the hardware consistency (or software integration) of some of its competitors," the study said.
WDS said Google wasn't doing much to help operators keep their support costs down.
"To broaden its reach to as many manufacturers and budgets as possible, minimum processor and graphics processor speeds (one of the largest single component costs in an Android build) are low; certainly lower than the 1GHz processor speed mandated by Microsoft for all Windows Phone 7 builds," the study said.
"This is the problem that Rovio Mobile ran into; many older devices and low-end entry level devices simply didn’t have the processing power to deliver a quality experience. It’s also a problem that many smartphone consumers experience, many of whom subsequently add cost to their mobile operator by contacting customer care looking for a resolution, or worse, looking for a replacement."
According to WDS, the big problem is that both operators and customers are assuming there's some degree of consistency across Android devices. But often there's not just different hardware in different manufacturers' phones, but also in the same maker's line-up.
"Indeed, because Android Market displays only apps capable of running on a specific build, a number of operators and retailers have experienced product returns from consumers unable to access the same content as their friends, or the same content and apps as their previous device," the research found.
On top of that, the length of time it takes the mobe to get through the channel to the end-user can mean that someone who thinks they're getting the latest and greatest ends up with a year-old processor and the previous iteration of the Android OS.
"The only way to truly combat both hardware and software version fragmentation would be to slow down the pace of development and/or mandate tighter deployment requirements," WDS said.
"However, this would be detrimental to Android’s USP and, ultimately, its competitiveness."
In the absence of this fix, the firm reckons customer service is going to have to get better at the point-of-sale to find out exactly what the bright-eyed Google-lover wants from their new phone or upgrade.
"Many operators rely on product matching and selling techniques comprising very generic scenarios and consumer types i.e. the teenager who wants access to their social media or the busy mom who needs to organise her day," the study said.
"These are insufficient in today’s device marketplace and do not show enough consideration for a wealth of secondary factors; including understanding which smartphone platform the consumer is migrating from, their app requirements etc." ®
Not an operator problem
It is only an operator problem because the operators want it locked down and under their control. This means also doing the support, so I'd say it's their own damn fault. Let it cost them millions!
not seeing the whole picture
The biggest problem is that google and their hardware partners allowed the operators to take control of firmware distribution and customisation of the handset. As a result a large handset range is further significantly fragmented and complicated. This isn't a problem with the openness of android, this is a problem that can be laid squarely at the feet of the operators. Stop using custom roms and let the hardware vendors do the legwork. That way, if there is a problem, the hardware vendor can't get away with it by blaming the network and the network has a simplified support system.
Good article, title misleading though
Well, at the end of the day, the carriers dictate the hardware and software that the mfg's provide. They also dictate a crapload of bloatware to tank the performance and or usability ultimately.. Most bloatware in the Android marketplace has been one starred to oblivion, but that doesn't stop the carriers from putting it on there anyway with no option to get rid of it. This has been the case since day one, and one that tanked Windows Mobile back in the day because the operators kept jacking with it. (Stripped down, it generally ran fine for that era - as long as you were on a hacked version, thanks XDA). Currently bean counters at the carriers are doing the same thing with Android. In order to save a couple of beans in manufacturing, they'll reduce customer satisfaction and increase sustaining costs via their help desk. It is different budgets, so what does the manufacturing side care. They met their requirements. :) I've been in one of those meetings before on the MFG side of it with a different product. Cost millions to fix the damage afterwards... I think the carriers will find if they spent just a *little* more on hardware, they'd be able to reduce their costs *overall*.
Love him, or hate him, Steve Jobs understood this, and dictated to the carriers instead, and released HIS phone to them and ensured success or failure on its own merits rather than any meddling from the carrier. I personally am not a fan of the closed up brick wall garden, but I appreciate the battle with the carriers and the approach taken. iPhone would have been an abject failure if the bean counters at ATT and other carriers worldwide had their way with it. I think HTC and other manufacturers would be wise to follow suit.