What's wrong with Google Android

by Raphael Haase

From now on, I am going to write mostly in English, also in this blog.

First of all, let me state my experience with android.

Back in February, at the Mobile Word Congress 2010, Google gave me a Nexus One for free. I decided that I really wanted to try out Android and was quite impressed by some features. Android appeared interesting to me because

  • It supported extensive syncing of phone contacts with other networks.
  • Google services were easier to set up.
  • Apps could do more on the phone.
  • The Nexus One was faster than my iPhone 3G.

So for the last half year, I have been using only my Nexus One to really be able to try it out. Sometime ago, I installed the latest release, Android 2.2, also called Froyo. It was actually a bit faster than its predecessor, but did not solve many problems. Instead, it introduced new ones.

Now I know why Android was a very wrong decision all along.

Android failed me in so many ways:

  • Battery life time: You either have to turn all the cool features off completely (3G, GPS etc.) or suffer very short battery life. iOS allows you to turn it on and then it intelligently manages it so that these features still do not kill your battery that fast.
  • No push notifications: Technically, Google says Android can do push too. But Facebook still does not implement it. I do not know a single application that can do push notifications. And I do not want Facebook to query the server every 15 mins just to emulate that because Google can’t get it right. iOS can do it. Facebook on iOS uses it. It works like a charm.
  • Multi touch: Oh yes. Some devices can do multi touch. Like my Nexus One. In theory. Only some preinstalled apps use it. All these trolls on the Internet keep repeating that Android does multi touch. To my definition, it does not. Most apps do not use it. Because the idiotic device fragmentation prohibits it. Many devices do not support it at all and it seems like the screens work differently on different devices. Apparently,  Android leaves the task of determining what device it is and how to handle it properly to the programmer. Great. Epic fail, Android. That’s embarrassing. Multi touch is completely useless that way.
  • Playing music: Complicated, painful, do not want to do it. I know some guys with an Android device. I asked them how they played their music. “I still have a 2 year old iPod nano.” Oh right. So to be able to play music and videos, I again have to carry around a second device, because Google can’t get it right? No way. So I tried Doubletwist. Nice try. But it supports only half the features on the Mac like on Windows. Sync is slow, because the Nexus One uses Micro SD cards, which are inherently slow. Yeah right, trolls. Being able to exchange one slow micro SD card with another one is really a great advancement from Apple’s inability to exchange the integrated memory. The one of the iPhone is at least fast enough.
  • Streaming music: Tried out everything: Grooveshark, mog.com, last.fm. Nothing works properly. It always stops after a minutes, because my phone registered with another cell base station. Does not work in the subway. Does not work with many people around. Fails when switching between WiFi at home/university and 3G outside. Fails even when walking more than 500 m. Epic fail, again. Music streaming on the phone is totally not practical. It needs a few more years until someone can do a proper data soft handover between WiFi, the cellular network and different base stations.
  • WiFi unreliable: Android seems to try to connect to WiFi base stations a couple of times and then permanently give up. Both at my base station at home in Germany and in Hong Kong at the university, Android has given up permanently on ever connecting to the base stations again. I would have to manually ask it to try again.
  • Missing apps:
    • MindMeister
    • any other proper mind mapping apps.
    • Productivity apps for OmniFocus, Things etc.
    • Proper Games.
    • Public transportation apps (I know the “Öffi” app for Munich / Germany. But that does not count, because it does not work properly. For Hong Kong, there is an official one on the iPhone and not one in the Android Market.)
  • Not properly working apps:
    • Facebook: Can’t retrieve my friends list. Can’t write messages.
    • Evernote: Crashes often. No offline caching.
    • Rebtel: Can’t choose contacts when using search
    • DoubleTwist: No proper browsing through songs.
    • Adobe Reader, PDF to go etc. Some do not display pictures, others are slow.
    • Fring: Unusable. Nothings works.
    • Nimbuzz: Just as bad as Fring.
  • Many bugs in Android (Froyo, FRF91):
    • Random crashes. No obvious reason for them. Happens very often to me. Required a reboot.
    • Phone stops suddenly vibrating completely. E.g. touching buttons  does not create a vibration response any more without visible reason.
    • eduroam authentication does not work.
    • Bluetooth and WiFi block each other. Seems like you can’t use both.
    • Bluetooth connection to headset arbitrarily drops.
    • Crashes when making phone calls. Could be related to Android’s immature implementation of multi tasking. Sometimes BeyondPod might the cause. BeyondPod is the best rated podcast app in the store. So it should not be bad, but maybe it still is, thanks to the lack of control on Android.
    • Sometimes, the other side could not hear me when calling. Restarting the phone helped.

To sum it up: Android is so much work in progress. It’s an interesting nerd tool. I will part ways with Android. I really have had enough of it.

If you like wasting your whole day with a phone that does not work or if you like nice marketing texts from Verizon Wireless and friends of what their Android phone in theory can do, but in practice fails to deliver completely, then go ahead with Android.

If you like a phone that is expensive and restricts you in some ways, but is stable and solidly delivers what it promised, a phone that actually allows you to use the features in practice, do not get an Android phone. Get a phone that works.

Update: More from TechCrunch on the very same matter.

Update 2: TechCrunch talks about yet another important aspect that I, being a techie, have completely overlooked: Carriers are diminishing the Android experience even more by pre installing bad software on phones and locking down nice features entirely (tethering, installing apps from any source vs. the carrier’s own app stores).

Update 3: Verizon is now even limiting your search engine choice to Microsoft Bing on Google Android phones! TechCrunch says: “Generally, Android is now about as open as iOS. Think about them Apples.”