The final threat for Google's Android may be the most pernicious: What if a significant number of the people who adopted Android as their first smartphone move on to something else as they become power users? In Apple's last two earnings calls, Tim Cook reported that the "majority" of those who switched to iPhone had owned a smartphone running Android. Apple has not specified the rate of switching, but a survey found that 16 percent of people who bought the latest iPhones previously owned Android devices; in China, that rate was 29 percent. For Google, this may not be terrible news in the short run. If Google already makes more from ads on iOS than Android, growth in iOS might actually be good for Google's bottom line. Still, in the long run, the rise of Android switching sets up a terrible path for Google — losing the high-end of the smartphone market to the iPhone, while the low end is under greater threat from noncooperative Android players like Cyanogen which has a chance to snag as many as 1 billion handsets. Android has always been a tricky strategy concludes Manjoo; now, after finding huge success, it seems only to be getting even trickier.
The patent adds that making the device look "cute" should encourage even the youngest members of a family to interact with it. But Mikhail Avady, from SmartUp, said he thought it belonged in "a horror film", and the campaign group Big Brother Watch has also expressed dismay. "When those devices are aimed specifically at children, then for many this will step over the creepy line," says Avady. "Children should be able to play in private and shouldn't have to fear this sort of passive invasion of their privacy."