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Thursday, November 03, 2011, 03:02 pm PT (06:02 pm ET)

Study finds Android handsets break more frequently than iPhone, could cost carriers $2B in repairs

Cheaply assembled devices running Google's fragmented Android platform could cost telecoms billions of dollars a year in repairs, contrasting service costs for devices based on tightly controlled ecosystems like Apple's iOS.

The fragmented hardware implementation of Android, which lets manufacturers use unchecked testing methods and cheap components, causes a higher rate of repair when compared with Apple's iOS devices, according to a report released Thursday.

Citing a study by wireless service research firm WDS, Reuters reports that Android's rising smartphone marketshare has been boosted by cheap handsets hitting store shelves, some costing less than $100 or free-on-contract, but the growth may come at a cost to telecoms that have seen a spike in repairs for devices running Google's OS.

"While this price point sounds very attractive, when you look at a total cost of ownership it's a different story," said Tim Deluca-Smith, Vice President of Marketing at WDS.

The study of 600,000 technical support calls taken by WDS across Europe, North America, South Africa and Australia showed that Android device returns cost telecoms around $128 in service costs, shipping fees or replacement.

Deluca-Smith was quick to point out that he doesn't see the financial burden to telecoms as the result of Android being a faulty OS, and instead cites inconsistency between handsets as the problem.

“One thing we must be absolutely clear on is that our analysis does not find any inherent fault with the Android platform,” Deluca-Smith said. “Its openness has enabled the ecosystem to grow to a phenomenal size, at a phenomenal rate, and it’s this success that is proving challenging."

The fragmentation seen in Android's hardware implementation is not completely without standards as Google has mandated that handset makers follow the Android Compatability Program if they opt to use the company's platform. However, the required specs for processor and graphics speeds, seen as one of the most expensive components in an Android device, are very low causing some cheaper phones to operate poorly.

"At the moment, Android is a bit of the Wild West," Deluca-Smith said.

Contrasting the open source nature of Google's OS, closed-ecosystems like Apple's iOS have the benefit of being strictly monitored and implemented as the company that makes a device's hardware also writes its software.

Service Calls by OS


Android's global smartphone market share rose to 57 percent in the third quarter, up from 25 percent a year earlier, boosted by strong growth from manufacturers like HTC, according to research firm Canalys. This is a marked increase from earlier estimates that pegged the OS to be on 49 percent of smartphones by 2012, leaving iOS with 19 percent.