I have used a lot of phones in my life. I’ve been obsessed with mobile technology ever since I was 15, and my passion has only grown since then. I’ve tried handsets of all shapes and sizes, and virtually every operating system. iOS, webOS, WP7, BlackBerry and Android have all graced the palm of my hand, some with more
success than others. A lot can be said of Android’s growth over the past few years, but, as it’s gained popularity, it’s also frustrated and downright annoyed me. Here’s why:
1. Updates or lack of
I had the original G1. Back in those days, it was one of 2-3 Google-powered handsets available. When an update was released, it came straight away, over-the-air. There was no waiting for months or years. Now, there are hundreds of different pieces of hardware all running Google’s OS. Motorola, HTC, Samsung, Huawei, ZTE, LG, Sony… the list goes on. Each OEM with different models varying from cheap and nasty to high specced powerhouses, all tied up with different carriers. All this results in a big mess when new software updates come.
The low-end phones won’t get updates because they can’t handle the new OS, meaning (in some cases) that the day you buy your device, it’s already outdated and can’t run the new software. One instance recently that tested my patience was Sony’s brand new Xperia S. Supposedly the phone that launches the Sony brand back in to the smartphone game. They’ve spent tons of money on cool TV ads and hardware design, but it ships with Android 2.3: Gingerbread (originally launched in 2010). Ice Cream Sandwich has been around since November, and yet, Sony couldn’t put it on its newest flagship device, and in fact, advises against upgrading to it.
I could count on one hand the number of phone models running ICS. That is not acceptable. What it says to customers (me) is that if you want to get the updates as soon as they’re available, get a Nexus device. Whether it’s Google to blame, the Manufacturers, or the Carriers, it doesn’t matter it’s a horrible state of affairs and they all need to get their shizzle together. With the iPhone, I know I’m good for 2-3 years of software updates and that I’ll get them as soon as they’re released, on every single one of my devices. Be it iPod, iPhone or iPad.
2. Android isn’t the product – I am
Google doesn’t care. Simple. Android’s owners are focussed on one thing, and one thing only: ad revenue. Android is open source, dished out to any OEM who wants it. Money is made for Google the same it’s made on the search engine: through advertisement clicks. That says to me that the company is only interested in one thing: finding out my details so that it can target the rights ads at me, in order to make money from me. There’s no passion for beauty or art. It’s soulless money making and data collection. If Android was as big a deal to the company as you’d like to think, they’d charge for the software, and be more stringent about manufacturing partner choices and hardware requirements.
What I value about Apple’s design ethos is that it’s all about the intersection between technology and the creative arts. When the original iPhone was launched in 2007, other companies started rushing to create a device that looked similar. No one tried re-thinking or creating a unique-looking device. The same happened with the iPad. Only months after the iPad was launched, Samsung rushed out a Tab which was – quite frankly – terrible. The same effort and perfectionism hadn’t gone in to designing a tablet specific operating system, and the hardware was cheap and plastic. Google and all its manufacturing partners panicked, and have been reduced to releasing inexpensive tablets like the Kindle Fire in order to compete with the iOS-powered tablet. Asus is the only brand I’ve grown to respect in the developing Post-PC era. The Transformer series and Padfone show that they’re trying something different.
3. iTunes and the App Store
Apple’s ecosystem is first class. Everything I pay for and download on my Mac appears on my iPhone and iPad, almost like magic. I can buy music, apps, books, films, TV shows and more, and have them all instantly on all my devices without doing anything. If I want/need to I can sync my iDevices with my computer easily (wirelessly or not). As a consumer, that is a big selling point.
With a lot of Android handsets, I get the feeling that I buy the hardware and that’s the end of it. There’s no real uniformity, or ecosystem that hooks up your phone with your computer in the same way as Apple’s products do. Sure, I could manually load a third party software to sync iTunes with my music player, I could have Kindle installed on my phone and computer, movies, books whatever. The point is, that there are so many extra, unnecessary steps to make the same thing happen if I had an Android phone. Google Play exists to ease that somewhat, but, as far as I can tell everything is completely in the cloud, there’s no security of having it stored on a personal computer, or hard drive.
Then we get on to the quality of apps in each of the respective app stores. Google’s Play thing has hundreds of thousands of apps, many are free. Apple’s App Store also has a vast quantity, but, the good ones are so much easier to find. It’s laid out in such a way that you can easily find the best selling, new and noteworthy and highest rated apps. With Android’s app store, I’ve always felt it to be cluttered, and unorganised. The worst part is that Apps, books, music and films are all in the program. I like things in their own boxes. I like having the iTunes app for music and movies, App Store for apps and iBooks for e-books. Personal preference, but hey, I don’t like wondering if I’ve accidentally entered the wrong section of the digital store (which is so easily done in the Android version).
4. No uniform experience
The problem with Android – from a consumer perspective – is that every single handset is different, and they each offer their own experiences which can vary from incredible to “I’d rather be covered in jam and left in a locked room with a swarm of angry bees“. Depending on which handset you choose, of course. Even jumping from high-end handset to high-end handset can produce differing results, often within the same manufacturer. This makes it impossible to know what you’re buying in to when you enter a phone store.
Android fans like to boast that you need to research, and look in to it, and only idiots buy the iPhone. Why should I have to? If I was an Android fan and user, it’d mean that every time I came to upgrade my phone I’d always have to go through the trouble of perusing a list of hundreds of phones just to see which one I liked the best. Then, get it home, use it and be fed up with it after a few weeks because it’s nothing like what I had before. With iOS, I know what I’m going to get before I buy it. I know it will be similar to what I’ve experienced, but better. There’s no hassle.
The only handset manufacturer on Google’s side that’s come close to this is Samsung, with its Galaxy range. (Coincidence that they’re the only manufacturer that’s actually providing any real competition to Apple?) Shame, it started off with a device that looked virtually identical to the 3G/3GS.
5. Spec sheet boasting and outdated phones
When any Motorola, Samsung or HTC handset launches it’s the same old story: Spec boasting nonsense. They focus on what’s inside the device instead of how it will make you feel when you use it. “Hey! This has a 16MP camera on the back 4MP on the front, Quad-Core 15bajillion Ghz, with enough RAM to get lost in.” That to me poses a similar message to that of Google and its Open Source approach: they don’t care about you, or about the art and beauty of a product, they just want to sell it to you. Quite frankly: it’s childish. It’s the “my dad could beat your dad in a fight” style argument that I thought I’d left behind in infant school.
The latest HTC One X device may very well be the most incredible device yet, but, its ludicrous partnership with Beats Audio adds no benefit to anyone who buys one. It’s a tactic to sell more of them, and encourages the thought that if you buy the phone you’ll get the same audio quality as the infamous Beats headphones. Spoiler: it’s no where near as good.
When Apple sells you a device, it’s sold based on the magic of it, how it feels to use, and what it can do for you. Time and effort has gone in to making it beautiful, and giving you a great time using it. They talk about the quality of the images that you’ll get from the camera, and that having such a high resolution display makes everything more beautiful. No, it’s not going to meet the need of hacking computer nerds who like to fiddly with registry systems, soots and customisations. But it will suit everyone who isn’t that, which is practically everyone.
Worse than all that, is that as a consumer you can buy the latest handset and it’ll be out of date 3 months later as the same manufacturer releases an updated version. Motorola is the worst for this, having released a ridiculous number of Droid variations. With Apple, I know it’ll be a full 12 months (at least) until the next generation comes out, and I can still get a good return on my phone if I sell it. Thankfully, it seems that the main competitors have subscribed to a more Apple-like view more recently on that front.
One more reason, not quite important enough to make the top 5 list: Fandroids
Apple fans can sometimes be ridiculously loyal, to the point of buying absolutely anything that comes with an Apple logo. Sometimes. But, I’d rather be in league with them than the hate-spewing nerds who feel superior because apparently their operating system is more complicated. Another spoiler: it isn’t. If my mother in law (the biggest technophobe on the planet) can use it, that for sure means it’s not complicated. [UPDATE FOR CLARIFICATION: I'm not talking all Android fans, it's the specific kind who do nothing but troll and hate Apple with no constructive arguments with one purpose: to hate.]
They write garbage like “if idiots did their research they’d realize that the iPhone sucked compared to the top Android phones“. The same type laughed at us Apple users a few years ago because their devices had mobile Flash. Hate to say it but: Steve Jobs told you so. Adobe is no longer developing mobile Flash: it’s as good as dead. I cannot stand them, and I don’t want to associate with them in anyway. They ruin the internet, and cascade on sites, threads and pages like a bunch of hormonal adolescent trolls who’s mother just told them that they were grounded. The truth is: most of them hate just for hate’s sake. They’ve not used iOS for more than a few minutes, and they’re scared they might like it.
Message to our Apple loving readers: ignore them. They are the idiots, not you.
I’ve owned 4 different Android phones in the past 4 years. Because of my hatred for slow updates, they’ve all been “pure Google”: G1, G2, Nexus One and Galaxy Nexus, and although some were great pieces of hardware, I was always left with the same impression and feeling that I’d rather it was running iOS, and that it synced with my Apple ID. I love that Apple controls hardware, software, and the ecosystem. I like that it all “just works” and that I don’t have to worry about anything. I have to admit, I like the design changes that came with Ice Cream Sandwich, it finally looks polished. But it still doesn’t ease any of my concerns or frustrations with Google’s platform.