Let me preface this by saying that there is a lot to like about Android and that the smartphones being powered by the Google-led OS are going to get better and better. I’m especially excited by the UI customization that HTC and Motorola, for example, have been developing on top of Android, testament to the mobile OS’s overall potential and, of course, openness.
(I’m expecting a loan of the social networking savvy HTC Hero later today, thanks to UK carrier Orange. A full review of the Hero should follow shortly.)
However, having lived with the Vodafone HTC Magic for a few months now, there are a few things that really bug me about the standard version of Android. Yes, this is going to be a bit of rant.
1. Notifications and Gmail
Two areas where Android is supposed to excel: Background notifications and integration with Gmail. Firstly, I’m not a big fan of the notifications draw of Android as I find the “finger-friendly” target of the draw itself to be a bit fiddly to hit and drag open at times. And even though the draw is accessible no matter which app you currently have open or in view, dragging it down every time to view the full list of notifications or any meaningful info gets old really quick. That said, I can just about live with the notifications draw itself but the way Gmail alerts are implemented makes me want to throw my HTC Magic under a bus. Let explain.
I receive a new email and the email icon appears at the top of the screen.
I click and drag open the notifications draw to read the first line of the email and who it’s from.
So far, so good.
I then click on the email, expecting to be taken to the Gmail app and to the full email itself, but instead I’m dropped into the Gmail in-box where I have to click on the same email again to read the full content. That’s right, the Google phone can’t do efficient Gmail notifications. The standard Android homescreen is also useless when it comes to email alerts, especially compared to my Nokia E71 or any standard Symbian S60 phone.
2. Third-party app updates
I’ve virtually given up updating the majority of my third-party apps that I’ve downloaded from the Android Market. That’s because every app update — these are very frequent, which is a good thing — involves at least two clicks for each app. First to initiate the update and second to, once again, give the app all of its required permissions. This is really tedious to do when you have lots of third-party apps installed.
In contrast, the iPhone and iPod touch gives the option to ‘update all’, a one-click procedure.
Of course, Apple has the advantage of vetting all apps in the App Store, presumably negating the need for the user to check the list of required permissions with each and every app update to see if they have been sneakily changed. But still, there must be a better way.
3. Android Market and Google Checkout
I haven’t bought a single third-party app for my Android phone. And believe me, I’ve tried. The reason is that the Android Market requires a Google Checkout account. Of course I have one of these but bizarrely it’s not accepted by Google’s mobile app store. When I signed up to Checkout, I used a non-standard Gmail address (instead, one powered by a “Google Apps for your domain” account), which works fine for all of my Checkout purchases elsewhere on the Web but not through the Android Market.
There you have it. Let me know your own Android gripes in the comments…
Image Credit: Notifications draw – Techradar.com