I’m Joe “The Android Guy”, and as you might expect with a name like that, I’m pretty into Android. I’ve been described as everything from an “expert” to a “fan boy”, but I hope I fall somewhere in between those two extremes. The one thing I hope all my readers take away from every article I write and video that I shoot is that I’m fair — I never give any device (or even the Android operating itself) a “free ride”.
There are things I like that others don’t, and vice versa, but at the end of the day, Android isn’t perfect. Neither are iOS, Windows Phone, or even the new BlackBerry. That’s one of the things that makes this line of work so enjoyable: the playing field is always changing and things are usually getting better — if only incrementally and not as quickly as many of us would like.
Now that you know who I am and where I’m coming from, I’d like to share the five things that frustrate me most about Android.
Updates and the Dreaded “Fragmentation”
Android is substantially different from all the other mobile OSes on the market today. No, I’m not talking technologically, rather, I’m referring to the ecosystem that surrounds the OS. Android let’s virtually anyone do almost anything they want with their implementation of the operating system. This allows for tremendous amounts of flexibly, ingenuity, and creativity. We can see this in the the wide array of devices running Android today. We have smartphones in all shapes and sizes, tablets in every price range, set-top boxes for your television, and even little thumb-sized dongles that include everything you need to turn any monitor into an Android-powered PC (complete with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi).
This, unfortunately, brings with it an equally broad distribution of various versions of the Android operating system, ranging anywhere from Froyo and Gingerbread, to Honeycomb and Jelly Bean. Many will point to this as being the stumbling point upon which Android will ultimately fail. I’m not quite as “doom and gloom” as that, but it’s still frustrating and puts “fragmentation” at the top of my list.
App Optimization for Tablets
Virtually every Android app will run on both smartphones and tablets (unless the developer specifies otherwise). However, not every app looks good when displayed on the much larger screens of Android-powered tablets. Core apps like Gmail, Calendar, and Contacts all look pretty good, but third-party developers seem to be dragging their feet when it comes to supporting “big” screens. Even Facebook and Twitter have failed to make their apps take advantage of the extra real-estate and “look good” on tablets. That’s just embarrassing.
Android has come a long way in the last several years. In the beginning its user interface may have been a little “light” compared to the competition. I’ll be the first to admit that. Unfortunately, that’s led almost every manufacturer to take it upon themselves to reinvent the proverbial wheel by replacing Android’s stock UI and stock apps with those of their own making. Although this takes time away from what they otherwise could have put into better apps, better hardware, or lower costs, it wouldn’t be a problem if they did it the “right” way. You see, Android, unlike other OSes, has the ability to swap out the launcher app with another. Android is extensible that way! The launcher is an app just like any other app. You can replace it as installing a different web browser. OEMs, however, like to dig deeper and go beyond this easy implementation. Often this results in delayed updates to their devices while they figure out how to hack their proprietary launcher bits into a new version of Android.
I conducted an unscientific poll of several people. I asked them simply “do you like bloat?” One said no, another made a faked vomiting gesture, and the last asked where we were going for lunch. Based on this information I can conclude that no one wants bloat on their smartphones.
Bloat, in case I’ve thoroughly confused you, are applications that are installed by (or at the request of) the OEM or the carrier (or both) and aren’t typically end-user removable. Their icons sit there in your app drawer, taunting you. Their bits taking up valuable space on your already limited internal storage.
I can understand why carriers want to pre-install bloat on your device, but please, let us be able to remove them if we don’t want them. Better yet, ask us which apps we want to install when we first set up our phones so we can avoid the bloat completely!
Who else looks at their fruit-toting friends and envies the storage capacities that are available to the iCrowd? I do. A tablet, in my humble opinion, should come with no less than 32GB storage, and should have both 64 and 128GB options available (or more!). Smartphones should come with no less than 16GB storage, and have both 32 and 64GB options available.
Also, what’s up with the endangered sdcard slot? Yes, Google, I understand that “the cloud” is the future, but come on! I would LOVE to be able to buy half-a-dozen movies from the Play Store, download them to my sdcard while I’m at home via my Wi-Fi (you can DRM the crap out of the files, I don’t care) and have them on my device for my kids to watch on road trips, while waiting at the doctor’s office, etc. I really don’t want to suck down all of my unthrottled data just so my kid doesn’t ask “are we there yet?!” for the millionth time this hour.
Oh, and just in case you didn’t know, data coverage isn’t everywhere, especially not on long road-trips.
Enough About Me
Now you now some of things that frustrate me the most about Android. Before my blood pressure shoots through the roof, let me turn the floor over to you. What’s on your short-list of things that drive you bonkers with Android today? How could Google and OEMs go about fixing them for you? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credit: stuartpilbrow