The latest round of Android phones are making their way to the market, and they are faster, bigger, and boast more features than the current generation. While the customary “which phone is the best” news stories are circulating the web it feels like something’s off.
Android phones are talked about much like laptops and that’s a problem. We ask how large the display is, how fast the processor is, talk about ram, battery life, etc… While this may sound normal to a computer geek, which, I, admittedly, am, the broader public is not interested.
The resurgence of this techno-speak has to do with the competitive mobile market. From a software perspective, there’s little differentiation between Android phones. Device manufacturers, such as Samsung, HTC or Motorola, may develop custom user interfaces, but at the end of the day, they essentially sell the same Android product. With the exception of HTC, the custom UI’s don’t really amount to a selling point, and if they did, its not clear if the manufacturers would effectively sell them.
So, manufacturers, in hopes of out doing each other, talk about hardware. Implicit in all of this is a hardware arms race between device manufacturers. To remain relevant, they have to build bigger and better phones than their competitors or they’ll be left behind. The best example of this is the ever-increasing screen sizes of Android phones. In 2008, average screen sizes were 3.2.” This year the newer phones will have screens sizes that range from 4.7” to 5.” While this competition may seem like a good thing for customers, it actually alienates some customers.
Let’s say I want to buy a new Ice Cream Sandwich phone that has all of the latest and greatest features, however, I want it to fit in my pocket. In other words, what do I do if I want a new 3.5” Android phone? The answer is settle for ginormous Droid or pick-up an iPhone. A quick search on-line reveals that Android manufacturers stopped making 3.5” phones in 2010.
I’m not sure how Android device manufacturers are segmenting their customers, but they’re missing a segment. I won’t deny that large screens are popular, but my gut tells me there’s interest in smaller Android phones and there is no corresponding Android product. These customers are not even on the radar. The 35+ million iPhones sold last quarter should convince Android manufacturers that a 3.5” display is not as terrible as some technocrats would have one believe. So, how about we get 3.5” or 3.7” Android devices in the future?