Review: Android, Google's OS for mobile devices (disappointing)
I've been evaluating Android, Google's attempt at a mobile phone OS, and I'm not impressed. I'm particularly disappointed by some of the most obvious limitations and flaws I found as soon as I started trying to use Android.
Despite numerous issues and limitations, Android does do the job as a basic touch-screen phone, and provides a good basic mobile web browser.
Crucially, when I upgraded to Android, it felt like a downgrade, mainly because the latest Sony Ericsson phone (running Google's Android OS) simply lacked most of the superb applications that have came as standard on many of my previous Sony Ericsson mobiles (running Sony's own proprietary OS).
The UI software on Android generally looks ok on screen, though most apps and most aspects of the OS lack standard touch-screen functionality, such as pinch to zoom in/out, even when the hardware supports it. Android is available on some nice handsets, too. My Xperia X10i by Sony Ericsson, which runs Android 1.6, looks nice. The physical device is sleek and well-designed, making iPhone 4 look very plain and dated. On the whole I prefer Android over iPhone, software and hardware included, although bear in mind that I'm not at all impressed by iPhone. As you would expect, SE hardware, especially the camera, is superior to the iPhone.
Here are some of my main concerns about Android, including bugs, bad user experriences, issues and limitations.
This is NOT a good phone! Often I am unable to make outgoing calls! It dials, then waits, then there's a beep and the call is not connected. It's not the network or the signal, it's the phone. Consequently, it sometimes takes several attempts to make a call -- extremely frustrating, especially when you're in a hurry. Incoming calls can be a problem, too. Sometimes the phone runs so slowly that, by the time it responds to my touch command to answer the call, I've missed the call! I've missed some very important calls in this way. This is despite my best efforts with task managers. When it's this slow during an incoming call, sometimes the ring cuts out intermittently -- it's struggling even to play the ringtone! (Update: I recently installed Firefox 4.0 on Android 2.1, and launching this application consistently cripples the phone making everything so slow it's unusable.)
THIRD-PARTY APPS ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR GOOD DEFAULT/OEM SOFTWARE!
The Apps available on Android seem little more than a gimmick, when the operating system lacks basic functionality like a file explorer! Over the past three years my previous three Sony Ericsson phones without Android were far better than my new one with Android. Sony's own OS has loads of bundled apps, including decent photo and video editing software.
Apps and open-source software sound great in principle, but the reality is that on Android I simply don't have the superb software I always had in the past on SE handsets. Android doesn't even come close. Eventually I assume SE will develop equally good apps for Android (perhaps with the update expected in !4 this year) but in the meantime my new phone feels like a downgrade taking me back about half a decade in terms of functionality.
There's no file explorer on Android! It's an incomplete OS. There are other basics missing, too.
Various issues with the web browser (see video below).
There's no built-in text-editor! Again, this is basic functionality. This is what I mean about "Apps". Luckily there is an app for that, several third-party apps in fact, but for many other things there just isn't.
Sometimes it's impossible to answer an incoming call because there's no option to do so! I do expect my mobile phone to work well as a phone, which is its primary purpose! The blue interface that appears when taking a call (the GUI looks like part of the Contacts application) with an "answer" button, doesn't always appear if you're doing something on the phone at the time. E.g. press home just as call comes in, answer option goes no way to answer!
The touchscreen keyboard often doesn't behave sensibly, e.g. often the keyboard completely obscures the text you're trying to edit, so you can't see what you're trying to edit, and when.you try to get back to where you were, the text field repeatedly scrolls the line your editing back behind the keyboard!
Inadequate battery-life. I need to recharge every day, despite turning-off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and killing unused apps.
Invisible to other Bluetooth devices, except when you manually activate discoverable mode which only lasts for a few seconds.
No option to send files by Bluetooth. Again, this is basic mobile device functionality. Again, Android fails to utilise hardware capabilities. Again, the lack of a file browser is presumably an obstacle.
No option to select multiple contacts by Bluetooth, so for instance you can't send all contacts in address book by Bluetooth. If you want to send your contacts, you'll spend hours doing them one-by-one.
- Android still doesn't support Silverlight technology, or even attempt to handle it correctly in the browser by displaying the fallback content. This is a failure to comply with W3C conventions.
Video: my top 3 criticisms of Android's web browser
- Unable to upload files! (feature request)
- Unable to organise bookmarks (feature request))
- "Find on page" feature hides the found word! (UI bug)
13 July 2010