Android phones are more likely to fail

A recently released survey in the UK lists Android as the platform most likely to develop hardware faults. The survey of over 600,000 technical support calls over the past 12 months was conducted by WDS. Research in Motion grabbed the top spot with 3.7% of Blackberry support calls related to hardware issues, followed by Apple with 8%. Windows Phone devices rounded out third with 9% of its calls while Android fell into last place with 14%. 

It's easy to see what allows RIM and Apple to top out the list: Control. Both RIM and Apple produce both the hardware and software that run on their devices, allowing fine tuned control over how the phone functions. It's no wonder why Blackberry and iOS devices are often lauded for their battery life and reliability. RIM goes a step further and puts its devices through a battery of tests to ensure durability before the device is shipped out to thousands of business users around the world. Microsoft also exercises a similar, though less extreme, heavy hand over hardware for its platform. All Windows Phone devices must meet a minimum hardware spec in order to be granted the Redmond seal of approval.

So what happened with Android? Critics are quick to point out that hardware flaws are yet another side effect of the platform's fragmentation, a term that has undoubtedly become a four letter word to Google. The fact is this: anybody at any time can put Android on any device they please without so much as a phone call or handshake. More restrictions are placed on devices that wish to garner the "with Google" certification, but even then there is not a mandatory hardware approval process. In addition, Android at it's core is designed to run not only on an extremely wide variety of phone chassis, but also netbooks, tablets, and kiosks. We've even seen Android running on competing devices such as the HTC HD2 and Apple iPhone. This makes hardware specialization all the more difficult. 

The smartphone market is moving rapidly, and there's no doubt at all that Android has allowed manufacturers to increase research and development cycles because of the adaptable nature of the OS. Because the industry is moving at such breakneck speed, it's possible manufacturers and carriers are rushing products out of the door before they've been fully tested in an effort to gain the edge over competitors. We're looking at much shorter "time to market" on today's smartphones than in prior years. 

But Android's greatest weakness might be, in fact, its greatest strength. The very fact that there is no hardware approval process from Google means that products are easier to push out faster. In addition, it's allowed a large variety of form factors to surface that were previously not possible. From dual-screen convertible phones like the Kyocera Echo to breakthrough next-generation 3D display devices like the LG Optimus 3D, it seems that every time we've reached the limit of what we can do with hardware, someone always come along to push the platform further. In addition, the rapid development cycle of Android devices has created positive pressure on other platforms to increase hardware iteration cycles. Some manufacturers, like RIM, are struggling to keep up. 

The take away is this: there is no clear right or wrong way of developing a phone. Whether it's slow and steady like Apple or a constant sprint like Android, we've seen many successful models. What Android manufacturers now need to concern themselves with is making sure that the quality is not being sacrificed for the sake of quantity.

Image credit: 1 800 Pocket PC

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While my Samsung Focus seems to never fail me, I can understand the 9% estimate for hardware fails on Windows Phone. Remember when Microsoft shipped Nodo, but had to recall due to approximately 10% of the phones being "bricked"? The two numbers seem to make sense, but also show that Microsoft was telling the truth when they gave percentages.

All I can say is that it's really hard to blame Microsoft here for hardware problems of Windows Phone devices. Who's really to blame? Samsung. Although I own a fine, well-working device by Samsung, I must say that there was something I was reading about how lazy the developers of phones were when they made them. There were a number of reports about a stupid hardware flaw in the Focus and Omnia that could cause it to fail, regardless of which OS it ran. Also, Samsung wasn't serious enough about optimizing the hardware for Windows Phone, which is also a reason why nearly all of the failed devices for updates were made by Samsung. Notice how LG and HTC Windows Phones barely comprised the list of bricked Windows Phones?

Seriously, Samsung needs to get their stuff strait before I decide to switch over to Nokia...

PlogCF said,
While my Samsung Focus seems to never fail me, I can understand the 9% estimate for hardware fails on Windows Phone. Remember when Microsoft shipped Nodo, but had to recall due to approximately 10% of the phones being "bricked"? The two numbers seem to make sense, but also show that Microsoft was telling the truth when they gave percentages.

All I can say is that it's really hard to blame Microsoft here for hardware problems of Windows Phone devices. Who's really to blame? Samsung. Although I own a fine, well-working device by Samsung, I must say that there was something I was reading about how lazy the developers of phones were when they made them. There were a number of reports about a stupid hardware flaw in the Focus and Omnia that could cause it to fail, regardless of which OS it ran. Also, Samsung wasn't serious enough about optimizing the hardware for Windows Phone, which is also a reason why nearly all of the failed devices for updates were made by Samsung. Notice how LG and HTC Windows Phones barely comprised the list of bricked Windows Phones?

Seriously, Samsung needs to get their stuff strait before I decide to switch over to Nokia...

Of course MSFT is to blame. They have an obligation to lock down the hardware spec to ensure high quality.

KingCrimson said,
Of course MSFT is to blame. They have an obligation to lock down the hardware spec to ensure high quality.
They did. It was Samsung, as the OEM that failed to have good hardware manufacturing in place. Microsoft did have a huge building running constant checks against the OEM's hardware. Samsung clearly just sent them good models.

This just means I won't be buying any Samsung devices for the next few years.

KingCrimson said,

Of course MSFT is to blame. They have an obligation to lock down the hardware spec to ensure high quality.

What? The lock down on hardware specs doesn't equate to quality components. Saying a piece of software needs 32MB of RAM to run properly doesn't say that the manufacturer must purchase quality material or components. All it says is that the total RAM available must be 32MB, nothing more.

100s of various devices produced by dozens of manufacturers have more problems than 3 devices produced by one? how unexpected!

I don't see what OS has to do with hardware failing (unless it's the hardware manufacturer that is also producing the software). Stupid article...

tsupersonic said,
I don't see what OS has to do with hardware failing (unless it's the hardware manufacturer that is also producing the software). Stupid article...

It may not say anything about the software, but it does say something about the policies of the companies that make the software, both good and bad. What I take from this article is that Google's lack of hardware control has mean that OEMs that have lower standards are able to use Android on their phones, which can lean to sour experiences. That same kind of openness also lets me grab a build of Android and slap it on some hobby hardware I might be working on (Which I'm not) which is good

My only gripe with Google on this is that they don't have a recommended minimum requirements available, or at least I couldn't find it. Even if they had one there is nothing to say the manufacturers must follow it.

Other than that I still say it is the manufacturers responsibility (QA anyone?) to ensure the product is working; free OS or not. They are the ones selling the product, no?

Comparing Android to Win7 M, we see that one is made to be closed and another open source. If Android enforced hardware it defeats one of the purposes to be open. Therefore the duty should fall on the manufacturer to ensure that the device functions as intended.

That being said it's either these companies get audited properly (who does the auditing anyway? are they asleep or something) or Google will have to certify hardware, making android "not-so-open" on the hardware side of things.

I recently had to send out my HTC Inspire 4g for repairs. It randomly just stopped working. I know of others who had the same issue as well.

jznomoney said,
I recently had to send out my HTC Inspire 4g for repairs. It randomly just stopped working. I know of others who had the same issue as well.

I mean, it happens right? I know of people who had to suffer through an iPhone 4 with antenna issues. This article should win the Friday FUD of the Day award. Besides, this is apparently a UK study and everyone knows that at least in the US, we lie on UK surveys

Interesting. I am looking to get rid of my blackberry and I dont have many other choices for a smart phone besides android, WP7, or iPhone (major players)
While I admit I dont know much about android phones I am still skeptical about owning one and not sure if it will be the right fit for me.

Of course blame everything on fragmentation. Even things that have absolutely nothing to do with the software.
The software on a phone has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the build quality of the hardware. So blaming a high failure rate of Android hardware on the software is just absolutely stupid.

What a bull**** article. Android has many different models of phones. If one model has a ton of issues, this screws the results. Cannot lump the mall in to one. Compare against manufacturers. Also, some people are just abusive with their phones. Was that taken in to account? Probably not.

I never had to return a phone other than what I did to it. Dropped one in water once. And my friends only had to return theirs because they dropped them....not because of device defects.

Agreed, there's a lot of FUD in this article.
I've recommended Android for all my customers and the uptake has been quite high. I've never seen one fail yet.

There's also a second part to that too - any phone when sold in high numbers is bound to have higher failure rates than other brands, that's just the law of averages.

I still don't quite understand the methodology. It appears that they are calculating:
(# of calls for the platform with a hardware problem)/(# of calls for the platform). And I guess that is interesting, because, as the original article says, hardware issues cannot usually be resolved by a customer rep. But how does that translate into "Android phones are more likely to fail"?
If there were say a 100 million platform X phones, which work almost perfectly, but one person calls in and has a hardware problem, X scores a lousy 100% in this survey. Platform Y, also with 100 million users, is much less reliable, and they get a million calls, but only 10% of those are hardware. Looks like the headline would be "Platform X more likely to fail" when in fact it is a million times better from a customer trouble point of view!

Flawed said,
Typical Anti-Linux FUD.

... The article is talking about problems with the hardware, not the software. If the hardware is faulty, it's going to break no matter what platform it's running on.

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