December 11, 2012 8 Comments
Last update: May 26, 2013
Five years ago few thought Google could ever challenge Apple when it came to mobile technology. Now Android is leading the way in many areas. Google got where they are today thanks to a well-executed strategy and lots of help from Apple, but mistakes they are making now could jeopardize the future of Android.
1. Largely Ignoring the Traditional Retail Channel
E-commerce sites like Amazon.com might be the future, but big-box retailers like Walmart, Best Buy and Costco produce 12 times more revenue than Amazon does today. Apple understands the importance of retail and sells huge quantities of smartphones and tablets through this channel. Google has met with companies like Best Buy before, but most retailers don’t like them because they sell devices direct to consumers for less money than the retailers need to make a good profit. Google also doesn’t spend millions of dollars on retail end-caps, marketing and product training like Apple and Samsung do. I believe Google needs to hire someone who understands how to work with traditional retailers and expand their presence in brick and mortar stores.
One explanation why Google has been ignoring traditional retailers could be they are planning to open their own stores. Although Google originally denied this, there is now evidence they may be going ahead with this. I suspect we’ll see them start with only a few stores however. It would take years and lots of money to expand their reach into most major U.S. cities.
2. Having One of the Worst e-Commerce Sites
Many Google products are not available from major retailers. If you want to buy a product like a 16GB Nexus 10, there is only one place to get it today: the Google Play website. Although Google Play works well for app sales, it gets failing grades in the area of physical fulfillment of products. Their first launch of of Nexus One was understandably a disaster, but the company has had years to fix these problems and they have not done so. All three of their recent Nexus launches were horrible in every way. Even the e-commerce areas of their Google Play website were unable to support the traffic. That’s really surprising. I haven’t seen a site fail so badly since the early days of the Internet. I believe Google needs to fire the people in charge of their current e-commerce and fulfillment operations and start over, or farm out the business to someone like Amazon, who understands how to do e-commerce right.
3. Making Better Apps for Competitive Platforms
Some of Google’s apps are now longer better on iOS than Android. Examples include Google Mail, Google Maps and YouTube, which all have advantages on iOS currently. While this could be temporary, it makes no sense to favor a competitor’s platform over your own. More details.
Update: Since this article was first written, Google has improved their Maps and YouTube apps, so I believe their Android apps now have advantages in some areas.
4. Forcing Consumers to Use the Cloud
It’s clear Google wants everyone to use the cloud, but shipping one of your flagship smartphones with only 8-gigabytes of local storage was a poor decision. Especially in light of the fact the Nexus 4 doesn’t have a memory expansion slot, like the Samsung Galaxy S III, and many other Android phones. An 8GB Nexus 4 has less than 6GB of free space available out of the box. Since my apps alone occupy over 3GB of space, that leaves only enough room for a single movie download. Even if you don’t download movies, you might still have problems. Popular games like Modern Warfare 3 and 9MM use almost 2 GB of storage space. Sure you could delete a few large apps to free up space, but you shouldn’t have to.
Google expects us to store our movies, music, photos and documents in the cloud, but what if we want watch a movie on a plane, or we need to access an important file at a location with no cellular or Wi-Fi access? This could be a big problem. Apple downloads its media and doesn’t stream it like Google does. Google does allow you to download (or pin) media from Google Play, but you need free space on your device to do so.
Storing all of you media the cloud can also be problematic because Google Drive and all other cloud-based systems occasionally go down. Google claims 99.948% uptime, but that corresponds to 7 minutes of downtime a month, which is a big deal if a Google service is down when you’re trying to access data from it. That’s why you should always try to carry essential files on your device (or ‘pin’ them so they are accessible).
5. Allowing Others to Seriously Weaken Your Platform
Carriers and handset manufacturers unintentionally hurt the Android platform by insisting on customizing the software on their mobile devices. This causes OS fragmentation, support issues and customer frustration, because users have to wait so long to get bug fixes and new features. Apple has a “take it or leave it” attitude with carriers, and forces them to limit customization, so users can download updates on the first day they are available. This is one of the strongest advantages iOS has over Android today. Google has made progress on this issue with their line of Nexus phones, but even those devices have carrier bloatware and don’t always receive OS updates when they are first available. Just how bad is OS fragmentation on the Android platform? As of January 3rd, only 1.2% of all Android users were running the newest version of Android, while over 60% of Apple users were running the newest version of iOS. 59% of Android users are stuck using an OS that is now over two years old. Google decided to call Android 4.2 Jelly Bean so they could say that 10% of all Android users run that version, but that’s far from a solution. Google must address this issue in 2013.
6. Releasing New Products Before They Are Ready
Lately it seems Google is trying to do too much at once, and is releasing new technologies before they are ready. For example, proper testing would have exposed the December bug in Android 4.2. That issue was fixed in a software update, but there are other Android 4.2 bugs like the Auto-brightness bug, which should have been caught. In addition, key Android 4.2 features like Miracast steaming don’t work on the Nexus 10 and other devices. Google’s haste has also broken some of the biggest advantages of Android 4.1 on some devices and has some saying Android is becoming too complex for its own good. Not all of Android’s issues are software-related. Some of Google’s newest Nexus devices were released without a single accessory (e.g. dock, case, etc.) This caused frustration among some users. There is simply no excuse for this type of poor planning. Google needs to slow down and take the time needed to do things right.
7. Eliminating Some of Android’s Biggest Advantages
Hardware choices are good, but Google should strongly encourage manufacturers to make Android devices with Android’s signature features like slots for removable memory, removable batteries, standard micro USB and micro HDMI ports. Expandable storage, standard ports and removable batteries are some of the key selling points of the Android platform and the reason why many people are switching from iPhone to Android devices. Removing these advantages from Nexus devices and allowing manufacturers to remove them from their devices seriously weakens the Android platform.
Google has come a long way in the past five years, but it seems like their phenomenal success is going to their heads. Apple may be down right now, but stupid mistakes like these are what allowed Google to steal so much market share in such a short time period. I hope Google can address some these issues before it’s too late.
Do you agree Google is making some big mistakes, or am I just overreacting? Let me know in the comments section. Thanks.
Copyright 2013 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.
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