Are There Problems With Android?

December 7, 2010 - Written By Chris Yackulic

Recently over at MaximumPC, they wrote an article about 8 things they think Google needs to fix with Android. While I agree Android is less than perfect, overall compared to the competition, it is the best thing out there. I am going to take their 8 points that they made, and rebut them with my own personal opinion on the subject, and possibly throw in a little knowledge that I have from within the Android Community. If you can think of anything else that you would like changed with Android be sure to say so in the comment section below.

1. Built-in flat-rate music service

Ask any Android user what they really want in their smartphone, and you’ll hear the same response over and over again: a music service that allows downloads, streaming music, and automatic syncing. This is the holy grail for the Android army, and it’s the one truly glaring weakness Google has in comparison to Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s new WinPhone.

Don’t get us wrong; we appreciate that Android is open-ended enough that we can use a variety of media players and clients to upload/download our media. And more and more, the emerging presence of streaming players and services are releasing us from localized media. But no matter how you cut it, the ability to purchase and synch songs between your PC and your phone is a much-needed fix. If Google is really smart, they’ll mirror the WinPhone’s ability to synch wirelessly via Wi-Fi while plugged into an AC outlet.

Based on leaks from Google and other blog sites, it’s clear that Google is working on a Google Music service, probably as soon as the 2.3 Gingerbread Update. For details on what this might entail, click here.

Alright, honestly a good point, but I would like to know what Android users they have been talking to, yes while a lot of users have been wanting this, we have the recent update of WinAMP which does this, and personally I like being able to choose which songs I have on my phone. As for a Google Music service, honestly if they can get a licensing model worked out with the record companies this may turn into a pretty good service. Until then remember we do have Amazon MP3 which has been the music store on Android since its launch.

2. Simultaneous upgrades across all devices

This is far and away our biggest complaint with the Google Android OS. The upside of the device’s open-source nature is proving to have a major downside for consumers: We’re repeatedly forced to wait for operating system upgrades because the handset manufacturers and wireless service providers have to work out kinks in their interface customizations. The Samsung Epic 4G is a great example of this; it has literally taken months for Sprint and Samsung to deliver the Froyo 2.2 update and, as of this writing, we still haven’t seen it. Google has to figure out a way to deliver across-the-board OS updates to all devices.

Yes, we all know about the “fragmentation” problem with Android, or as Andy Rubin likes to call it “legacy.” Whatever you want to call it, this is a problem with Android. When high-end phones like the Samsung Galaxy S line launch with only Android 2.1 (Eclair) on the phone while there is a more up-to-date version of Android available, this is a problem. We all know there are still phones on the market right now that are running Android 1.5 (Cupcake) and 1.6 (Donut). This is a problem and personally I think the cause is a mix between the hardware manufactures and carriers. As it is stated in the article over at Maximum PC, first we have to wait for the manufactures to get the source code from Google. Then they themselves have to put their own custom skin and mods to the software, and then it finally gets sent off to the carriers. Once it gets there, we then have to wait for them to test it and add their bloatware. All-in-all it takes way too long for updates to reach the phones of the end user.

3. Increased resolution support

Support for resolutions up to 1280 x 760 seems like a no-brainer, particularly in light of the upcoming wave of Android tablets and big-screen smartphones. It sounds like higher resolutions are definitely on the to-do list for Android 2.3, which is scheduled for release at the end of the year, thankfully.

Nothing more can really be said about this. As our phones get bigger and more tablets come out the standard resolution of Android is not going to be enough.

4. GPS and Google Maps

We hate to say it, but we’re beginning to suspect that there’s something strange going on with some combination of Google Maps and Android’s GPS services. Of all the mid-range and high-end phones we’ve tested, we’ve yet to see consistent (and fast) GPS lock-on and performance in any device. That’s a problem.

I have used a slew of different Android phones (T-Mobile G1, Samsung Moment, Motorola Droid, Samsung Vibrant, and now the Google Nexus One) and the only phone I would say I truly had a problem with GPS is with the Vibrant, and this is a known problem with the Galaxy S line. I wonder what phones they have tested because I can get a GPS lock with my Nexus One in about 5 seconds without Wi-Fi enabled. That being said, I have no ideo what they are talking about with GPS problems in Android.

5. Increased privacy (in web browsing and more)

Theoretically, all smartphone browsers are private, particularly when protected with a password. But given how frequently our phones change hands – both intentionally and unintentionally – wouldn’t it be nice if we could maintain some kind of temporary or password protected private-browse mode? All three major desktop browsers have some kind of private-browse mode for the same reason. We’ll go one step further here, however. In addition to (or instead of) a private-browse mode, we want the native ability to password gate individual apps, media, documents, and smartphone functions on our Android devices. This way, we can keep our slightly odd musical preferences to ourselves.

I personally have no problem with privacy on my Android device. All you need to do is put a password/pin/pattern lock on your phone and no one can get into it without knowing what it is. If you absolutely positively need privacy within your web browser, Fennec (Firefox Mobile) by Mozilla is getting ready to launch on Android and there is also Dolphin Browser and Opera, which both allow you to have private browsing.

6. Gaming achievements

We appreciate the plethora of awesome games on the Android platform, but Microsoft’s implementation of Xbox Live-style achievements in the Windows Phone 7 operating system is a new standard. It’s a subtle but universal truth: Unlocking achievements is a powerful incentive to keep gamers hooked—even on mobile devices. The notion of a unified front around games is an ideological departure for Google, so this is not a likely evolution. Not any time soon at least.

Yes, that is all I can really say about this. I would love to see something like this implemented in Android. Some way to know that what I do when I sit around and play Angry Birds all the time is for meanwhile, and to be able to compare what I have done in the game to say other people on Android would be a really nice thing to have natively in Android. Something like this maybe implemented in Honeycomb, but who knows yet what Google has in store for us.

7. Built-in screen shots

We’re a little biased because we frequently find ourselves taking screenshots of our smartphone devices for the stories we write. But we’re baffled as to why we have to root our Android phone in order to take screenshots. Apple’s iOS allows you to quickly and easily capture any screen on your phone by pressing the Home and Sleep button. Why not you, Google?

Again this is a feature that would be really nice to have built-in to Android. I know there are some custom ROMs that have it built-in, but not many end users actually take the time to root and load a custom ROM on their phone. Why not have this built-in to stock Android for everyone to use? What more can I say about this subject.

8. Improve battery life via OS/CPU optimization

Talk to any Android power user and you’ll hear the same complaint over and over again. Standard, out-of-the-gate battery life sucks. Initially, we theorized that this was because Android smartphones were overpowered for the OS. But then we considered that the iPad and iPhone 4 are built on a similar platform, and that Microsoft’s Windows Phones are also built on roughly the same hardware platform. Both of these competitive smartphone families deliver significantly better battery life. Our conclusion: Google needs to optimize their OS code to be more efficient. To be fair, Apple and Microsoft both have head starts on their mobile code. Google needs to catch up fast.

There is nothing really Google can do to optimize battery life on Android phones. They are the only smartphones, in my opinion, that actually do multi-tasking properly. Partially this is because of manufacturers and how they “optimize” Android for their phones. But since I have been using my Nexus One as my daily driver, I have yet to really run into a problem with battery life on the phone, and remember the Nexus One basically takes the AOSP (Android Open Source Project) code and it will run on the Nexus One. So it has nothing really to do with the platform itself, but more so with the manufacturers as to why battery life on Android devices is so bad.

Source: Maximum PC