Android's cost of high quality may equal fewer sales

Jack Wallen examines the unique quality among Android device manufacturers that might well be leading to a decline in sales.

Android profits

Many of the larger manufacturers of Android devices (such as Samsung, HTC, and Motorola) have reported sagging sales and less-than-stellar profits. For example: Quarterly revenues for Samsung grew from 52.87 trillion won to 53.68 trillion won ($52.04 billion), but profits dipped to 8.49 trillion won ($8.23 billion), down from 8.78 trillion won in Q1 2013. This type of flattening (or dipping) pattern has become more the norm than not.

The thing is, it's not because people are losing interest in Android -- quite the opposite. Android is the single largest platform in the world (and continues to dominate at around 81% of the global market). So, what gives? Why the shrinking profits? Here are two of my theories.

1. Android devices are too good

First and foremost, the companies cranking out Android devices are designing and producing smartphones and tablets that are too good. Think about about:

  • Samsung Galaxy S4
  • Motorola Moto X
  • HTC One

These are all devices you could buy and use for a long time. There is no need to upgrade. And with Android, if things go a bit awry on your smartphone, simply reset it to the factory defaults, reconnect it to your Google account and, viola, you're back in business.

I know people still happily using their Samsung Galaxy SIII as if it were still a new device. No complaints, no need to upgrade. I have one of the original Samsung Galaxy Tabs -- still in use and still outstanding.

That's how solid and powerful the current crop of Android devices are. Built in longevity. This is consumer-centric quality that breaks the trend of disposability so rampant in technology.

This is a good thing... for both Android and for consumers. For the companies making the devices? Maybe not so good. We have to hope the manufacturers don't open their eyes and start creating devices with built-in obsolescence.

2. Different marketing and mindset

If you take a visit to the Apple camp, you see a very different climate -- one where the consumer has been convinced that having the latest-greatest is tantamount to being accepted and hip (I generalize to make a point). People with perfectly good iPhone 5 devices will scramble to get the next golden egg laid by Apple, whether it's necessary or not. Thanks to one of the most brilliant marketing departments on the planet, Apple has created an environment that perpetuates the idea one must have the very latest Apple device. Compare that to the Android camp, and you see a very different mindset.

Does this mean Apple is cranking out more 'covet-able' devices? Not necessarily. The HTC M8 was one of the finest pieces of mobile equipment created to date. What Apple has done, since the iPod, has created a culture that generates so much buzz around "product" that everyone must have the latest iteration of a device. Apple has invested piles of cash into creating an environment that would certainly pay off.

It did... in spades.

Does this mean the manufacturers of Android devices should follow suit? Should they build in obsolescence and re-brand the culture into a "what have you done for me lately" frenzy?


I remember that the HTC M8 was released just days after I migrated from a Samsung Galaxy SIII to a Motorola Moto X. I wanted the M8 as my personal smartphone, but I realized that the Moto X was a pretty great device. Even though I love new technology, I didn't have that yearning to slam my Moto X on the ground and shout "Oops!" I still have that same device (it's in perfect condition and works like a champ).

As to how Samsung, HTC, and Motorola solve the ever-fluctuating sales? I have no idea. But if these manufacturers need to know why their sales are dipping and dropping, they need only turn to the quality of their products and how long users are keeping them. More importantly, they need to enjoy a moment of pride for creating high quality products that shun and snub the disposable nature of today's technology-dependant society.

That is a feat in and of itself.

I applaud the companies for, to this point, not caving and cranking out lesser devices. The cost of high quality is simple -- user satisfaction.

Why do you think Android is experiencing a decline in sales? Are you satisfied with your Android device? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.