updated 07:00 pm EDT, Thu June 2, 2011
Motorola CEO Jha blames returns on bad app quality
Most of Motorola's phone returns are actually from people confusing poorly running apps with the phone quality itself, chief executive Sanjay Jha explained in a presentation at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference on Thursday. Of those returns that were tracked, 70 percent had been turned in because they used too much battery power or bogged the phone down. Google's loose testing on Android Market didn't check for this, leaving Motorola to both monitor for it and deal with the returns.
"We're beginning to understand the impact that has," he said with IDG and others in attendance.
Blur and Motoblur, the company's custom interface layers, were now making up for the deficit, Jha said. By tracking app use themselves, they told Motorola when an app was chewing too much energy. A future version of the interfaces might flag apps to warn users when an app is likely to be too battery-hungry.
The concrete return data is rare in the industry and may reflect one of the compromises Google has made for Android. While it touts that it never rejects an app outside of legality and has had more flexible apps than what Apple allows in the iOS App Store, the policy has also left more room for apps that can accidentally hurt the performance of the OS through quality and not their intended task.
It's unclear how many of the returns were colored by the Android versions Motorola has used. Up until the Droid X2, virtually every new Motorola smartphone was using Android 2.2 or earlier and lacked significant app management. Android 2.3 has tighter control both on its own and through settings of how apps run in the background, reducing the likelihood an app will chew power.
Apple like most companies doesn't usually explain its returns. However, power consumption from rogue iPhone apps is widely regarded as a non-issue both because of the reduced multitasking but also more aggressive app management that keeps battery life in check.