Android by the numbers: sales, returns and licensing fees

by Kristen Nicole

Does Google (GOOG) really have a chance of penetrating the tablet market as it has successfully done with smartphones? With estimates of Android tablets losing to the iPad at a rate of 24-to1, the reasons for Android’s inability to catch up with the iPad center around lagging Honeycomb updates. Yet from a hardware perspective, Android tablets have the ability to compete with Apple (AAPL). Wider availability across carriers, lower prices and the support of major manufacturers are the reasons why Android smartphones became successful, and while many suspect the same will happen in the tablet space, Apple is catching on.

The iPhone has gone through four editions now, knocking down prices on previous versions with the introduction of every new one. Dropping exclusivity with AT&T (T) helped a lot too, boosting sales numbers and earnings for both Apple and Verizon in the second quarter. And while sales of Android phones also continue to boom (the Samsung Galaxy S II sold 3 million in its first 55 days), a recent report from TechCrunch looks at the underside of mobile retail, indicating an Android device return rate of 30-40%. For consumers, the decision to purchase an Android over an iPhone is getting blurry, with more options growing around each mobile OS. Fragmented and varied firmware updates is a major issue for many Android handset owners, leaving everyone with a different Android experience.

It’s a problem Google continues to work on, even as carriers become obstacles to unified firmware updates. Though Google released Android Gingerbread 2.3 last December, AT&T users are just now receiving the update on their phones. The Motorola Atrix 4G, HTC Inspire, LG Phoenix and Samsung’s Captivate 4G are all getting the Gingerbread updates this week, fulfilling a promise given to many customers when they purchased the high-end phones. As AT&T relies on Android sales to supplement its loss in iPhone users, limiting returns would also be in their best interest.

HTC wants a deal with Apple

Google Android and its supporting manufacturers continue to face strife from all sides, as Apple, Microsoft and Oracle seek licensing deals and court settlements for patent infringement. HTC’s the latest to come under fire, now looking to make a deal after losing a patent dispute to Apple last week. “We have to sit down and figure it out,” CFO Winston Yung said in an interview with Bloomberg, going on to say that HTC is open to all sorts of solutions, as long as the terms are fair and reasonable.