Android and the battle for devices in the warehouse

By: Ed Troianello President QSSI

The question struck me while touring the technology exhibitors at Modex, "Is Windows going to lose it's dominant position in the warehouse device market?" If the differences in market share for mobile devices is an indicator, the answer is, "Yes!" 

Microsoft has been unable to replicate it's OS success with mobile devices the way it has dominated PCs and Servers. Android fuels 68% of the tablet market and 83% of phones. Windows, by comparison, is a paltry 2.5% of phones and has had a respectable jump up to 10% in tablets. iOS makes up the difference and is in a clear state of decline.


Tablet computers, or simply tablets, became a significant OS market share category starting with Apple's iPad. There have been 250 million iPads sold as of January 2015, compared to 174 million Android and 5 million Microsoft Windows-based tablets, with others systems under half a million as of March 2014. In first quarter 2015, smaller Android vendors mostly made up for the huge sales drop of the biggest vendors, Samsung (an Android vendor) and Apple.

Global shipments ("shipments refer to sell-in", that is, wholesale)
SourceDateAndroidiOSWindowsOthers
Strategy Analytics201568%22%10%<0.1%
Gartner201361.9%36.0%2.1%<0.1%
Gartner201245.8%52.8%1.0%0.3% 
Period Android iOS Windows Phone BlackBerry OS Others
2015Q2 82.8% 13.9% 2.6% 0.3% 0.4%
2014Q2 84.8% 11.6% 2.5% 0.5% 0.7%
2013Q2 79.8% 12.9% 3.4% 2.8% 1.2%
2012Q2 69.3% 16.6% 3.1% 4.9% 6.1%

Source: IDC, Aug 2015

Windows remains a healthy chunk of the cost to manufacture any new device. Android is free, even if it comes with some restrictions. As a device maker, where would you put your development time?

.For example, Zebra has 40% of the ruggedized Mobile RF device market. Their direction is to take advantage of adding high-performance, next generation RFID and 1D/2D barcode scanning to the mobile devices of today and tomorrow. It's newest TC8000 device on display at Modex uses Android, (and looks conspicuously like a phone with a short selfie stick.)

The good news is that the logistics industry is poised to experience the benefits.

Now, every employee can be given access to a Warehouse Management System with minimal or no hardware costs. And, phones provide real-time access within or outside the warehouse. The breadth of capabilities increases making employees ever more productive. Possible uses include: 
  • Verification of delivery
  • Input of returns and other pickup info
  • Voice Picking Solutions
  • Work direction and data capture
  • Delivery status updates such as delays, cancellations or on time.
The first litmus test of any transition toward a developing technology is price. And here is more good news. It's possible to achieve a typical savings of $2,500 or more per person using phones in place of RF devices.

Convenience is always a factor in readily adopted technologies. As a whole, phones are smaller and more comfortable than current wrist mounted RF units. Options that are often costly features on conventional RF devices are typically included on a phone. Examples include a large high quality display, high resolution camera for video or images, near field connectivity, blue tooth, Wi-Fi, Cellular, Quality Audio processing, Motion Sensor, light sensor, proximity sensor and charging station.

Durability? A phone in an inexpensive case has comparable durability to the typical "ruggedized" device. The increasing availability of add on batteries, handles, cradles and scanning devices as with all accessories will result in continued downward pressure on prices.

In short, tablets and phones equal or exceed the processing power and memory of most conventional RF products. With the development cycle of phones and tablets being much shorter than for RF devices, this gap can only get greater.

And, the new generation of users will feel more comfortable with the Android user interface than the conventional RF applications using Windows.

Finally, it is evident that Android phones are equally if not more powerful than traditional RF devices and can change "the way work in the warehouse is done." More and more products are being designed around phones and declining costs contribute to advancing automation on the warehouse floor. And did I mention that Android is free?

We're eager to learn more about your warehouse management needs. Contact us today and a specialist will get back to you right away.

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Images courtesy of: Zebra Technologies, Inc. & Lucas Systems, Inc.



We're eager to learn more about your warehouse management needs. Contact us today and a specialist will get back to you right away.

Talk with an Expert

In the market for a WMS solution?

Schedule a demo!