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I’m giving up on Android. It’s good enough for now, and I won’t immediately go out and replace it with an iPhone 4, but come the next iPhone revision, I think I’ll be back to being an Apple customer.

These are some of the reasons why:

Upgrading to Gingerbread has increased my battery life by 100%. My phone will now go a couple of days without a charge, but it still goes from 100% to 20% over many hours, then ticks down the last 20% over ten minutes. This is shit.

The music player skips and bounces around sometimes if something else wants to do anything else. This is shit. If it’s due to the expensive SD card I bought not being quite expensive enough, that is more shit, not less.

The media syncing system, even with doubletwist airsync, is comparatively shit.

The music player will pick up every sound file on the device, from other program’s podcasts down to voice recordings. This is shit.

The market is filled with shit. A search for a popular item will result in the item – somewhere – and dozens of “$popular_app Wallpaper” or more subtle customer gouging shit.

The market support is beyond shit. I expect a support request email to result in user-blaming boilerplate text, because I am trained to expect little from technical support, but to respond to a reply with *more* user blaming boilerplate that doesn’t actually answer my question is just shit.

I did a factory reset of my phone, and now all the Marketplace items I bought before I did the reset are gone from my “Downloads” section, but it will let me download them again, happily adding them to the same google account I bought them from in the first place. This is shit.

When I finally get a reply about the above problem from the aforementioned support ticket, and ask when, roughly, it might be fixed I am told:

Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on the exact timing of the fix because of different variables affecting the roll out.

…which is shit.

The upgrade path is shit. As soon as HTC decide they can’t be arsed with the Desire upgrades anymore (a process I expect to happen before Gingerbread is officially released) I’ll never get an official update again, and I’m lucky that I don’t have an operator as an extra level in that. For all people complain about Apple’s “Another model along shortly” attitude, they’ve supply major OS updates for two years for each phone.

There is no good time to buy an android phone. Anything you buy will be succeeded in weeks, if not days. This is shit.

The Hardware UX standard design is shit. You cannot predict which buttons are on the phone in which order, whether they’re hard or soft or what. Good UX means avoiding metaphor-shear and maintaining consistant rulesets, and Apple’s good at that, there is probably a button *here* which will take you back a screen, *this* button will take you back to this place. Just the Back button in android could take you back to the last application you used, the last screen you saw in this application, the home screen of your current application, back a web page, or the home screen of the whole phone. This is shit.

There are two email applications on every phone. One is for GMail, one for IMAP. Widgets use one or the other, and every app which wants to send an email has to ask every time. This is shit.

If you try to open an MP3 attachment from the GMail program, the temporary file is deleted before the Android Music App can see it. This is shit (and stops me getting phone messages).

A cheap MicroUSB cable appears to have a 50/50 chance of carrying a charge. This isn’t really anything to do with Android’s fault, but is still shit.

Every so often I’ll answer a call and the UI will change to the “You’re on a phone call” one, but the phone will still be ringing and I can’t answer it anymore.

My phone has gigabytes of storage in it, but only a few hundred megs of app storage space, because every tin-pot application believes it has a divine right to hinder sleep mode, and therefore refuses to go on the SD Card. That I have to care about this is shit.

My Android has never failed to wake me up because the year or timezone changed. It has, however, failed to wake me up because it spontaneously crashed necessitating a battery removal at roughly 3am.

The default array of apps that HTC supplied with my phone (like the Facebook app that’s not as good as the official one, and the twitter one that’s not as good as the official one, and the Flickr one tha…) cannot be prevented from wasting the limited app space I have. This is shit.

MobileSafari has a useful thing: If you double-tap on a block level element, it zooms the view-port to match the width of it. In the Android browser, double tapping zooms the page in a lot. This is shit.

Gestures on the Android are almost always “I am doing this gesture to make the phone perform this action” rather than “I am performing this action”. Zoom and Rotate in particular suffer from the classic shower-tap problem of requiring a massive amount of micro-dexterity to get the effect you want.

None of these are deal-breakers. They’re bugs, annoyances, or lack of joined up thinking. But what I need out of a phone is to be able to pull it out, do the thing I wanted, then put it away again. Joined Up Thinking is the very thing I actually *need* it to do. The lack of system-level design (both UI design and hardware-spec) makes a day with android just a little more frustrating than the same day with the iPhone.

6 comments
  1. Interesting post; I actually agree with you on most of your points, although I’ve never experienced the bugs you mention when answering a call, or with the phone crashing overnight. In fact, I think I’ve only had to remove the battery on my phone twice in the time I’ve had it, and I’ve only rebooted a handful of times too. (I am running the stock Froyo Orange/HTC build).

    I will be interested to see how many of the things you complain about are fixed in the next couple of releases (I don’t mean this as an excuse – your complaints are spot on and I don’t expect people to wait – this is mere curiosity). Honeycomb seems to include some music syncing (although probably tied to the Google service, but then, so is the iPhone…) and maybe the music player will be upgraded. Honeycomb also removes a requirement for hardware buttons, and the indication is that new phones will be expected to have proper amount of built-in memory.

    For me the value proposition always comes down to price. I can’t afford a £40/month (or £30, or probably even £25) contract, and thus an iPhone will almost definitely never be an option for me. My current contract is £13/month, and I paid £10 for the phone. Apple has no desire to compete at this price point. The big question is: will Android ever get to the “close enough” point with iOS, and if it does, will the vast array of hardware prices then prove much more of an issue?

  2. The list has been building for a while, and I could probably come up with a similar – though probably smaller – list for the iPhone (This is why, for example, one item is blocked upgrades, and another mentions running Gingerbread).

    The next-release thing is a fallacy I’ve fallen foul of frequently. This got upgraded from Eclair to Froyo, and from Froyo to Gingerbread. Each fixed a few things (Froyo and Gingerbread both boosted battery life, Gingerbread’s battery monitoring’s a lot better) and I’ve tried to limit the list to endemic system problems than bugs in the current version. I don’t know if the music thing is one or the other, but it’s been consistent across three versions now, and I suspect it’s due to apps not being able to set a thread priority.

    All of them are, I think, solvable with a greater or lesser degree of system work and joined-up-thinking.

  3. I have issues with a lot of this, which I was actually blaming on Sony hardware rather than Android… perhaps I need to re-evaluate.

  4. I see quite a lot of these issues, and I also see why a lot of them (the UX ones at any rate) exist, but to me the choice is to have a keyboard or not, and that’s simply not an option with the iPhone, at least not in any vauguely usable way.

    The 20% problem isn’t *quite* what it looks like – you don’t lose the last 20%. What you lose is 5% at which point the phone shuts down to protect the battery keeping it at around 15% charge and thus protecting its lifespan. To be fair, various releases of iOS have had similar issues with the battery life indicator.

    Agree on the upgrade path to some extent, however it’s a lot easier for Apple to provide 2 year support given they’ve released what? 4 distinct hardware platforms since launch, as opposed to the likes of HTC who have been known to do that in a week – while it’s annoying for your OS support to dead-end, it’d be more annoying for what there is to be ten times buggier 🙁

    Still, horses for courses – I’m probably going to stick with Android because my *actual* favourite smartphone OS is many years dead and Android annoys me (myself, personally) less than the other options available just now.

    I’m currently running a Cyanogen ROM on my Milestone for one reason only – the VPN support actually works which is a biggie for me.

  5. Interesting to read. I’ve occasionally wondered about how an Android phone would’ve served me. Somewhat theoretical for me, similar to pol but in the other direction – I can’t stand physical keyboards, and when I got it, the iPhone (3GS) had the largest space for keyboard and much the best receptivity for typing on it.

    But beyond that, whilst there are many things about the iPhone that annoy me, basic usability isn’t one of them. It is quick and easy to do what I want to do.

  6. Having really quite recently jumped ship from iPhone to Android, I’m looking at your list of bugbears and I’m honestly quite surprised. Perhaps it’s a negative experience only you’ve had, or maybe I’m just new enough to Android that my phone hasn’t started playing up yet, but I’m enjoying Android /much/ more than iPhone.
    Admittedly, I don’t use the music app on my phone as I have an iPod big enough to hold my entire my music collection which I vastly prefer, and I’ve upgraded apps like Facebook to the official ones (and found that they replaced the defaults, thus not wasting space, unless you don’t use Facebook – though I know you, at least, are).

    Specific points: the battery on my Desire massively outperforms the iPhone battery, and it’s worth noting that my iPhone was brand new at the end of July 2010 following a swap with Apple. By the end of October, it was lasting at most 5hrs; my Desire, currently the same age, is giving me more than twice that.
    And, if/when my battery does start to die – I can replace it myself. Good luck with that with an iPhone.

    The default Android browser is a bit shit, but if you upgrade to the free Dolphin Browser HD (which is great even if you don’t have an HD phone) you’ll find it has the behaviour you miss from MobileSafari.

    Most of my apps live on my SD card, and those that don’t don’t refuse to move because Android is shit, but because the developers haven’t made the option available.

    And, I’ve started to learn the behaviour of the buttons on certain apps, so I can predict them fairly easily. I’ve not found a problem with gestures needing extra dexterity at all (again, the opposite: the iPhone was less receptive)

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