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Study warns carriers about the hidden costs of cheap Android phones

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 03 Nov 2011 4:21 User comments (4)

Study warns carriers about the hidden costs of cheap Android phones A new whitepaper from wireless services firm WDS points out some potential problems for carriers who sell Android smartphones.
The paper, based on analysis of 600,000 support calls to mobile carriers, details some mistakes they have made in selecting, marketing, and updating Android phones.

It concentrates primarily on the effects of hardware and software fragmentation caused by Google's relative lack of control over phone manufacturing standards and OS update rollouts.

They found 12.6% of Android support calls ended up with a hardware fault being diagnosed, costing carriers approximately $2 billion a year. In large part they chalk this up to failure by carriers to adequately test phones before choosing to offer them to customers.

More than 25% of smartphones, they say, are manufactured by relatively unknown manufacturers, and most of them run Android.

By comparison, support calls for BlackBerry phones had a 5.5% rate of hardware faults, iPhones 8%, and Windows Phone 7 came in at 11%. They suggest the difference between Android and Windows Phone likely stems from the tighter hardware control exercised by Microsoft.

The report also warns operators about the issues which can be caused by OS updates, or the lack of them. Citing an October 2011 study, they say, "of 18 Android devices from the US, 10 were at least two major versions behind within their two-year contract period."

That's a fairly staggering, but perhaps not particularly surprising statistic. However, they also say update rollouts are becoming quicker and more consistent among most handset vendors.

On top of that, they warn of the dangers of carrier bloatware:

In one example from 2010, a UK operator was forced to apologize to its customers after fielding a storm of complaints from users unhappy with the addition of ?bloatware? ? unnecessary software added by the operator that couldn?t easily be removed, in an Android 2.1 update. Customers complained that the additions slowed their devices and inhibited some functionality (including SMS notifications).


Despite the challenges laid out in the paper, WDS is not suggesting carriers shy away from Android, which they credit with having "democratized" the smartphone market in a way that benefits manufacturers, carriers, and consumers.

Once attached to a network, analysis shows that there is no great disparity in the time taken to resolve customer problems on the Android platform than any other smartphone platform. Ultimately, Android devices are no easier, nor more difficult, to troubleshoot than a comparative product from an alternate OS vendor.


Instead, they caution carriers to be careful about selecting models to sell, properly train sales staff to match customers with the right OS and phone, and be prepared for the occasional update issues.

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4 user comments

13.11.2011 8:00

I think Google does need to do something to tighten its control over what gets done to Android handsets. It's bad when you can go buy an Android phone today and 9 months later it is discontinued by the carrier and no longer receives any updates.

23.11.2011 13:18

I solve that problem by only purchasing a nexus phone. Thing is if there was better support and no added bloatware that I can not uninstall I would have purchased at least one more phone then I have by now.

I am now looking into cyanogenmod to potentially increase my purchasing options on phones.

33.11.2011 14:58

I hate, hate, hate that when i go to update an app that I do use the Sprint bloatware....that I can't uninstall....automatically updates it's self the minute I enter the market. They not only won't let me uninstall this worthless bullsh*t I NEVER use, they also won't give me the option to stop auto updating. Before these apps just sat there and never really bothered me, other than wasting space on my memory, but the intrusion and disruption they are causing now is just about all i can take. Sprint has pissed me off enough with these bloatware apps that I'm actually thinking about rooting my phone for the first time.



44.11.2011 8:20

This is funny, as what im reading this as if carries had instead opted for a standard build instead of their overly customised version they wouldn't have had so many issue with RMA and fragmentation wouldn't be as bad.

That said, virtually every one i knows doesn't really care about carrier updates and most root and then flash over a community firmware.

I try and encourage everyone to load cyanogenmod when ever i can, even under clocking my desire by 200mhz it still gets double the score on a bench mark of the original desire with htcs 2.2 rom at full clock, although this is probably mostly due to the gingery goodness at its heart :)

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