Why Google’s Android is doomed

“Android phones aren’t gaining ground at Apple’s expense. Both Android and the iPhone are crowding their rivals out,” Jared Spurbeck writes for Yahoo News. “And most of their sales volume comes not from switchers from one platform to the other, but from people who are upgrading from a feature phone.”

“Android and Apple are having a feeding frenzy, on the market of people who haven’t bought smartphones yet. And when they’re done, they’re going to turn on each other,” Spurbeck writes. ” On average, Android phones are used far less for web browsing or buying paid apps; indeed, the data suggest that most Android phone buyers aren’t using them for much more than “featurephone” services. iPhones, meanwhile, are selling to people who are more willing (for whatever reason) to pay a premium for smartphones and apps. And it shows: No smartphone company even comes close to matching Apple for profit per handset sold.”

“The piles of money that Apple is sitting on equal even more spending on research and product development, plus the potential ability to monopolize the supply chain,” Spurbeck writes. “Maybe Android itself isn’t doomed. But its fragmentation has already started, and its ability to compete with the iPhone in the long run seems dubious… unless its goal is to become the neat featurephone OS, a la Symbian.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: To say nothing of the negative effects of Android and Android peddlers potentially losing dozens of patent infringement cases worldwide. It’s quite easy to imagine a not-too-distant time where Android simply becomes too expensive (royalties to Oracle Apple, etc.) or is forced to stop using patented IP and Windows Phone ’07 or something else becomes the also-ran phone assemblers’ OS of choice.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “just a jerk” for the heads up.]


  1. This is very optimistic view. Patent system is often useless, helpless thing. This all might just end up with Google “tweaking” the methods Android uses to be as evasive as possible, and the trials might go for decades without any definitive result such as royalties, fines, compensations, so on.

    1. You’re greatly over exaggerating what could happen. First, the ITC works much faster than the courts and carries with it the potential of banning a product for sale in the U.S. (Qualcomm certainly didn’t like that).

      Second, notice Apple’s strategy is going after device makers and not Google itself. This is because the handset makers can’t afford to have their products banned or lose millions in a lawsuit. Already we’re seeing Samsung and HTC, heck even the South Korean government, announcing that they’re looking for alternative OSes.

      Apple doesn’t need to win all the lawsuits, it just needs to make using Android too difficult and expensive to use.

    2. derss, you need to visit Florian Mueller’s FOSS Patents blog. The case against Google is potentially far more problematic than you imply, and doesn’t sound like it’ll be easy to engineer around:

      Google’s design choice to deviate from the official Java standard (which Oracle referred to as fragmentation in other pleadings) is a key part of Oracle’s argument for an injunction (and for why a mere damages award wouldn’t be sufficient in this case) […] The bottom line is that a Java license can become more costly, possibly even far more costly, to Google than the proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility if Oracle obtains an injunction that Google can’t engineer around. In that case, Oracle could shut down Android and make Google a take-it-or-leave-it offer, the terms of which would not in any way be limited by whatever Oracle previously calculated as damages.

  2. One key difference between Android and Symbian is that Android (much like iOS) is potentially applicable to a much wider ecosystem of smart, configurable products, perhaps including various home appliances, vehicles, etc. I don’t believe that Symbian offers/offered that growth path.

    I am not saying that this will happen. Android certainly faces a lot of challenges, and it seems unlikely to remain “free” for much longer given all of the lawsuits. In that respect, I believe that the Yahoo article is somewhat simplistic in its viewpoint.

  3. Whether doomed or not, Google’s Android strategy was incredibly stupid. It not only did not accomplish what Google set out to do, but it pissed off a valuable partner in Apple. A Google employee recently testified before a Senate hearing that 2/3’s of mobile search is conducted on iOS devices. http://www.cultofmac.com/114975/google-says-that-23rds-of-all-mobile-search-happens-on-ios-devices/. Stupid investment. But now that it’s pissed off Apple, Google better hope Apple doesn’t flip the switch on its own mobile search engine.

  4. The point for most Andriod users is the price of the phone. If they get it for free or for cheap is the most often reason I have been told as to the purchase over an iPhone. Plus, many Android phones sold as Buy one get one free offers. This is, as I see it, the reason why few pay for Android Apps. They never really purchased the phone as a personal computing device, rather it was purchase or given away free. Hey, why not. A better than that stock cell phone, right?

    The iPhone is a known for mobile computing if you are willing to buck for the standard cost. Believe an iPhone user has better understanding on how to use it advance feature. Android users are just getting a bigger screen for texting and a phone, or two, for free or dirt cheap.

    1. The greatest accomplishments of mobile carriers in their marketing strategies is the psychological value of the “free” phone (not literally free, of course; free with 2-year plan). Vast majority of consumers never even think about how much that “free” phone really costs them. Meanwhile, carriers get to recover full retail price on that “free” phone within first 18 months, and after that, the subsidy portion of the monthly plan generates wonderful windfall. Practically nobody ever goes out and gets a new “free” (deeply subsidised) phone on the day they become eligible for a new one (i.e. after subsidy has paid off the “free” one). So, for every month on a full plan that comes after the phone has been paid off, the carrier is effectively receiving a nice donation from the consumer in the amount of $12 – 25 (depending on the actual price of the original phone and the type of the monthly plan). Furthermore, carriers make it practically impossible to move that phone (that has been paid off) to a contract-free plan (that does NOT contain the subsidy portion). Let’s not forget, those monthly (contract-free) plans are usually never directly comparable with the contract plans.

      Bottom line is, while carriers are effectively giving 12% discounts on the slow-selling phones, consumers are snapping them up believing they’re getting a free phone for every one they buy at normal (subsidised) price of $100 – 200.

      No wonder people believe $200 iPhone is twice expensive as $100 Android; they just don’t like to use their brains for thinking.

  5. Ha! I hadn’t read the article before I posted about the author has been reading Asymco.com, and now that I looked at the story, he’s got 4 links to Asymco. It was too obvious he was making points that Horace Dediu of Asymco has been pointing out.

  6. “imagine a not-too-distant time where Android simply becomes too expensive ”

    No. That would be bad news. True competition is needed. As good as Apple is, they have historically shown little impetus to provide some basic features until forced by competition. IE: Their single button mouse was the joke of the industry for many years and when Apple finally released a multi-button mouse, the customers finally got an admission from Steve Jobs that “MicroSoft got that one right”. There was a day when Mac users had to click and drag everything, but today’s OSX contains many great ideas that were debuted first on Windows (anything available via a right click, icons in app windows instead of the top toolbar, etc.) … and that’s a good thing for me.

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