Making Android Better

You may have read my last rant against Android. After posting that I got into a more constructive mode and started thing how the OS can be improved. This is based on the 2.x (Gingerbread) version of the Android OS as I do not have access to a 4.x version (Ice Cream Sandwich).

I have also defined ownership to Google or the Manufacturer as they need to work it out. Unlike apple's iOS, Android has much more complexity as it has to synergize with multiple vendors and a plethora of hardware.

1. Get rid of the internal memory concept. 

At this point, Android phones act like the older phone OSs which assumed a small internal memory and user expandable SD card slots to keep data. The problem with this approach is that with the Android market, users have the option to download hundreds of applications. But the internal memory limit means that you can hardly download more than 10 apps before the phone starts to cry out about issues with the memory being full.

Since the SD cards are cheap now, we can argue that a manufacturer sourcing a large number of memory chips ( without the plastic casing etc to put in the phone) should be able to get it quite cheap. Even a 2GB internal memory will do wonders. Most vendors provide an extra SD card anyways with your purchase, so to me it makes more sense that they have the memory as part of the device. If required, they can keep an additional SD card slot also for extra brownie points.

Ownership : Google, Manufacturers.

2. Make sure that the default apps do not crash. 

If there are some 3rd party apps that you download from the app store that crash, you expect it. But when the installed apps start crashing - that is just sloppiness. I have seen multiple crash on the default apps - most of them on the Android market application. This should not be happening.

Ownership : Google

3. Make it an easy way to reach the top of the screen. 

Due to the screen size limitations of the phone, many of the applications display content in a list view ( e.g. Twitter, Facebook etc). Android does not have an easy way to scroll up , so if I want to see the topmost tweet in a list of 100, i have to swipe up multiple times.

I have a solution : implement a long-press on the top bar which will make the currently active app jump to the top of the view.

Ownership : Google

4. Battery longevity. 

The battery life of an Android device is crap. The Samsung Galaxy ACE that I have was hardly lasting a day in my initial usage. If a call comes and lasts an hour ( my conf calls go on for longer than that) then I need to immidiately plug it in to charge even now.

Some ways are there of switching off Wifi/data etc - but then why would you want to buy a smartphone ?

Juice Defender is a great 3rd party software which helps out in the batter management. I strongly recommend that Google buy this company and integrate the battery savings into the core part of the OS.

Manufacturers also need to look at better battery options - either as default , or in worst case as available battery packs. My phone has a 1350mA capacity battery. Why cant it have a 2500mA battery pack ?

Ownership : Google, Manufacturers

5. Define different hardware profiles.

One of the most irritating thing about Android devices is that they promise a lot in terms of features, but when it comes to actually running them, they are really bad. For example, live wallpapers are sooo cool, but they suck up the mobile's performance. Since nowadays manufacturers are coming out with all sorts of Android based devices - from low end to high end phones, it makes sense to have different hardware profiles for different hardware levels. This will tie into the Android Market, so that you can only download and install applications which adhere to the settings on your phone.

Ownership : Google, Manufacturer

6. Clean up the Android Market

The market is in a mess. Its hard to find anything. Search will list down a lot of stupid apps which you do not want and going through the lists is a pain.

Google needs to curate the applications submitted and have a guideline for minimum quality. Like Apple did, they should also disallow multiple frivolous apps. Its not a number game to see which appstore has more downloads, but it should be a quality game to see which appstore has better apps.

Also, i think that allowing manufacutrers, telcos etc having their own app stores is killing the user experience. This was a pretty bad move on Google's part. There should just be one android market not multiple ones on the phone. And even if you do have multiple markets, then the logins should be the same.

Ownership : Google, Manufacturer

6 comments:

  1. Really good post Vibhu. All the points are valid and would definitely improve the experience of using an android device.

    Vishal

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  2. wonderful post !! I hope it gets the attention of the right people. Just to add a point, in my SGS-II, i found that by shutting off several sys apps that i do not normally use like voice command, social hub, email ( i just use default gmail) and a few others, the battery life was considerably improved.

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  3. Well Ravi, the point of a smartphone is that you can run all those apps. So shutting them down is not a solution, just a temporary workaround.

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  4. for item 3,4 you can contribute as the project is open source and you can commit changes to it.

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  5. Great point that people needs to consider before they judge Android unfairly.

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  6. I am not sure which phone you are using.. I am using over an year old Nexus S and it has 16GB Inbuilt memory. 4.0" Screen size, the battery lasts for 2 days with 3G switched on. I am sure u have some cheap version of phone... these issues that u mentioned are not OS related but phone related and vary from phone to phone on the same OS...

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