Sunday, July 17, 2011

What Android Needs To Compete Against Apple

Google's mobile operating system, Android, clashes directly with Apple's iOS. Whereas Apple's model is built upon a strong centralized authority (Apple), Google chooses to license its software to hardware manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung, Motorola etc. In essence, it's just following the PC strategy of creating solely software and relying on partners to create the  hardware. The great thing about that is that it allows Google to focus on the software only and not worry about hardware sales. The con is that this creates a very confusing experience for all the users who may want to use Android but are just way too confused.

As many critics have pointed out, Android has a fragmentation issue, where so many partners are creating their own version of Android hardware and software wise. For example, the buttons for different manufacturers for home, exit, menu and search can be completely different. The quality is also very different too; while iOS can only be installed on iPhones, a premium product (at least until it becomes obsolete), Android can be put onto any device that will accept it. You can have the best flagship phones from Verizon, such as the HTC Thunderbolt, with very impressive specifications and high price that clearly show it's a premium product and you can also have Android on the cheapest or free phones. There is a lot of complaint that compatibility issues abound with Android apps; i.e. an app may work for one phone while it does not work for another phone. Another issue I think is a problem is that there is way too much noise in the environment concerning branding. For instance, the Droid X by Motorola can be confusing because I remember when people I talked to about it couldn't understand the difference between Droid X and Android.  The marketing is also pretty terrible imo, especially in the beginning. I remember watching a commercial for the Droid phone and it just had a strange looking robot that was moving around its arms clicking on images. It didn't really help people understand WHAT the Droid X was; all I could tell was that it's name was Droid. Plus, it tried way too hard to be futuristic and "cool"; it looked like it came out of the brain of a 60 year old advertising executive.

Now that the problems are identified, what does Google need to do?

I believe that Google needs to push itself more into Android. While I'm not advocating for an Apple like vice over everything, Google should be more of a guiding force that unites and integrates the system. For instance, they should definitely create a benchmark for the minimum amount of hardware quality (such as processor, ram etc). 2) They need to create a universal standard for the user experience; this includes button placement and a unified stock experience so that users can move from one device to another seamlessly and not have to worry about a new learning curve. Of course, I do think that manufacturers can offer an option of their own UI design so that they can create what they feel is the best representation of their company. This offers choice to users; if they wish not to be hassled with learning new interfaces and what not, they can use the unified stock experience. If they want to try out the manufacturer's tweaked interface, they can select that as well. It's quite simple; there are apps out there now called "Launchers" that can change the interface visually but doesn't change anything else.

Regarding the app store, the app store needs to be more developer friendly and have Google be a central authority to take care of the annoying administrative and business aspects of the transactions. I remember reading an editorial who complained that developing for Android apps was annoying because he had to take care of so much of the customer support and financial aspect when he would much rather be just developing the app, which he does on iOS. Apple handles all those issues for him. Google can do the same thing. Google should also be trying to entice iOS developers to develop their apps for Android as well as iOS. To go even further, if they find promising developers, they should definitely put them on a preferred list of some sort, whether they means they get access to new hardware, development kits, code w/e. They can also pay them to develop exclusively for Android; if the app is successful, then it's a win win situation for both.  Google gets a great app on Android to brag about and the developer has revenue from successful sales. Lastly, Google needs to clean up the app store to maintain a certain quality for its apps. It can do this by example, by developing some more quality apps so developers know what the bar is. They can also just take out the apps they feel are poor quality and weed them out or help them become better. Or they can just put a warning saying that this app has not met the standards Google believes to be fit etc etc.

In terms of marketing and advertising, Google needs to put the Android brand out there to make sure everyone knows what it is, just like how everyone know what Windows is. It needs to lose the "nerdy" image and create a new, cool chic branding feel. It doesn't mean it has to abandon all the "geeks" who are really proficient in Android and like to tweak around. That would be unwise. But at least in the public sphere, Google and friends need to learn how to make their products desirable like Apple and marketing is an important aspect of that. They need to sell that the Android experience is preferable to Apples because of XYZ (i.e. you can still get unlimited Data on Sprint but if you got an iPhone from ATT, you have to pay more to get less data), the hardware is much more up to date etc. Also, I think that these manufacturers should think outside of the box; why is every Android device like a Ford Model T? No one said that black was the only color allowed right? Be a little more creative and try out red, blue, white, green etc...

That's about my views on Android tonight...feel free to reply

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