Too much hardware choice
From my Verizon iPhone post:
Even the gadget blogs have a hard time feigning enthusiasm for this week’s hot Android phone because they still haven’t taken the shrinkwrap off of last week’s.
Not enough Nick’s response:
Wait, the stream of high-quality, constantly improving hardware with options to fit different desires is a problem for Android?
Yes, it is, for a few major reasons.
Most people don’t read gadget blogs or even know what Android is. They generally hear about individual phones, without distinguishing much based on operating system. (They don’t know what those are, either.)
The highest-profile Android launch that seemed to meaningfully reach the masses was the Motorola Droid, primarily because it was boosted by a massive Verizon television and in-store ad campaign.
But since then, very few non-geeks know about individual Android handsets. They change so frequently, and are so numerous, that there’s never much of an opportunity for a meaningful buzz to generate around any of them. Nobody’s lining up to buy them. CNN’s not covering their launches. Consumer Reports isn’t vigorously testing their antennas. The Daily Show isn’t making jokes about them. So the mass market doesn’t really respond to individual devices. Even if Uncle Joe brings his fancy Android Something to Thanksgiving and your mother is impressed by it and wants to buy one, by the time her contract expires in two months and she goes to the Verizon store, it’s gone.
The incessant glut of Android phones creates other problems in practice, too:
Accessory markets never fully develop. People really like cases for their phones, and if the iPhone has 300 cases for it including that gummy pink one they really like, and the Samsung Whocares XL only has a few drab OEM plastic things available, a nontrivial portion of the market will choose the iPhone on that reason alone.
There’s also more practical concerns: batteries, docks, speakers, and other useful accessories are usually phone-specific, and if the manufacturer (and the market) will only care about your phone for three months until the next minor revision comes out, your options will be very limited, both in the store and when you’re traveling and forgot something.
- There are so many variations in screen size, screen type, physical size, hardware sensors, hardware buttons, and computational performance between devices that developers, including Google itself, have a very hard time making great software for the platform.
- The manufacturers and carriers have very little incentive to maintain the software on devices that are still relatively new and under contract, because they want everyone buying the newest ones instead. We’re already seeing carriers and some manufacturers refusing to release new Android versions to handsets that were launched as recently as 6 months ago, even though most users bought them with 2-year contracts.
- People hate choosing between similar things. The more choice we have at the time of purchase, the more stress we feel making the choice, and the less satisfied we feel afterward because we’re worried that we made the wrong choice.
The entire Android device market seems to be made specifically for gadget blogs and early adopters.
But for the mass market, the constant flood of Android devices is indeed a problem.
Not just Android
This effect isn’t limited to Android. One of the main reasons why Windows Phone 7 had a relatively underwhelming launch is that there was no single “Windows phone” to gather buzz, press, extensive reviews, and customer affinity.
Instead, we were greeted with a bevy of hardware choices that we neither asked for nor wanted. Rather than committing to one device — taking a stand and saying, “This is what we think is best, and we’ll support it for the next two years” — Microsoft punted, leaving the manufacturers to give us too many fragmented choices that will likely face many of the same issues we see in the Android market.
And the “tablet market” will face the same issue.