Marco Arment had a great and timely post about the future of Android over the weekend. It’s timely because I had just gone through the whole iPhone on AT&T to Android on Verizon to iPhone on Verizon journey and his words rang true. I had just wrote about the experience last week.
I had experienced the exact pain points Marco mentions:
We’re talking about Android… which has terrible development economics hindered by severe frag mentation and poor payment integration, and is not generally used by most of the influential people needed to spread the word on new services.
Google reports fantastic adoption of Android devices across all the major carriers, which is great but where are the influential tech people cheering for Android from the rooftops? Well, nobody I can recall but iOS on the other hand…
Marco’s post was a response to Fred Wilson’s post of last week about Android:
It looks like the Verizon iPhone launch is helping iOS hold its own with 25% of the market. I expect (and hope) that iOS will remain a strong competitor to Android. But as I’ve been saying for several years now, I believe the mobile OS market will play out very similarly to Windows and Macintosh, with Android in the role of Windows. And so if you want to be in front of the largest number of users, you need to be on Android.
He points out the Verizon iPhone launch is helping iOS hold its own. I think we won’t see the impact of the Verizon launch for a while since people (like myself) moved to Verizon for a smartphone and Android because AT&T has such lousy coverage. I forced the issue and bought an iPhone off of contract, because I could, but I am sure most can’t or won’t go this route until their contract is up. I predict a wave of users move to iPhones from Android on contract renewal.
Marco thinks as I do:
We don’t really know, of course. But it’s worth considering. Were they choosing to buy an Android phone, or were they choosing to buy the most iPhone-like option in the Verizon store? If the latter, what are they likely to choose next time?
If Android phones were delighting its customers and building loyalty after the purchase, it would be reasonable to conclude that a lot of its existing customers were likely to continue buying Android phones in the future. So how is that after-purchase experience? How much do mainstream buyers like their Android phones?
I am one of those buyers and I did not like the Android phone one bit. Battery life alone was enough for me to take issue with it.
Google seems to recognize fragmentation is an issue with Android because they have decided to hold back the source to Honeycomb. Wait, I thought Android was open? Well, not so fast all you developer out there..it’s only open as long as Google says it is.
So, who can champion Android to real success? Amazon maybe? They have the infrastructure and ability to make it happen and the opening of their Android app store is probably a good sign they have intentions. Amazon has a great device in the Kindle, so how hard would it be for them to produce a tablet with great hardware like the Kindle? They certainly have the distribution channel, lots of books, MP3s and now apps.
So while Android’s currently doing well, investing heavily in it for anything with long-term costs and obligations should be carefully considered. If you’re not in a rush to make such predictions, I’d wait and see what the market looks like 18 months from now.
I won’t be putting any resources into Android development. iOS holds so much more opportunity at this point and with limited resources you have to go where the money is.