Is Android really winning in India?

5th Dec 2011
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Is Android really winning in India?
Android undoubtedly is the leading smart phone platform in India with the largest user base. But how big really is the smartness of this smartphone platform. At this point in time the leading features of Android are cheap and open (pseudo open).  The combination of these two features has brought in garden-variety handset manufactures to build and offer commoditized products based on Android. The result, market is flooded with Android based mobile devices that can do that touch thing, prices start from 6000 rupees and go up to as high as they can go.

By the way my favorite one is the fake iPhone, which actually is on Android. Now as a consumer I get variety of devices at variety of price points - all this is great except if you think a little to uncover that the use case for a smart phone is more than the ability to touch and swipe on my phone. It’s the apps that make the smart phone smart by making our life better and improving our experience of a connected life. But the way the Android world is emerging, I am afraid smartness will be on the backseat for a very long time. Because the very strengths of Android, cheap and open, are its weaknesses too.

Android has hardware compatibility guidelines but its designed for strict hardware conformity so as to encourage various hardware suppliers to be able to use the operating system. But the lack of strict hardware conformity creates a big gap in performance and features between the low end and high-end Android devices. There are devices in the market with nearly non-responsive chips and I know at least one phone that doesn’t have GPS. Similar variety exists with the consumers too who use these Android devices. Some users are phone savvy and spend significant time with their phones doing various things using apps but the cheap price also drives a lot of customers who get the device for its touch screen capacity but are not savvy enough to be able to get to the Android market and get an app installed. But this dichotomy is not clear if you look at the total number of Android devices out there.

If you are app developer both these things are discouraging, because what matters for you is how many users can get to the experience that you are designing in the app. So, before you commit resources into your Android app development make it a point to pick up some demographic and market data about your target user base. And have an insight into what kind of Android phone they are using and how app savvy they are. These factors will need you to adjust your features and your app distribution mechanism.

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