Android: Five Things That Need To Be Fixed ASAP

With yet another report stating that Android is actually outselling other smartphone platforms, it’s clear that Google’s smartphone OS is here to stay.

And thank goodness. Android has been a boon to the tech world, driving competition in the smartphone market while introducing the benefits of those devices to way more people.

Yet, despite it’s massive success, it’s also clear Android as a platform could be better. Compared to – yes, you knew it was coming – Apple’s iOS, Android is still lacking in some areas. Now, it’s not that Android should necessarily try to emulate Apple’s OS. Instead of trying to copy their competition, Google should try and take what’s best from them or learn from their mistakes.

What does that mean? It means trying to keep some things standard. It means improving the whole user experience from beginning to end. And ultimately, it means giving people as few reasons as possible to use another platform.

So what does Google have to do?

 

Smartly Embrace Fragmentation

One of the most common gripes about Android is fragmentation: the existence of a number of different versions of Android in the marketplace at the same time. Some people can use certain apps and features, but others with older versions cannot. The reason for this is that Android, as an open, modifiable operating system, allows phone makers to make their own versions of the OS. When Google releases a new version of the OS, phone makes have to then update their own modifications.

The tech press has suggested Google try to end fragmentation as much as possible. But instead, they should embrace it.

A good example of why is the iPhone 3G. In their attempts to keep everything the same across the board, Apple nearly crippled the iPhone 3G when they released iOS4. Even after tweaks, the phone is unacceptably slow – but is still missing all the best features of iOS4.What Google must learn is that fragmentation can be could if done right – and, most importantly, in a way that’s clear for people to understand.

Going forward, what Google need is the following: Android 2.2 for all low- to mid-range phones; and Android 3.0 and higher for high-end phones and tablets, where a higher default resolution and changed Android market will allow Android to keep up with Apple.

Keeping these distinctions intact – perhaps even going so far as to name them different OS’es – would allow handset makers to create basic phones for the mass market and high-end phones/tablets for the early adopter crowd. Instead of trying to end fragmentation, by embracing it Google could embrace a larger market share by hitting a variety of different demographics.

 

Touch Screen “Feel”

Even on the very best HTC and Samsung Android phones, the ‘feel’ of the touch screen – how well and how intuitively it seems to respond, scroll etc. –  just isn’t up to the bar set by Apple.

This needs to change, in part because first impressions like this are crucial – but also because it’s the default interface. It’s the thing people use to interact with the OS. It has to be not simply as good as an iPhone, but better. Whether Google can ‘mandate’ this from above is unclear. But they need to build it into the stock version of Android so that any maker who wants to can take advantage of increased responsiveness.

 

Google iTunes?

While it’s true that Android does not need the bloated monster that is iTunes, some form of desktop software for managing media is key.

Why is it important? Because every part of the user experience should be good. There’s no reason that some Android users should use Windows Media Player to transfer music while others use another less-than-stellar piece of bloatware to transfer music, movies, podcasts etc. – especially because Google’s expertise is, ya’ know, software. It’s inexcusable.

Sure, there are options like Double Twist. But by providing a piece of media software to smoothly manage media on any Android phone, Google will improve the total experience of anyone who buys an Android phone. What’s more, they could also choose to integrate it with Picasa, or their upcoming Google Music store.

Apple have shown that you should never underestimate the importance of simplicity and consistency when it comes to user experience. Google needs to step this up.

 

Market

This is now obvious and oft-repeated, but it bears saying again:

  • It needs to be easier to find things in the Android Market. There’s just too much junk. If only Google had some sort of experience creating search algorithms…
  • It needs to be easier to filter out the dreck, like the endless wallpaper apps or the copycat apps that try and piggyback on another company’s name. The sheer ratio of crap-to-usable stuff reduces the usability of the Market.

This much is clear. It has been said so many times, however, that it would be shocking if this weren’t included in Android 3.0

 

Standard Backup and Restore

Each Android manufacturer has its own solution for backing up and restoring your phone. It’s not good enough.

Again, what’s missing here is a simple, intuitive set of rules: plug your phone it, and it will back up. Sure, it can be time-consuming. But it also saves so much hassle; phone crashes or accidentally erased photos are no big thing when things are backed up regularly.

But when each manufacturer has its own solution, it means the quality of that solution will vary wildly. If Google were build backup and restore into desktop software, users could at least have the option of going with a standard.

 

Not *Like* an iPhone; Better Than One

To be crystal clear, I am not saying Android needs to more like the iPhone. The numerous advantages Android has – openness, widgets, Wi-Fi hotspots, and many others – are great. But the iPhone can still often trump most Android phones in one simple metric: how easy and enjoyable it is to own one.

What Google needs to do is focus on a consistent and easy user experience from the moment a customer unpacks their phone. If they do, they will not only continue what looks to increasingly be a leadership position in the market; they will also make Android more appealing to everyone.

Written by Navneet Alang

Navneet Alang is a technology-culture writer based in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter at @navalang
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13 Comments »

 
#1
ramin assadollahi
October 12th, 2010 at 11:53 am

Very good article indeed and all true. Especially media syncing is key as well as ample ways to navigate the store. Maybe even with a social componemt ala amzon”s people who downloaded this also downloaded that. Or your friends dowloaded this etc. The market experience is currently frustrating for buyers and sellers. The ways to communicate with yoyr users are really limited. Ridiculous. An os is only successful if the developers are happy.

 
 
#2
Ed
October 12th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I’d be fine w/some of those if it’s capacity for apps was larger. The Android is mis-leading in that just b/c you can insert a 32GB card, doesn’t mean you can fill that w/32GB of apps, music, email and pictures. Emails are stuck using the internal memory, which you than are sharing w/all your apps – UNLESS the developer has built the app where it can be run on the SD card. Froyo opened the opportunity for that, but compared to the iPhone, where email, music and apps are only limited by the numbers before the GB in the back – Android is not an option for me.

 
 
#3
Marin
October 14th, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Dear Ed, I think you ‘re special, i mean a really special person with a really unique (and pointless) demand for unlimited (but again limited by GB’s on iPhone) e-mail memory… Which kind of e-mail memory are you thinking of exactly? Cause last time I used my old Android (about 2 minutes ago) I had some 5 Gigs of space on my Gmail account (which I use for several e-mail accounts at once including business with graphic related attachments). With so much understanding of how the things work it’s not so surprising that you ‘re stuck with your iPhone’s internal memory.
BR

 
 
#4
Chris
October 13th, 2010 at 6:48 am

I agree with a number of the points; but one see as a remnant…

Desktop software fixation.

You mention it for media management and for backup. For backup; almost everything; down to wallpaper; is already stored with your gmail account in the cloud. Get a new phone; plug it in; and all phone settings (calander/phone book/etc, but not application specific settings) are automatically applied to the new phone. Incredibly useful. If you want a more robust solution (application backup) Use a program like AppBrain or ask for that; but there is no reason for it to be reliant on a desktop application.

As for media syncing; again; the answer comes in as, “Why?” Part of google music that has been announced; is any local media you have; you can stream it live to your phone for ~25/year (I am hazy on the price). Point you’re browser to what you want; and it’s on phone via streaming. No reason to “Sync” with desktop software. Much better solution IMO; and already in the works.

While saying how android shouldn’t try and emulate android; but be better than it; you’re campaigning for google to restrict itself to same limitations imposed by apples archaic infrastructure. Think bigger:)

~Chris

 
 
#5
navneetalang
October 13th, 2010 at 9:49 am

That’s an excellent point, Chris. Cheers.

You’re quite right that a totally wireless syncing option would definitely be superior. If Google can get that together, then I believe they will leapfrog iOS in that regard. I was referring to what exists now and how it might be improved.

 
 
#6
Brad
October 13th, 2010 at 8:12 am

Great list. I’d love to see a list of “Android Things That Need Fixed (When You Get Around To It)”. That list would definitely include the ability to easily screenshot.

 
 
#7
yonglin
October 13th, 2010 at 9:09 am

Android core UI also need to be improved!

 
 
#8
molbal
October 13th, 2010 at 9:29 am

It’s just not true that iOS is better than Android…
‘It’s not good enough.’ Why? Give us reasons. I have tried my dad’s iPhone (3GS), and my friend’s Galaxy (S), and I have to say I liked the Samsung lightyears better than the Apple device. This article is also written by an iFan :(

 
 
#9
gorlok
October 13th, 2010 at 9:33 am

proxy support over wifi networks (like at any enterprise)

 
 
#10
gurningchimp
October 14th, 2010 at 2:21 am

Seconded about proxy support/proxy authentication over enterprise wifi networks!

 
 
#11
Marin
October 14th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I expected more from this article. There’s more to be discussed about what’s completely wrong about it (iTunes? Even Apple fans hate iTunes) and I won’t say it’s all wrong. But it’s too much of look how the iPhone and iOS works for me. Article is comparing one high end phone -> iPhone and iOS dedicated to it with all the dozens of phones and brands which Android is on.

Smooth scrolling? I didn’t find that as problem in Galaxy S for example. But I really don’t need to go so high end to do the smooth scrolling on Android. If there are number of phones where this is not the case then there they are, but that’s not the problem of Android OS. That’s the problem of manufacturer. Android is open for everyone, so unfortunately even for those a bit ‘crappy’ designed devices made to fill in the hole in the market.

 
 
#12
which smartphones
April 17th, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Today, it is also possible to listen to the phone calls of another person.

The reverse look up cell phone service, you do not have to worry about the connection with
someone with whom you’ve lost contact. For the latter case, you have to make sure your message inbox and outbox; your contact list and your ringtone library are not nearing the maximum storage limit.

 
 
#13
the vampire Diaries
June 5th, 2013 at 12:22 am

I love seeing phones featured on famous TV shows like The Vampire Diaries.

 

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