Why the Android ecosystem is broken

Six months ago I got this crazy idea. Why not leave the mothership? Give up on iPhone and try Android. This is what being tech-agnostic is about, I thought––not being wedded to a single platform. Besides, the iPhone’s digital keypad just wasn’t working for me.

I got a monthly Boost Mobile plan, which uses Sprint. Service was stellar and I mean really good. I could call anywhere and always had a signal, even inside all these pre-war buildings you find in downtown Manhattan. How is this possible I thought? Service is one thing, but thats where the fun ends. A few months into Android hyperspace and I find myself grappling with a system that just doesn’t seem to understand what users want.

Shock and Awe

On Android – first Samsung Transform Ultra then Sidekick 4G I found the app store was like wild, wild west. Buggy apps sat along well tested ones, and only a very discerning eye and mobile guru might know the difference. Syncing was absolutely horrible. The whole platform assumes you want to sync up with Google accounts. I went with Missing Sync from Mark/Space. My addressbook started getting corrupted, duplicate records appeared, syncs would fail halfway through.

What’s more there were tons of started services I didn’t even use like Smart Navigation, Group Texting, and so on. These services seemed to run in the background, hog & bleed memory, and slow down my phone til it started crashing. I actually had to download an app called Easy Task Killer. Apparently a very popular app on the Android phones, I wonder why?

Later on I found out that T-mobile was no longer supporting the Sidekick. No wonder it was so buggy. I can’t believe they’d ship something like this.

My full list of beefs:

  • corrupted data
  • slow to non-functional syncing
  • dangerous apps
  • sharing of private data
  • ineffective calendaring
  • no support for addressbook groups
  • apps not remembering context & position
  • no good email app
  • weaker less feature rich apps
  • kludgy interface



I’ve long since quelled my desire for a physical keyboard. I was struggling with every other thing I would do with the device. Sometimes I’d just give up.

I really wanted to get along with my Android phone but my experience with it only gave me an insight into three crucial areas where it falls short.

  1. An Iron Fist
  2. People complain about Apple’s iron fist in app store approval. You can’t have it both ways. Android completely lacks discipline and users suffer hugely because of it. That weakens the platform.

  3. A manageable set of devices
  4. Developers building for Android must test on a huge spectrum of hardware. Smaller shops are likely to choose a few of the biggest ones only. Phones with a smaller user base likely have a lot of bugs just in the Android version they run. All this bodes badly as users just see buggy software, they don’t know why or how. This perception further weakens the platform.

  5. Affordable development

Building apps costs businesses money. Businesses must balance the costs of building features, test, debug, troubleshoot & release. That’s cheaper on the iphone because you have one device that is much more mature. This has a pile on affect as it strengthens the platform, users spend more on their devices, more users pile onto the iphone platform, so more money can be made building an iphone apps.  On Android higher costs, lower margins further weakens the platform.

A new love for Apple

This whole experience has brought me back to the iPhone 4S, and I have a whole new love and appreciation for the platform and the device.

  • calendar reminders make me more productive
  • data is always right, and where I need it
  • I don’t fumble with menus – I’m faster & less frustrated
  • cross-platform apps are more feature rich on the iphone
  • complex features are hidden in plain view – superb interface
  • pulse, hootsuite, yelp, notes & calendar are all integrated & productive



I also learned that sometimes less is more… much more!

  • Disenchanteddanny

    you got a low end device and didnt root it to remove the bloat which every phone including the iphone has. your clearly a sheep and npt a technical person or hacke so enjoy being told what you can do  

    • maffyoot

      have you heard yourself? root the phone. how many ordinary people would/could do this? i think all you do is back up his point. I did exactly this but i opted for the Samsung GSII when it came out, i gave up after three weeks. awful phone, almost unusable on screen keyboard, flimsy plastic back and the droid experience was counter intuitive. For those who have time to hack their phone I’m sure they love it. me, i just want to get on with other things and not have to spend all my time messing with my phone..

      • Dawg

        Stock android is more flexible and user friendly to get things done and be productive than ios. Watch on YouTube “the truth about android vs ios”.

        • hullsean

          I’ll check it out, thx.

    • tomandyourmom

      Root it?  You’re so far out of touch as to be laughable.  Why should anyone NEED to root a device to make it useful.  Fucking idiot.

      • You have a point but…

        Calling him a “Fucking idiot” makes you much
        more intelligent right?

        • tomandyourmom

          Nope, but I call a spade a spade.

    • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

      Your spelling and grammar are largely incoherent.  Not surprising really.  It is laughable that Android users must root their phone and use a custom rom to get it to perform adequately and it does not solve many of the issues he is talking about.

  • http://twitter.com/brk3 Paul Bourke

    This article is so misguided I’m wondering if you’re a troll.  How did this make it to HN?
    > Syncing was absolutely horrible. The whole platform assumes you want to sync up with Google accounts. 
    And? The whole apple platform assumes you want to use iTunes.  Using a Google account works and works well.  If you want to use some third party solution that doesn’t work that’s not the platform’s fault.> What’s more there were tons of started services I didn’t even use like Smart Navigation, Group Texting, and so on. These services seemed to run in the background, hog & bleed memory, and slow down my phone til it started crashing. I actually had to download an app called Easy Task Killer. Apparently a very popular app on the Android phones, I wonder why?False.  Background apps don’t use resources.  Google > corrupted data> slow to non-functional syncingYour fault for using third party software, see above.> dangerous appsexplain> sharing of private dataagain, explain> ineffective calendaringWhat about Google calendar is ineffective?> no support for addressbook groupsFalse again> apps not remembering context & position??> no good email appI stopped reading after this

    • tomandyourmom

      Apple syncing to iTunes (in addition to being false, but that’s a different story) is not the relevant analogy.  Apple allowing sync only to (or giving preference to) iCloud calendars, mail, etc would be the correct analogy.  And Apple clearly DOESN’T do that.  So uh, yeah.  Nice try, though.

      Background apps can use resources. Not all of them do, but they definitely can. “Google it”.  Chortle.

      • hullsean

         
        My needs required a direct sync to my desktop.  For me it’s important that I own my data for privacy reasons.  I don’t share my contact database or calendar with Google.

        • Dawg

          U have the option to share or not too share

          • hullsean

            I couldn’t find a solution, although there may be one out there.

          • http://profiles.google.com/airtonix Zenobius Jiricek

            emails: use imap/exchange?
            calendars: use caldav-sync/exchange
            files: dropbox/owncloud/usb/rsync/etc

          • hullsean

            thx for the comment @google-454cea4c773e4e7ef6ceeb7ef0e18bd9:disqus . Although I’m sure those protocols would work for sync, I was having the biggest trouble syncing my addressbook. That was causing serious trouble in my case, either from the android version or the sync software I used on my mac. Extremely slow syncing, duplicates & errors had me entering records manually at times.

    • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

      iOS devices no longer need iTunes at all and haven’t for some time.  
      Background apps absolutely use resources unless you believe in magic ponies too.
      Dangerous apps – unchecked malware on Android.
      You should have continued reading rather than replying to his article with false and uninformed statements.

      • Dan Jay

        Okay, try downloading any ringtone and try installing it without iTunes. Impossible. Have someone email you an mp3 file and try storing that in the iPod portion of the iPhone without iTunes. Impossible. You’ll have to keep going back to your email attachment to listen to that song. iOS is weak.

  • Ankur Dhama

    Apple fan-boys won’t understand android ever ever ever. Apple is for rich people, think about what android has done by putting a smartphone in hands on not-so -rich people and allowing them to use internet and other services for benefit like health care etc. So please grow up and think about the impact of the open source technology at global level rather then praising the glowing-shiny Apple toys.

    • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

      This Apple fan boy knows far more about Android than most android users including you.
      For example there are low cost and even free versions of the iPhone and many Android phones cost more than iPhones.
      Negative points for assuming Google cares about this though, you are the product to Google.  Good luck with that.

    • hullsean

       Hi Ankur, your point that iphone is pricey is a very good one.  The iphone *is* out of reach for many folks, and that’s unfortunate.  It too though speaks to the power of a strong platform, for Apple can derive more profit as many users still choose the pricier smartphone because it makes their life easier.

      On the flip side my new iphone 4s I bought off of someone on Craigs List I got for a cool $425.  Used iphone 4′s and even 3Gs go for a very good price.  This again speaks to the power of a platform that even two year old phones hold a high value at resale.

      • Dawg

        It speaks to supply an demand and popularity not quality of the platform.

        • hullsean

          Popularity certainly, but I suspect there’s something more to this aftermarket strength. We see the same phenomenon in certain automobile makes.

          • Dawg

            Nope your wrong

    • http://www.formandfunction.com/ Jonathan

      How can you declare iOS is for rich people with a straight face? I see the prices competitive and even free for Apple gear. By focusing on a few single models they have gotten prices ever-more cheaper even while the App market grows.
      The price argument is decades old regarding a different pricing structure Apple {foolishly} pursued for desktop machines. Get with the XXIst century, dude!

  • Chucrutao

    Some people own their phones, some are owned by it.

    • hullsean

       Indeed.  And there’s the irony.  Despite Apple’s iron fist, I had complete ownership of my phone and my data before switching to Android.  Now that I’ve returned to the *mothership* I have better control of my data and don’t struggle with my phone. 

      • Dawg

        No u don’t u just don’t understand android

        • http://www.formandfunction.com/ Jonathan

          No, sir, you “Dawg” do not understand Google: they are looking for your eye-balls to sell your data-trail to the highest bidders. Malware is a problem for most Android users, because they do not want to know as much as you do about what is running under the hood. He’s referring to privacy and control of data.
          Most Android users do not even come close to the web-usage numbers of iOS – which makes the App-market very unappealing to this developer. There may be more units out there now, but it’s fragmented and the vast majority of Android users simply do not purchase – or even use – their App functions and treat their phone like a ‘dumb voice terminal’
          You have not even answered his statement… and judging by your many ‘comments’ spell-checking is terrible choice you avoid. It is hard to take someone who spouts one-liners w/o backing anything with stats seriously and the regularly mis-spellings don’t help your ‘argument’.

          • rotarydial

            because apple doesn’t right? It’s one thing to be a fanboy it’s another to be a uneducated fanboy..

          • hullsean

            Rotary, let’s stick to comments & discussion about technology and not start making jabs at each other. It’s the not forum for that.

            Thx.

          • http://www.formandfunction.com/ Jonathan

            Please explain your comment in a way that addresses the statement I made and we can all understand what your point is. Do a lot of droid-heads have trouble spelling and/or writing clearly {example ‘doesn’t right’ WTF} and to claim I am uneducated makes your statement a farce. I call Apple on crap when and where I see, thank you very much.

    • http://www.formandfunction.com/ Jonathan

      The tool shapes the hands that makes the tool… it’s evolutionary. 
      If you think your privacy is not important, then keep on using the G-men’s system that sniffs your email and ‘suggests’ adds that ‘relate’ to your searches and other activity. Apple has established a ‘clean, well-lighted place’ for you to get on with your life w/o selling your attention to the highest bidder. 
      No contest. 

      • hullsean

         Well said.

      • Lucas Ces

        In my opinion privacy and Internet doesn’t fit together by definition. If you want privacy create your own server and applications and start using it, otherwise you’ll remain hostage of an “evil” corporation.
        Android is the state-of-art mobile operating system for several technical reasons. And even if you are unhappy with Google services and policies you can use your own version of the OS with the applications you wrote accessing your own server. That’s freedom, the allegation that the ecosystem is broken is not Google’s fault, it’s a reflex of that freedom of choice.
        If you really like IPhone/iOS, can afford one and don’t care about freedom, stick with it, everybody win.

        • hullsean

          Good points Lucas. Not sure I was necessarily pointing the figure at Google per se, though we seem to be in agreement that the ecosystem as it is, does seem to be broken.

          • Lucas Ces

            It does seem to be broken, but broken suggests it has to be fixed and I think that’s a mistake.

        • http://www.formandfunction.com/ Jonathan

          Freedom to accept malware into your life. 
          What your talking about {setting up servers, writing to so-called open sources} is so far removed from normal human life as to be irrelevant. People want things to work and be cheap: Apple has figured out how to deliver both while developers laugh all the way to the bank. This market has sucked the talent out of the Android ecosystem leaving second rate schlock-ware for customers to pick over. Standardizing on a few excellent models that satisfy the market has driven the price ever-lower to the point I can’t agree with your questioning the affordability. 

          • Dawg

            What malware? I’ve never had any malware issues with android. I know that it exist but have never had a problem with it because I know how to use these devices.

          • hullsean

            It’s quite a huge and recognized problem. It is really threatening the platform.

          • Dawg

            No it’s not. Android leads market share by a large margin over apple. It’s not hurting them any. Yes malware exist but is only a problem if the user lets it be a problem. I’ve never had a problem with malware because I know how to use these devices. U would not have a problem with malware if you knew as well.

          • hullsean

            I agree with you again. Avoiding malware is a knowledge or a skill which I do not have. Some have enough skill to run Android. For those who don’t, they can use iphone.

          • http://profiles.google.com/airtonix Zenobius Jiricek

            Actually it’s pretty simple…

            You don’t enable installing an APK from untrusted sources.

          • hullsean

            @google-454cea4c773e4e7ef6ceeb7ef0e18bd9:disqus Thx for the clarification. Being an operations guy I use the command, and install packages in Linux with Yum or apt-get. So to me yes “untrusted sources” has some meaning. To many many lay people, perhaps the majority, such technical stuff would be well beyond their reach. It may be that some devices come with better defaults, so untrusted sources may not be a problem on all android smartphones.

          • http://www.formandfunction.com/ Jonathan

            … then you are in the minority of Android users.

            Accept your unique and exalted position as an elite technocrat and let the less nuance-savvy masses of humanity choose systems that suit them.

            You will always have a technically-bent choice, but my mother will never accept the obtuse Google offerings. The vast majority of Android users don’t even use Apps – and an even smaller number of you actually pay for software – but see their ‘droid as a fancy ‘talking stick’ that works fine when they keep to the simple ‘feature phone’ set of attributes they know and away from the scary malware and their calls will go through. Apple has made a system inviting and safe for humanity to try new widgets and apps w/o worry, whereas the G-men didn’t care one wit about that or they would ave fostered a developer community and made privacy the issue Apple has.

          • hullsean

            I agree with most of what you say Jonathan. One thing that isn’t clear to me is that Google doesn’t care. I think google set out from a very technical vantage, and the team was keen on open source. One one level this is commendable, as it provides an open playing field. However, a platform that provides no checks and balances is like a government that doesn’t have enough regulation. Abuses soon follow. Unfortunately that’s what Google & Android are struggling with now.

          • hullsean

            This RWW article talks about the app development problems: http://readwrite.com/2012/10/24/sloppy-app-development-leaves-android-owners-at-risk

      • Dawg

        Apple doesn’t leg me to what I want to do with my phone. Android was simpler and more productive and more feature rich I miss it so much. So sick of this 4s

        • hullsean

          This may be a point of different design philosophies appeal to different people. Simplicity in some cases means leaving something out. That doesn’t work for folks that like specs and feature lists. But it does for User Experience and UI folks.

  • hullsean

    @twitter-6842472:disqus Thx for the reply.  Google sync for all data and email did not work for me.  Before I switched I found that I could sync as I already as on iphone with Missing Sync for Android. 

    Availability and control of my data and databases is a key function for me.  Also accessibility.  I found these reduced, in part by the particular Android phone, and in part by the architectures design.

    Sharing of private data: Carrier IQ among others

    And unfortunately background apps are very much using resouces.  Memory, CPU and so forth.  Also if those apps are not behaving well, ie not debugged sufficiently before release, they can bleed memory – that is grow larger & larger until all memory is exhausted.  This was certainly a problem.  Until I installed Easy Task Killer that is.  But the very need for an app such as that one speaks volumes about the platform and it’s inherent problems.

  • http://www.tatvasoft.co.uk/android-apps.php Benjam Inarroyo

    I am very pleased to find this blog. I want to thank for your time for this wonderful read!!! Keep Sharing, I’ll surely be looking for more.
     

  • http://twitter.com/chrismcnally Chris Mcnally

    how can you claim the ecosystem is disjoint if you do not sync with Google? Hello? Android = Google, come into the garden and play

    • hullsean

      hehe. I spent time in the garden. But it was full of thorn bushes. LOL

  • hullsean
    • rotarydial

      “David Wollmann
      3 months ago
      The researchers who made this claim have since backed off. It
      now looks like there’s no evidence to support the claim that Android is
      the vector.”

      • hullsean

        That’s good news. I think getting a handle on the app store, and improving quality control there will help strengthen the platform as a whole.

  • Pingback: How to Create a SDK – Part 1 « Larrylisky's Wiki

  • Dawg

    Ya the author doesn’t get android or open source.

    Plus it’s a myth that ios apps are more feature rich than the android versions. Most common apps (Facebook, twitter, Dropbox, etc) offer more features on the android versions.

    • hullsean

      This is also an acknowledged problem, that it’s more expensive to develop for this platform since you have (a) fewer users buying apps and (b) many more hardware platforms to develop for.

      • Dawg

        Then why do the android version of apps have more features?

      • http://profiles.google.com/airtonix Zenobius Jiricek

        It’s also a myth that developers on either platform make huge amounts of money.

        Both platforms have the capability to fund apps via adverts.

        Both platforms have problems with piracy.

        • hullsean

          @google-454cea4c773e4e7ef6ceeb7ef0e18bd9:disqus some good points. I was basing some of this off of anecdotal accounts from an entrepreneur friend of mine. His firm was developing apps, and he was vehemently anti-android. He said they had tried developing for android, but on the testing end there were so many handsets to QA that it became prohibitive for them to do it well. And their app wasn’t selling nearly as well on the android side as it was on iOS.

          • http://profiles.google.com/airtonix Zenobius Jiricek

            Apps ported to android that still look like iphone apps often don’t sell well.

            Simply following the up to date interface design guidelines helps a lot.

            The other aspect is that Android is far more conducive to sharing content thant iphones are… so if i am doing something in my app and i want to share it directly to my dropbox, then i hit share and i choose dropbox (if i have it installed).

            Iphone developers are responsible for providing any sharing endpoint beyond twitter, facebook, sms or email.

            Android developers simply include a sharing menu and the android system provides all the installed endpoints.

            So while iphone users might be ok with less features, simply porting the app over to android without catering for the richer feature set android provides is short sighted.

          • hullsean

            Some great points @google-454cea4c773e4e7ef6ceeb7ef0e18bd9:disqus. For sure developers have to consider the features or platform in each case and it’s strengths and weaknesses in order to build a great product. iphone does lack in some of this integration.

  • the dave

    the author of this argument has written a falicious argument, pkaying to many emotions, not pointing out the negatives in the close source of ios, ect.

    furthermore, if you like ease of use because your a dumb sheep, go ios
    if you like options cuz you have atleadt half a brain go android.

    furthermore, samsung note ii, bigger screen, fadter processor, more apps, better conectivity. the best iphone yet

    and another note, ive used android for three years now. I have never, ever, ever had a problem with my contacts or syncing. is the auther straight retarted. dont blaim the os, blaim the user for not knowing how to use it. its a computer. it dose only what you tell it to do. your fault soley

    • hullsean

      You are talented with the pen, kind sir.

  • dave

    Man, I don’t care what anyone says. I felt the same way the author did and bought a Samsung Galaxy s3, moving from a iphone 4. Biggest. Mistake. Ever. Clunky, Battery hogging, buggy native software, ewwww. The friend who recommended the phone has never had an iPhone, it suddenly all made sense. When it comes down to it I need my phone to do at least 2 to 3 things well and being a phone is one of them, shocking. The galaxy has issues with that. If my contacts freezes again, or flips out mid call I am going to flip out. It doesn’t matter if Androids wonky disorganized marketplace has a million iterations of every app that apples has, it doesn’t count if they all suck. And for everyone that is gonna say ‘well just tweak this setting, or change that, or keep an eye on that.’ the thing is my friend my iPhone took care of all that for me so I wouldn’t have to babysit my phone, I could just use and enjoy it.

    • hullsean

      Well said, Dave.

  • hullsean

    an interesting piece from ars-technica: Android isn’t a feature – http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/03/to-cell-phone-builders-android-isnt-a-feature/

  • Dan Jay

    Okay, try downloading any ringtone and try installing it without iTunes. Impossible. Have someone email you an mp3 file and try storing that in the iPod portion of the iPhone without iTunes. Impossible. You’ll have to keep going back to your email attachment to listen to that song. iOS is weak.

    • hullsean

      @google-c5335461297d2ecea49fcffff260dc2f:disqus thx for the comments. Yep definitely depends a lot how you compare the two platforms and what’s important to you. If you compare feature lists side by side iOS may not measure up.

      Ultimately for me it’s about usability. The nonsense about “Easy Task Killer” was a real deal breaker for me. If the platform requires a housekeeper to keep a watchful eye on things, it seems it’s not able to clean up after itself.

  • hullsean

    From RWW: Many free Android Apps are starting to look a lot like malware. http://readwrite.com/2013/04/05/free-android-apps-starting-to-look-like-malware #platform #fail

  • Sean Bello

    maybe try using a device that runs a more current version of android? that’d be novel. sharing of private data? Apple does nothing to protect your data, actually they sell it to anyone willing to buy it. also “calendaring” and “kludgy” aren’t words.

    • http://www.iheavy.com/blog/ Sean Hull

      Thx Sean

  • http://www.iheavy.com/blog/ Sean Hull
  • [anonymous]

    I am glad I am the only one that noticed (even on the latest ICS and Jellybean) that after opening a few apps, the phone starts lagging like crazy for no reason.

    • http://www.iheavy.com/blog/ Sean Hull

      Yep. Sounds familiar.

      Incidentally you might find this article interesting. Talks about why the iphone aftermarket value stays high while android devices don’t hold their value:

      http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2013/08/07/apple-android-resale-value/

      I commented at the bottom about android device fragmentation. Interesting stuff.

  • http://www.iheavy.com/blog/ Sean Hull

    Apparently the new twitter app for android will *only* be released on Samsung. There’s a twist to the fragmentation problem…

    http://pandodaily.com/2013/10/10/this-is-why-android-users-cant-have-nice-things/