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Android scores another stellar month, but why the high return rates?

Android return rates are curiously high, one outlet reports today. How does that square with its huge sales?

By Matthew Shaer / July 28, 2011

The Android OS still tops the market in the states. But plenty of people are returning Android devices, according to one source.

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Android is ascendant – we've said it once, we've said it twice. But what if Android's activation numbers – some half a million a day, according to Google – were marred by consumer dissatisfaction? Over at TechCrunch, John Biggs says that some stores are seeing return rates on Android devices between 30 and 40 percent, much higher than competitors.

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"For us nerds, Android makes a lot of sense," Biggs writes. "It’s ostensibly open platform (but not really) that offers far more flexibility to the programmer, carrier, and, ideally, the user. For the 'average' phone user, however, Android is a maze. Anecdotally, I’ve heard of multiple examples of folks who bought an Android phone in order to 'Think Different' and came away disappointed."

Biggs says the numbers come from a person "familiar with handset sales for multiple manufacturers." Fair enough.

But how do those return figures square with the incredible activation rates Android has reported in the past year? Well, over at InformationWeek, Ed Hansberry argues that "even if the numbers are double the true return rates, 15 percent to 20 percent is still high. It casts a cloud on the 500,000 daily activation numbers that Google tosses about. Cut that by 20 percent and the number drops to 400,000, which is still a lot of devices."

Even if the TechCrunch figures are accurate, Android is still doing just fine, thank you very much. In related news, Nielsen has published its breakdown of the June smartphone race in the US, and Android remains atop the market, with a whopping 39 percent share. Compare that with the 28 percent of US users on an Apple device, and 20 percent on a RIM device. (Poor old RIM. What a couple of years its been for them.)

There is one caveat: "[B]ecause Apple is the only company manufacturing smartphones with the iOS operating system, it is clearly the top smartphone manufacturer in the United States," Nielsen reps wrote on the company blog. Confused? Look at it this way: The Apple iOS runs only on iPhones and iPads. Android, however, runs on a range of devices, including phones and tablets made by HTC and Samsung. Android is winning on the iOS, Apple on hardware.

Returned an Android phone recently? Smitten with your Droid? Drop us a line the comments section. In the meantime, sign up for our free weekly newsletter, which arrives every Wednesday.

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