Impressions on Android: Redux

I had an Android phone several years ago – the HTC Hero.  You may remember it as the one with the weird ‘chin’. Initially, I was quite pleased with it but I slowly started to notice issues with the apps and general ‘feel’ of the OS.

I kept getting a ridiculous ‘Socket is not connected‘ error. WTF? Signal strength in hilly Scotland back then was, let’s say, patchy at best – so I assume it was due to that but still, I don’t think that’s something an end-user should be viewing. Then there was the lack of finesse in the apps. They looked basic, like no one had bothered to design them beyond using bog standard UI.  The whole phone slowed down when it was downloading app updates, lockscreen clock lagged (which I found incredibly irritating) etc. etc.

Then I became most irritated when I discovered that my 6 month old phone wouldn’t be updated to the next version of Android.  Meanwhile, the shiny new Windows Phone 7 OS came along with its slick design. Android & I parted ways shortly afterwards – with me vowing never to go back.

Cut to last year, when, after several years of insisting that I had no use for a tablet, I decided that for £100, I could find a use for one. I bought a Nexus 7 (2013 edition) and I actually quite like it. Contrary to my previous beliefs I do have a use for it too. Don’t get me wrong there are moments when it’s installing things in the background & it lags the keyboard etc. where it drives me absolutely potty but on the whole, it’s pretty good.

I recently updated my Nokia Lumia 720 to windows phone 8.1. While I love windows phone, I want my social media notifications to work & I found that their new ‘notification centre’ just wasn’t reliable. A quick twitter search assured me I wasn’t alone but @windowsphonesupport basically refused to acknowledge our issue and a one point told me to contact the app makers – to which I asked “All of them?

I happened to be due a phone upgrade anyway so I spent £40 on a  Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. This has given me a bit of an insight into using Android on a phone again &, to be honest, I don’t think it’s improved as much as I expected in the subsequent time.

While the ‘socket’ messages are gone, and I really like some of the apps, the stock design (of the OS and most apps) is still really basic – no matter which flavour of Android you’re using. That aside, I honestly cannot understand why they haven’t worked out a way to have a secure lock screen (because there’s no way I’d have anything other) with access to a camera. I mean, really? That’s a fairly basic requirement in my eyes. The laggy clock is still there (argh!) but can be avoided by downloading a separate clock app apparently. I’d argue that it should work right in the first place.

Then there’s the sheer amount of rubbish (Samsung) stock apps that I have absolutely no use for, but seemingly can’t uninstall from my own phone – ridiculous! Oh, but you can root it? Yes, & void my warranty. Fantastic.  I’d much rather it just work as I want a phone to work when I turn it on for the first time.

While Windows Phone may not have the amount of apps that Android does, frankly, the stock apps (which you can uninstall, I might add) work right in the first place & they look good while doing so. Also, the lack of official apps often means people write their own & sometimes those are actually better – the 6snap Snapchat client for windows phone is absolutely light years ahead of the official android one.

Don’t get me wrong, Android has a place, and some of the apps are fantastic (and I do wish they were available on other platforms) but I’d much rather the overall experience were improved.  It still feels just that little bit unpolished.

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