The Problem with Android: Its Users


Chris Pirillo has written an article which can pretty easily be considered flame bait for the Android community. What I find interesting are his points about usability and how Android users defend their choice of operating system. What’s most interesting is how these things compare to the Windows Mobile issues of 2007.

Back in 2007, when the first iPhone came out, Windows Mobile was clearly superior in terms of functionality, customizability, and even the number of apps you could install. However, most people in the tech press complained about Windows Mobile’s usability. It was too complex for the average user, too confusing, etc. Oddly, Windows Mobile’s user interface design was actually very usability-friendly. Icons were labeled with text that people could read. The “Start” button was an extremely obvious place to begin. Tapping the Start button clearly listed the device’s apps and functions in an easy-to-read plain-English manner. Even making a phone call was very easy since all you had to do was start dialing by name or number from the home screen. The problem was that it could do too much. There were too many features to explore.

Then Google Android came around in 2008, and today Android is praised among tech enthusiasts and mobile phone reviewers even though it’s shortcomings are in many ways the same as Windows Mobile, if not worse. For example, Android’s primary user interface is littered with mystery-meat navigation. As Chris Pirillo says:

My favorite moment in this entire situation has to be when I was called “biased” for pointing out somebody else’s BLATANT USABILITY ISSUE. While I have enough knowledge to figure out that grouped dots typically indicate a draggable element, I wasn’t able to ascertain the proper direction to slide the bar to unlock the device. I was holding the phone upright, so sliding up was more intuitive a motion. Nope. You have to slide it down (per my video demonstration). Of course, nowhere did the UI explain that I needed to slide the bar in a downward fashion.

Still, people called *ME* stupid?

He proceeds to list many of the comments from Android fans that blame him for not understanding the operating system.

Does Google have their own reality distortion field that makes it okay to implement blatant usability issues and poor stability, where Microsoft is chastised and forced to start over for much less?

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for since they first appeared on the market in 2002. Read more about Adam Lein!