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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51 Comments

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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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

sweatshopking said,
what trouble with windows phone 7? it's rock solid.

Not being able to update the phones successfully through Zune, Not having any updated applications, missing features (multi-tasking, copy & paste, flash..etc), front facing camera and the ability to add a memory card. I already know a few of the issues are supposed to be fixed with Mango and that is good. It was just at the time I brought my phone.

sweatshopking said,
what trouble with windows phone 7? it's rock solid.

Tell that to those 100 users of WP7 who call for help :-)

alexalex said,

Tell that to those 100 users of WP7 who call for help :-)

If you want to be that way, then it's not like the other platforms are rock-solid either

JSYOUNG571 said,

Not being able to update the phones successfully through Zune, Not having any updated applications, missing features (multi-tasking, copy & paste, flash..etc), front facing camera and the ability to add a memory card. I already know a few of the issues are supposed to be fixed with Mango and that is good. It was just at the time I brought my phone.

The post is about HARDWARE failing, not software, which means crappy phones.

JSYOUNG571 said,

Not being able to update the phones successfully through Zune, Not having any updated applications, missing features (multi-tasking, copy & paste, flash..etc), front facing camera and the ability to add a memory card. I already know a few of the issues are supposed to be fixed with Mango and that is good. It was just at the time I brought my phone.

Let's face it - anyone who bought the original WP7 are beta-testers until Mango comes out. That's the first true release ready for consumers.

KingCrimson said,

Let's face it - anyone who bought the original WP7 are beta-testers until Mango comes out. That's the first true release ready for consumers.


LOL what are you smoking? Beta? No, not at all. And if it is a beta, it's a damn good one that beats the heck out of iOS and Android. How embarrassing for them.

JSYOUNG571 said,

Not being able to update the phones successfully through Zune, Not having any updated applications, missing features (multi-tasking, copy & paste, flash..etc), front facing camera and the ability to add a memory card. I already know a few of the issues are supposed to be fixed with Mango and that is good. It was just at the time I brought my phone.

Obviously no experience and only reading outdated articles. Updating issues were Samsungs fault, not Microsoft. In the end Microsoft fixed it for Samsung. I get notifications to update my apps all the time...not sure what your smoking. Missing features? Copy/paste works just fine. Not once have I said "gee, i wish this could multitask." The smart pause feature works just fine. The vast majority of phones dont have front facing cameras. Troll attempt failed.

JSYOUNG571 said,
Not being able to update the phones successfully through Zune, Not having any updated applications, missing features (multi-tasking, copy & paste, flash..etc), front facing camera and the ability to add a memory card. I already know a few of the issues are supposed to be fixed with Mango and that is good. It was just at the time I brought my phone.

1. Rare issue. Happens on all phones of all brands; even Apple is possible bricking a phone.
2. What? This is simply uniformed and makes very little sense.
3. Multi-tasking is coming in September or October (with the Nokia phones/Mango update). Copy/paste already exists on all phones now. Flash is a third party plug in that only a fraction of people actually want on their phone, and only serves to destroy batteries.
4. Front facing camera? Not many Android phones have that either. And, on my iPhone 4, I have used it once: to test it when I first got the phone. My girlfriend, who I tested it with has used it just as much. It's a selling point that Microsoft needs to add, but one that people seem to want but never use. (Not to mention, there is _still_ no open standard from Apple to use video chat with them from, say, an Android or WP7 device. This is mentioned because they're pointless if they only work from brand-to-brand [though amusingly works nicely with Microsoft's purchase of Skype...])
5. The majority of them do allow memory card upgrades. My Samsung Focus, which I had before returning it (first one had broken hardware, second one didn't charge from the wall, and the third one didn't work in my car's Bluetooth; the first two are absolutely Samsung's fault, and the last is possibly Microsoft's or possibly Samsung's), and keeping my iPhone 4 because of the listed issues (I love WP7 and I cannot wait to get the new Nokia phone, as long as it looks good, like the demoed unit--similar to the N9). It's worth pointing out that the iPhone does not support adding memory cards. Did you mean sideloading? The Microsoft supported, ChevronWP7 unlocking tool will enable this feature within about a month.

Honestly, your attempt to justify your Android purchase is rather silly and misinformed on just about every aspect. Not to mention, it just goes to show that once Mango does come out, WP7 will have feature parity with the possible exception of a front facing camera, plus features that the others simply do not offer themselves (groups and the best separated mail feature). I expect that a Front Facing camera will be in suggested specs, but not a required item with the next wave of hardware; I will not go out of my way to buy a phone that has one until an open standard exists to allow all phones to video chat with each other.

Apple, being the market share leader (by model; no single Android phone outsells iPhone even remotely), really should have released their FaceTime open standard a year ago--as they promised--but they have not, and with the forthcoming iMessages (BBM alternative), it sounds like they have no interest in doing so. It's stupid, attempted lock-in like that that is guaranteeing my jump to WP7. I'm sure that once the front facing camera comes out there, then it will use Skype and magically work everywhere, all at once.

JSYOUNG571 said,

Not being able to update the phones successfully through Zune, Not having any updated applications, missing features (multi-tasking, copy & paste, flash..etc), front facing camera and the ability to add a memory card. I already know a few of the issues are supposed to be fixed with Mango and that is good. It was just at the time I brought my phone.

No VPN/Remote Desktop, no syncing with Outlook...I want WP7 to Succeed but I need those two the most, which is why I own a Samsung Infuse (Companionlink syncs Outlook).

[quote=BrewNinja said,]

Obviously no experience and only reading outdated articles. Updating issues were Samsungs fault, not Microsoft. In the end Microsoft fixed it for Samsung. I get notifications to update my apps all the time...not sure what your smoking. Missing features? Copy/paste works just fine. Not once have I said "gee, i wish this could multitask." The smart pause feature works just fine. The vast majority of phones dont have front facing cameras. Troll attempt failed.[/quot

Well least I am a troll that knows how to read. That is why I said 'At the time I was in the process of buying a new phone'. You should read before you speak. Maybe it was what you were smoking that caused you to miss what I typed.

Edited by JSYOUNG571, Jun 26 2011, 12:20am :

pickypg said,

1. Rare issue. Happens on all phones of all brands; even Apple is possible bricking a phone.
2. What? This is simply uniformed and makes very little sense.
3. Multi-tasking is coming in September or October (with the Nokia phones/Mango update). Copy/paste already exists on all phones now. Flash is a third party plug in that only a fraction of people actually want on their phone, and only serves to destroy batteries.
4. Front facing camera? Not many Android phones have that either. And, on my iPhone 4, I have used it once: to test it when I first got the phone. My girlfriend, who I tested it with has used it just as much. It's a selling point that Microsoft needs to add, but one that people seem to want but never use. (Not to mention, there is _still_ no open standard from Apple to use video chat with them from, say, an Android or WP7 device. This is mentioned because they're pointless if they only work from brand-to-brand [though amusingly works nicely with Microsoft's purchase of Skype...])
5. The majority of them do allow memory card upgrades. My Samsung Focus, which I had before returning it (first one had broken hardware, second one didn't charge from the wall, and the third one didn't work in my car's Bluetooth; the first two are absolutely Samsung's fault, and the last is possibly Microsoft's or possibly Samsung's), and keeping my iPhone 4 because of the listed issues (I love WP7 and I cannot wait to get the new Nokia phone, as long as it looks good, like the demoed unit--similar to the N9). It's worth pointing out that the iPhone does not support adding memory cards. Did you mean sideloading? The Microsoft supported, ChevronWP7 unlocking tool will enable this feature within about a month.

Honestly, your attempt to justify your Android purchase is rather silly and misinformed on just about every aspect. Not to mention, it just goes to show that once Mango does come out, WP7 will have feature parity with the possible exception of a front facing camera, plus features that the others simply do not offer themselves (groups and the best separated mail feature). I expect that a Front Facing camera will be in suggested specs, but not a required item with the next wave of hardware; I will not go out of my way to buy a phone that has one until an open standard exists to allow all phones to video chat with each other.

Apple, being the market share leader (by model; no single Android phone outsells iPhone even remotely), really should have released their FaceTime open standard a year ago--as they promised--but they have not, and with the forthcoming iMessages (BBM alternative), it sounds like they have no interest in doing so. It's stupid, attempted lock-in like that that is guaranteeing my jump to WP7. I'm sure that once the front facing camera comes out there, then it will use Skype and magically work everywhere, all at once.

My reasons are not justified? You are talking to a Microsoft vet who has always been on Microsft Windows Mobile side since day one and have always supported them when it came to the phones. Microsoft is to blame for their downfall in the Smartphone department. They had first serve to dominate the Smartphone market way before Apple or Google. Microsoft did not take Apple seriously when they came out with the iPhone. They sat back with the arrogant attitude that Apple was going nowhere with the iPhone and that it would fail. They have that same arrogant attitude that they have about the iPad which is hot on the market right now. I along with other customers have always asked on message boards why Microsoft is not making improvements to their Smartphone department with updates and apps like Apple. It wasn't until Microsoft started losing customers to the Apple iPhone and Google Android entering the Smartphone ring that they panic and finally started paying attention to customers. All the years of sitting back and not taking the Smartphone business seriously has caused Microsoft to be behind. Google was far behind Microsoft when they entered into the Smartphone business, and now they have even passed Microsoft. By the time Microsoft comes out with the Mango update, Apple and Google will have moved on to the next level in the Smartphone department. I don't know about you, but I have no more money or contract time to waste on Windows Phones or Windows Phone 7 betas. I have never been a fan of the Google Android, but least the phone works with no OS flaws and I have updated applications and features that actually work. When Google comes out with applications, they take care of their own platform first before designing applications for other platforms. I will not return to Windows Phone until they take their platforms and customers seriously.

Garak0410 said,

No VPN/Remote Desktop, no syncing with Outlook...I want WP7 to Succeed but I need those two the most, which is why I own a Samsung Infuse (Companionlink syncs Outlook).

That is what I own too

thealexweb said,
Maybe because there are simply more Android handsets out there? The fact Windows Phone makes up a tiny piece of market yet racked up 9% of calls is rather awful, I'd love to see some sort of call to market share ratio, that would be fair

These figures represent percent of calls regarding a specific platform that are hardware related. 9 percent means that 9 percent of all calls about Windows Phone devices are hardware failure.

The logic's a little flawed. That's 9% of Microsoft's calls.. not overall. 9% is 9%, regardless if there's 100 people using it or a billion.

Eric Lehman said,

These figures represent percent of calls regarding a specific platform that are hardware related. 9 percent means that 9 percent of all calls about Windows Phone devices are hardware failure.

Hmm woops xD

I had Windows Mobile 6-6.5 for years and have always had trouble with them. Hearing the trouble with Windows Phone 7 caused me to jump ship and go over to Android. Every since I have had the Android, I have not really experienced any problems. The phone seems very stable to me and works like it should.

JSYOUNG571 said,
I had Windows Mobile 6-6.5 for years and have always had trouble with them. Hearing the trouble with Windows Phone 7 caused me to jump ship and go over to Android. Every since I have had the Android, I have not really experienced any problems. The phone seems very stable to me and works like it should.

If you are referring to that Samsung SNAFU where they f-ed up their firmware implementation, which caused delays on the WP7 update, that's hardly the fault of Windows Phone or Microsoft. In the end, those phones still got their update, and they will also be getting the next (Mango) update. I'd say that it was hardly a cause for concern

/Hope you like your Android though
//That was not snark

Sraf said,

If you are referring to that Samsung SNAFU where they f-ed up their firmware implementation, which caused delays on the WP7 update, that's hardly the fault of Windows Phone or Microsoft. In the end, those phones still got their update, and they will also be getting the next (Mango) update. I'd say that it was hardly a cause for concern

/Hope you like your Android though
//That was not snark

I have to agree a bit that the Samsung fault does not mean people are blaming samsung or microsoft but it just shows there is a weakness in the entire system.. I hope they get it fixed and learn some lessons .. I dont understand why people complain about waiting for the WP7 update while there are a crap load of android phones that will never be updated...

(LG Optimus 7 and loving it)

JSYOUNG571 said,
I had Windows Mobile 6-6.5 for years and have always had trouble with them. Hearing the trouble with Windows Phone 7 caused me to jump ship and go over to Android. Every since I have had the Android, I have not really experienced any problems. The phone seems very stable to me and works like it should.

I think you will feel that anything is more stable if you was a Windows Mobile user for years :-D

I almost bought an Android but speed problems kept me away from buying it, I was a WM user too so I was trying to run away from any laggy device, now I have a Windows Phone 7, happy with it, the only thing I miss is. . . . . . . MY OWN RINGTONES!

I've moved through ALL of the best Android phones available on several different carriers and I've personally never had to return one for service, or damage for that matter. Also, I don't drop $600 phones. Ever.

My iPhones and Blackberry's were all solid devices and any droid device I've used has been nothing less than those.

Soulsiphon said,
I've moved through ALL of the best Android phones available on several different carriers and I've personally never had to return one for service, or damage for that matter. Also, I don't drop $600 phones. Ever.

My iPhones and Blackberry's were all solid devices and any droid device I've used has been nothing less than those.

I think the article makes a good point as to why the fault rates might be higher on Android, and that it is just a symptom of its ability to be put on all sorts of hardware without so much as a glance from Google. Because Android is so open, you are more likely to find it on cheap knock-off phones than any other phone OS out there, and maybe that is what is driving up the failure rate

Soulsiphon said,
I've moved through ALL of the best Android phones available on several different carriers and I've personally never had to return one for service, or damage for that matter. Also, I don't drop $600 phones. Ever.

I think this article is all about the health of the hardware ecosystem, not customer experience. Phones are dropped every single day around the globe and the # of calls related to hardware failure isn't pointing out much. But I do agree with the article the fact that the lack of hardware control over Android devices do make fragmentation worst.

Personally, my family has HTC phones and they all fail at hardware-side, which still doesn't stop me from getting other Android phones - it just stops me from getting HTC phones anymore

Soulsiphon said,
Also, I don't drop $600 phones. Ever.

If you had a Droid X, you could. I've had mine since launch, and I drop it on concrete, have had it go skidding across the road, down stairs, etc, etc. almost on a weekly basis. This phone is ****ing indestructible.

No case or screen protector, either.

MioTheGreat said,

If you had a Droid X, you could. I've had mine since launch, and I drop it on concrete, have had it go skidding across the road, down stairs, etc, etc. almost on a weekly basis. This phone is ****ing indestructible.

No case or screen protector, either.


Sure. Right.