Google Needs To Improve The Way You Switch Android Devices
Being an Android customer has as many benefits as it does frustrations. On the positive side, by owning an Android product you’re entitled to really own your product. By that I mean that your experience with the device is not limited to what the OEM decided they’d share with you. You can root your device, load a customized operating system and just make the phone something that you can call your own. We could say that making Android yours is the biggest selling point for its existence and success.
I like to compare us Android users to Airline Pilots. No Airline Pilot was ever forced to become one, and I bet he or she was most likely questioned for choosing to become one because it’s not an easy career. But the reason why they chose to follow that career is because they love to fly. In a similar fashion, you don’t become an Android user by chance. At times when every other person that walks down the road is carrying an iPhone, and when all the marketing you know starts with an “i”, those of us who use Android, choose Android. We just love customizing our phones and this as a result has created one of the biggest cult followings of our time.
You’d assume that as loyal Android power user, we’d be served by Android better than anybody who just started to use the platform this week. Sadly, I don’t feel like if we are. I’ll give you an example of one of my biggest complaints with Android:
I began using the platform in early 2010 and my first-ever device was the glorious and still missed Google Nexus One. I still am in love with that phone. Not too big, not to small, and Android running as it was intended. I later migrated to an HTC Desire HD, then a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and now my Android daily driver is an HTC One X. When it comes to tablets, I first began using the Motorola Xoom and now I’m using my well-praised Nexus 7. As was logical, I customized each of these devices to fit my particular needs, and it’s because I did that every time I’ve switched from one device to another, I become frustrated.
The reason why is because there’s no seamless way to make one phone look like the other. Back-up and restore is either limited or proprietary and if you’re like me and haven’t migrated from one HTC device to the next, you’re simply in for a treat. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t those power-Android customers that love to customize their devices be offered an easier solution to serve their new device in appreciation for the loyalty?
Surely we all know that Google does have a way of backing up the data of each of the apps that you’ve got on one device, but making the new device look and feel exactly as you left the one you’re migrating from is simply cumbersome. It makes the whole power-user paradigm feel stupid, since you’ve already spent countless hours customizing the first device, and doing it again on the new phone just defeats the purpose.
Those of us who love Android will most likely continue buying lots more Android devices, and as such, I do feel things should evolve to serve power-users better. I’m sure you do too, so I’ll start with my ideas of what should be fixed:
Google should be responsible
Samsung and HTC all ship their devices with software that’ll allow you to back-up and restore your phone or tablet. The biggest problem is moving away from either of these brands and finding out that those back-up files are no longer worth anything.
One of the things I must commend Apple for, is for not forcing the user to figure it out with third-party apps. Apple takes full responsibility for how you back-up and restore your device. Whether you use iCloud or iTunes, or if you’re moving from an old iPhone 3G to the latest iPhone 4S or even an iPad, just restore from your previous phone’s backup and all you had is moved to the new device. When I say all, I mean all. Your photos, apps, app data, browser history, icon order, mail accounts, old messages and just about everything gets cloned into your new phone or tablet. Try doing this on Android without having to pay for a third-party solution.
Google is making a big mistake in leaving this to OEMs. I know that for many of you, switching from one phone to a new one is actually cool, but for the average user, this is daunting. See, as a user, you shouldn’t be forced to stick to a brand just to have your stuff moved from one place to the next.
Figure it out Google
Before some of you begin pointing out the fact that each launcher on Android is different, I’ll tell you that the launcher is the least of my problems. Have you ever tried to “quickly” move your photos from one device without microSD expansion to the next? Or to have your corporate email account be active on the new device you got in the store after the old one broke without having IT have a look? Or simple and basic things like having all your apps from one device installed on the new one without having to do it yourself one by one?
If Google can’t figure out how to port your stuff from one launcher, say TouchWiz to HTC Sense, I’ll admit I can live with that. The launcher, in a way, is just an App anyway. Google should at least help the user in getting his or her apps ported to the new device without having to install everything again. I do know of cases like the Motorola Xoom where all your Google Play apps are automatically installed on it after you provide your Google credentials, but it should be universal.
Give us a Google Key Chain
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: There’s no benefit in owning an Android tablet if you come from an Android smartphone. Your Apps won’t be cloned, your email won’t be cloned, neither your photos, nor your videos, and you guessed it, not even your passwords.
It would be awesome if Google provided a service where all my passwords are stored and are synchronized between devices as long as both share the same Google Id. Just restore your new device from your previous, log-in with your Google account, and see how services like Flipboard take care of themselves.
The bottom line
I know I shouldn’t be asking for preferential treatment when compared to any user who just bought their first Android phone. We should all get the same benefits and services. One thing I’ll tell you though is that fixing this problem would help new users a lot more than old ones since it’ll require less effort on their behalf to switch from one device to the next in the future.
When it comes to power users, just imagine not having to worry about wiping your device to be able to root it, since all your data is backed-up separately from the original ROM you left in ClockworkMod.
Whether it’s a better way to backup, restore or if the Key Chain idea becomes a reality, I do feel that Google needs to do something better with Android as soon as possible. I’d be a much happier user that would look forward to my next device, instead of dreading the process I’m required to do for something as basic as setting it up.
How would you improve this problem on Android? We could all respond with different third-party apps as a solution, and please do share those that have solved the problem, but that doesn’t change the fact that the service, while good, could be so much better with Google involved.