I know too Android is not a perfect OS. As an OS that is built on top of a slightly modified Linux kernel, it has its flaws too. However that is what makes me prefer it over iOS.
I found two biggest flaws in Android. Initially there were three (the third one was the source code is only available for the current release though not necessarily available at launch but I’m no developer so it’s OK).
My first issue with Android is it is not available for general public but only to phone makers. It is not something that you could download and install in any device you wanted even if the device is physically capable of running it (hardware). Not just the OS itself, it also has similar issues of availability for the updates. The updates usually not available via OTA (Over The Air) which means you can’t utilize your wi-fi or 3G connection to update your system in a similar way you update Windows/Linux desktop. You’d need to connect your phone and run the updater tool (which would download and flash your phone automatically). The need to flash the entire system just to apply an OS update is ridiculous, showing how premature the system is. At least from what I know, iOS updates may roll out in patches (except for major upgrade of course). I was informed that the unavailability of OTA update is the limitation by some telcos. That’s a lie. In my case, I own a no telco-lock, no contract LG Androphone. However I never got any updates from my telco, instead I’d periodically check for available updates from LG or online communities and get notified that way, which is very cumbersome and inconvenient.
This second biggest issue I found is the UI fragmentation. I hate it when Android phone makers keep overlaying the UI with their own. They should have just concentrate on the hardware instead of fiddling and tinkering with the OS. In other words they should concentrate on optimizing the OS for the hardware by perfecting the drivers and software-hardware integration. Google should never allowed these phone makers to replace the stock UI and make their own as default. Instead let the user decide what UI (homescreen) they would like to use. In some ‘extreme’ cases (like most LG’s Androphones) they even went as far as removing the stock UI completely. I’m not sure about Motorola because I wouldn’t bother to touch it (never liked Motorola since I was born although it was the first cellphone in my family) but I have a feeling that their UI would be equally sucks if they had it too. One of the worst vendor-made UI I’ve seen on Androphones is from Sony Ericsson that makes it feels like a Nokia phone (no multi home screen by default like Nokia Symbian phones). That is followed by Samsung’s TouchWiz. While most Androphone users praised HTC’s Sense UI, I prefer to stick with the stock UI.
Speaking of UI, I’m always thinking about the importance of having multiple homescreen. It is crucial to make the ‘desktop’ less cluttered in the similar fashion to multiple desktop (workspace) found in most Linux distro. For Android to be built based on Linux it is expected for it to inherit this feature to keep the good Linux reputation. Nobody has to go to the app drawer and scroll through it every time s/he wanted to launch an app if s/he can place the most used apps shortcuts on the homescreens. Homescreens also allow a user to categorize those shortcuts, which I think is a better categorization solution that categorizing them in the app drawer. I know some 3rd party homescreens allow app categorization in the app drawer but like I said let the user decide that later after they play around with the default UI for a bit. After all I don’t think people would like it if every PC vendor forced their own Windows themes on every PC they sell.
But all that doesn’t matter much to me as long as the benefit I gained from it is more than those flaws. I know most Androphone users didn’t buy the phone for for it’s tweakability and customizability, so does that not all iPhone owners bought it for iOS’ awesomeness. In fact I bet most of them would agree that iPhone is too restrictive to their liking. In a sense, once everybody starts buying the iPhone it would feel less special and less unique.
Now let’s talk about the most recent Android (phone and OS). Both Google and Samsung co-launched Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” (ICS) and Galaxy Nexus (see picture below) being the first ICS device. Galaxy Nexus sure looks cool but like I said above, it comes with flaws too. For example, the most basic needs I found missing is microSD card slot. Sure the phone has huge 32GB built-in storage but who’d immediately need that much storage? At least the iPhone comes with multiple capacity selection right at launch.
- Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the latest addition to Google’s Nexus phones.
Also I hate the curved form factor (see picture above). To be honest I’ve never liked the curvature like those ‘chins’ found on many HTC Androphones. It would only make the phone looks bold from a certain angle, making it pointless to be this thin. After all when we put it in pocket the force would be unevenly distributed on the surface. I’ve broken my phone while it was in my pants’ pocket before so I know well about the risk.
When it comes to display size, for me 4″ is the maximum size for a phone. However Galaxy Nexus comes with a 4.63″ screen. I don’t care about the high resolution (1280×720) and I think the argument that it’s to enable people to watch 720p video is also lame. I mean who’d want to watch 720p video on a phone? Definitely not me as I think it’s a stupid thing to do. If I want to watch a 720p videos I’d go for a tablet or even a netbook. I want all Androphone makers to stop making big screen phones like this. Sorry but making larger display than the iPhone does not make it better than iPhone.
On the brighter side LG just announced the DoublePlay for T-Mobile. It looks very promising because of its 2 key features. The first one is it sports a dual-screen display (see picture below).
- LG DoublePlay (a.k.a. LG Flip II) for T-Mobile
It is kinda disappointing that for a screen of this size (3.5″, which is the same as iPhone) it has a low resolution, at 320×480 only. Even my LG Optimus One also has the same resolution display, albeit at a bit smaller screen size (3.2″). Well this isn’t a Optimus phone so I guess that’s the reason.My only concern is since the word play is there this phone should give the impression that it is for gaming but for a screen with that resolution would make it feel underpowered. Just so you know this phone is powered by 1GHz CPU so it’s not that underpowered underneath though. BTW, speaking of gaming, I wish the second screen would act as a secondary display to show game stats like the one found in Nintendo DS.
The second feature (the one I missed a lot in touchscreen phones) is the physical keypad (see picture above). It is a trait only found in some older Nokia phones. Taking a similar approach to Nokia’s old E-series flip-phones for business users, the keyboard is the split-type one, which is surprisingly easy to type on (see picture below).
- Nokia E70 (image ripped from The Best Page In The universe by Maddox).
For me the haptic feedback of the touchscreen display is no match to the keypad’s tactile feedback. That touch and feel is irreplaceable and the most important thing is you could rest your fingers on the keypad without triggering/registering any keypress (the only tradeoff is you’d end up having a thick phone but for me it’s OK because I love the feeling that I’m holding a phone in my hand instead of holding a thin card deck). Couple that with the secondary display, it would be great if the smaller display would double as a separate numeric keypad when typing so that I wouldn’t have to press the Alt key every time I want to key in a number.
The biggest disappointment with this phone however (and probably with all LG Androphones) is that it doesn’t come with ICS although it is capable of running it for its hardware. Instead it comes with the older version of Gingerbread (2.3) as opposed to the newer ones. Yes, it an ‘old’ choice for an OS (and maybe bad choice too) considering that most other phones by this time are already updated to 2.3.4 or 2.3.5. Well LG has always at least one step behind all Androphone makers when it comes to bringing updated software. I know it perfectly as it happened to me many times already, being an owner of an LG Androphone (even the newer, more power Optimus-es than mine also came with ‘old’ Froyo instead of Gingerbread).
That said, I guess the last hope of my Android faith would be placed for ASUS Padfone or if possible I’d like to import Sharp/Toshiba Androphone from Japan! ASUS made some Adrophones to before, most notably the Garmin-ASUS series but I never wanted those ‘rubbish’ as they came with Eclair when all other phones already using Froyo. Sure it’s good as a GPS device but not as an Androphone. Actually there’s another promising effort worth noting where there was this Synapses Built-to-Order Android phone back then; great idea and supposed to be shipping this year but the effort seems dead now (even the website has been down for months).