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When is the Right Time to Make a Custom Android Device (and What to Do Before Then)?

Thinking of making a custom Android device? Find out if your company is at the right stage to do it or, if not, what you can do to prepare.

The process of making any custom Android device with the sophistication of a tablet or smartphone takes a multi-discipline expert understanding of technical engineering

For example, there must be a hardware architect with knowledge of:

  • the hardware at the component level 
  • the parameters around firmware and OS
  •  what customizations are possible
  • the amount of work required to implement those customizations.

You need also an experienced mechanical engineer/designer that knows which components go where to ensure RF quality, ease of use, avoid overheating, and countless other considerations that are learned through experience.

Because of the number of variables and level of technical expertise required to plan out any custom Android product often times the complications from even small changes are overlooked by the untrained eye.

For example, a feature that an Android 5.1 offers, like the ability to grant full admin authority (fully rooted), doesn’t mean that the newer Android 8.1 will also offer this.  When Hatch’s customer goes ahead with making an APP for 8.1 that requires root authority and finds out it’s not possible they must go back to programming changes to their APP code.  

The same thing can be said for a hardware change like adding extra speakers to a device.  It seems like a simple change, but adding speakers requires adding components to support the additional power consumption and modifying the firmware as well to ensure the surge in power consumption is handled properly by the system to prevent a system failure, like shutting off the device.  

Since the failures can come at any time and, by definition, be triggered for unknown reasons in all practicality only extensive user testing will reveal unseen bugs.

A Serious Commitment of both time and money is needed 

Meticulous oversight and collaboration of multiple experts to ensure the most efficient and successful development of a custom Android smartphone or tablet project requires a serious commitment of both time and money by the client.  

Typically a project lasts 4-12 months before the client receives mass production products and the total product cost (based on a 10k unit order) ranges from $750k to $millions (USD).  

To get an idea about payment structure checks out the ‘Fair Pricing Structure‘ page on our website.  Amount of customization is the biggest driver of the time.  The cost drivers are device specs, customization requirements, and quantity.  

Through the active collaboration of a team of experts, Hatch maximizes proven development decisions, a byproduct of experience, reducing costly delays which are typical with custom Android or electronic hardware development.  Fewer customizations mean fewer complications, helping to keep both cost and time requirement lower.

All you need is a vision and funding

When Hatch evaluates customers we aim to partner with companies that possess a vision to create a custom product that serves a specific high-value use case.  The potential customer must have funding and product demand (ie. minimum quantity, normally 10k) in place before coming to Hatch.  

Sometimes that demand comes from the direct customer who will use the products in their own business, otherwise, the demand comes from customers of Hatch’s client, either end users or institutional/enterprise customers.  

Even if the demand isn’t clear, but there’s a solid team in place with a strong business plan Hatch may still support the partnership opportunity by accepting a lower than normal quantity because we believe in the vision and team.  

We send a response to about 10% of those that fit into our business model

Based on the total number of inquiries Hatch gets we respond to about 33%.  Of the 33%, we send an initial response to about 10% of those are projects that fit into our business model.  

This means the company has a clear vision, is solving a unique problem, has sufficient funding and volume demand, and has a team that inspires confidence.

For companies who:

  • aren’t ready to make a volume commitment,
  • don’t have the cash required to realize a project,
  • only need a prototype,
  • are still testing their technology,
  • or whatever other reason prevents them from simply ordering product 

there are other options for you!  

Often we get asked by these kinds of companies ‘Can you refer to another company who can help us?‘.  The answer is NO!  Not because we don’t want to, but because you simply don’t understand what it takes to make a custom product and a minimum investment is needed to sustain the work it takes to make your product.  

How you can move forward

In light of this, I’ll share ways you can move forward without the help of a company like Hatch.  

A). Take a commodity product, buy whatever retail Android phone or tablet best matches your need from any local retailer, and put your app on that product.  Of course, it won’t have all the bells and whistles of a custom device.  It won’t serve your purpose as well either, but it’s a proof of concept.

 Make the most with what you can do easiest given your limited budget.  

B). Another approach is to buy Android demo boards.  Many different options are available online which are open source and offer many interfaces meaning there’s certainly an option available which could serve your purpose.  

Sure it won’t be pretty, but it will be functional.  If you get to the point where you have a half baked product that somewhat demonstrates your vision and you need to leverage that to get financial support to keep moving forward.

Are you ready to work with Hatch? 

Hope this article helps provide a high-level perspective into what goes into making a custom Android device (phone or tablet or mutant variation).  Now you should be able to decide if you’re ready to work with Hatch or keep plugging away in the garage.

Also note that some companies have all the right justifications and resources to go custom, but don’t have the technical expertise.  For those companies, we offer an engineering assessment for $10k to product manage your project which entails defining key hardware specs, firmware/OS requirements, and casing requirements.

If you decide to move forward with an order then half of that $10k will go towards the balance payment on your order.  I’m excited to meet with more special entrepreneurs and help turn your amazing work into reality.

Yours truly, Ben Dolgin-Gardner, Hatch founder and MFG Solution Expert

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Expert insights from the frontline of Android manufacturing.