Of the support calls made seeking help with Android handsets, 14% were for hardware issues. Android holds a commanding lead over its nearest rival platform, Windows Phone 7, which saw a 9% rate for hardware-related support calls. Following closely was the Apple iPhone with 8% and Research In Motion's BlackBerrys with 3.7%.
Just what are these numbers really telling us? Short answer: Fragmentation hurts the Android platform. Here's why.
All you need to do is look at how many companies are involved. WDS, the company behind the study, looked at 35 different manufacturers of Android devices. There are only five manufacturers of WP7 devices, and only one manufacturer each for BlackBerrys and iPhones.
Apple and RIM maintain tight control over their hardware development. Apple, in particular, micromanages the process from raw materials to finished product. RIM simply over-engineers the living heck out of its smartphones--in other words, they put them through a serious battery of tests to make sure they'll perform well when in the hands of millions of business professionals. (Boo-yah to RIM for having such a low hardware failure rate!)
As for Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has set very strict guidelines for the devices that run its smartphone platform. Each one has to match a spec list for features and design. This helps the entire platform enjoy some consistency from handset to handset.
With such a huge number of equipment makers behind the Android platform, there's no way the collective group could maintain high-enough standards to deliver the best, longest-lasting, least-breakable handsets.
What's really interesting is that many of the hardware problems experienced by Android devices were grouped by manufacturer. For example, some makers were more apt to make phones with crummy displays, while others made phones with crummy keyboards, or terrible batteries. WDS didn't spill the dirt on which phone makers showed a proclivity for which problems, sadly.
What's the bottom line for businesses here? Total cost of ownership. Software problems are a lot easier for IT--or carrier support--to handle over the phone. Hardware problems are not, and generally mean the phone has to be shipped or taken somewhere for repair. That means down time for employees and lost productivity.
While WDS focuses the conclusion of its report on wireless network operators, it could equally by applied to businesses.
"Mobile operators [and businesses] have to make important decisions when selecting which smartphones to range on their networks," said Craig Rich, chief marketing officer at WDS, in a statement. "They must balance the need to introduce low-cost smartphone devices with the Total Cost of Ownership; a $100 smartphone might not look so attractive if it drives x3 more support cost over its lifetime or has an above-average return rate that impacts customer loyalty" and employee productivity.
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