Android From a Neutral Planet

Android’s become so popular I figured I’d better use it, lest good ideas in Android go unappreciated. So I’ve used a Nexus 7 — a small tablet tuned by Google to be the best possible experience — for a few months. It’s awesome hardware, but I was really trying to get a handle on Android, which — spoiler warning — is less awesome.

I love how Android, through merge with Google Now, has the best handle on converging search, notifications, and app launch (delivering the right information at the right place & time means these must converge) it’s got serious handcuffs on, because it can only get email/conversation context from Google services. That’s a showstopper: although I’ve changed email services many times (I used Gmail for years) I’m not that interested in changing/duplicating my inbox for what Google could get using standard protocols.

Email aside, Now picks up plenty of context from Google searches, and somehow it figured out I typically ride the bus and so offered me route information as I left the house! On the other hand, Now insists on delivering me news about Justin Bieber specifically on a regular basis, and I don’t see a hand slap button, aside from not dismissing the news cards. But they keep on coming. Oh well.

Android devices have a back button, just like a web browser. It’s one of only 3 buttons on the face of the device: it’s clearly important to the whole of the UX. Yet sometimes you press it and nothing happens. Don’t make me think!  There’s rarely a good reason for this behavior. I compare this to Windows Phone which has a similar back button, in a similar position, which just keeps on going back until you stop pressing.

While mainstream apps on the Play Store work well, most others I tried crashed, were poorly thought out, looked like Winmo 5 apps, or had sketchy permission requests. “Live wallpaper” apps, a unique feature of Android, are wretched hives of scum and villainy.

These flaws aside, I think The Neutral President sums up my opinion of Android:

Android offers very few strong opinions. It’s a beige version of iOS. It doesn’t dive headlong after real use scenarios like Windows Phone. With the exception of Google Now there’s very little that’s not done better elsewhere. So I don’t recommend Android over iOS & Windows Phone unless cost is the major concern. And the Nexus 7 hardware really is a steal at $229, so this is a tough one.

Nexus 7 on Amazon: Google Nexus 7 Tablet (7-Inch, 16GB, Black) by ASUS (2013)

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