Android brand values vs reality

Posted by in Mobile

I love android phones. Their integration with Google is simply fantastic. They do a much better work in integrating with Gmail than my iPhone does and the Gtalk app is just incredible, it lets me chat on the go seamlessly (and there is nothing like this experience on iPhones… ). The OS itself is OK, it’s young and rapidly evolving into something more consumer-friendly, it’s far from being as polished as iOS. The apps portfolio available through the android market is getting better everyday now even featuring the iOS blockbusters and Epic’s UTEngine games.

SO basically if I were to sum up the unique selling points of android it’s Gmail/Google Integration and the Android market … only those are not Android features, they are Google phones features. The core OS being OpenSource, any device manufacturer can take the OS and port it to their device, but they won’t get any of the Google applications (no market access, no gmail….). Yet they can write on their datasheet and on billboards and shout to the world “my device runs Android”.

With even more fragmentation coming to the device market with the new tablets announced at CES today (for instance Lenovo’s LePad) the fact that the Android brand, which is one of the key brand values end-users will be relying on, does not actually mean anything and does not reflect the end-users expectations is pretty scary.

The fact that there are so many flavors on Android not featured by google even created market opportunities for Amazon or getjar to provide third-party apps marketplace, which sounds a bit like an oddity when you look at how integrated the iOS experience is. I remember last summer at GDC how developers were complaining that 70% of the users of android could not buy their product (non-availability of billing in their countries, non-google-approved devices…) and that was a huge issue that is actually stopping developers to target Android. Angry Birds even totally gave up the paying model to only put a free version + ads since it seems to be the only realistic way today.

I think it’s important to create brands to differentiate the core OS (which nobody really cares abouts, it’s no better/worse than Bada, WebOS or any other) to the set of tools that create the value of the platform and basically let you know that the device will have access to all the cool resources of the Android world.