Mar 05 AT 7:00 AM Brian Stringfellow 46 Comments

Cleaner, unified Android interface is key to reaching the masses

Android is doing well gaining market share, but to be more appealing to the masses (not the techno nerds) it needs a simpler interface. Ah, the iPhone. The iPhone geeks jailbreak their devices to get their nerd boner, but most people aren’t willing or don’t know how to do that.

The one-button device with a colorized Palm Pilot OS, often the source of ridicule, has turned out to be quite popular. Children and the elderly are able to use it with very little direction and AOL users from middle America feel right at home with it.

Android users are different, apparently, and have resisted the iPhone for various reasons. This writing is not intended to debate which is better, rather it is a discussion of how Android will gain more ground in the future.

Device manufacturers are aware of this shortcoming and have developed user interfaces (UI) to gain more appeal. HTC, Motorola, Samsung and Sony Ericsson have each created their own version of how an Android phone should look and feel to the user. The problem here is that it creates separation where there should be unity. As Open Handset Alliance (OHA) members, a collaborative effort to develop a unified interface would go a long way toward promoting Android and leveraging their collective contributions.

Of course, it’s not that simple. There are egos at stake. Everyone wants to be the Steve Jobs, but that isn’t what Android needs. Even if these companies come together and create a simplified Android UI, some other vendor will come along and try to steal the show with its own. What is important is that the key players are on the same page and keep the door open to the small players.

This is about shoring up the inevitable fragmentation borne into Android’s design. Android was conceived to promote multiple form factors, price points, resolutions and processors. What was not predicted was the multiple UIs laid on top of Android that change the user experience. To the average user, this removes all sense of familiarity and we are people that like Starbucks and McDonald’s. In short, Sense UI is good for HTC, but bad for Android and is therefore, short sighted.

This is not to say that the default Android UI (1.5 – 2.1) is complex by any means, it simply doesn’t cater to the least common denominator as well as the iPhone (e.g. having the Settings under the Menu button seems to throw people off). It’s safe to assume one of the goals for Android 3.0 will be to address UI simplicity. Not that it should mimic the iPhone necessarily, just that the primary interface should be dumbed down to the same degree. It might help the platform immensely if every Android device shipped with the same ‘Android for dummies’ interface as the default with options to overlay UIs like Sense, Blur, etc.

Brian has an unhealthy fascination with high tech gadgets working in the information assurance business in San Diego. Outside of work, he is often found staring into the back side of a big camera at his kids' sporting events or perched at a keyboard researching the latest developments in information technology/security and consumer electronics, but has been known to beat on drums and ride a snowboard.

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  • skooal

    I am not convinced that making it easier for the young and elderly is the answer, a better quality on apps and features would be the key in my opinion, 50% of Iphone apps are useless but the key feature Is gaming, that’s what might make a difference, at the moment the iPhone/ipod touch wins it when it comes to gaming…

    • http://Website Andy

      But if the Nexus one had sold 800,000 units in its first week*, rather than 80,000, I think more developers would be rushing out to develop the apps.**

      * maybe it was month, I don’t recall.
      ** I know there are other shortcomings to develop games specific to Android.

      • http://Website skooal

        You made a point… as well as the fact that if more countries were able to access the paid android market it would look far more nteresting to developers on a financial point of view…

        • Darkwingduck20

          I’m gonna have to disagree with that.. Maybe if the android is trying to attract “children” then yea possibly gaming would be the way to go, but thats what GameBoys and Psp’s are for.. I’m not saying that it would’nt be awesome to have a great selection of games but these are phones were talking about .This is however where Android is on top. Especially with the help of HTC with advertising “100% You”.. I think the consumer magnet with android is definitely the ability to customize.

        • Brykins

          Just as important as making the paid apps available worldwide, is for Google to pull their finger out and make it possible to install apps on the external card. My son has a T-Mobile Pulse with limited internal memory and he now can’t install more apps. He has money to spend but can’t actually give it to the developers – how does that encourage developers?

  • http://Website jeezus

    If Android dumbs down the UI (it will also make it less usable!) it is going to drive away potential and current user. There is already a phone for dumb people; iphone. Let them have it and dont mess with our Android UI.

    As the previous commenter says, they key is applications and games. Not making the phone fit for 3-year olds. :P

    • MattDemers

      But if Android doesn’t appeal to a greater market, it’s going to go the way of Linux: always grasping at the cusp of mainstream, but never quite getting there because of the stubborn nerds who don’t want the “normals” horning in on their turf.

      I think the key word in the title is “unified”. Because Android’s available on so many different hardware configurations on different carriers, a unified UI makes it easier for people to say “Oh, that’s Android” on sight, even if it’s on a different phone.

    • Mikko Tikkanen

      First of all, simplifying (“dumbing down”) the UI will, 99 times out of 100, result to MORE usable UI. More usable, not less. Larger set of options does not make something more usable, rather than the other way around.

      One of the best ways of thinking about _usable_ user interface is, “not you can’t think of anything else to add, but when you can’t take anything away anymore”, thus you have created something that (hopefully) where everything has clear and distinct purpose. This is a key factor in usability.

      Secondly, just because you feel like iPhone is less usable does not mean ANYTHING usability wise. Subjective experience has nothing to do with measuring usability, and as such is completely pointless argument. Only via usability tests (objective experience) do you get a data, that is actually relevant measurement of the usability.

      (Well, of course there are inspection methods too, but the results tend to be quite varied, unless it’s something really trivial, and unless you are using large pool of experts. But mainly it’s just about testing.)

  • http://Website Pedro

    The stock Android UI is minimalistic because Google intended it to be that way. Not only is it Google’s UI for all their products but it’s done intentionally so manufacturers have an easier time in creating an overlapping UI when they’re working off of a simple base. Android’s purpose is to provide several variations so the end user has multiple options to choose from. I do agree that something needs to be done and there are several. One being gaming like the person stated above me. The others being the need of having all Android phones on the same firmware so developing apps become easy, improving the Android Market, adding 3D features to the music app and TV advertising of all the UIs in to 1 so people are more exposed to Android and it’s variations

  • http://Website Dan

    No, leave the Android interface alone.

    I hate Apple/Macs/iPhones because they OVER-simplify their interface for retards.

    I don’t want a clone of something else, I want better than that.

    PC = powerful interface, Mac = simple interface
    PC > Mac

    Android = powerful interface, iPhone = simple interface
    Android > iPhone

    • MattDemers

      So is this just a case of nerd pride because you’re using something more complicated than most people can manage? Because that’s not the same thing as wanting the UI to improve.

      • http://Website Dan

        No, nothing to do with nerd pride, it is a case of not lowering everything this planet produces so it suits the lowest common denominator.

        Look at the mouse as an example.

        Apple tried to make it one button mouse because lowest common denominator retards couldn’t use two buttons – in the end retards lost the battle and the world now has a better two button mouse for everyone.

        iPhone is a 1 button mouse equivalent

        On another note, if you are currently struggling with ease of use on Android 2.1 then you are in the retard category. It is very easy to use. The main people who complain are iPhone converts who are so indoctrinated with the Apple way of doing things that they find it difficult to adapt to a new way of operating a smartphone (i.e., they are not used to using a menu button, not having to press back all the time, switching apps via Home long-press, etc). All of it becomes second nature after a while and you start to realise that a two button mouse is so much better than a one button mouse.

        • http://Website coder-x

          VERY WELL SAID.

    • Brian Douglas Hayes

      I don’t care what point you have to make; if you’re going to continue to use the word ‘retard’ so offensively, nobody is going to bother with your posts.

  • http://Website poinck

    I like the clean Interface of the standard Android.

    @Brian: You’re very right; some options are hidden for most users. I have a solution: preferences icons you cannot remove from the screens.

    And yes: Sense UI and Blur are making no sense for Android, because Android itself is beautiful. (o:

  • http://Website Matt

    A cornerstone of open software is not placing these types of restrictions. If there were to be a unified standard, who would decide on it? You might not like the resulting mess, but it’s the breeding ground for innovative breakthrough.

  • http://Website treefq

    Let the manufacturer lock down the kernel they want to ship with each phone. It is open source after all. Android is just a foundation. It only needs to have the functionality open to the hardware manufacturers to utilize.

    I can see a whole range of phone form factors all running android but implemented differently.

  • http://Website Tony Bullard

    Here’s two (of many) approaches to business:
    1) make a vanilla product that appeals to every human being in the world that works just well enough.

    2) make a specialized product for a certain group of people and it works very well.

    I support business that use business model #2

    I don’t want to use a phone, computer, or other device that my grandmother finds easy to use. My grandmother is an idiot when it comes to these things.

    • Brian Douglas Hayes

      No offense, but that’s probably why you’re not a business person. If you’re shooting for the consumer market at large, devices that are too complicated for grandma to use won’t sell very well.

      Android–by itself–is much more of a “vanilla” product than something specialized. Google is going after the mass market just as much as Apple is. They want Android handsets in the hands of everyone, young and old.

      Here’s the catch: The custom UIs (HTC Sense, Motoblur, Samsung’s TouchWiz, etc) allow device makers to tweak their devices towards a more focused demographic. Now personally, other than HTC Sense, all of the current custom UIs don’t appeal to me–but I don’t think they’re a bad thing. They definitely do add another dimension of customization and specialization toward a certain demographic, and that’s a unique feature to Android. As long as they’re running the same base OS that allows access to any app from the Market, I’d call it a good thing. (Again, current implementations are awful, and it’s pathetic that we’ve still got phones coming out running 1.5)

      Four years ago, BlackBerry would have been a good example of a specialized platform, with devices optimized for reading/writing email and the software to support it. They catered almost exclusively to the business world, and they got to be a household name among corporations. However, after the introduction of the Pearl series and some OS upgrades, they’re very much going after the same mass consumer market that everyone else is. It’s just more lucrative.

  • http://Website Matt

    Wow, iPhone hating masquerading as serious design and UX criticism? Claiming that the iPhone is just a simpleton’s phone for the elderly and children? Sounds like the PC v. Mac debate has gone mobile–like we needed more of the fanboyism.

    I think the author is confusing pretty-ness with design. I know it’s dumb to quote Steve Jobs here but: design isn’t how it looks; it’s how it works. Android has some pretty serious usability issues. Commands buried behind menus with zero consistency across the board, hardware buttons that do one thing in one app and something else in another, lack of consistency across handsets, manufacturers, and carriers. And when every list of top ten Android apps includes Task Killer, you’ve got some huge problems. It’s not a feature; it’s a bug.

    There’s real thought behind the apps on the iPhone. The hardware buttons disappear–controls are on screen just a tap away. Movements are intuitive and natural. Sense UI, even for its lack of consistency for the Android experience, comes much closer to the idea of how people want to interact with their phones. Scenes is a huge example of that. That attention to detail and personal touches how people use their phones counts for a lot, and plenty of Android users prefer it to stock Android.

    Look at Windows Mobile 7 Series. Even Microsoft had to completely rethink user interaction, and they made a completely different way of even thinking about how a phone is structured. It’s innovative and a complete departure from what Apple created, and I think users are going to have a real choice instead of the iPhone and the OS that’s pretty much like the iPhone. (Oh, and WebOS, but that’s going to be gone in a year or two.)

    Let’s not forget that when Android first came out, it aped the iPhone aesthetic pretty hard:

    I get what people are saying: we want to tinker, we want to have control, we want to use every thing within an inch of its life, we don’t want Steve Jobs telling us we can’t have boobies on our iPhones. But the majority of smart phone consumers and potential buyers is a phone that just *works*. iPhone OS does that. WebOS does that.

    Android doesn’t. It’s meant for fiddling and people who like tearing through the nuts and bolts of a phone. Sense UI sort of makes Android feel like that, but it’s still Android. (It’s also not just because they put a lot of gloss and gradients on their icons.) That doesn’t make them “retards” or people who should be using Jitterbugs or people who are too stupid to own phones. It’s people who prefer to just use their phone in their lives seamlessly and that’s a huge design issue that Android hasn’t tackled just yet.

    • ExtremeT

      Actually the only difference between the iPhone, WebOS and Android in terms of usability isn’t because ‘it just works’ where Android is meant to be tinkered with, it’s just that Android gives people the choice to tinker with it if a user should want to do that and lots of people aren’t used to having that option in my opinion. As you said, most Android users prefer the stock android because the stock Android, that’s because it too ‘just works’.

      • ExtremeT

        Edit: As you said, most Android users prefer the stock android, that’s because it too ‘just works’.

        That sounds much better, eesh I need more coffee

  • ExtremeT

    Dumbing down the Android UI really won’t accomplish much. It’s already dumbed down enough where anyone can use it. It’s not Android’s fault that the mainstream population has set their heels in with the standard iPhone format of having everything on your screen to make life easy. Android is way more organized and as such is actually probably a lot easier to use in some regards then the iPhone is because of it.

    However, custom UIs do contribute to fragmentation but only in the aspect of delayed updated to the firmware. There’s enough advertising going on where someone will see motoblur or Sense and know it’s an Android phone, plus there are still plenty of Android phones that have the stock UI should a person want that instead of a custom UI. If a manufacturer wants to customize the UI, instead of doing it to the degree they are already, they could simply load a custom splash page and maybe some color changes instead of an entire redesign of the UI. This would help with less delay with updates since the amount of customizing is minimal while still achieving the ‘special’ look they want so when an update comes out, it takes minimal time to change the newest version of Android to their liking.

    A second way would be for companies to offer their custom UI packages in full for download or install at time of purchase(stock versions would have the above mentioned) so if people wanted the full Sense UI they have that option.

    Fragmentation is mostly due to phones STILL coming out with older versions of android while old phones are not getting their updates quickly to the newer one, which is partly due to these custom UIs.

    The solution though isn’t making the interface even more simple then it already is for users so Android gains more ground/owners. The real solution is for people to get out of the iPhone mindset of having everything crammed onto your screens for ‘ease of use’. The best part about Android is that if someone wants to customize it, they can, there’s an app for it (actually many apps) but on the flip side there’s also apps to make it even simplier then it already is. Android users have choices and when more and more people realize that the don’t have to jailbreak their iphone to do whatever or that Android is actually really easy to use, there’s going to be a big shift in the market. I think people are still slightly intimidated by Android since it’s still the new kid on the block and it offers choices instead of locking you down into one format.

    Honestly, if people are confused with the fact settings can be found under the menu button (as an example from the article) they probably should own any smartphone, or a computer, and probably shouldn’t drive either since that’s a lot more complicated then Android useage.

    • Mikko Tikkanen

      Really. Is it “dumbed down” enough? For example, how intuitive is the pull-down list, on top? How many users, out of the blue, can figure that out? (Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it, but it sure as hell isn’t intuitive/simplified/”dumbed down”). Honestly, I really can’t think of any day-to-day life use cases (at this second, at least) where Android, at it’s current state, would get higher usability scores than iPhone… Pretty much everything in it requires more actions, which usually is a hint of complexity, which tends to lead to decreased usability.

      “Setting peoples mindset to something” isn’t really a solution, now is it? If it would be, there would be no wars, famine, younameit – all of these are just problems of “the mindset” (people not giving enough, too greedy etc.). Hence, user interfaces must adapt to the rules the real world dictates. If every person has been using “iPhone-with-one-button” phone, that is the reality the UI designer must face and act according, instead of taking on the high horse and claiming people are just too stupid. That is just not the case. (well, sometimes it is…) Something with one button is just simply usable, thus they have just been “normalized” to that level of usability. Compared to that, something with varying amount of buttons, which all act differently (some are touch based, some need pushing, every one of them has different kind of feedback), is just simply less usable.

      More and more people won’t be jailbreaking their iPhones. Sure, at the moment the numbers might be increasing (are they really?) but then you are just talking about tech-savvy users. The regular people (80-90% of user base) won’t be even thinking about jailbreaking. And it’s gonna be quite improbable that this big share of the user base is going to jump ship because of thing X, that can’t be done in iPhone. Unless it’s something really really groundbreaking. Sure, doing things is the “thing” with business users but that is hardly the target audience of Android, at the moment.

      You do realize he was talking about usability, right? In usability context, if users get confused by the fact that the settings are behind menu, is a real problem and it has nothing to do with being able to drive a car. In usability context, if someone is confused, it doesn’t mean that he just can’t figure it out, instead it means he can’t figure it out instantly, which means that the UI is not intuitive, which in turn means that the UI is slow to use (more time spent on trying wrong things and generally trying to figure things out etc.).

      • SliestDragon

        I agree with you that right out of the box Android doesn’t show you all the feature you should know to get the full use out of it like the notifacation bar, pressing the menu button for general setting for the app, and long-pressing for more specifically directed settings, (for example, setting how often a twitter app updates is a general update and has nothing with the fact that Timmy is eating a cupcake, but if you want to DM Timmy it isn’t a general setting or command, its a specific command towards Timmy only that would require you long-pressing on a tweet that Timmy posted to DM him.)
        but once you understand those 3 things, Android is really easy to understand. I just wish Google would add a tutorial to the setup screens to show you those and other features of Android.

        And with your button comment, it’s not that hard to understand. All Android phones have atleast a back, home, and menu button, but there are the phones that “ADD” buttons like a search button, a call and end button, or a form of moving around the OS like a trackball or D-pad(or now a Track-pad). And I don’t see that there is a difference between hardware buttons and touch sensitive buttons, they both do the same thing when pressed, just one can break or fall out, and one can crack. :p

      • ExtremeT

        You do realize I was saying people need to get OUT of the mindset that they are in, not making people get into a mindset or yes, the world would be a wonderful peaceful utopia.

        Yes I realize that it’s about usability but good usability doesn’t always mean one button or one action to access an app and everything crammed onto all your screens either. Usability also comes from organization as well.

        Maybe the driving a car wasn’t a good example but people still had to take lessons to learn to drive a car did they not? or take time to learn where everything is in the car feature-wise when they buy one. A car isn’t a one button solution or a one action solution. Same thing with computers, people had to learn how to use them, it was just a turn the power button on solution and everything was peachy and computers are certainly not the epitome of usability. Why should a mobile phone suddenly be any different and be forced to adhere to some simpleton interface because iPhone uses it? People aren’t stupid but an interface like the iPhone’s makes them lazy.

        Android may not be a one button solution out of the box but anyone willing to take 30 secs of their time can find out all those options. I did and I never owned a smart phone before my android. If it’s dumbed down any more then it wouldn’t be Android and it wouldn’t offer the choices it does even though it may not be perfect at the moment. My point was educating people to get out of the mindsets they have dug themselves into which Gunner brought up two good points to help with that.

  • Brian Stringfellow

    What makes Android so attractive is that it’s customizable. A new phone with the plain OS is fairly simple and it can be customized to suit just about anyone, geek or grandma. The problem, I feel, is that the plain OS is still more complex than it could be and can dumbed down without affecting the geeks who have helped make Android what it is today. I like the linux reference above, it’s dead on.

    Attracting developers to create the killer apps means the masses have to be brought in, as was stated. We can do this without affecting our own user experience thanks to Android’s UI flexibility. However, to bring in the masses, there must be uniformity. The UIs laid on top are great for simplicity, but not for uniformity.

    • http://Website Gunner

      The Android UI was very easy for me to pick up and get up to speed just by playing w/ the phone. I never found it to be complex, although I’m fairly tech savvy.

      There are 2 things that I think would accomplish what you suggest (making it easier / more compelling for the ‘simple’ masses) w/out dumbing down the UI.

      1) Have a well designed and thorough tutorial built-in that starts up after the 1st boot of the phone (the existing tutorial is a joke). Also have a direct link to that tutorial on the main home screen that end users can quickly refer to during those first few days w/ the phone. My Droid came w/ very little instructions, which isn’t a problem for me, but for non-techie types I can see them viewing the phone as complex. One of my friends has had her Droid for a couple months and still isn’t aware of some of the basic main features (like holding the magnifying glass button to do a voice search, or to speak addresses for navigation; she was amazed when I showed her this)

      2 ) Marketing marketing marketing. Aside from the Droid, there has been relatively little marketing of the capabilities of Android to the masses. Most people have still never heard of Android. Even some people w/ Droids don’t even understand that their phone is running the Android OS. I think Google really missed a golden opportunity to market the power of Android to the masses w/ the launch of the N1. They should have put together some slick, but simple ads, aired on primetime, that show some of the more amazing features of Android (much like VZ does w/ the Droid ads now). Hell, they could of just aired this youtube vid:

      If dumbing down the UI is necessary to bring in the masses, they option to have the regular ‘smart’ UI better still be there for the rest of us.

  • http://Website Zer0-9

    I am all for a unified interface. The “complexity” of the current interface isn’t that bad, but it could use a few tweaks. For example the long press. For some this is obvious, others it is unnatural. This is similar to the right click on a computer. You should be able to reach the same ends with single touches as you do with long press. In many places this is already the case, but some things about Sense and other UIs make adding elements to the homescreen more natural.

    I would like to see a unified interface standard on all android devices, with optional other interfaces like Sense to be obtained from the market or enabled on the device as an option during initial setup. Customized UIs built into the ROM make upgrades in OS more difficult to implement.

    • ExtremeT

      “interfaces like Sense to be obtained from the market or enabled on the device as an option during initial setup. Customized UIs built into the ROM make upgrades in OS more difficult to implement.”

      That is exactly how it should be done and hopefully somewhere down the road this will happen.

  • http://Website Laurie

    I don’t think the UI is ‘nerdy’at all; it’s already clean – it doesn’t need to be cleaned up by adding to it.
    When the G1 first rose it’s head, I followed, and followed it until it’s pre-sale happened and got it for myself and 2 daughters. (mom here) They call me a geek, but I don’t consider myself such, I’m a seamstress/designer. I didn’t find the UI hard to use, and neither did they. Of course it took some getting use to, but playing with the phone familiarized us with it’s functions, and how to use it. 2 of us were coming from the T-mobile Shadow at the time, the other had the Razar.
    Now, we wouldn’t use any other phone but an Android. And personally, I didn’t like those custom UI’s the manufacturers put on; I had 2 before finally settling with the Nexus. I like it clean and no nonsense. Those UI’s just added a mess to deal with; it’s like adding more to the soup than needs to be.
    This is just my female perspective, if you will.

    • Brian Stringfellow

      I agree with you, Android is pretty simple to use. Going after the masses may involve more in the way of marketing and less (but still necessary) streamlining of the OS.

  • SliestDragon

    Android is easy to use. People just need to understand that sometime you need to long-press or press the menu button for more settings instead of haveing a settings button taking up screen space. Google just need to add that info to the setup of the phone, just like how they had the keyboard tutorial, they need to have a short Android tutorial, with just a few of the subtle things of Android they need to know.

    It’s just that Android can do so much. When you turn on an iPhone, you instantly know everything about it, but Android has so much to it that a tutorial for it would take to long, plus a tutorial for just Android wouldn’t be enough, because the power of Android isn’t just in the phone itself, but in the apps in the market. Yeah there aren’t a trillion apps in the store, but a lot of the apps are very customizable, and give you so much functionality over the way your phone works.

    And in reply to @Matt’s comment:

    “And when every list of top ten Android apps includes Task Killer, you’ve got some huge problems. It’s not a feature; it’s a bug.”

    Everything that can do more then just 1 or 2 things at once(Ok, I get it, you can look at flowers while talking on the phone, let’s throw the iPhone a parade) needs a task manager. And you don’t need to use a task manager unless you want to. All apps are optional. The reason a task manager isn’t built into the main OS is because 1. you don’t really need one to run it, it just “can” help, and 2. there are already apps in the market for it. If you don’t like task managers you probably also don’t like the fact that I can run 8+ apps in the background while listening to music, and receive a call without loosing all the apps in the background.

    (Ok I’m almost done)
    I love the way the stock Android looks. I rooted my Nexus One just so I could theme it and try out the Desire rom, but I haven’t flashed a different rom then CyanogenMod(stock) or flashed a theme over it for over a week. The stock look is just so clean looking, especially with the 2.1 update. I can’t wait to see the added goodies of future updates to Android, but I hope the look in 2.1 is the way they plan on taking Android.

    Thank you for taking the time to hear what I had to say. :)

    • SliestDragon

      I don’t see the need for a task killer a “bug”, actually I don’t think Android needs a task killer. And I know that I said “Everything that can do more then just 1 or 2 things at once needs a task manage.” but now that I look back at what I said I realized that I spoke wrong. I was thinking of the way my old G1 worked, but since I got my Nexus One I have never felt my phone slow down because of too many apps running in the background. Android is made to have apps running in the background. When you use a taskmanager to close apps, they are slower to open next time. I actually did a test of the memory on my N1 with the browser. You are probably aware that when the browser is killed it has to reload the homepage. Well I opened the browser then proceeded to open all of my 60+ apps I have installed and when I got back to the browser it didn’t have to reload. Plus not all of the apps I opened stayed opened in the background when I exited them.(Some apps automatically close on exit.) This is the way Android is made to works, it keeps apps open that it thinks you want to keep open. Here is a quote from Cyanogen when some people were complaining about apps running in the background. He simply said “free memory is wasted memory” which is completely true. If you have 500MB of RAM, why do you want it all empty? You only start to feel you phone slow down when you get close to 20MB left, but by then the Android system is starting to force close apps running in the background on its own.

      In a conclusion to all I’ve just said, with all the new phones coming out with more RAM there is no need for a task killer. Yeah phones like the G1 and other 1st generation Android phones might need a little help with killing tasks, but new phones coming out are solving that problem, which, in my opinion, was never a software problem in the first place, just a hardware limitation.

      Hopefully you can see my side of the argument. Sorry if there are any typos, I wrote all this on my phone.

    • http://Website Okkar

      30MB+ free on a G1? You must be killing tasks a lot. And you SHOULD NOT. Perhaps, you should first try to understand how Linux kernel manages memory.

      Know your hardware’s limits. G1 has a paltry amount of memory so don’t overload it with all the pretty widgets and apps you can get your hands on. My G1 can switch between non-heavy tasks (SMS, mail, Google Talk) very happily.

  • Tenkely

    ” to get their nerd boner,”

    That’s why I still read this site.

  • http://Website Bob McCormick

    I wish Google would release all of the source code for the new 3D launcher and other UI changes that are on the Nexus One. Personally, I think the Nexus One UI is as good or better than Sense or any other third party Android interface that’s been released so far.

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  • http://Website bob

    I think if every Android device came with the “bare” version of android, but every different UI was available in the Marketplace, this problem would be solved. Each UI could have a 7-day free trial period to see which one you like best. As far as pricing goes, that’d be up to each company to decide. Why has no one thought of that before? Maybe I should patent it so I won’t get sued by someone…

  • David Shellabarger

    I’m a little late to this article but felt I had to say something.
    I completely disagree with your premise.
    The following is a false statement,
    “What was not predicted was the multiple UIs laid on top of Android”
    Perhaps *you* didn’t predict it but Android was billed to be exactly that from Andy Rubin. I can cite sources including Androidandme but I don’t have time.
    One of the major reasons Android is popular with manufactures right now is because it fairly easy to Brand android with their own UI (UX). Brands care most about brand management and secondly about differentiation. Android ENCOURAGES that. Manufactures and carriers hate when they are not in control of the UI in mobile phones.
    This is why Android is so great!
    Remember, Verizon turned down the iPhone. Not because it has a terrible UI, but because they wouldn’t have the control over the device that they wanted to have. Cell phone UI and its success among manufactures has very little do with usability and everything to do with customizability. You can’t compare anything regarding UI with Apple because Apple *is* a manufacture.

    This is probably the worst opinion piece I’ve seen Androidandme. Disappointing.

    • Brian Stringfellow

      I appreciate you weighing in David. Should Google stay the course with Android UI or do you think a change would make sense? Do you foresee any minor issues snowballing?

  • http://Website Miguelito-san

    I think this is an interesting topic that has spurred some lively debate.

    Android is an operating system. Windows is an operating system. I use WindowBlinds to customize how the interface looks, but that doesn’t change the functionality. I can put a shortcut to the control panel or settings screen right on my desktop if I don’t like having to click Start or hit the Menu button. I can put a shortcut to every app on my desktop / home screen if I want to.

    I believe in the power of marketing. The User Interface should be customized based on the marketing decisions of the companies selling their phones. They can make a Jitterbug-style Granny-phone that runs on Android…giant ‘buttons’ They can make a Neon-Blue X-Men version for kids with cool sound effects and animations…. My point is that Android can be whatever the companies find that their customers want it to be. There never has been and never will be ‘one thing’ that will please everyone.

    I feel Apple’s core ideology of controlling everything from top to bottom is essentially unAmerican. UnAmerican works for some people…not for me. Android is a basic framework and foundation which other great minds (much greater than mine) can build on. It offers freedom. I have a G1, and thank God people have taken the time to build mod’d ROMs because if I were stuck with the stock 1.6 software I’d be pretty bummed out with all of the phones that are getting upgrades to 2.1!

    Android is still young. Smartphones are still fairly young. Does everyone need a smartphone? I doubt it, but I believe that time and marketing will solve the problems of UI appeal and functionality.

  • http://Website trampster

    The problem is that with all these custom android interfaces, every time google updates the OS the users of devices running those interfaces lose out because they have to wait for ages for the device manufacture to get their custom interface running on the new version of android before they can roll out the update.

    Don’t be fooled by the flash looking interface, stay away from the sense and the blur because if you buy it you will get screwed next time google updates. You will find there are apps you cant run and new features you can’t use.

    I think manufactures will eventually realize that they are shooting themselves in the foot with their custom interfaces and will revert back to plain android. If they want to ‘improve’ the UI why not have their ‘improvements’ merged back onto the android mainline. That way their users don’t lose out. Because in end the end when user lose out they will stop buying and when that happens the manufacture loses out.

    In the mean time stick to plain android phones like the Nexus One.

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