Possible Threats for Android’s Growth in the Future

On the first glimpse, the title of this post might sound little absurd and weird. After all who would ever want such a leading mobile operating system and a giant company like Google to have any threats?

Though, as per a recent report by comscore, in the United States, currently Android owns the largest pie of smart-phone users with a 40% whooping market share as compared to 26% and 23% by Apple and RIM respectively.  But there are several other issues involved with Android that, according to us, may definitely hamper its growth rate in the future. Here are four broadly categorized risks that we feel Google and Android might face:

Broad categorization of the risks to Android and its ever-increasing growth-rate, namely:

  • The patent war
  • Threat of Malware and Viruses
  • Fragmentation and unhappy developers
  • Loss to developers

Patent War:

Many of you might already be aware that Google has been facing several threats and losses due to alleged infringement of patents. It all started during March last year with Apple suing HTC alleging that HTC has infringed about 20 of its patents related to user interface, architecture and hardware. Ever since, the patent war is growing bigger and bigger with each passing day and android has been facing legal issues from many other multi-national companies including Oracle (due to alleged infringement of JAVA patents), Microsoft, RIM, Nokia and Apple to name a few.

If Google loses the patent wars, there are reports that, handset manufacturers might have to end up paying at least $ 60 for each handset they manufacture with Android operating system loaded on it, just towards licensing fees, in-turn bringing up the overall price of android phones and tablets.

To solve these patent issues to some extent, recently Google made a smart move by acquiring Motorola for $12.5 billion that comes bundled with a package of 17000+ patents that Motorola owned earlier. This has given rise to a situation where Google is competing with other Android manufacturers and there is a risk that, we may see a decline in the number of HTC and Samsung Android Phones in the market and, these manufacturers may end up focusing more on Windows 8 platform.

(Patent wars image credit: Unwiredview.com)

Brief highlights about patent war:

  • Many big brands and companies (including Apple, Microsoft, Apple) started suing Google and android handset manufacturers claiming these brands infringe their patents
  • According to reports, handset manufacturers might have to end up paying additional $60 towards each handset manufactured towards licensing fees
  • Recently, Google took over Motorola along with its 17000 patents for $12.5 billion to solve patent issues to some extent
  • This may push the manufacturers closer to Microsoft

So, it’s obvious that Android and Google team has lots to worry about the patent wars and this always brings a question in our mind, does patent issues gives Apple and Microsoft a chance to again increase their size of market share pie in the long run?

Threat of Malware:

It is the second thing we are most concerned about. The present growth rate of Android may be adversely affected as end users may be hesitant to use a smart phone that is vulnerable to viruses and malware.

It all started somewhere around December last year when several malware were found in Chinese apps and since then, the threat of malware from apps on Android market grew 2.5 times higher than what it was about 6 months back.

Taking a note of the malware threat, it’s obvious that many Android users would be very hesitant to download and use apps from the Android market. Considering number of available applications, one of the primary selling point for Android phones, this risk would surely hamper the growth rate of Android badly!

(Image credit: ubergizmo.com)

Fragmentation & Unhappy Developers:

Basically, there’s two primary reasons leading to the fragmentation of software version eventually leaving the app developers unhappy.

(Image credit: Official Android resource section)

  • Android versions:
    As you can see on the diagram below, unlike iPhone, Android phones are scattered with more than a dozen versions of Android operating system leading to chaos and confusion among app developers that make their apps incompatible and bug free on all phones.
  • Customized Android version by handset manufacturer:
    Almost every handset manufacturer comes up with their own customized version of Android to improve the user interface (for e.x. HTC’s sense and Samsung’s TouchWiz) that doesn’t let the end user upgrade to latest version of Android with ease keeping the users unhappy for being unable to upgrade to latest Android versions.

The fragmentation of the Android OS means developers will have to spend time coming up with compatible versions of their applications for different OS versions.

Low Income & Loss to Developers:

Android platform has been significantly more difficult to monetize as compared to other mobile phone operating systems especially Apple’s iOS. Moreover, as per a report by jumptap.com, even the click-through rate (CTR) for android ads is approximately 40% lower than what it is for iOS.

If we add up the increased uncertainty due to patents and malware to the other risks and issues with Android such as OS version fragmentation, low income rate, android payment issues, then there is a real risk that developers will prefer to develop apps for other platforms.

Lot has been said about the suspected future threats for Android, we now seek your opinion regarding this. Do you think there are any other risks that might hamper Android’s growth?