The Android game is so hard: HTC yesterday, Samsung today, Huawei and LG tomorrow

Smartphone makers are planning to up the Android ante with hardware specs that can be matched in weeks and months. Good luck with that race to the bottom.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

The Mobile World Congress has kicked off with a barrage of items from the Android army. LG wants a Galaxy Nexus device and is going high-end with its hardware specs and components. Huawei makes claims that its Ascend D Quad is the fastest smartphone. And HTC in a bit will outline its great comeback plan.

Credit: CNET, Roger Cheng

Credit: CNET, Roger Cheng

And oh yeah rest assured Samsung will talking up its phones, tablets and other Ice Cream Sandwich-based gear too. The tech press will gush about the latest greatest gadgets, but what's the shelf life here?

CNET @ MWC: Huawei's speedy Ascend D Quad phone debuts (photos) | LG in talks with Google for Nexus device | LG leans on high-end specs in smartphone push | Huawei: Our Ascend D Quad is world's fastest smartphone | Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 to come in 10-inch model, too

The problem for all of these smartphone makers is that it's very hard to differentiate. Let's say Huawei has the fastest smartphone on the block. Guess how long that'll last. Tomorrow in the worst case. A few weeks best case. Why? Other phones will launch quad-core phones too.

LG has the scale to compete with Samsung. And on feature phones it already does. LG has a good chance to compete on the smartphone market too. But LG will only crowd out another Android player.

And then there's HTC. HTC will outline its new devices and play a bit of catch -up to rivals such as Samsung and Motorola Mobility, which incidentally will be owned by Google soon.

The big takeaway here is that smartphone makers are competing on hardware specs that can be emulated by others in short order. Google has the OS and the ecosystem. Sure, HTC, Samsung and the gang can try to provide an ecosystem, but it's a tough sell. When it comes to Android there are too many options already---notably Google and Amazon's app marketplaces.

The race is one that heads right to the bottom. That reality points to scale---LG and Samsung---and low-cost labor---Huawei. Even that duel won't be pretty. The Android economics are set up so that hardware makers kill each other. The fun is just starting to play out at MWC.

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