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Complimentary Advisory Report

How to Compete Using Android

| August 10, 2010 | Consumer Devices
| Analyst: Avi Greengart, Research Director, Consumer Devices


Click here to download report (100 KB PDF)

Handset vendors choosing an operating system have the same choice as you do when you’re deciding whether to cook dinner or order take-out: build vs. buy. Building an OS from scratch requires not only the technical expertise to compete with the best offerings on the market, but also the ability to galvanize developers to support the platform. Understandably, most manufacturers choose to source their OS from someone else. Android is the licensed OS of the moment, largely because the other options did not innovate fast enough; Microsoft had to abandon Windows Mobile and start fresh with Windows Phone 7, and Symbian ought to be doing the same thing.

Android has a lot to recommend it in any case. It’s free, sort of (vendors typically still need to pay for ancillary IP before they can ship a phone). It’s open source, sort of (Google tightly manages changes to the OS and only releases the source code at intervals it chooses). It’s backed by Google, which has a strong consumer brand. Android still provides the best integration with Google’s services and its non-obtrusive notification system is the envy of annoyed iOS users everywhere. Google has also done a terrific job of creating easy-to-use and widely adopted development tools. Android Market is growing quickly along with the installed base, as there are now Android devices in a variety of form factors from many vendors at multiple carriers.

There are plenty of weaknesses, too. The user interface is relatively complicated and appeals to those with a higher technical comfort level than iOS; the iPhone’s deliberately simple operation still has the broadest appeal, ranging from simplicity-seekers to power users. Android offers limited social network integration out of the box, lacks any sort of PC client for storage and synchronization, and has no consumer-friendly options for getting video onto the device.

The downside to choosing to “buy” Android rather than “building” your own OS is that you must then compete with all the other Android phones on the market. The question then becomes how to differentiate your Android phone from everyone else’s. We have identified six different factors that vendors are using: price, hardware specifications, software customization, industrial design, availability, and carrier backing.

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