This article originally appeared on the Competitive Carriers Association April Newsletter.
Since the first device launched in 2008, the Android platform has emerged as a volume leader and an incredible enabler of mobile innovation. The phenomenal success in the smartphone market speaks for itself – in Q4 2012 the Android OS accounted for 70% of global smartphone shipments, up from 51% in Q4 2011, with application downloads exceeding 25 billion. It gets better: Android’s reign as smartphone market king isn’t ending anytime soon. In fact, mobile industry analyst firm IHS iSuppli projects that in 2013 alone, 451 million Android devices will be shipped with cumulative shipments exceeding 1 billion. In 2016 cumulative shipments are expected to approach 3 billion.
These statistics represent what a global opportunity the open-source Android operating system holds. Fueled by growth, the open and free nature of the OS means the entire Android ecosystem, and consumers especially, have more choices than ever before. Barriers have never been lower for carriers to pick and choose devices all across the Android spectrum, and that wide array of choice is comforting to discerning consumers.
However, while Android’s freedom of choice provides great opportunity, it also represent sizable challenges for carriers when ensuring consistent device performance: the progressively sophisticated nature of the platform, rapid OS version evolution, OEM customizations, competition for high-quality, low-cost handsets, and a myriad application incompatibilities that destabilize devices and lead to unhappy users. These users are making their voices heard, costing carriers an estimated $2 billion a year globally in device returns. Additionally, competition in the Android landscape is fierce. Carriers large and small are clamoring for the best gadgets they can get their hands on, and consumers gobble them up. Android smartphones represent a critical element in a regional carrier’s growth strategy: you need to fulfill the demand for quality devices that customers want, can afford, are targeted to their needs, and that provide a consistent, well-understood user experience. That right there is the core of the Android conundrum: how does a time- and resource-strained regional carrier leverage the Android opportunity while overcoming its many challenges?
The solution here lies not in trying to out-number the big guys by stocking your device portfolio to stretch a mile long, but in out-performing them. How do you do that? Here’s one way: deeply analyze the device user experience, before it’s launched. Know how the device performs across the hundreds of thousands of apps available, in every area of user interaction: camera, audio, video, gaming, web browsing, voice quality, location services, etc., plus the basics like stability, battery life, and RF performance.
When you have holistic and objective user experience data in your hands, like that gathered from an Apkudo Approved Android device, great things can happen. The most obvious tangible benefit is ensuring issues are resolved before the device is in the hands of your customers – drastically lowering return rates and the need for costly maintenance software releases. But, like our data, the additional benefits run deep. On your portfolio management side, you can start to think in terms of experience, not specs, finely tailoring your offering to the unique needs and use cases of consumers instead of just trying to fill it out with the latest and greatest gigraluple-core device with a jabillion-pixel camera (hint: most consumers just don’t care about specs. As simple proof of this, ask a consumer what processor an iOS device runs!). On your marketing and sales side, you can continue to shine where you have traditionally shone: customer service. The data here is an enabler of a unique service opportunity: to have a discussion with your customer about their needs, and deliver to them a device that you know meets them.
The take-home message is this: regional carriers can move beyond ‘satisfied’ by recognizing that Android devices aren’t one-size-fits-all. They’re uniquely capable of different things – that diversity is the result of the open and free nature of the platform, and it carries with it a number of challenges. Carriers need to think locally by making sure the devices they’re releasing work well, provide a consistent and well-understood user experience, and are marketed to the right consumers based on their unique needs. The Android revolution starts at home, and objective user experience data is your friend.