To some, it might come as a shock that I’m an avid Android user. The Droid X has been my primary phone for several months now, and it has gotten the job done. And while that is true, it doesn’t mean I love everything there is about the phone. In fact, there are some things I utterly hate about Google’s mobile operating system.
1. Less Polish
When you hold an iPhone and an Android phone together and compare the two, one thing becomes apparent: the iPhone is all about the finishing touches. From the way that most applications look and feel to how everything seems to just work, the iPhone has destroyed Android in this regard.
It would be easier if Google decided to take control of the experience, more so like Apple and even Microsoft has done with their mobile operating systems. However, that opportunity has appeared to have come and gone, as phone manufacturers are doing all they can to tear into the guts of Android to make it unique for every brand, if not every phone.
This has resulted in a cluttered, unorganized, and un-unified platform that lacks the finishing touches that iOS does have. However, this isn’t merely the fault of Google and phone manufacturers: third-party developers are also part of the problem, if even for a completely different reason.
2. Poor User Interface Design
One of my favorite applications for Android is called ESPN ScoreCenter, and it keeps me up to date on the latest sports scores around several leagues, a great thing for the hardcore sports fan. But there is one thing about this app I truly hate: it’s interface is downright horrible! I have to press eight buttons simply to get from NCAA Football to NFL scores. I can’t stand it, and it reminds me of how much I miss owning an iPhone.
Now sure, some argue that Android shouldn’t impose such restrictions of uniformity upon developers — that they should have the freedom to do what they want with their applications. So if they want them to look and function like crap, then so be it. I agree with the principal, but the fact is that developers are not user interface designers. They could use some help (and from what I’ve seen from Android, a lot of help) from time to time.
I believe it is up to Google and Android to provide the tools necessary for developers to create well-designed applications that can, if they so choose, look and feel similar on a system-wide basis. But it shouldn’t be some simplistic UI layer that only gets down to the basics. It should be able to scale to powerful applications that do very intricate things.
Developers, of course, wouldn’t be restricted to these tools, but it would serve as an aid for those who possibly can’t come up with something better — meaning that if developers can’t implement a better interface than what Google already offers, it would be okay because Google would already have an impressive suite of tools to create impressive user interfaces without much hassle. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, yet. But maybe this change alone could instill a precedence for application quality and UI design on Android that has not yet been realized.
In short: Google should provide developers with the tools to create mind-blowing applications that are both functional and beautiful. Furthermore, these tools should be so impressive that developers would actually consider using them without hesitation, instead of mulling the option to break down and create their own interfaces objects.
3. Frequent Crashes and Freezes
But one of the things that truly frustrates me about Android is the relatively unstable nature of the platform when compared to iOS. I’ve put the iPhone 3G and iPhone 4 through quite a bit of testing before, and especially so when I owned an iPhone 3G — but I don’t currently because of dreadful service from AT&T. The one thing I recall most was that I never had nearly as many crashes and freezes as I have had with Android.
My experiences with Android — primarily with the Droid, Droid 2, Droid X (the phone I own and use currently), HTC Hero, and HTC Evo 4G — have always resulted in the same disappointing realization: there will be crashes, there will be instability, and there will be freezes.
There is no telling whether this is because of the applications I have installed or if it is the operating system itself struggling to keep up with my demands, but, either way, it is unacceptable. It’s even more disappointing when considering that Windows (an operating system I previously used to loathe until version 7) now manages to run more stable than Android.
One would assume that patches can fix all of this. That still doesn’t take away from the frustrations that I experience right now. Even worse is that the newer patches for my Droid X seem to increase the amount of crashes. It’s mind boggling at this point.
4. Lack of iTunes Syncing
Then there is iTunes. It is, in my mind, a piece of garbage that Apple needs to completely rethink from the ground up. However, until they do that, I am stuck with it. It is what I use to manage my music library, and there are at least a few others in the world who happen to use it too. Unfortunately, Android can’t sync with iTunes. And while I’m sure Apple isn’t making it easy for Android (which genuinely is a lame move on Apple’s part), I know that there has to be a better way.
There are ways to accomplish this — using DoubleTwist seems like the easiest solution — but I feel as if it should be something supported natively, even if Google has to hack around to do it; they have enough brains at the company that I’m sure someone could figure it out.
Until Google figures out how to do music correctly (I’m still waiting for that Google Music service), I have never felt inclined to load up my Droid X with music; not even once. I don’t know if that is common amongst other Android users. It is certainly the case with me, though.
So, for now, I’m still carrying around my iPod.
5. The Illusion of Freedom
Another serious issue that really gets under my skin is how much liberty the carriers are taking with Android. They now have the power to add and remove applications at their will, restrict the usage of applications, and force me to use their own applications on Android. It’s ridiculous!
I woke up two days ago to a big update for my Droid X (yes, the update that is causing my system to crash more often than I would like). It wasn’t until I went in and took a good look at my installed apps that I noticed that there was something new on my Droid X that I never installed. It was Madden NFL football, a game that I most certainly would never play on my Droid X (I have an Xbox 360, after all).
Even though that got me upset, I figured I could uninstall it and move on. But no! I can’t remove it at all. It’s stuck as a menu option on my installed applications list, and I can’t do a thing about it. Now that truly pisses me off.
Considering that Android is supposed to be the “open” alternative to the iPhone, while giving users more freedom, this move really proves to me that this illusion of freedom is just that — an illusion, and one that is quickly being exposed as a fraud.
It doesn’t matter if it is the carrier’s fault or Google’s. The consumers are the ones suffering in the end.
6. Fewer Quality Apps
Finally, the last thing that I hate about Android is that the applications on Android are so much inferior than the ones on iOS. Furthermore, iOS also has many more exclusive applications that I would really love to see on Android, which is really disheartening.
It feels like the only thing I get to brag about is awesome Gmail support and a customizable home screen with various widgets (and, thanks to Motorola, really crappy ones at that). Ironically, it all makes me feel a bit jealous of iPhone users. Of course, there are things that are truly noteworthy about Android, and it isn’t as bad as I make it sound — I could have ended up owning a Blackberry. Still, there is no doubt that it could be so much better.
I hope that Google and Android can pull it together. I’m all for competition. But if the iPhone lands on Verizon, Android might not have a chance to redeem itself for me and the many others who will potentially make a switch in a heartbeat.
And while I tried my best to restrain myself from comparing iOS and Android, it couldn’t be helped. Once you use an iOS device and then switch to an Android device, you realize how many things you are missing out on. I just hope that Google will do their best to play catch up, even if they are a few dozen laps behind.