Seven Mistakes That Could Jeopardize Google’s Mobile Future

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.

The top three U.S. Big Box retailers produce almost 600 billion dollars in revenue

Traditional retailers are still important. The top three big-box retailers produce almost $600 billion in revenue a year

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.

Over-dependence on the cloud can be a bad thing

Overdependence on the cloud can be a bad thing

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).

Less than 1% of all Android users were running the newest version of Android on 12/3.

Only 1.2% of all Android users were running the newest version of the OS on January 3rd

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.

Android 4.2′s calendar bug is evidence that Google is rushing products to market before they are ready

Android 4.2′s calendar bug was evidence that Google was rushing products to market before they were ready

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

– Rick

Copyright 2013 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

iOS 6’s Advantages Over Android 4.2

Last updated: January 23, 2013

[This article is still under construction. Please come back later to view the final version]

Last year I wrote two articles that compared Android to iOS. One stressed Apple’s advantages, and the other stressed Google’s advantages. Both turned out to be extremely popular. Since each operating system has had a major new update since then, I’ve decided to update both articles. Android has come a long way since my first post, so far that some experts feel it’s reached parity, but iOS still has a few important advantages. Earlier this week I listed Android 4.2’s advantages over iOS 6. Here are the advantages that iOS 6 has over Android 4.2.

The Top Ten Most Important iOS Advantages

The App Store still leads based on quality and quantity of apps (App Store: Left; Google Play: Right)

  1. Better Overall App Quality – Google Play has almost caught up to Apple in the total number of apps, but there is no doubt that Apple still has the edge when it comes to the number of quality apps available — especially in categories such as games, media creation and children’s apps.

Both of these phones run the same version of Android, but their graphic interfaces are quite different

  1. More Consistent User ExperienceSome reviewers have complained that Apple hasn’t made any major changes to iOS since the first version. That may be true, but it’s not entirely a bad thing. The user interface on every iOS device is very similar. By contrast, the Android user experience varies greatly from one manufacturer’s device to another due to skinning.

    Fragmentation is also a problem on the Android platform. Sixty percent of all iPhone users are running the newest version of iOS, while less than 5% of all Android users are running the newest version of Android. Because carriers and handset manufacturers don’t make all Android updates available on every phone, over half of all Android users are still running version 2.3, which was released back in 2010. Apple doesn’t allow skinning, and most of the time allows users with older devices to upgrade to the newest OS (although they may not always get access to all of the new features). This results is a more consistent user experience.

Tablet-optimized apps look better on larger screens

  1. Tablet-optimized App Listings – The App Store displays iPhone and iPad apps in separate areas. iPad-optimized apps normally look better on tablets — because they have been modified to take advantage of the larger screen which tablets have. I wish Google Play had a filter for tablet-optimized apps.
  1. No Carrier Bloatware – Carriers preload their Android phones with loads of apps. Some promote paid services (e.g. VZ Navigator), while others are carrier-branded or third-party apps. Many preinstalled apps are things you don’t need and will never use. They clutter the screens of Android phones and often cannot be deleted. Apple doesn’t allow carriers to install bloatware on their products. While you could argue this isn’t an operating system-related advantage, it is an advantage that iOS users have over non-Nexus Android users.

Siri has improved and has some advantages over Google Now and S-Voice

  1. A Better Personal Assistant – Although Google Now is pretty good, the version of Siri which is included with iOS 6 has some advantages — including more human-like and actionable responses. Here’s a good comparison between the two.
  1. More iOS-only or iOS-first Apps – By now you’d think all popular apps would be available on both platforms, but that’s not the case. Android is still missing some popular iOS apps. To make things worse, even when developers support both platforms, they often release their iOS apps first.
  1. Better HTML5 Support – Although Flash is still a popular way of handling multimedia on the Web, many people believe HTML5 will one day replace it. Instead of supporting Flash, Apple put its efforts into supporting HTML5 and it shows.
  1. Dynamic App Icons – iOS may not have widget support yet, but I love how the icon for the Calendar app displays the current day and date. Folders and apps like Spotify also are capable of showing notifications.
  1. Global Search – Swiping to the right displays a screen where you can search for Apps, Calendar, Mail, Music, Notes, Web and Wikipedia. This is a pretty big deal and Apple has shown they will litigate if anyone attempts to support this.

Other Areas Where iOS is Ahead

  1. Better Voice Mail App – I think it’s ridiculous that I have to dial *86 to get voice-mail on my Galaxy Nexus. You’d think its 1998, not 2012. Apple’s phone app has dedicated voice mail button and its interface is excellent.
  1. Better Power Management – iOS devices seem to have power management than Android devices. Some of this may be a result of the fact that iOS doesn’t allow third-party apps to run in the background. Others might have to do with the fact that iPhone 4S has an under-clocked processor and no LTE support. Whatever the reason, it’s an Apple advantage.
  1. One-button Operation – Apple uses a single button to return to the Home screen, display the search box, and show recently opened apps. Is it intuitive? No, but once you learn it, it works well.
  1. Better Calendar app – Another thing I miss is the iOS calendar. I found it much easier to add appointments to the Apple Calendar than the Android Calendar.
  1. Better Cut & Paste – Although Android devices had cut and paste first, Apple has done a much better job implementing the feature. iOS devices have more region selection options and it’s much easier to quickly select text by dragging the region select handles around. Although this seems like a minor issue, it’s important to some users.
  1. iOS has better support for USB audio devices – iOS devices can play and record audio with standard USB audio devices using the camera connection kit. Android is saddled with a USB port that cannot host audio devices. Android 4.1 supports audio output only (no input) with accessory devices, but audio accessories have to be the USB host. [Source: Paul N.]
  1. You can enter phonetic pronunciations for Siri – iOS allows you to add phonetic pronunciations to your contacts which will tell Siri how to pronounce certain names.

These are just some of the main advantages iOS 6 has over Android 4.2. Let me know if I left any major advantages out, and I’ll add them here.

- Rick

Copyright 2013 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.


Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

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