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Featured Editorial: An Android New Year’s Resolution for 2013

January 1, 2013 - Written By Tom Dawson

We all love Android, right? Well, you wouldn’t be here reading this if you didn’t, would you? Okay, so love is a strong word, especially when we’re talking about a mobile OS but, Android has had a very good year in 2012 – hardware from partners like HTC and Samsung have never been better and the platform itself learnt some more tricks.

There’s no denying that 2012 has been a good year for the platform but, what about next year? 2013 is pegged to be the year of the 1080p smartphone and once again, we’re going to see bigger sized devices. That’s all fine and well but, what about Android in general?

These are some of the things that we want Google to introduce to Android but, what are you hoping to see from Android going into 2013? Let us know in the comments!

For some time now, there have been niggles in the platform that have yet to disappear. We shouldn’t really lay this at Google’s door as Android is after all, Open Source and out there for anyone to do what they want with. However, Google does hold control over the platform in the form of its Google Services, unless you’re device is given the green light by Google you don’t get the Play Store and anything else that arguably makes Android so great. So, what do we want Google to do? What are the problems that need to stop?

I’m glad you asked…

Carrier Bloatware Needs to Go

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The above is a picture from Alex’s brilliant Note II review and on Verizon he noticed that there was a lot of bloatware. I think it’s about time that carriers need to loosen their grip on their smartphones. After all, we’re the paying customer and if we don’t want to use their services, we won’t use them. With that comes the previso that certain apps shouldn’t be forced upon us. Now, I’m not saying that some apps carriers throw in aren’t useful, for instance a way to check your bill is really quite helpful. When the bloatware is apps or demos of games that we didn’t ask for, it gets a little much. It’s fine to say “Well, just disable the app and you won’t notice it” but the reality is, it shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Google have a little more control over Android than they let on and they should be cutting on this sort of thing. It doesn’t send a very good message when a new user picks up an Android smartphone and it’s full of crap. Bloatware isn’t present on the iPhone so why should it be present on any other device, Android or otherwise?

Faster Updates

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This drum is well worn and beaten one at this point. Every year we ask for the same thing and every year, we don’t get it. By now, we’ve come around to the idea that releasing an update isn’t as simple as we all think and that testing is not only important but understandably time consuming. We don’t want broken updates, we just want them quicker. Rolling out an update before it’s ready isn’t a good thing but taking forever to roll one out is just as bad – if not worse. 2012 was a good year for Samsung and updates, it seems that there was always another update for a Samsung smartphone, whereas HTC and Motorola dragged their feet to get Jelly Bean out the door.

Google unveiled some plans to help with this at Google I/O and the Platform Development Kit which should help hardware developers port newer versions of Android to their hardware. Something like that is great to see but what I really want to know is how much pressure Google put on vendors and carriers to release updates. Judging by the fiasco of the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon, I doubt it’s very much at all.

Better Availability of The Nexus Line

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This is a tricky one as we know that Google can only do so much and they aren’t to blame if LG or Samsung are struggling to make them. After all, the Nexus 4 proved ridiculously popular even with a lack of LTE, and the Nexus 10 is still sold out. Getting these devices available in large quantities is one part of the battle for Google as the Play Store is clearly not geared up for selling devices, with crashes and sluggishness through the launch day of the Nexus 4 and 10. It’s not as if Google couldn’t have known the Nexus 4 was going to be popular as it was leaked and written about in the press for what felt like forever.

I really hate to bring Apple into this but, they sell their own devices – and have done for years now – and they seem to do okay. It stands to reason that the company that deal with around 24 Petabytes of data a day should be able to run a web store.

A Social Gaming Hub for Android

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2012 has been a massive year for gaming on Android, with the Tegra 3 and the Snapdragon S4 Pro pushing the limits of games, everything got a little quicker and graphics have never looked so good. There’s no denying that Android has become a strong platform for mobile gaming but it’s all pretty disjointed when you think about it. Games often launch on Nvidia’s Tegra Zone first and then filter through to the Play Store or they’ll launch in the Play Store and be exclusive for a certain type of smartphone – I’m looking at you Sony – and this sort of stuff isn’t good for gaming. After all, the whole idea is to get as many people playing your games as possible, isn’t it?
Google could – and should – step in with a unified hub for gaming, it could tie into Google+ and make a mockery of iOS’ Game Center. Having games launch for one device before another or exclusivity isn’t good on consoles and it’s even worse for mobile, with a unified hub Google could promote gaming content no end and it would show the world that Android is the platform for mobile gaming. We’ve no idea how they would do such a thing but Google have shown, through the Play Store, that they are more than capable of creating a great place to discover content through.

Can Google Fulfill These Resolutions

I’m fairly confident that Google could crack down on a few of these issues, maybe not all of them of course, that’s a big ask. Google would have most hope in cracking down on the bloatware issue as it’s their platform that they’re licensing to manufacturers that carriers are then using as well. I can’t see Verizon giving up a paycheck from Amazon to carry their apps though, can you? It’s a shame that these niggles are still present in Android today but 2013 looks like it’s shaping up to be the year we see Google get a little more serious when it comes to the mobile OS. There was a time when Android was just another means to get people into Google’s services but now it’s a real money-spinner for Google, the Play Store has a whole lot of paid content in it and apps and games have never been more plentiful. I certainly hope that 2013 is the year that Google double-down on Android and make the consumer market see it for the premium platform that it’s become.