Thursday, 28 March 2013

The sorry state of the Android universe

Update: Corrected the code name for 4.2.2 is Jelly Bean, not Ice Cream Sandwich as I initially stated. I also described in the comments why the calendar application is also crap.

I recently bought a phone based on the Android platform (version 4.2.2 aka Jelly Bean). Before the purchase I had the wrong idea that this platform - Android - is the best thing since sliced bread. Let me tell you, that idea is so wrong, it's a shame anybody thinks or has ever thought that.

My previous phone was a Nokia E71 and with its stock set of applications and in spite of its old and rusty Symbian OS, I still have a hard time to even match the basic functionalities on the Android phone even using the most praised apps from the Play Store.

The dialer is crap, there is no decent speed dialer, the focus is on the apps instead of the phone functionality, the homescreen-type-to-search-in-contacts functionality of E71 is probably impossible due to the retarded decision to forget you're using a phone, notifications, even important ones, are hidden, to the point that the ones needing attention can be missed (e.g. entering the PIN/confirmation for Bluetooth pairing must be searched for in the notification area), when looking in the agenda there is no straight one step to edit a contact, you must jump to another application and do the edit there, treating SMS conversations as one to one instant messages works until you want to reply to multiple people at once.

Volume for ringing, SMS notification and the headset are controlled all together, so if during the last conversation you turned down the volume because it was too loud, you can miss a call because our will ring at a lower volume.

And these are only broken things in the basic functionality (for a post 2008 cell phone).

Android phones are smart phones, so more advanced features are required: playing audio and video files, GPS related applications, podcasting support, email handling and web browsing are among the features that can be expected on such a phone.

Only web related functionality and simple media playing are at a reasonable level compared with my old E71, maybe due to Google being web oriented and the new phones having better screens than the old Nokia.

But I am an avid podcast listener, so I've been searching for an application that can match Nokia's Podcasts stock application, and I've come to the conclusion Android users which love podcasts either have to wait for Nokia to develop on Android (which seems unlikely) or find one or two talented developers to create a decent application.

I don't understand how can such an application not have a playlist with the downloaded episodes, not have download all new episodes or mark all/selected as listened. I have found applications that have at least one of these issues and have an average of over 4 out of 5 stars in Google Play. Poor users!

In the light of these issues, I'm having so much difficulty coming up with an excuse for Nokia losing its position as a market leader, but our seems technical superiority is not necessary or enough to dominate the mobile phone market. Sadly, that says a lot about our species, and the words aren't nice.


Anonymous said...

did ye try ye ole cyanogenemod or some venderor flavor?

Anonymous said...

Quality mobile OS called SailfishOS by ex-Nokia guys is coming soon this summer. Quality stock apps are currently work in progress. Now is the good time to give them feedback of what users are expecting to have or high probability usable apps.

Günter Zöchbauer said...

I quite like my Galaxy Nexus (Android 4.2) but you got some points.
Android UI is bad when one wants to make a phone call.

eddyp said...

@Anonymous(1): No, I haven't. I'm not yet convinced is so much better than the stock version, but I'll probably try it at some point.

@Anonymous(2): Is it also Android based? Will I be able to install it on my Nexus 4? The fact there are ex-Nokia guys involved sounds interesting and appealing.

@Guenter: An I barely scratched the surface of the issues I found.

The calendar application is so idiotic, I can't imagine any heavy calendar user using it without screaming at it every time some new note or event is inserted:

- it erased very easily all future events in my calendar, including birthdays, reminders etc., without some heavy warning about what I'm about to do (I though I was removing only one reccuring event, not the entire future in my calendar)
- the distinction between day-long events and reccuring events is unclear in the interface; at one point I wanted to add a daily reminder occuring at 15 minutes before 12pm for a period of 4 days before a certain day and the interface and/or the implementation is so bad that I ended up with something which I think was two sets of 4 day long events offset by 15 minutes each; when trying to delete it, it deleted all future events.
- probably Google used word for word translations so an event starts 'at' some time but it doesn't last 'up to' some other time, it lasts (roughly translated) 'towards' moment. To be clearer, although the word 'to' is used for both 'send to' and 'up to' contexts in English, the two meanings are totally different and NOT interchangeable in Romanian.

Andre Klärner said...

well, for podcatching I can recommend you Pocketcasts ( I used it quite a while when I got time to listen to the security now podcasts.

About the dialer problems: I like the default android one quite much. If you star a person in the contact view, you can access them via a big tile in the third dialer tab. also jumping to details of a person is easy, if you hit exactly the picture (noticed the little triangle in the lower right?).

For me the plain android is the best choice since my E61, although that I miss the full keyboard of the E61.

And if you tell use an exact model of the phone you are using we might give you better descriptions. I know for example that the samsung galaxy sIII dialer is different.

Anonymous said...

You should at least try Jelly Bean. ICS looks and feel like junk when compared to 4.2.2.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to your pain. Last year I changed my dumb Nokia phone to a smartphone. The thing that strikes me the most is that to get an equivalent functionality of a dumb phone I had to look around and buy additional applications. What the hell?! The phone that cost me 2-4x as much as a dumb phone requires me to spend even more money to get similar functionality?! I am of an opinion that my current smart phone is the first and the last that I own. No more, smart phones are a FAIL for me!

FOSS said...

Sailfish OS via Compatible Android apps will be useable without changes. You can also drop by for more info about existing or future apps. Or, better yet learn Python (if just console based) and QT (GUI based) and do it yourself! .:FOSS:.

eddyp said...

@anonymous:I am, and all the comments *are* for Jelly bean aka 4.2.2 which is the latest Android at this time. I simply mistyped/brain farted.

BTW, if you think jelly bean is great, I jelly don't know what to think about previous versions.

Anonymous said...

i did the same switch from e71 to nexus 4. my calendar experience is the opposite: I had real trouble syncing the e71 to evolution (syncml). with the nexus, I switched to caldav (davical on the lan) and it simply works, entries are shown side by side with another exchange calendar, without interference.

you are right, the call interface is bad. for me the gesture search app is an okay solution, but the e71 interface was more efficient.

Anonymous said...

AntennaPod works quite well; it just added support for automatic download on wifi, which brings it to parity with any other podcasting app I've ever used.

Joël Dinel said...

"The dialer is crap, there is no decent speed dialer".

Could you elaborate a bit? The dialer works. I'm not sure how you usually dial numbers, but myself I punch in said numbers and hit "Dial". That works.

As for the speed dialer, what are your requirements? You can simply touch an address book entry directly from the Dialer app to call someone and you can even place a direct dial widget on any of the home screens to one-touch dial someone.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Joel: with the e71, you simply start typing a name on the start screen, and it begins to search for entries with those characters. with the nexus, you have to find the address book, open it, select the search bar, etc. that is more roundabout. two actions less matters if you do it a lot. plus the interface of the phone app is different from the address book interface, the phone app offers only some of the numbers in the address book. but as I said above: gesture search helps. search starts quickly and it gets you to the address book with all the numbers.

Anonymous said...

Most custom roms come with a T9 dialer (which is what you're taking about)

The dialer I linked above gives you T9 plus speed dial plus a bunch of other things.

Anonymous said...

With this app, you can set different levels of volume to the calls and notifications.

Mark Brown said...

You should be able to get the same search to dial behaviour from the search box on the home screen (or at least search to bring up contact) - I often just use voice search and "call X"

Anonymous said...

Fordownloading and listening to podcasts I'm quite happily using PodKicker.

Anonymous said...

I concur. You missed the low battery warning, or maybe that's been fixed: one beep at maximum volume (painful if you have earphones in) with no reminders in case you missed it.

Also looking forward to Sailfish. In some ways it's the successor to Nokia's N9, which in my opinion is probably the best phone available now (even if it is a little old and no longer supported). No, it's not Android based, not in the slightest (I think maemo predates Android actually).