With a year-on-year growth rate of more than 250%, 850,000 new Android devices are activated each day, jetting the total number of Android devices around the world past 300 million.
These numbers are a testament to the break-neck speed of innovation that defines the Android ecosystem.” — Andy Rubin, SVP, Mobile and Digital Content, Google
Rubin shared this data in a blog post on Monday, coinciding with the Mobile World Congress event. Aside from some Windows Phone news, the MWC show has been a non-stop Android event: multiple phones with quad-core chips, high-definition displays and LTE mobile broadband radios. Rubin speaks to “speed of innovation” as a plus, but it can be just as harmful.
While Google gains from more Android handsets in the wild, handset makers are trying to one-up each other to stand out from the crowd. Motorola tried in 2011 and agreed to be bought by Google as the company couldn’t break out from the pack with multiple handset and tablet models. HTC quickly rolled out many phones last year too, but sales growth stalled, partially due to too many similar variants of the same designs. And then there are the consumers who run the risk of buying a new Android phone only to see an improved model arrive soon after. If you don’t believe that, just talk to a Motorola Razr owner who saw the Razr Maxx launch just weeks later.
The other issue in the ecosystem is software-related. Google is refining Android far faster than handset makers and carriers can test and push out to consumers. Nobody can keep up with Google’s “break-neck speed of innovation”, which is a negative, not a plus. I think this could be hurting developers who may start coding using one set of Android APIs but then see new ones with each Android release.
As a long-time, daily Android user, I like the experience, control and functionality my phone and tablet provide me. But I’m pretty tolerant of change and the fast pace of technology innovation. It’s great for Google that activations are growing, but what’s the cost of such speed? Instead of focusing on activation numbers and a fast development pace, maybe the Android team should take 6 months off and let the rest of the ecosystem catch up.