Why Android Is Faring So Much Better in Phones Than Tablets

MG Siegler, responding to the aforelinked “there’s no organized way for consumers to recognize it as a viable platform” interview with Andy Rubin on Android tablet sales:

Okay, if that’s true, why isn’t the same true for Android phones, which are obviously selling very well?

It may be because the organizational entity that Rubin fails to mention isn’t Google, but the mobile carriers. And right now, the mobile carriers don’t matter nearly as much in the tablet space as they do in the smartphone space.

Maybe that changes, maybe it doesn’t. But to me, this is Rubin essentially admitting that Android’s rise in smartphones has less to do with Android, and more to do with the carriers. In that light, Google’s decision to turn their backs on their original ideals for Android and instead get in bed with the carriers was a smart one.

My hypothesis has long been that Android has very little traction in and of itself. What has traction is the traditional pattern where customers go to their existing carrier’s retail store to buy a new phone, listen to the recommendations of the sales staff, and buy one of the recommended phones. Tens — hundreds? — of millions of people have done this and walked out of the store with a new Android handset. (By my theory, this is why Android phones are so under-represented compared to the iPhone in terms of usage — things like mobile web traffic. A lot of people think of them just as phones.)

There is no such traction for the idea of going into your phone carrier store and buying a computer. That’s why carrier-subsidized netbooks didn’t take off, and that’s why carrier-subsidized Android tablets haven’t either.

Monday, 27 February 2012