Featured: Forget Fragmentation, Android Needs Consistency and Support

 

With all of the hub-ub and hoopla of Platform Wars (copyright pending) at this point in time the main thing that I believe is a deal breaker for everyone, even if they may not realize it yet, is loyalty.

Sure, Android has die-hard fans, Apple has die-hard fans, Blackberry and I'm sure even Palm does (I say I'm sure only because I only know one person with a WebOS device and needless to say we don't talk much about the platform). My point is, everyone cheers for the new big guy on the football team and the young hot head on racetrack, but the veterans all know better. They're the ones after all with the bigger fans and supporters as well as the bigger contracts.

Android is not a beautiful platform and it's not as open as people want to preach about as if they were that crazy Westboro Baptist Church. Sure, anyone can make an application for the platform and generally do it for free and everyone and their mother can claim a piece of the pie. And that's the problem.

Imagine poor devs having to make an application that is one size fits all for everyone who may download the application because of such a wide distribution of both software and hardware? This is what makes it hard to have an open platform, because we pay to get what these manufacturers got wrong the first time. Anyone remember the first Galaxy Tab? Yup, thought so. All of this comes at a cost to those who want to keep up, I would much rather pay out-right retail price and have it done right than through a locked down subsidy that comes with bloatware and a two-year wait to get my bang out of my time. This is not an open platform... This is a platform that you must continually buy your way through because of how carriers and manufacturers keep screwing things up.

And before you think I'm going to start saying what everyone else says about fragmentation, I strongly believe that it is not the biggest fall of the Android platform. Its weaknesses are organization and consistency. Everything will mainly be solved with those two severely problematic issues being addressed.

Google is used to providing services... albeit, they are used by many but what does Google know about products? Products are not like their web-based services that they can fix on their end with a hot fix or an actual fix to end most issues up and to that point. A product that has both software and firmware is a bit harder to maintain, as I'm sure they have hopefully learned.

To break it down, since at one point I didn't know the difference between software and firmware I'll do my best to put it in words. Software is like an app, it's more flexible (hence it being soft, malleable) and can be tweaked easier than firmware. Firmware is more concrete and is what essentially allows the device to function/communicate with the operating system, in this case Android. And hardware is what houses all of this stuff, so if your screen breaks your messed up the hardware not something else.

I'm no expert, hell, I'm an English major with a love of technology, so if that doesn't make too much sense I'm sorry. And if that's way off then forgive me.

Fixing/tweaking software can sometimes result in system crashes but it will almost never render your device useless, or bricked. Firmware can.

This is why it's so important to stay organized and stay on the same page with all OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) because all this tweaking can result in further exploitation of the user through security vulnerabilities. There is a lot of crapware on the Android Market (you know all those apps that have boobs or the word "sexy" in the title) and with the kind of actions that have recently been done to Sony, Sega, and the CIA through Lulz Secuity, don't you think we have the right to hope our mobile defense is up to par with our internet browsing curiosity?

Nope. Despite one security issue in which Google removed several applications from phones and then some how, I believe through Metaphysics and a dash of Alchemy, sent them a patch for the OS and I believe it's still on the Market if you look for it. Why doesn't Google do that for all OS issues and updates? Security is a very important issue, especially with how fast technology can keep evolving, so screw the potential features of the next Android release, focus on keeping user's private information safe.

Motorola and Samsung have both learned, maybe HTC too (not quite sure as how far Sense is integrated), that integrating their own user interface to Android really turns it into a feature phone and not a smart phone. I don't know about you, but would you pay $299.99 for a feature phone? I wouldn't even entertain the thought.

With Google relying on OEMs and manufacturers to take care of their products, they probably sit on their hands and think of what the next Nexus device will bring that will screw everyone else out of an update and not how to bring this new update to everyone. Even, and most importantly, if it's an update to address a security vulnerability because what else do they do? Those support forums are like walking through a mine field, good luck navigating it. And yes, sometimes it's easy to find your problem but there are instances in which those threads never get a post from a Google employee, and who can you call? I doubt the Ghost Busters will be able to help you at that point. I don't like only depending on carrier services since they just want you to do a factory reset and hope it gets fixed because I highly doubt that they will know how to fix the problem.

If every device were made with plain Vanilla ugly Android and have their own UI (user interface) as a secondary launcher, like the ones you can get on the Market, things would go by far smoother. Then, whenever Google has an update for the OS you can download it from the Market via the desktop version of the Market or mobile version. And instead of having a carrier specific area to the right of the Market's main screen on the device, have it as the manufacturer so when they release an update for their own UIs or some kind of bug stuff that they want to try to fix they can distribute it through there. I'm sure that Galaxy S users would've benefited from that when Samsung was trying to get their GPS to work.

Along with a desktop Market, turn that into the Android Hub (copyright pending) and use that to reflash our devices if they brick for any reason or another. Seriously, why the hell not?

OEMs should really stop trying to make devices out by the truck load. Who the hell do you think you are, Walmart? Good luck if you see yourself like that.

Although this is a business, like all businesses, you really make your money from loyalty. It's why I'll never buy a Windows machine again, because Apple took care of my MacBook for three years. How long does an Android phone last? Like, two months?

Before anyone calls me an Apple fanboy, I am a lover of things beautiful, powerful, and consistent. Give me a Windows experience like that, and we'll talk.

I love Android and what pisses me off like no other, is that the idea of Android is a lot better than the experience it delivers. Remember Communism is great in theory, not so well when implemented.

These OEMs need to make three devices at the most and stagger the hell out of their successors. For example: Samsung Galaxy S (high-end), Samsung Galaxy 3 (mid-range), and Samsung Galaxy 5 (low-end). And no more! The same goes for everyone, that way hopefully OEMs can get their act together and deliver the damn best service and device they can give without screwing people to get a new device to be up to date for features and security on their Android devices. And when brought to multiple countries, don't change anything but the radios to their respective service providers. The Galaxy S was butchered up in so many ways, everyone world-wide could've had so much more than just a Captivate, Vibrant, Fascinate, and Epic (*eye-roll*) they could've had THE Galaxy S. We recently saw how the close brother of the Nexus One, the HTC Desire ran out room for both Sense and Android 2.3, all because HTC had to shove Sense in there. This also brings a memory concern in the devices that we buy, they need more internal memory and not just from an internal SD card. What I'm still trying to figure out is how the Nexus S has not expandable memory, and internal SD card and then a separate internal memory. Really? There is no consistency here either, sadly.

Lets say half of the entire Android users know how to root and all that awesome jazz, but what happens if it bricks? You are SOL, right? But if Android had a way to reflash your device without needing specialized operating systems (most of the rooting process is done via Windows machine and very rarely done through a Mac machine), that would end that problem. If Android is as open as it claims to be, it should be able to work well with both Windows and Mac as they are the most predominantly used operating systems for desktops and PCs.

And hardware/soft buttons... good heavens. It's all a mess! I'm running out of words that don't have to be censored to explain the messes Android allows to happen. Most of us saw this seriously strange lack of consistency on the Nexus S, and trust me, I'm still not liking the decision of that layout. But with Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS as I will call it), we may not have the need for such navigational buttons outside of the display screen. So what then? Google should allow users to shut off the back lighting and functioning of the hardware buttons, if the user chooses to do so, to be able to have the brand new experience with the new iteration of Android. See, that's future-proofing right there. Baby steps, you learn to crawl before you run Google.

If Google were to use its power now they could set these greedy companies right, they're all greedy but if you keep making something new every six months there is no way someone will ever feel comfortable buying a new product as they used to, and things would make a drastic change for the better. Android can't only be thinking of tomorrow, the staff over there have to be able to try to anticipate the future as to what the consumer may want because the developers are people too, so they have some insight as to what the consumer may want. Forget about the competition and who is doing what and when, just focus on making your respective platform the damn best that you can. No more half-baked attempts at anything, give it the 200% every customer deserves.

If it's one thing we've all learned, at least those with an ear for tech news, it's that presentation and aesthetics play a huge roll in what people will buy. I didn't buy my BMW because it looked nice parked, I took it for a drive and felt, heard, and saw what it could do. I didn't get my Jeep to drive only in a city; I got it for chasing tornadoes. And I sure as hell didn't buy my Nexus S to stay behind on Android.

Too often does Google forget about the average consumer, it's about time Google make some strict reinforcements on Android to all users of Android 2.2 (for hardware reasons and most of the users use it) and upward, since there is a chance that a good portion are still under contract, and what a better way to prove Android isn't a cheap and half-developed idea.

If Google and the development team of Android created a real support area, found a way to give excellent and much needed controls to the average user through a desktop client on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and established a sense of security and longevity then this platform will gain loyal customers and not keep people based on the amount of money they have invested, contracts they have signed, and feeling manipulated by OEMs then there will be no need to even look at the competition. These factors create happy and loyal customers, what else could a business want?

-CA

Author's Note: Platform Wars and Android Hub are things I pulled out of my mind and used them in this opinionated piece, if anyone on the Android development team need them you may contact me to get in touch with my attorney....lol...

image credit: norebbo.com

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