The return and repair of Android smartphone devices is costing mobile operators as much as $2 billion per year, according to a study by WDS. The study analyzes over 600,000 technical support calls that the WDS teams around the world have handled in the last 12 months.

Taking a comprehensive view of the four leading mobile operating systems, the study finds that fragmentation has led to a higher than average propensity for hardware failure on Android-based devices: 14 percent of technical support calls on Android relate to hardware versus 11 percent for Windows Phone, 7 percent for iOS and 6 percent for BlackBerry OS.

"One thing we must be absolutely clear on is that our analysis does not find any inherent fault with the Android platform," said Tim Deluca-Smith, vice president of marketing at WDS, in a statement. "Its openness has enabled the ecosystem to grow to a phenomenal size, at a phenomenal rate, and it's this success that is proving challenging."

But the report does seem to point a finger at hardware. According to the report, the introduction of low-cost hardware, a variety of software customizations and the process for delivering OS updates to consumers were all resulting in operators' retail operations and their return-and-repairs processes being stretched.

Deluca-Smith notes that many operators are treating Android as a standard implementation with a consistent customer experience, which isn't the case. "The Android customer experience differs enormously between devices and this means that the way in which Android devices are retailed and supported must consider factors such as the hardware build and quality of components."

The "Controlling the Android" study is available to download here. The study took place using the WDS GlobalMine knowledge platform between July 2010 and August 2011 and covered 600,000 technical support calls taken by WDS across Europe, North America, South

Africa and Australia.