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Posted by on Dec 17, 2016

DJI + iOS vs Android devices

DJI + iOS vs Android devices

I’m curious about the business strategy DJI is demonstrating by shipping the remote control of the latest version of the ever popular Phantom series with a built-in (optional) android based tablet. This is the first remote across the entire DJI platform which will incorporate a native screen. Early specs indicate the built-in screen will be brighter than an iPad and have a slightly higher resolution, but comparing the hardware specs in not my goal here.

As mentioned in previous posts drone hardware is already commoditized (as are tablets), and generally speaking from this point forward we will see diminishing returns in terms of hardware improvements. Instead of discussing nitpicky specs between tablets, on a big picture level I’m wondering what DJI’s longer term strategy will be regarding tablets.

The relationship between DJI and Apple has been widely discussed for a couple of years. The iPad is the most popular tablet that operators use with DJI’s quadcopters. Apple stores were the first retailer to exclusively carry the Phantom 4 when it was released. Many industry publications have speculated that Apple will eventually buy DJI outright (why Apple has not done so already with a cash pile of $100-200B perplexes me). It is abundantly clear that the two play well together, they’ve been flirting for quite some time and I assumed it was only a matter of months before they formally announced a legitimate relationship, acquisition or at least investment.

iOS vs Android test on DJI dual remote:

DJI shipping the RC of their most popular series with an android tablet is at minimum an about face, and perhaps a signal that the Apple+DJI relationship has gone south. Or maybe the retail relationship was purely distribution, and the many speculations of a deeper relationship were unfounded?

It could also be the case that DJI will soon be in the tablet business. DJI has clearly demonstrated that it can design, manufacture and ship hardware at a neck-snapping rate. With 3-4 entirely new lines of DJI product annually it is almost impossible for our drone app dev team to keep the open-source apps that we’ve launched so far up to date across the entire DJI platform. All of that to say it would be no big deal for DJI to release their own tablet, and I’m starting to think it is almost guaranteed in the next 18-24 months.

Furthermore, many operators are so excited about the newly released Mavic that they’re comparing it to bigger / higher dollar drones which is crazy to me. Comparing a Mavic to an Inspire X5 is like comparing a basic phillips screwdriver to a Dewalt power drill. Although the comparison is questionable, from DJI’s standpoint this dynamic accelerates the race to the hardware bottom as the Mavic launched at $1,000 give or take. So, as drone pricing continues sprinting to the bottom DJI will be exploring other forms of revenue. We can likely expect two channels of exploration: tablets and other ancillary hardware; DJI offerings from the software layer.

We were excited for the Apple+DJI relationship to continue blossoming as this would likely improve the standard of quality and support within the entire UAV industry, but perhaps the fast moving gorilla is bumbling in another direction.