Android is imploding, and there's nothing that can be done to stop it

There are more OEMs scrambling over one another for attention than there are customers to go around.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

Things are not good in Androidland.

In the space of a few short weeks we've seen Sony cease smartphone production in Brazil, Dell quit the Android tablet market, and LG show some of its execs the door after the "flagship G5 smartphone failed to generate sales."

See also: Being open source is killing Android

This is a classic case of too many hardware makers and not enough customers. And while Sony ceasing production in Brazil is down to a number of factors - although the word is that sales in that region didn't pan out as expected - Dell's exit and LG firing executives are both purely down to sales.

And it's not because Dell and LG didn't make good hardware. The Dell Venue 8 7000 is probably the best Android business slate available (even if the name is a mouthful). But the tablet market is contracting rapidly, as consumers turn away from pure tablets in favor of 2-in-1 devices. The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed how few tablets were on show at CES this year, and how Google really downplayed tablet features in its new Android Nutella, I mean Nougat.

And while the LG G5 was expensive, and came with high-priced "friends" (the name LG gave to the modules that attached to the device), it was a flagship device from a company that had the courage to innovate.

LG was once one of the biggest Android OEMs, but according to Gartner by the beginning of this year it had fallen to seventh in global smartphone sales, with a market share of less than 4 percent.

LG it seems doesn't even want to gamble any money on adverts to increase brand awareness of its own product.

And no wonder. While Android might have 80 percent of device sales, it only pulls in some 20 percent of the money. Apple's figures here are reversed, which gives the company considerable resources for advertising and R&D into new products.

So what's going on here?

Best Android smartphones: July 2016

Simple. The mobile market is contracting. Apple data offered a bellwether for this, because what happens to iPhone and iPad sales hits other smartphone and tablet makers - those with far less cash in the bank and lower sales to begin with - much harder. Think about that the next time you gloat at falling Apple sales. The market is saturated, and gimmicks such as modules for a smartphone aren't going to change that.

Another problem is that the market has steered itself into a position where there's little room to innovate because customers don't really want innovation. Android consumers want an iPhone or iPad that runs Android, and that's it. Forget the gimmicks or the slide-on camera or removable battery.

Then there's the issue that customers aren't loyal to a particular OEM. People switch, because unlike the walled garden that iOS users dwell in, there's nothing to keep them bound to one maker over another.

Android is Android.

And what about the Android malware toxic hellstew. Another day, another few million Android devices infected with malware. These are not problems that face iOS users, and it's no surprise that Android users are defecting over to Apple.

Android OEMs are in a similar situation to PC OEMs about a decade ago. It was clear back then that PC OEMs were engaged in a race to the bottom in terms of pricing because there was nothing - nothing that is, beyond the branding - that differentiated one PC from another. It all came down to price (with the occasional gimmick thrown in for good measure). Quite a few OEMs died, while the others were left scrabbling in the wasteland they created.

The same fate awaits Android OEMs, and there's nothing that can be done to save them.

It's important to realize that it's not Apple that's killing off Android OEMs. It's the Android OEMs themselves who are doing it, following the same flawed marketing plan that PC makers followed.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Best Windows, iOS, Android and Linux tablets (June 2016)

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