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Hidden cost of cheap Android phones: Telcos spend billions on repairs Add to ...

Fitting older versions of Google's Inc. popular Android software to cheaper cellphones could send the repair costs of global telecoms operators up as much as $2-billion, a study by wireless services firm WDS showed.

Costly hardware failures are more common on Android devices than on Apple Inc. iPhones and Research In Motion Inc. BlackBerry phones, which have strict control over the components used in their devices, WDS data showed.

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Cheaper Android models, costing as little as $100 to make, have helped Android emerge as the dominant platform in smart phones, attracting dozens of manufacturers ranging from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. to no-brand Asian vendors.

“While this price point sounds very attractive, when you look at a total cost of ownership its a different story,” said Tim Deluca-Smith, Vice President of Marketing at WDS, which offers device management and call-centre services to operators.

Android's share of the global smart phone market rose to 57 per cent in the third quarter from 25 per cent a year earlier and just 3 per cent two years earlier, boosted by the success of models from Samsung, HTC Corp. and Sony Ericsson, according to research firm Canalys.

Deluca-Smith said that, while Android has helped take smart phones to masses of people, it has come at a cost, especially when telecommunications operators roll out cheaper devices from less-known brands.

“At the moment, Android is a bit of the Wild West,” he said.

He said returning a broken device costs an operator on average $130 in service costs, transport fees or in the costs of replacing of the device.

The study covered 600,000 technical support calls taken by WDS across Europe, North America, South Africa and Australia.

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