Editorial: Are The Android Glory Days Coming To An End?

I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloom here, but in my opinion, I’m foreseeing a shift in mobile industry.  A shift that will definitely change how we experience Android, and possibly the quality of experience we have when interacting with our mobile devices.  In  my eyes, there is a lot of evidence pointing towards this, and I’ll do my best to gather these thoughts.

Apple vs Samsung

We all know about the mobile battle between Apple and Samsung.  It was reported last Tuesday from comScore that Samsung still has a healthy lead as the top mobile manufacturer over Apple, with an estimated 26.9% Samsung mobile subscribers to Apples 18.5% in November.  There are other manufacturers in the mix, but we know it’s Samsung and Apple is targeting  and vice versa.  Now, we know that there may have been some device style copying between Samsung and Apple, landing Samsung a hefty fee.  However, if you look at the numbers, Samsung is probably laughing all the way to the bank.  Their marketing is heavily targeted negatively at Apple, and right now, it seem like it’s working.

When you look at the Samsung-Apple battle, there’s still one place where Samsung is hugely lacking: It’s mobile ecosystem.  Now, I think it will be a really long time before Samsung will really ever be able to compete or overtake iTunes, but I think if Samsung really wants to compete with Apple, it needs to try.  Currently, most Samsung devices are running the Android operating system, meaning the main app/media ecosystem being used on those devices is the Google Play Store.  Of course, Samsung has on it’s devices pre-loaded Music Hub and Samsung Apps, but who really uses those?  You’re typically going purchase an app or some type of media from the Play Store, and money is being made by the developers and Google, not Samsung.  On an iPhone, to purchase apps or media you use iTunes, and the money made there goes to the developers and Apple.  So, Samsung is missing out on a huge opportunity here.

I realize Samsung made their mobile name, and the popular Galaxy series, on Android.  Frankly, Android likely wouldn’t be where it is now without Samsung.  However, with the name and stake Samsung now has in the mobile industry, I feel like Android is now holding them back.  To quote the great David Beren, “It’s all about their current market position, this is a two dog race now, Apple and Samsung.”

There were rumors, but it was confirmed last Wednesday.  Samsung sent a statement to Bloomberg Businessweek stating they intend to “release new, competitive Tizen devices within this year and will keep expanding the lineup depending on market conditions.”  Haven’t heard of Tizen?  Tizen is an open source operating system partially owned by Samsung and Intel based on Linux for use on mobile devices, tablets, in-vehicle-interfaces, smart TVs. etc.  So what’s this sound like to you?  It sounds to me like they’re putting it on phones and testing the waters.  If its a hit, bye bye Android.

“High-End” Budget devices

This may be a bit a of a side note to the whole Samsung-Apple-Google situation, but I feel like it’s another twist in the plot and has to do with mobile ecosystems.  Announced September 28, 2011, Amazon brought us the first of what I’m going to call “high-end” budget devices that was really popular.  Based on selling apps/media through their very own established Amazon ecosystem, they sold the Kindle Fire at cost planning to make money in the long run though apps, music, and movies.  It worked.  Since then, other companies felt the need to jump in and compete.  Google released the Nexus 7 tablet with a similar idea, and Apple released the iPad Mini with a higher price point, but obviously aimed at the Nexus 7.  Still, the Kindle Fire has a significant share in users over other Android tablets.

In addition to tablets, Google has it’s Nexus phones playing the same game.  The Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 were and are available for around $300 a pop.  It’s great for us, but people are beginning to feel like all devices need to be only $200 or $300.  The only companies that can really compete at those prices are companies that have an ecosystem where they can make money other places than on the device sale.  Especially with MVNOs gaining popularity and mobile service providers switching to prepaid, these cheaper budget devices are going to be more and more in demand.  Unless you’re farting money, you’re obviously going to go with a decent mobile device that’s $300 vs what phones cost now, $500 to $700, if you have to pay full price for a phone.

So, what do I think this means?  Possibly a few things.  One, possibly less mobile devices; less selection.  The mobile industry may have to shift devices being made only by companies with their own ecosystem.  We may see manufacturers like LG or HTC having to bid to make the next Google or Amazon device and those are the only devices coming out.  Two, we may even see other companies like Walmart or even service providers like Verizon offering/creating ecosystems to compete.  I’m not saying these ecosystems need to run on different operating systems than Android, but there will likely be a lot of control, a lot of encrypted bootloaders like what Amazon does with their Android on the Kindle Fires.  Three, companies/manufacturers may need to adopt/help create new ecosystems with these new operating systems like Firefox OS and Ubuntu.  Basically what I’m trying to say is to compete in future, companies need their own mobile media ecosystems.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, what keeps coming to mind is the iOS 6-Google Maps debacle.  Apple didn’t switch to using their own maps to offer the consumer a better service, it was to make more money.  We know and love the Google Play Store, if it was in our best interest, we’d probably have Samsung continue their great relationship with Android.  However, changes are likely to happen in the mobile industry that aren’t necessarily to make sure you have a better experience with your mobile device, but will happen to make more money.  I’m not saying mobile devices are going to suck when 2014 rolls around, I would hope Samsung would make sure Tizen is user friendly, convenient to use. and all around awesome, but Android is pretty nice right now.  There are a lot of unknowns ahead, and if it was easy to bring in new operating systems and ecosystems, everyone would be doing it.  But it’s not easy.  So I’m bracing for a bumpy ride.

What do you forsee in the future for mobile?  A smaller phone selection? A plethora of ecosystems?  Do you think the whole Tizen thing will die and Android will continue to dominate?  Is the Galaxy S IV going to be running Tizen?!?  Let us know your thoughts by commenting below…


Featured image via Tech Rant

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