Call me Mr. Grumpy, but I can find something to complain about in every Android handset. The following is a list of gripes I have with several handset makers. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
1. Stick with stock Android
I understand hardware manufacturers want to differentiate each Android handset from the competition. Here is a bright idea, why not offer some better hardware specs? Almost every Android phone to date (minus the Droid) has featured the same Qualcomm 528 MHz CPU and limited internal storage space.
My biggest complaint with custom versions of Android (Sense UI, MotoBlur, TouchWiz, etc) is that they are all based on outdated versions of Android.
We know Android 2.0 included major kernel upgrades and requires a lot of work from the handset maker to update their device drivers. What is the excuse for still shipping phones with Android 1.5 when Android 1.6 has been out for months? Many companies have said they need additional time to retool their custom user experiences.
If you want to add custom software, just target your device and build on top of the stock Android. You could also use your power to lobby Google to include better theme options for Android. Stop pretending to be a software company and focus on what you do best: hardware.
For those that absolutely insist on a custom version of Android, it would be awesome if you could provide a vanilla install of Android.
2. No bloatware please
After working at a computer store for many years, I found the biggest complaint among new PC owners was their system was sluggish out of the box. This was caused by the countless number of bloatware and adware that PC manufacturers included with their systems. The problem has become so bad that many stores like Best Buy actually offer a service to uninstall all this resource hogging crap.
We are now seeing this problem rear its ugly head in the Android world.
The T-Mobile Motorola Cliq actually ships with Android applications that the user is unable to remove (iMeem, MySpace, Shazam, etc.). This is simply unacceptable and needs to stop. If I want to install these apps, I will do so on my own using the Android Market. Android phones are already limited by the number of apps that can be installed and we don’t need handset makers wasting that precious space.
3. Give us specs
Can you image Acer, Dell, or HP trying to sell you a new computer without providing the CPU, RAM, and HDD specifications? Samsung Mobile is doing exactly that. They recently announced the Behold II, but conveniently left off the CPU, RAM, and ROM information from the official specifications sheet. According to Michael Orly from MobileBurn, Samsung even changed the system settings of the Behold II so that there is no About or Status sections.
How is the customer supposed to make an informed buying decision when the complete specs are not provided by the manufacturer? Most smartphones are a hefty investment and specs matter.
4. Budget for upgrades
Ok, I will cut you a little slack on this one. Google is mainly responsible for older handsets not being upgraded to Android 2.0. They developed Eclair with one handset in mind (Motorola Droid).
As a handset maker, you need to budget for these situations. Most handsets are sold with 2 year contracts and customers expect to receive software updates throughout that period. When Google makes major changes to the Android operating system, your team of engineers needs to be ready to update your device drivers. New versions of Android are coming fast and furious and you need to keep up. Customers will not stand for updates rolling out 6 months after they are available on other phones.
5. Target the enthusiast
The PC industry has already learned this lesson. Many motherboard manufacturers already sell products that are targeted towards the enthusiast. Android needs a similar handset maker who is willing to take the lead in this space.
Marketing towards the hardcore doesn’t mean you have to ignore the everyday consumer. Give us the ability to load custom versions of Android without making us jump through hoops. Because of its open source nature, Android has a large underground of modders and hackers. Developers will also love you and purchase your devices as legitimate development platforms.
6. Give us buttons
This is not the iPhone. We are not limited to a single button on the front of our phones.
My favorite design thus far has been from HTC with their myTouch 3G and Hero phones. I love the trackball and dedicated buttons for search, menu, and back. Google should require that all Android phones have a search button on the front.
The Motorola Cliq was a big disappointment to me because of their button layout. For starters, they have no talk or end buttons. On top of that, there is no directional pad or trackball. This makes it very hard to input text into certain fields when the virtual keyboard takes up half the screen. Users must hit the back key to hide the keyboard and then tap the next field.
7. Universal cell phone chargers please?
Didn’t all the handset makers get together and agree to use the universal Micro-USB technology as the common universal charging interface? I’m still seeing a lot of Android phones (Motorola and Samsung) that use their own USB port and do not work with any of my existing chargers. To make matters worse, Motorola ships a 3 ft. charging cable with the Cliq that most users will want to replace.
I’m a big fat idiot. The new Motorola phones ship with Micro-USB ports. HTC phones use the Mini-USB ports.
(Note: Our store features accessories for the Droid and Cliq for users who need additional charging options.)