Android handsets top hardware failures list

Android device returns costing mobile operators a staggering $2 billion per year.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Android handsets are more likely to suffer from hardware faults than Windows Phone 7, iOS or BlackBerry handsets, according to research published by wireless experience management experts WDS.

WDS examined more than 600,000 support calls received over the past 12 months and found that Android handset hardware failures are twice as common as for iOS devices, with 14% of all Android support calls related to hardware failures. By comparison, only 11% of Windows Phone 7 calls were because of hardware failures. iOS did even better, with only 7% being down to problems with the hardware. BlackBerry handsets come out on top, with only 6% of the support calls being related to hardware failure.

Hardware-related support calls:

  • Android: 14%
  • Windows Phone 7: 11%
  • iOS: 7%
  • BlackBerry: 6%

WDS also offers a breakdown of hardware failures, which makes interesting reading:

Source: WDS

Source: WDS

WDS estimates that Android device returns alone is costing mobile operators a staggering $2 billion per year, with each handset return costing operators up to $130. While this might seem bad, Android does have a advantage over the competition, and that is that it is deployment across multiple hardware reference designs and component variants. This means that the Android brand itself is unlikely to be associated with a specific hardware issues.

The report also looks at the importance of handling hardware issues properly:

When hardware failures do occur, operators must take care to protect their consumers against potentially unbalanced and negative attention. Loyal consumers are both an asset to a brand and a threat to its competitors through the display of ‘oppositional loyalty'. This is the term used to describe the expression of unfavorable bias toward an opposing brand and its consumers (for example, Apple vs Android ‘fanboys'). The smartphone category has become a hypercompetitive environment and the prevalence of brand rivalry both within the industry and amongst consumers has formed a promising hook for media attention. Where an underlying theme of hardware failures can be linked to a specified brand, rival brands and consumer groups very quickly leverage this opportunity to launch an attack.

In other words, the 'fanboys' can make or break a handset.

On the subject of fragmentation, WDS believes that Android fragmentation 'has driven additional cost into many operators' businesses, either through support costs or product returns' and that 'the only way to truly combat both hardware and software version fragmentation would be to slow down the pace of development and/or mandate tighter deployment requirements.'

Full report can be found here [registration required].

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