Before returning to Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs said that there was one thing wrong with Apple, "The products suck! There's no sex in them anymore!" what he meant was that they had become boxes with generic designs and some chips thrown inside for good measure. They failed to induce lust within the consumer, did not make them wait in lines for their release, did not make them think about selling vital organs, apendages, wives, anything, just to lay their hands on a new Apple product.
Android OEMs seem to be suffering from a similar fate as Apple in its Jobs-less era. Though it has become highly successful in the low and middle-end market, Android has been unable to usurp the iron throne of the iPhone on top of the high =-end market, where all the large profit margins reside. A few phones are able to make a splash, but none of them have had as huge an impact as the iPhone. Even developers are getting tired of the highly fragmented platform and journalists are getting bored of reviewing similar looking devices coming out of a thousand different camps, as everyone and their mother, maybe even their grandmother along with a few nephews, think that it’s a good idea to 'develop' a new Android device.
What Android needs is a super sexy halo device, a flagship that through amazing design, stands out in the crowd and attracts customers towards it in droves. The iPhone was such a device and now even Microsoft’s Windows Phone has such a device in the shape of the Nokia Lumia 800 and it’s upcoming follower the Lumia 900.
The iPhone offers a perfect mix of stellar hardware married to beautiful, yet simple software. People are attracted by the design, and once they get it in their hands and explore the UI, it’s the begining of a love affair. With its latest iteration, Ice Cream Sandwich, Android has, for the first time, gained as beautiful an interface. All Android needs at this point is for some OEM to build a design, attractive enough to give consumers that initial push to fall in love with their OS and to take them to the level of sophistication, as their competitors.
Definitely needs to get sexier
Here are a few of my thoughts about what leading OEMs in the Android world can do to have any hope of being as sexy as their competition:
Of all Android OEM’s, none have been as successful in the Android arena as Samsung. Owing to the fact that they produce their own chipsets, they are able to optimize their software much closer to their hardware and are thus able to create a blazing fast user experience. Even their designs are mostly serviceable, but they lose out on one key aspect: material quality. They tend to make all of their phones with cheap looking plastic, which is not preferable for customers who are spending exorbitant amounts of money to purchase their high-end phones. We need more metal, glass and polycarbonate, people!
Initially, HTC were on the right path; they made some pretty cool devices, like the Nexus One, the Desire S and the Legend, which proved successful for them. But they took that success to heart a little too vehemently. Now, all their devices seem so similar that one would need a microscope to differentiate them, the same wide speaker grills and curved edges; do not make a sexy device! Add to that the sheer volume of devices they produce, customers can get confused far too easily. Guys, churn out low to mid-end devices, all year, but focus all your attention and all your design chops on one high end device per year and build a brand around it. Fortunately, their new One series seems to be on the right track, let’s see what kind of impression it makes.
Motorola, just needs focus! They are being acquired by Google, which is a huge deal! One would think that their collective vision of software would be better. After their ridiculous experiments with MotoBlur, their new skin is a major improvement, but there’s still a long way to go to achieve design parity with their competition. Also, they need to maintain the integrity of their brands; it wouldn't exactly inspire customer loyalty to have their newly minted devices one-upped just months after they bought them. For example, the Droid Bionic was released in September 2011, the Razr, two months later and the Razr MAXX a mere three months later, all at the same launch price of $299.99 on a two year contract. Such tactics do not inspire customer loyalty, as customers buy high-end phones with the assurance that theirs would be the best phone on the market for the foreseeable future. Again, focus on one flagship slab phone, coupled with another flagship QWERTY slider per year, and you're golden.
Sony is one of the strongest Android OEMs, right now in terms of design. Both the Xperia Arc and the newly announced Xperia S are pretty well-designed phones, but Sony always commits one fatal error, it does not iterate fast enough! The fact that the Xperia S is going to be launched with Gingerbread, instead of Ice Cream Sandwich and that it is using last year’s silicon (i.e. the Snapdragon S3, instead of the S4) cumulatively makes it a bittersweet deal. Good design needs substance as well, so ramp-up your game Sony, catch up already!
Android has now evolved into a pretty compelling platform with the advent of ICS. OEMs need to do justice to such attractive software and combine it with, simply put ‘amazing hardware’, to make sure that this sweet lass called Android, finally becomes sexy enough to attract as large a cult following as iOS.
You can connect with Harshit Passi on Twitter @hrshtpassi