Opinion Articles

Monday, February 18, 2013

What's wrong with Android?

and why 2.3 is still the most popular version

James Rosewell writes:

8 months ago I moved my main smartphone from Android (Nexus One and Android 2.3 [Gingerbread]) to Windows Phone (Nokia Lumia 800). I had entered a simpler world. There were less applications (noticeably Audible), no tethering option, voice dictation sucked with no option to install a 3rd party and it only worked for text messages and not emails, and I couldn’t get a multi-SIM device. But overall I survived. Every day things like opening my contacts list and email were quick and smooth. I loved the integration with Twitter and LinkedIn. The “Nokia Drive” navigation system is simplicity itself. 6 months ago Audible appeared (minus the feature to control playback speed), and an upgrade arrived to include tethering. But no multi SIM and I was travelling more. I therefore moved back to Android a few weeks ago, specifically a Samsung Galaxy S DUOS running Android 4.0 [Ice Cream Sandwich].

What a disappointment. The DUOS shouldn't be a slouch with its dual-core processor and 2GB memory expanded to 34GB. CPU-wise it’s a higher spec than the Lumia 800. But simple tasks take seconds, and I've got used to better. I don’t want to wait for my email to appear or to search my contacts lists. And worse, features have been removed compared to my previous Android 2.3 device. I can’t install applications onto the expansion memory card! CoPilot, for example, downloads maps to the phone. But it’ll only allow them to be installed on the internal memory. 2GB soon gets swallowed up with a few European maps.

On a more positive note I can control the reading speed with Audible and Nuance’s voice dictation has got even better getting 3 out of 4 short text messages or emails correct first time including punctuation.

Maybe these issues with supposedly more advanced versions of Android explain why 2.3 remains the most popular version in the wild. 51Degrees.mobi Mobile Analytics shows Android 2.3 holding 38.6% of web usage share.

Percentage share of web traffic from different Android versions globally. Source 51Degrees.mobi Mobile Analytics.

I’m reminded of dear old Symbian and my Nokia N95. I loved that phone. Excellent camera, tethering, downloadable applications, web access, dedicated music buttons, expandable memory. The mutts nuts until I played with the iPhone and it all seemed so poor. Take the touch screen away and feature-wise the N95 and first iPhone were pretty identical. But the iPhone was so much slicker and easier to use. In many ways Symbian was exposed as hard to use, taking 2 or 3 times as many interactions to achieve the same task.

Android’s flexibility enabling vendors to tweak, alter and adapt it so easily could ultimately be its biggest weakness. Certainly Android 4 as deployed by Samsung on the DUOS is poor compared to the previous generation of Windows Phone and Android 2.3.

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