Everybody’s raving about 4.0, and me too, I love the new typeface, the system bar looks far more useful, and resizable widgets are long overdue. However the fact that this, and other features, feel overdue suggests that maybe Ice Cream Sandwich may not be as tasty as we were all hoping it would be.
First of all: my friends with iPhones all laugh at me because the home screen on my phone doesn’t turn around like theirs when I rotate the handset. Actually laugh at me! The software and hardware are in there, so why not? Think, Google! Think, of how the simple inclusion of a landscape home screen could have cut down the number of Apple fanboys waving their iPhones in people’s faces and shouting “Look what I’ve got! Look what I’ve got!” Just think.
Then, with such a variety of Android devices available and with them all running on such a wide range of hardware wouldn’t it have been nice if there’d been a 4.0 Lite for those budget devices? Wouldn’t it be great if people could buy cheap Android cells with a chance of one day updating them beyond 2.3? Especially in developing countries where the impact of Android will be massive. I read somewhere that there might be a Jelly Bean Lite. Why do we have to wait until then? Although, judging by Android’s update history thus far, that could be as soon as the week after next.
And apps that run on the lock screen? Have the guys at Google not seen an HTC or a Samsung phone lately? HTC Sense has had widgets that can be accessed from the lock screen since Android 2.1. So why not the native operating system? And while we’re on the subject of manufacturer UIs, wouldn’t it be rather nice if they gave us a choice over whether we use their interface or not? I generally prefer the features of TouchWiz or Sense but a lot of people like to have loads of apps installed and these “skins” do tend to take up a lot of room.
It has been said time and time again, here and on a million Android sites: “Where’s the file manager?” and this is a question that could have been asked all the way back to Beta. But… is this really such a bad thing? There are dozens of free third-party file managers out there to save us having to plug our mobiles into our laptops to examine our SD cards. Isn’t it this, and these other ‘omissions’ from the OS are in fact its saving grace? Not having a super-shiny, over-polished system like iOS means we have a market place full of all kinds of neat stuff that the native system lacks; and isn’t this what open source means? All our task killers and data managers that would not be out there if the system provided a good alternative. And, let’s face it, if the default Android soft keyboard wasn’t so goddamn awful, would so many of us be enjoying the joys of SwiftKey today? Long may it reign I say. Less really can be more sometimes. So here’s hoping that Jelly Bean has fewer features, not more.