Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is rapid proliferation of Android handsets doing more harm than good?

As you may have heard, Verizon and Motorola are planning to launch the Android-based Droid X on June 23rd, the day before the iPhone 4 goes on sale in retail stores. Last month, Sprint and HTC released the EVO 4G, and Verizon and HTC released the Droid Incredible not long before that. Android handset manufacturers are rapidly pushing the "state of the art", but are they pushing it too fast?

Consider the buying decision from a consumer's point of view, comparing the Android and iPhone situations:
  • iPhone: Apple releases a new iPhone once a year, so depending on when I buy my iPhone, I can avoid "buyer's remorse" for as long as a year. Also, Apple updates the operating system, so I can take advantage of the new features in the latest version of iOS as soon as Apple releases it.
  • Android: Should I buy an Android phone now or wait for the better model that's coming next month? Since my service provider controls Android upgrades, will I get the new version of Android, and if so, when?
For risk-averse buyers, both the iPhone and BlackBerry present safer alternatives to Android. How can Google and its Android partners get around this problem?
  • Move to once-a-year major Android updates. Google's Andy Rubin has already said that the company plans to do this.
  • Time new handset releases to coincide with new Android releases. That way, consumers will see all the new handset options at one time.
  • Get service providers to push new Android releases out day-and-date with Google's official release, so that there's no question as to when, and whether, an Android phone will get a new release. (If an existing phone isn't compatible with the new release, both Google and the service provider should publicize that fact in plenty of time for phone owners to upgrade to a new model if they choose.)
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