Android OS has come a long way since it was first launched a decade ago. Today, Android is not only powering smartphones and tablets – but everything from Set-Top Boxes and Advertising Displays, to Smart Home and IoT systems.
In this article, we explain what importers must know about Android and technology licensing terms, product compliance requirements – and what you must look for when sourcing Android device manufacturers in China.
Overview of Android Enabled Devices
The Android OS is not just for phones and tablets. The Android OS has evolved since its initial launch, and is now used in the following products:
- Smart Watches
- Set-Top Boxes
- TV Dongles
- PoS Systems
- GPS Navigation Systems
- Car Entertainment Systems
- Advertising Displays
- Smart Home / IoT (Internet of Things) Devices
‘Where are most Android Device Manufacturers located?’
Most Android device manufacturers are located in Shenzhen, in China’s southern Guangdong province.
Shenzhen is, by far, the world’s largest electronics manufacturing cluster, with a huge ecosystem of component factories and assembly manufacturers – combined with quality, compliance and logistics services.
Shenzhen is also the most accessible city in Mainland China, as it’s directly connected with Hong Kong – and offering a 5 day visa on arrival at the border.
‘What should I look for when sourcing Android Device Suppliers?’
China’s electronics ecosystem is vast. It fits everything from the very cutting edge of tech and hardware, to illegal basement operations.
You can’t just go on the internet, pick a supplier and hope for the best.
Luckily, you can identify qualified Android device suppliers with relative ease, by using the following factors:
a. Product Compliance: Can they provide test reports and certificates? A supplier that cannot prove ‘previous compliance’ with the Low Voltage Directive, R&TTE, FCC or UL standards, should not even be considered.
Importing a non-compliant product is illegal, and most suppliers cannot manufacture devices that comply with European Union or United States product safety standards and other regulations.
b. Business Scope: Are you dealing with a wholesaler or a specialized electronics manufacture? There is a huge difference between the two, so you better take a closer look at the supplier’s business scope.
c. Registered Capital: A supplier with 500,000 RMB, or less, in registered capital, is less likely to be a manufacturer. Buying electronics from wholesalers is (due to product compliance risks) not an option.
As such, you need to weed out all suppliers – but those that are specialized in your product category. This is related to the business scope, but the registered capital is one more signal you can use to find the right android device supplier.
d. Quality Management Systems and Factory Audit Reports: Some suppliers understand that transparency can be a money maker. Suppliers that can provide (verifiable) third party audit reports, or quality management certification, should make it on your shortlist.
Looking for OEM and ODM Electronics Manufacturers?
As part of our Starter Package, you can request supplier lists in any industry, delivered within 2 to 3 working days. Click here to learn more.
OEM vs ODM Products
Most Android device manufacturers offer a selection of ODM (Factory Design) products, and OEM (Custom Designed) services. Most of our customers, at least when it comes to electronics, tend to be more geared towards ODM products.
That said, most suppliers treat their ODM products more as ‘templates’, rather than proper products.
This has two major implications for buyers:
a. ODM products can be modified. While the standard ODM spec may only include a certain bluetooth version, and resolution – most ODM products can be both upgraded and downgraded, to suit your requirements.
b. The supplier still expect you to provide a complete spec sheet, including a compliance requirements list and bill of materials. This is counter intuitive, given that an ODM product is by definition developed by the product.
However, basically all suppliers are OEMs first, and ODMs second.
As such, you need to ‘reverse engineer’ the suppliers spec sheets, and get them confirmed before mass production.
Product Safety Standards, Certification & Labeling
Electronic product compliance is relatively complicated. Before you can legally import and sell your android products, you need to make sure that you have ticked of the following:
a. Your product must be manufactured in compliance with all mandatory safety standards and directives (i.e., Low Voltage Directive, FCC and R&TTE)
b. You may need to submit your products for compliance testing, and maintain test reports for a minimum of 10 years.
c. You must issue a Declaration of Conformity or Technical File, that must be maintained for a minimum of 10 years.
d. The product and the packaging must carry all compliance marks (i.e., CE, WEEE and FCC) and other labels (i.e., warning labels)
e. Your product must be delivered with a user guide
Keep in mind that regulatory requirements apply to both the product, and its subsystems. If you import Android Tablets, you must, for example, provide test reports and compliance documents for both the tablet itself, the battery and the AC adapter.
So, why not only work with suppliers that got their compliance documents sorted?
Because it simply doesn’t exist. There is not a single manufacturer (yes, not one), that will invest time and money into ensuring full compliance with EU and US regulations – only to let importers buy the ‘ready made and compliant’ products for a factory price.
That said, previous compliance is still crucial, in the sense that you should only work with suppliers that have made compliant products before.
But electronic product compliance is so much more than just making a product technically compliant, and this is where you should not expect much support from your android device supplier.
Want to learn more about product compliance?
As part of our Starter Package, you will get access to product compliance tutorials, checklists, document samples and label samples. Click here to learn more.
Android OS Licensing Terms
The Android OS is free for manufacturers and importers to install on any device. However, as explained in this article, installing Google apps such as Gmail or Google Play, requires a license that can cost tens of thousands of dollars to obtain.
However, the core OS is free to install for commercial use, and even modify. This is also why Android has evolved from a smartphone OS, into something that we use in all sorts of electronic devices.
When importing Android enabled devices from China, you need to confirm the version with your supplier, and instruct them to not install any unlicensed software.
And yes, that’s per product.
All too often, importers make the faulty assumption that technology licensing is somehow the manufacturer’s problem. Not theirs.
Many importers don’t even consider the implications (and resulting costs) of using Bluetooth, and other technology.
The same thing goes for other technologies developed by, for example, Apple and Samsung. Want to make your device compatible with the Apple lightning connector cable? That’s an 8 dollar license fee – per manufactured unit.
Let me explain how this work.
When you go to an OEM manufacturer, to get your Android device manufactured – this product is ‘new’ and therefore not covered by existing technology licenses.
As such, the supplier is not obliged to offer any support at all when it comes to the licensing.
Nor should they – it’s not their job to act as an international legal adviser for their customers.
Hence, it is up to you to secure all required licenses before importing products – be it to get your product Bluetooth enabled – or make your product compatible with Apple devices.
If your supplier has ever claimed to hold such licenses, trust but verify. Always ask for documentation that can be verified with a third party – preferably the IP owner.
I doubt that most small businesses, even know that they have to pay technology license fees, and take Bluetooth functionality and other tech for granted.
Do you want to launch your own OEM or ODM Android Device?
It can be hard to go from a design drawing to finished product. To help you manage the entire process – from creating a specification, to sampling and quality control – we created a Starter Package for electronic products:
a. Android Devices Manufacturer Lists
b. Product Specification Templates
c. Electronics Label Samples
d. Tutorials, Video Walkthroughs and Task Lists that guide you step-by-step through the entire process
In addition, you can also book quality inspections, lab testing and shipping directly from the platform. Click here to learn more.