What’s Wrong with Android?

Android is everywhere. It is spreading like a bushfire in California. And it does not appear to be slowing down. In fact, it is getting bigger, faster and stronger day after day. You probably have one in your hand or in your pocket right now. If you don’t, you have at least thought about seeing what all the fuss is with these “Phones”. That’s all they are right? Phones? No. Android is a monster that is trying to take over the Smartphone World. Android is like locusts invading a field of produce. There’s just so many of them…

The problem is there may be too many of them, too fast.

Openness, is a good thing?

We all love open-source. We love the options and customization that is available because of the openness. We love making our gadgets reflect our own personal tastes and functions that pertain to our personal needs and wants, without limits. That’s the way it should be.

But when something is as open as Android and grows as fast as it has, do we expect it to not have growing pains? Depending on the manufacturer, depending on the carrier, depending on the specifications of the phone or other device, will determine what sort of experience you have. There’s no defining experience of Android. Carriers take advantage of openness by adding or changing things on handsets.

“…the consequence of not putting any walls around your product is that both the good guys and the bad guys can do anything they want with it. And for Android, that means that it’s being manipulated, modified, and maimed by companies that care more about preserving their old business models than empowering people with the next great wave of computing devices.” -TechRepublic


Example:

Carriers fill their Android devices with their own apps, but block other third-party apps or block default Android software or remove it all together.

AT&T “There are also a number of AT&T-specific services, such as AT&T Music and Video, AT&T Radio, AT&T FamilyMap, and AT&T Navigator, on the device, but just be aware that most require an additional monthly fee after a limited complimentary trial period. More apps are available from the Android Market, but once again, AT&T has blocked the ability to install third-party apps on the Captivate by removing the Unknown sources option under Applications settings. This is quite annoying, especially when other carriers don’t put the same restrictions on their Android phones.” -CNET

Verizon released the Samsung Fascinate which has the default search as Bing, not Google. And guess what, you can’t change it. Now, Android is a Google product, but because of the openness Verizon calls the shots.

“This was maddening to us. We don’t have a personal issue with Bing, but it’s not our engine of choice, and we’d be willing to bet that it’s not yours either. Now, imagine buying an Android phone — a Google phone — only to discover that not only was Google not defaulted to as a search engine, it’s not even an option!” -Engadget

With all the Verizon Bloatware and default settings geared toward the carriers benefit, you have to wonder is this even Android underneath all manufacturers skins and carrier-based software? People buy these Android phones because they want the Android OS and its ability to customize everything. They want to be able to install any and every application they want. They want to use the best search engine or be able to choose a different one , and they want to be able to use whatever launcher or skin that’s available on or off the market. That’s openness.

When you hear news like Verizon will open its own Android App store, or Amazon opening an Android App store, you become worried. What will that make Android devices look like on their network? Apple refused to allow At&T to preload any crapware on the iPhone. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 will launch without any skinned UI. Google allows everything it seems. When asked why can’t Google put some restrictions in place to protect the core Android experience, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said, “But the fact of the matter is that if we were to put those type of restrictions on an open source product, we’d be violating the principle of open source.”

On the otherhand

A lot of the bloatware and Manufacturer UI can be over looked. A lot of people actually like HTC‘s Sense UI. Samsung‘s Touchwiz Interface is preferred by some. Even Motoblur is tolerable to some users. And there are a lot of Launchers and other custom fonts and wallpapers and tones you can get from the Android Market that really make your device your own. The problem some of us face is that not every Android Phone can make those changes or customizations.  That is for the makers of the phone or the ones who are selling it to you to determine what THEY want or are willing to give to you.

If this trend with Android continues or gets progressively worse, users will walk. WebOS, iOS, WP7 and Blackberry, even Symbian are still around and are very good systems. Many Android users would jump-ship faster than you can say, “Early Contract Termination”, if the iPhone was on other carriers like T-Mobile. If the games for WP7 are are as good as speculated Android has a problem. If WebOS’ next Gen Phone can get the marketing right, you will see more people move that way. If RIM’s Blackberry can get it right, they won’t lose any more market share.

Android is an Open Source Monster. But it is starting to seem more open to better Companies than the Users.

Posted in: Android related, Articles

{ 29 comments… add one }

  • Siraj September 30, 2010, 12:54 pm

    I would not disagree with the points you mentioned wrt carriers and companies taking advantage of android being open, BUT it would not be fair to neglect the advantage a consumer gets out of it. Allow me to mention few of them.

    – Choice in hardware. Users really don’t have to stay stick to a boxed kind of phone with one button in center, clicking which displays the icons (like boxes in a warehouse when you open the door). Though I understand now it is also used for opening multitasking doc for selecting apps you ran recently.

    – Also not to forget users who need a QWERTY, at least can’t get that on iphone but can certainly get on other mobile operating systems.

    – The very choice in the overlays / UIs i.e. Sense UI, Touchwiz and Motoblur. To elaborate further, I can get a 5 megapixel Android phone from all three manufacturers (HTC, Samsung, Motorola), and this different UI thingy allows me, as a consumer, to make a choice. To choose the overlay / UI that I feel more comfortable with. One might go with moto blur for feeding the social needs (imo) and might go with HTC Sense for massive customization options on home screens etc.

    – Let’s not even discuss the rooting / jailbreaking of a device which is mostly done by a minority (as far as I understand). BUT the out of the box functionalities that you get off an android phone is not matched by any other OS in the market. What I mean by this is if you compare the entire package and not just a particular aspect of it.

    I will / must admit that games are much better on iphone, but apps are equally or even better on Android. Android OS, on itself is also very good. (Though if you ask me about my favourite OS, it is WebOS, based on my personal likings).
    Now about people jumping on other OS / platforms is just a speculation in case of Windows 7 and WebOS, based on new devices that are yet to come in the market. And even if they do better (and I strongly believe and hope they will), Android is not going to stay where it is at the moment. It will definitely grow and improve its current offerings.

    Comments please.

  • Mark September 30, 2010, 12:57 pm

    Android is the new WinMobile, just way too fragmented. It may be great for hackers, but for consumers not so much.

  • HAL-9000 September 30, 2010, 2:16 pm

    That’s why you root your phone. That’s the essence of open, right there.

    Apple does the same thing – controls the user experience and access – with their devices more than any of the phone companies. What keeps them in business is they do it better than the phone companies.

    Ultimately, what lets the phone companies screw their customers – and have some moral conscience while they do it – is because the phone companies these days are like giant finance companies: No one buys their phones, they all finance them through credit, and use the phone company as the bank for the loan. Verizon undoubtedly takes a bath every time they “sell” a Fascinate, if the customer walks away the next day the early-term kill fee might let them break-even.

    It’s like buying your PC from your broadband provider on credit. Doesn’t make any sense. If people were willing to BUY their phone then I think the indignation at the phone-company bloatware and such would be more justified. But we’re not buying the phones, we’re getting a cheap financing (zero interest) loan from the phone company to get the phone, in the hopes we will pay them back over two years. Not quite the same thing, and it modifies the moral indignation of it somewhat in my mind.

  • JT September 30, 2010, 2:21 pm

    Does anyone know how OS updates are handled with Android? Is it the carrier or the handset manufacturer that prepares it for the different models? And have any older models been left behind? I would hate to get an Android phone and realize one year later that I can’t get the latest OS update. I know I could probably recompile the source myself but I don’t necessarily have the time to figure that all out.

  • HAL-9000 September 30, 2010, 2:46 pm

    Carriers modify the OS update packages, probably after they get the “stock” OS update from each handset maker. I know T-Mobile customers still haven’t gotten 2.2 Froyo while Verizon folks have.

  • Siraj September 30, 2010, 4:02 pm

    @JT

    Good questions, having obvious answers though, but still…

    OS updates are handled by carriers as well as handset manufacturers, depending on whom you bought the phone from.

    Also i would agree that no one would like to wait for an year to get the updates and we all know what happened with HTC Hero and what is happening with existing Android sets not receiving updates promptly. some of them receive updates early and some late.

    BUT on the other hand, I would love to stay with Android due to the innovative stuff that comes with every update and not like iphone where Apple plays catchup. (Gives you copy paste in 3rd generation of iphone AND gives you ability to create folders in 4th Generation). Not to forget when the multitasking came on an iPhhone.

    The question here could be, is it really worth waiting for 1 year (usually less – 8 months or so) to get updates that are really awesome? or stay stick to a known yearly update expectation and receive features that our grandfathers probably had in their Nokia phones?

    All consumers are not equal and we are not talking about what is right and what is wrong. Here we are talking about is it better to have options and choices? and / or freedom to use our phone the way we want to? or we should take a dictation from some company / someone telling us how to use our phones?

  • Jeff Hollaway September 30, 2010, 4:08 pm

    Apple never claimed to be open. When you buy any of Apple’s proucts, you know you are going to live in their world. But people are happy to do that because they do a excellent job of giving you what you want….for the most part anyway. Android, however is making the claim to be open. Like i said there is plenty still left over for users to do, but some of it is taken away by carriers and that’s not open. Android is like a door with the chain lock on it; you can open it but you can’t get all the way thru.

  • Jeff Hollaway September 30, 2010, 4:13 pm

    @Siraj I think that if its a good phone, I would wait a year for and update, so as long as I know that I would actually get it with my handset. If you get a lower-end Android, I wouldn’t expect more than 1-maybe-2 updates.

  • Siraj September 30, 2010, 4:22 pm

    @ Jeff Hollaway

    I agree, lower end Android phones are left behind for updates. As the saying goes “you get what you pay for”. Mainly due to hardware constraints (obviously)

    I am not in favour of a particular platform and against one. But having used Android, iOS (not iOS 4), WinMo (for 4 years) and PalmOS (for a month or so), I decided to stay with Android for reasons that matter to me as an individual and I can never be in a position to say that xyz platform is not good, but only present my view point.

    Having said that, i would only disagree with your one point i.e. “Android is like a door with the chain lock on it;”. Don’t think that is really fair IMHO :)

    Carriers and Manufacturers are taking advantage of Android being open and stand out of the crowd. I know people waiting for an HTC Android device just because of the Sense UI experience. Though in my opinion Samsung Galaxy S is a much better hardware for the same price (HTC Desire and the likes). So this is where the story begins.

  • JT September 30, 2010, 4:23 pm

    @Siraj
    I would be concerned about what happens when HTC and others have too many handsets to keep updated and stop supporting models. I don’t have a smartphone right now (using an old Blackberry with no data plan) but I would hope when I decide to purchase one that I can get at least 2-3 years out of it and that the innovative features you speak of would make it to my phone.

    BTW, you say we aren’t talking about what’s right or wrong in a handset, but in your next sentence you tell us your take on what is right and wrong. I think customization is great but I won’t select a phone based on one criteria.

  • Siraj September 30, 2010, 4:33 pm

    @JT

    Honestly, even i don’t know what would happen when there will be too many handsets to keep updated. I presume only the latest few would get updated and for getting 2 to 3 years of updates doesn’t seem the reality with current Android phones, i.e. the way manufacturers are releasing new models n all. You can get updates for long if you root your Android phone, but that is not what everyone can do, hence there is no point in discussing the “root” factor here.

    Personally, I can’t stay with a phone for more than one year, I get fascinated by new hardware and go for it. (i know its a waste of money and i do face music for this).

    However, I have seen iphone 3g updated to iOS 4 and trust me it’s sluggish (have seen it on a couple of em, not to mention some features are also left out). I would rather get a new phone than use a sluggish one (but then again, this is me and not a dictation).

  • Darwin September 30, 2010, 4:58 pm

    Android is not really open source. You have to license it from Google and if you don’t they will sue you. Which they have in fact done to several companies. The source to all code that controls any aspect of hardware is not open and is not available to developers. Pretty important code in a handheld device. You also cannot contribute to the Android source code. Only Google does that. So they have already violated multiple open source principles which of course Eric Schmidt knows. But he count on the general publics ignorance to get away with it and use it as an anti-apple marketing point.

    Apple however has contributed heavily to the open source community and quite a lot more than many companies. Webkit for example which is what Google and many others base their browser on.
    http://www.opensource.apple.com/

  • Jeff Hollaway September 30, 2010, 5:14 pm

    They are claiming that it is open. It’s still a good OS. its just… being pimped right now

  • Alan September 30, 2010, 7:01 pm

    @ Darwin
    Really Apple isnt that open source friendly, they make use of it when the want.
    Webkit was origioanlly made by people who made KDE (tho they decided to use KHTML?) and Apple then took it (and improved it however)
    But Apple is mainly using that as a way to boot its apparent openess credentials, which it isnt really.
    Same with the GCC Open Source Compiler Apple recently decided to not allow others to make changes to one which was a joint Apple-Community but now Apple is taking what they have and not sharing any further inprovments.

  • Adam Scinto September 30, 2010, 9:20 pm

    It makes me laugh out loud when people say Android is open.

  • Adam Scinto September 30, 2010, 9:23 pm

    If Android was open, the full source code would be available and the carriers would support rooted phones. The carriers are ruining it by locking their phones down, and then denying support for rooted phones. You have no way to downgrade to the original firmware if you try another one out, just whatever someone’s hacked together.

    That’s why I laugh btw.

  • Adam Scinto September 30, 2010, 9:37 pm

    This is the type of situation that’s killing Android – And it’s the carriers, not Google, that are making it worse by not releasing their default firmware & creating a hostile environment for anyone rooting their phone:

    http://www.engadget.com/2010/09/23/editorial-the-dark-side-of-android-hacking/

  • Jeff Hollaway October 1, 2010, 9:23 am

    From cupcake to Froya, Android is good. Yet, if these were desktops and Dell wouldnt let me upgrade from XP to Windows 7 until they say so, no one would stand for it. When you buy a PC it has bloatware on it too. But if you buy a Mac… You get the point? I am not a Apple Fanboy (I dont own a single apple product) but there is something to say about controlling the environment IF DONE RIGHT. Google made Android to be Open, but the companies get to the device before we can so we have to live with it. Its just not what they said it would be.

  • Davie P October 1, 2010, 10:38 am

    Eh.. nice title to your story. Blame the OS when some jackass corporation clamps it down to wring more money from consumers. What’s next? We have to buy our home computers through these idiots?

  • Brian October 1, 2010, 1:26 pm

    I am an android user. I have an issue with the claim of “waiting a year” for updates. Android 2.2 Froyo was released in June by Google and I had it by the end of August on my HTC phone, much faster than a year.
    The benefit of openness is that app developers are given access to all functions of the device. The limited tool set for developers on the iPhone (from multi-tasking to user data) leads to non-integrated, often inelegant solutions. In my opinion, the developer limitations on the iPhone are closer to WinMo than Android)
    I have a widget to display my calendar the way I want and an app to add events by voice quickly (both free and ad supported). Both integrate directly with my Google calendar. While the learning curve is slightly higher, I find Android apps to be intuitive and the OS more agile.

  • Kermonk October 3, 2010, 1:07 pm

    Nothing is wrong with Android, something is wrong with you though. You are the kind of person would tell the police “But I had to shoot these people Mr. Officer – the gun was available and i could shoot them, so i had to!”

    Bullshit. It is not the fault of Android that that you let carriers and providers get away with this crap – it is the fault of the carriers and providers! And of YOU because you do let them get away with it.
    Chose someone else. And if you find the majority don’t care, well then you are just another annoyed minority.
    As for “fragmentation” – again, nobody cares. The WAST majority of people buying phones couldn’t care less what the operating system of their phone is – they don’t know, don’t care. What they care about is that their phone can do what they need it to do, be it access facebook, twitter,take pictures or whatever.
    Besides this “fragmentation” is no difference than someone running windows 98 having to upgrade to XP.

  • Adam Scinto October 3, 2010, 3:25 pm

    Not only is your gun argument complete nonsense, you miss the point on carriers and fragmentation: The carriers control distribution because they’re the ones selling the phones to the majority of consumers. Remember the Nexus One? In the first couple months they sold 135,000 phones. The same time period the iPhone and Droid ( original ) each sold over 1 million phones. And sales slowed to the point Google stopped selling the Nexus One to consumers this summer, ending their efforts to bypass the carriers. So how exactly do we tell the carriers we won’t stand for it anymore? By paying $1,000 for a phone without a contract?

    And people do care about fragmentation when they find the apps won’t work on their device because of OS versioning or screen size, or whatever. So your solution is to get a new phone? Out of contract for full price?

  • jaamgans October 4, 2010, 12:44 pm

    Darwin –> Android is open – google only sued people that were incorporating their apps (i.e. gmail/maps – which is what Motorola etc licence) within the baked roms which is fair enough. They did and are prepared to work with ROM devs to get around this issue like Cyanogen.

    Rest –>
    I have a G1 and agree that it would be good if all Android phones were be able to be easily rooted, so that a user can make their choice to moke to standard Android. I am rooted and running a Cyanogen Rom – currently 5.8 which is Eclair 2.1 and it runs pretty sweet with decent speed providing most if not all 2.1 features (live wallpaper is available but really shouldn’t be used depending on the wallpaper).

    Most of the other arguements are rubbish as everyone needs are different and we will move to what our needs require including cost – variety and versatility (Android), ease of use and brand image (iOS – not that Android isn’t easy to use, but due to its versatility it does take a bit of time to set up), to comfort (Palm and Symbian), to essential business (RIM).

    Nothing is wrong with Android – if you choose to go with a Version crippled phone that is your choice! Live with it and choose a different provider next time if you don’t like it – most of them have the same phone options (especially in UK & Europe).

  • Jeff Hollaway October 4, 2010, 12:52 pm

    @Jaamgans All I can say is, good for you; still rocking the G1 with Cyanogen. You gonna get the G2?

  • jaamgans October 5, 2010, 11:45 am

    If it had the 1Ghz processer then I would probably say definitely, but not sure as it doesn’t.

    I am looking at my options (will definitely stay android – as I like where we are going, would prefer vanilla android, but Sense will do at a push). I do like that it looks as though the G2 will be fairly easily rooted. I do like to have that extra functionality even though I might not use it. Quite a few of the purchased apps I have do take advantage of it to make a better app and would like to continue to have that advantage in my next phone too.

  • Jeff Hollaway October 5, 2010, 12:04 pm

    @jaamgans Actually The 800Mhz processor in the G2 is new technology. So its actually faster or the same as the 1GHZ you see in other popular models already out. One Article put it this way:

    think of a 2.2Ghz processor in a PC from the year 2000. And think of a 2.0 GHZ of today. Different technology.

  • jaamgans October 6, 2010, 8:50 am

    @ Jeff – interesting.

    Have you seen what LG could be lining up (plus they tend to keep vanilla) – its a dual 1GHZ processer.

  • Jeff Hollaway October 6, 2010, 8:59 am

    LG is so late in the game. Their CEO was fired for not paying attention to the mobile market I think. I don’t think people will take LG seriously in the Android Market. Unless they are cheaper than the others majors. Frankly, there is gonna be too many Android Phones this holiday season. Prices on them will plummet and suddenly you will see fewer handsets the next year.

  • Sahaja April 26, 2012, 4:11 am

    Almost all Android devices have *no* proper support for languages that use complex scripts – (Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Khmer, Sinhala, Tamil, Thai, Tibetan, Urdu etc. etc.) If you’re one of the 25% to 30% of the world that use a language written in a complex script, forget Android for now.

    Android 4 is supposed to offer support for a few of these scripts – but from all accounts, even for those few, it is buggy.
    Then try to upgrade your existing Android device to Android 4 (ICS) – chances are you can’t because the manufacturer is not interested in writing new drivers for old phones and tablets – or the carrier won’t let you.

    Why is it difficult to handle complex scripts? – the few phones and tablets running a real version of Linux have no problem, iOS now has no problem.

    OK Apple has an advantage because iOS needs only to run on a very limited number of devices all controlled by Apple.

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