Nov 16 AT 1:46 PM Taylor Wimberly 46 Comments

7 suggestions for Android handset makers

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My biggest complaint with custom versions of Android (Sense UI, MotoBlur, TouchWiz, etc) is that they are all based on outdated versions of Android.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.

Do your research Taylor!

Do your research Taylor!

(Note: Our store features accessories for the Droid and Cliq for users who need additional charging options.)

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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    PLEASE… PLEASE… PLEASE… Give us more internal memory for installing apps. Serious memory, more than 7GB minimum to at least compete with the lowest amount Apple offers for iPhone. SD card is cool, but internal memory is always faster than saving to external sources. Plus this would encourage the Android Gaming area if you can easily fit a 50MB app on the device.

    • Benjamin

      I’d rather manufacturers focus on the rest of the points made above. Root your device if you wanna use the SD card for app storage.

      • ari-free

        50+ meg games won’t even be developed if there’s the requirement to root first.

      • David

        Ari has a point, Benjamin. I had my G1 rooted, and I look forward to doing the same with my Droid. The average user isn’t going to do that, though, and developers aren’t going to spend their time creating apps that will only be used by five or ten percent of Android users – the return on their investment just isn’t there.

      • anakin78z

        No, I think this is a huge point. I run out of space on my device all the time, and quite frankly, stock 1.6 runs really well, so I don’t want to root.

    • JayMonster

      I thought this discussion had already died. The fact that only the EXECUTABLE needs to reside on the phone and the remainder of files can be stored on the SD Card, removes the so-called “barrier” to having games developed for Android (at least as far as space is concerned).

  • Nicolas Magand

    I’d say:
    *LED notification is always a good thing as well as a “good charging / alarm clock / GPS nav/ multimedia DOCK-ING” ability, and it’s useful and EASY to do.

    *External music controls (previous / next song, play pause) NOT BINDED to the included headset, that can be use with ANY headphones while the handset’s in the pocket.

    *a TV out output (with the new screen resolutions some videos might look good on a TV too, cf. dock)

    *a (onscreen) keyboard ON / OFF (little) button, better than letting menu key hold…

    *huge amount of internal FLASH memory (like 32GB), I’ve got 8go internal on my Samsung Galaxy + 8Go µSD, but there’s only 1Go available for the system (which is good)

  • Shaneaus

    Regarding above comment – Google/Android is already working on resolving this problem. Their approach is much better than just requiring handset manufacturers to add additional hardware memory. They are searching for an intgrated Android solution to enable Android to use the SDCard’s memory for storage. If this occurs it won’t matter how much memory is delegated for app storage with the stock hardware – as, we will be able to add as much as we want on our own SDcard!

  • Pablo

    “Google is mainly responsible for older handsets not being upgraded to Android 2.0. They developed Eclair with one handset in mind (Motorola Droid).”

    What? Ha ha ha ha ha!!
    Please rephrase that to “Google is mainly responsible for older handsets not yet being able to fully upgrade to Android 2.0″

    First, some companies from the OHA already have access to 2.0 (for example, HTC) It would be THEIR responsibility to release 2.0 images for the G1, magic/mytouch, hero and whatever phones they have.

    Second, Google is in process of open sourcing Eclair. In fact they have already released a snapshot, which makes it possible to upgrade to a “1.6-2.0″ version which has some bits of eclair while still having some of 1.6. In fact thas has already been done. google cyanogen.
    Once they publish 2.0 entirely, which is probably gonna happen more soon than later, ANY handset maker (or user) will be able to do such an upgrade. I dont think google is responsible for doing so.

    They have, however, released 2.0 on the Droid while not having fully open sourced 2.0.
    This is an exception with 2.0 (I hear because the android open source project team at Google went through some restructuring), as most other releases have been released BEFORE they started shipping on phones.

    • mantrik00

      @Pablo, While it may be true that some companies had access to the Android 2.0. We got to realize that OHA comprises of 50 firms. Did all of them have it?
      I would like to share your optimism about the Eclair being open sourced.
      In fact, it appears that what has been open sourced is not the source code for the Droid, but for a later version with some missing components. These components are being held back because other partner companies who have contributed them are not willing to open source it. At least, that is the case so far.

      • Pablo

        while partially true, you are mixing up 2 different things.

        The “parts” you say which are missing, is some userland software specific for the ADP1 which HTC needs to either update (which will likely happen) or just open source them so we can build and fix stuff like this ourselves without depending on them (much less likely).
        Please note that these are NOT missing components of AOSP, this is responsability of HTC and specific to hardhware (in this case to the ADP1) _as far as I know_.

        Also, the truly missing parts are 1) git history, which is probably coming in the following days 2) some parts of eclair which have not been open sourced yet, which should also come soon.

        There are two theads in the android-platform group that explain this with more detail :)

  • Jeff

    “They developed Eclair with one handset in mind (Motorola Droid).”

    lol, lets pull facts out of thin air.

    • Taylor Wimberly

      Eclair was pretty much a joint project between Google and Motorola. They worked together in order to ship Android 2.0 and the Droid in time for the holidays.

      • Jeff

        A hardware engineer from HTC posted on TechCrunch stating they had 2.0 in September.

        The Droid was supposed to be the first 2.0 phone, like hero with the 1.5. But other phone manufactures could work on their 2.0 phones.

  • Angie Strickland

    Mr. Grumpy :)

  • Y314K

    I think it would be more accurate to say…

    *They developed Eclair with one handset in mind (IPhone)

    It’s to go after competition… Everybody will have access to whatever Eclair ended up being…

  • fkillah

    Off topic question, I was looking for t-mobile’s apps in the market today and could not find them, anyone heard anything on that?

  • William

    I would like to add a few things to this list. First, I would like to see manufacturers upgrading their- frankly- crappy processors to run the ever-expanding Android on their phones. Second, I would like to see some multitouch- while this is not a factor for me I know sevral people that ask me if my g1 has multitouch and make fun of android saying it is not as good as android for that fact. Finally, we need some ROM! How are we supposed to fit future releases of android in a 100mb system partition? I completely agree with all other comments.

  • Android 1

    I am agreeing with items 1 and 2, but the rest aren’t that big of a deal to me. I can find specs or at least try a phone out at the store before I purchase it in most cases. If I’m ordering online or something without first trying the phone, that’s my risk. Buttons and USB ports are again something that’s on the phone or it isn’t. If you like buttons and it’s not there, don’t buy that phone. Of course it’s nice to see certain buttons and I’ll agree I like send/end buttons.

    About item 1 and 2, I think that could be solved with one solution of divorcing Android and the custom interfaces. Make it so I can completely uninstall the extra interface and run stock Android, which includes any included apps. If I like your custom interface, I can keep it, if not, bam, kill it. Or allow dual booting (which admittedly would require more ROM).

  • Weeds

    I agree with the list, especially the ROM and buttons section. Actually I think a missing back button will break many apps which rely on the activity stack.

    From a developer perspective I’d like to add two more features.
    First a common set of mandatory OpenGL extensions I can rely on. Texture compression for example. I cannot use the ATITC compression, which is supported by HTC devices but afaik not on Samsung devices (except. Galaxy).
    Second I’d love to see a dedicated FPU, does anyone know if this will be a part of the Snapdragon platform?

  • ben

    Definitely agree that they should provide vanilla versions on their website as an option. I also agree that it should be easy to root the phone. I would still be ok with it being complex. It would just be amazing it they had a rooted rom that u could flash also available on their site – that would also prevent a noob from accidently messing up their phone too.

  • Logic

    #1 is so incredibly true. STOP WASTIN YOUR [email protected] TIME MAKING SOFTWARE CHANGES and improve the hardware on the damn phone!

  • Ramon

    Can someone send a copy of this to the manufactures of android phone this? So they can see what we really need for android to take over. Better yet send it to Google.

    • Taylor Wimberly

      Trust me, they read this site.

  • stardev (Italy)

    point 6. i don’t see helful in more button design , industry are moved to simple design that allow smaller assistance operations ; less hole, less button and zero movements part mean less assistance and a strong possibility that your device should not to break .

    point 7. microUSB isn’t the solution , it doesn’t make HDMI,USB and power at the same time , would have been best candidate the dock connector of iPod .
    Everyway i can say that between some years any wire,any cable there are not more , them would changed from RF data exchange (such as wifi)

  • stardev (Italy)

    PS: power will be sended into air through RF wave .

  • Simon

    - More Ram (ideally 512MB)

    - Faster Processor;
    Also 1Ghz Snapdragon will be ample until you deal with the RAM issue.

    - Better Battery OPTIONS;
    for example if you have G1 extended battery with a new back cover, then about half that space is just air, rather than battery. If extended batteries were offered by OEMs then you can probably have a much more acceptable thickness device (by having large area-but thinner batteries). This gets round the issue of a handset being too thick for some users, but give people the option, there are a lot of extended batteries sold to G1 users who want to be able to use GPS, Wifi, etc, without the battery dying after 6 hours.

    - Option to have unique interface (e.g. blur, sense, etc);
    Ship with it on, but allow people to switch it off. Even better would be themes applied out-of-the-box, although I guess this would be technically difficult/impossible(?)

  • poinck

    I agree in all points, except point 6. If hardware can handle it with less buttons, than do so.

    “End Call” and “Lock” are already done in one button, add the “Unlock” function to this button; this would be great. (o: “Back” and “Menu” are still useful. But I don’t need “Make Call”, because the phone has to be unlocked, to make a call. ^^ Forget the trackball! If you use the onscreen keyboard you don’t have to roll it to get background light. Oh, and yes; forget the physical keyboard as well. (o: The Volume-, and Photo-buttons are still needed, but I wouldn’t miss the photo button as well.

    So, what have we here? A phone with 3 instead of 5 buttons in the front.

    My next Android phone will be one without physical keyboard and hopefully less buttons.

  • poinck

    I’ve forgot to mention, that the “Home” function can be made by double “Back” press. I know, thats pretty iPhone-like. But, consider: I don’t hate the iPhone; I hate the unfree software what is running on that hardware and the politics of Apple.


  • Darren

    2 points I disagree with you on.
    Point 1: Stock Android? How boring is that! One of the reasons if not the reason I bought my HTC Hero is for the great user interface that is Sense UI. If it wasn’t for the Sense UI, I would have stayed with my Magic (Mt3G for those in America) an uprated camera and teflon coating are not enough reasons for me to source another Android. The Sony Ericsson Rachel (sexy name for a sexy phone) with its mediascape and timescape are a compelling enough reason for me to source one when it gets released.
    It’s obvious that Verizon and Motorola and Google cut a deal for the Droid/Milestone to be the only phones In the world with 2.0 for at least a week (now a 2nd week).
    Like HTC did with Windows mobile, HTC did it with Android, they shored up the areas where Android was lacking. Settings widgets as well as their other included widgets, social networks integration, a better keyboard and a look that is decidedly HTC and can’t be mistaken for anybody else. I don’t need 1.6 as much as people that don’t have a UI that is well put together.
    When HTC does release 2.0 for Sense UI, I reckon it will be something else and will again blow away what anybody else has got and will give me a slight dilema when they release their Android version of an HD2.

    2nd point is buttons. I think it all depends on the phone like you I’m a big fan of the Magic’s buttons even over the Hero’s. I’ve played with a Milestone (Droid for the Americans) and also agree that it could have done with hardware buttons but again looking at the Rachel, I think it has enough buttons. More would have messed with the style of the phone. I think the s/end keys should be one multifunction button. But it really does come down to the design of the phone

  • Dharmabhum

    Dugg. Lets try and get some of this stuff out into the community and see if we can get some momentum behind us to help convince handset makers of how to do Android correctly!

  • mike

    I agree with you. Unfortunately a lot of dumb users prefer the customized versions of the UI – even if later it works slower, it might be suficcient impulsive to buy the device.
    But the fact is Android doesn’s need a new UI like windows mobile did, because it has been designed from sratch for mobile phones and finger friendly interface. So I prefer the snatdard android way that’s evolving, rather than a cumtom branded UI.
    HTC MyTouch 3G (Magic in EU) has almost perfect design. Just missing an OLED screen and a faster CPU.

  • JonB

    I think the manufacturers provide differentiation with their customizations over the standard Android build. The average person doesn’t care about the hardware really as long as it doesn’t seem laggy. I like the Sense UI with my Hero and have only switched to the standard Android (a configuration option with the Hero) once out of curiosity. So I disagree with point 1. :)

  • M to the K

    This blogpost more or less hits at the reason I went with an iphone this year after having had 2 Blackberries previously. I actually prefer the Android OS but the hardware is just ass poor. The Motorola Droid is as close as they get right now to half-decent hardware, and even still, the keyboard is absolute shite. I know I’ll end up on Android, just as soon as they get their hardware right.

  • Derek

    In reference to bloatware, why dont hardware makers simply install more than a measly 512MB ROM??? I think thats the dumbest thing ever. 512MB isnt squat in today’s world of GB’s and TB’s. Is this OS supposed to really challenge Apple’s OS X on the iphone? I think not.

  • Derek

    HaHa on #7, I did the same thing when I got my droid. I was like WTF kinda charging port is this?? And to boot they only give you a 3ft cable. But then after a second glance, noticed its Micro USB so I ordered a much longer cable off Amazon.

  • andrew

    AMEN TO #1!!!

    I agree with all these points, but my big frustration with development is a focus on custom UIs over hardware. Sense, Blur… they’re cool, but a 1Ghz processor or bigger system RAM would be way sweeter than any cool interface. If the interface lags, I don’t care how pretty/what nice functions it has, it is going to suck.

    Make a phone with good hardware and then let the cool software follow.

    • JayMonster

      However, it is this *software* that the phone makers are relying on to make themeselves “stand out” in a sea of mee-too Phone designs, they are depending on things like “Sense” and “Motoblur” to be what makes people choose their phone over a similar one built by the competition.

  • cd28rc

    I agree 1000% and I’m new to all this. I can’t put my HTC Hero/Sprint DOWN! Thanks for shaking the tree.
    I thank you and your team for all the awesome info. And everyone else for the feedback.

  • http://conflictwithmotorolamilestoneinargentina Wiliam

    Hi , I purchased I milestone in dec 2009 , since then had conflicts in pop3 accounts between my internet provider and my cell provider , had to fix the configuration myself , any clues how to complain to the google guys , fathers of the android , to tell them whats going on and wht they should fix thanks

  • http://Website Wizard

    What about multi Language support?
    I (like other 500m people) speak Arabic as first language and android 1.6 onward have no support for Arabic, neither keyboard layout or even the possibility of reading it, so imagine interacting with friends and family on social networking site without the ability to read what my friends and family are saying let alone being able to write to them.
    I was hoping to emigrate from the Kingdom of Apple under the royal dictatorship of his majesty Steve Jobs to the democratic republic of Google, but from the looks of it I will be stuck with Apple iPhone for the foreseen future :(

  • http://Website Naresh Kumar Julka

    Hey, whenever i want to save a contact. i cant because,, after inserting the phone no. and name, when i press “done” their appears.. “sorry android.process.acore has stopped unexpectedly please try again”. & then it repeats again everytime.. please help me..

  • Rollin Shultz

    People who gravitate to android complain about iphones controlling apps so they quit when you leave the screen, yet because of androids so called freedom, I cannot get proper bluetooth control of my audio apps such as stitcher for which I must each day go into preferences, de-select bluetooth control, quit the app and restart then re-select bluetooth control to get the pause/play function to work.

    I am listening to my podcast on stitcher, a call comes in, after the call ends, does stitcher restart? No, and when I press my pause/play button what happens, stitcher and or another audio player starts. I have had as many as three or four players running at once. Now you know why Apple has maintained control to prevent this.

    This is all happening to me on the Motorola Atrix, but I doubt it is the phone at fault.

    Also why can I not find an app like the Ipod that does podcasts, audio, and video all from one app then I could eliminate this problem by having only one player?

    Are there any real answers for this, or does Android just plain suck?

  • pradeep

    If i have posted in wrong place kindly inform me this is my first post

    I just want to know,

    1. when I have lot of devises and options to backup my data personally why should I backup it in cloud? (I want my data to be always with me when i am in network or out of network)

    2. when I have purchased such a costly device and when I am with so…… called advanced android I am missing with much very basic and “L” BOARD options which have been released some 5-8 years back in just java and other OS.

  • David

    Which imbecile at android decided NOT to have an exit option in the bottom left hand menu!!!!!????? All the bloody apps have different ways of exitting and it makes it really frustrating remembering how to exit all the bloody apps.

    Why doesn’t the web browser have this feature too!!!!!! take wast of time, shall i return my S3?

  • Jonti

    Bring back the menu button!!!

    I can’t believe they think its a good idea to get rid of the menu button.

    Home back and menu where my most used and loved buttons. Why get rid of such a useful button? now I have to hunt for the three dots somewhere on the display taking up valuable real estate when there would have been plenty of room to leave the menu button where it was. I wish they would ask us what the users want from an OS rather than thinking they know best. Grrrrr