Android has become a pretty nice mobile OS with Froyo. Some elements are updated to improve the user’s experience, while others always seem to remain the same. Android vs iOS has always been somewhat comparable to PC vs Mac. While Windows provides a lot more options, Mac OS keep to its more confined space.
In the mobile world, it’s much like that. iOS ships a certain way with each device, and the way Android ships may vary from carriers or phones. Again, that’s given Android users many more choices out of the box.
Each system has it’s problems, and some things will never change. Let’s take a look at the things that may never change about Android:
1) User Experience – There are inconsistencies with the user experience. As you may know, the Android OS is open-source, which lets developers tweak it and add in their own photo management apps, etc. However, a problem arises because Google’s Apps (Gmail, Google Voice, Maps and all their other tools) are not open, the company controls those applications. This is why users may get inconsistencies in the user experience; one example is that Android has multitouch support, but some of Google’s built-in apps don’t. What ends up happening is you have a phone that will give you pinch to zoom in the Apps included by the carrier, but those built by Google may not support the feature.
There is a certain beta feel that comes with many Google products, their services tend to stay in a beta status because they seem to believe that as they perpetually roll out improvements. Android will need a major overhaul before some of the underlying issues can truly be fixed. It’s nothing that could come overnight.
2) Android Market – Its implementation feels as if little importance is placed on it compared to the App Store. For instance, ALL non-jailbreak Apps are available only through the App Store and the Apps are always being promoted and featured. The same is not the case for Android. What happens because of this is that some developers host their Apps on their own website, and there is no way to guarantee what you may run into when you download an application. Heck, even in the Android Market, applications don’t go through an approval process. (Apple’s process may not be perfect, but it greatly reduces the risk of downloading rogue Apps).
Unfortunately, Google doesn’t seem to give developers much incentive to use the Android Market, either. There is still a struggle to figure out a uniform way to sell applications. This is something that needs to be figured out in order to ensure continued developer support for the platform.
However, there are also rumors that Amazon and Verizon are launching their own Android app stores. This is the kind of thing that can easily lead to confusion for the consumer, “If i am on Verizon, I have to shop here, if I want this one I have to shop over here…” and so on.
3) Carriers Loading Crapware into Phone – This one is also a result of the open-source nature of Android. While open-source is far from a bad thing, it can become a mess when greedy carriers try to throw their own crap into the phone.
Again, we can help but compare this to a Windows PC: You ever buy yourself a new computer and have it pre-loaded with Dell everything and what feels like hundreds of free trials or bits of software you may not even use and everything? It hearkens back to those days of buying a new computer and having it pre-loaded with AOL software even though people had stopped caring about AOL five years before that. Luckily, even with a Windows system you can reinstall the “standard” version if you aren’t a fan of the stuff your box shipped with.
Actually, this has become such a problem that was brought up in the past. Users have suggested that Google has carriers give users an option to revert back to a stock version, or more standardized version of Android if they so choose. But CEO Eric Schmidt contests that to “put those type of restrictions on an open source product, we’d be violating the principle of open source.” Well, guess that settles it.
Unfortunately, Google doesn’t seem interested in doing anything about it, and carriers are going to take any opportunity they can to make an extra buck and load their own onto a phone. We are sure they won’t be changing anytime soon, either.
4) Locked Update process – Want to go back to the OS you had when you first took your Android device out of the box? Well Google doesn’t provide that. Updates are up to your carrier and manufacturer. If they want to release updates, you’re good. If they don’t care to provide updates? Sorry. With iOS, if something becomes seriously screwed, you can plug it back into your computer and have everything restored the way it should be.
Each version has to be optimized for the individual piece of hardware. This is one thing that worked out for iOS, because Apple knows your hardware. There are far too many variations in Android devices and now tablets. This can fragment the userbase.
5) Patent Issues – Microsoft first hinted that are legal risks that add cost to Android. Apparently, it infringes on a number of patents, when asked about whether the open source model was a problem, Microsoft’s financial officer said, “It does infringe on a bunch of patents, and there’s a cost associated with that.”
Turns out that Microsoft’s “hinting” may have carried some weight. They recently filed suit against Motorola over alleged patent infringements in their Android phones.
Here’s a portion of a blog post by Microsoft’s Corporate VP, Horacio Gutierre, regarding the matter:
‚ÄúAs many of you may have seen, Microsoft filed an action today in the International Trade Commission and in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against Motorola, Inc. for infringement of nine Microsoft patents by Motorola‚Äôs Android-based smartphones. We have released a press statement about our suit, but I thought I would provide a bit more context here around the innovations infringed by Motorola‚Äôs Android-based smartphones and how our suit fits into ongoing developments in the smartphone space.
Another such publicized example is the Apple vs HTC case in which Apple claimed that the OS violated several of their patents, while another story brought up was when HTC paid Microsoft to license some of their patents. In each of these cases, there is cost associated. Many may also remember the legal issue with Oracle’s Java software. Either way, those costs have to be made up somewhere.–figure out where that may come from. Worth keeping in mind is that even companies like Apple, who hold thousands of patents, many relating directly to iOS are still sued for alleged patent infringement.
These issues arise even years after the fact, and it’s unlikely that things will get better.
Android may continue to improve over the years, but there are many things will never change for Android, at least not anytime soon. On one hand, it’s much more open than Apple’s closed off App Store; on the other, it’s literally like the wild, wild west when shopping Android–and that aspect doesn’t just pertain to applications.
Allowing the operating system to be used on various devices has paid off very quickly. However, in the end it may just come back to haunt Google.
See also: 5 Things That Need to Change About iOS