Android is by far the most used mobile operating system today – but it’s also far from being perfect. Why else would Google always work on improving it? With every edition improvements and features are added, but somehow it still has lots of improvements to do, features to add. Features that its competitors have implemented sometimes years ago. Features that might not make their users happy, but improve the friendliness of their apps. Here are some I would love to see implemented in the next edition of Android.
1. One-tap toggling of mobile data connection
On Windows Phone 8.1 the notification area appears when you pull down from the top of the screen (just like in any other mobile OS). On the top you see a series of shortcuts that allow you to quickly access features or settings: WiFi, Bluetooth, Internet Sharing and so on. The shortcuts are customizable to a certain extent – there are some features that can be listed there – among them a button that allows me to switch off or on my mobile data connection with one tap.
On a stock Android I have to find the setting for mobile data and enable or disable it through there. This one-tap solution that Microsoft has included into its Windows Phone 8.1 is only available through third party widgets. I think Google should really do something about it.
Why it’s useful
Disabling your data connection saves you battery life. I love to playing games at the Euro Palace
when I leave home, but there is usually something to distract me on the go. When this happens, I don’t need the internet for a while – I exit the app, disable the mobile data connection, and go on about my business, knowing that there’s nothing eating my battery life in the background. When I’m done, I re-enable mobile data with one tap, return to the great game library at Euro Palace, and play on.
2. Glance screen
One of the features I simply love about Windows Phone is its built-in “glance screen”. Basically it’s a feature that will display certain information – the date, the time, the number of missed calls, emails and messages, as well as the weather (with the right app installed on the phone, of course) without the need to unlock the device. When I want to know the time, I simply get the phone out of my pocket and take a peek on its screen: its proximity sensor senses that it’s out of the pocket and it turns on the glance screen for about 30 seconds. The screen also displays this data periodically when the phone is on the table, during charging and so on.
Make no mistake – it doesn’t actually turn on the display in full, but only displays the info on a black screen, and only for a limited time. It might consume a bit of power, but that’s negligible.
To see the time on an Android phone, I have to press the power button or tap the screen to turn it on. It might not sound like much, but when you are like the average person, taking your phone out of your pocket about 100 times a day, it can really mean a difference.
Why it’s useful
Does it need explaining? Call me a lazy bastard, but that half a second I save each time when I need to see what time is it counts a lot in the long run.
3. The “live tiles” concept
While they are hated by most users of Windows 8.1 on desktops, live tiles work like a charm on a phone (I won’t say a thing about tablets, as I never had a Surface in my hand). The tiles themselves work both as shortcuts and widgets, and will adapt the amount of information they display to their size (there are currently three sizes available on Windows Phone – small, medium and large). I unlock my Windows Phone and it tells me the number of emails I have, important appointments for the day, the weather, the number of unread news in my feed reader and a lot of other information I might need.
On Android I have to either arrange a series of widgets on my home screen (or several other screens that I can swipe left or right to access), or pull down the notification area to access the same info. And the overall experience is nowhere near as fluid as on Windows Phone – it feels much more like switching desktops on Linux.
Why it’s useful
Having all the info you need, where you need it and when you need it? Pretty self-explanatory.
While Windows Phone might not be your first choice for a mobile OS, it certainly has its good sides. Besides, I consider it the only mobile operating system that was truly meant for phones, which doesn’t give you the sensation that you are holding a keyboardless laptop in your hand. When I use an Android device, I’m all “meh”, and the same goes for iOS. I think Google should at least try to implement features similar to Windows Phone in its next Android edition, put pride aside and recognize the value of some UI solutions offered by the Redmond Giant.