A rant about Android and device manufacturers

Posted by under Electronics, Rants, on 8 July 2012 @ 6:38pm.

Well, this is one most of you knowing me wouldn’t have seen coming. Ever since I first tried Android I have loved it as a phone operating system. It’s such a powerful OS for a phone and allows you to do things you never thought possible on a small device like a phone. However, there are several flaws with Android that make it a very bad OS. Let me explain what I mean.

Take Apple. iOS on the iPhone is tailored to the iPhone devices very closely. It was specifically written for those devices and because of this it doesn’t have compatibility issues. This makes it very stable and less prone to bugs because Apple control the software for a limited number of devices and they maintain it continually.

Now take Android. It’s got to be built for hundreds of different devices by different companies. Each of these companies must modify it to work with their phones at the driver level for their devices. The problem behind this is that it’s not just drivers that need modifying. They also insist on bloating Android out with their own crap bloatware and apps that most people probably don’t want or need. This makes it very prone to bugs and makes it unstable in some cases. Android device manufacturers however, do not appear to maintain the operating systems and drivers for their devices. They release one version and that’s it, job’s a done one, wham bam thank you very much for your money. Then they move onto a new phone and do it al over again.

The problem with Android’s approach is that there is no maintaining in this system. Once the phone is releases, it will probably never see any updates in it’s entire life because it’s such a short lived device the manufacturer does not think it needs maintaining. This sort of thinking needs to stop! Android is never going to be a good phone operating system unless Google themselves take some form of charge over it. They need to think like Microsoft does with their Windows operating system. Provide a base operating system and let people install drivers for specific devices instead. That way any bugs in operating system are Google’s responsibility and any drivers are the responsibility of the device manufacturer (or the chipset manufacturer).

If you’re going to make a device like a PC, it needs to work the same way. Windows itself is 100% stable, it’s the drivers and 3rd party hardware that makes it unstable. The same generally applies for Linux too. If Android worked this way as well, I think it would make the perfect operating system for phones.

Lets take my old LG GT540 and my LG Optimus 2X as a prime example for my basis. These phones both have very nice hardware (at least they did when they were released). I thought both phones were very solid (both still work despite the GT540 being a few years old). However they both had bugs that made me decide to get rid of them.

The GT540 had a bug in the stock ROM software that prevented data from working properly. When data connected, phone calls and text messages were prevented from coming through. Of course this is useless when it’s supposed to be a phone. Besides that the phone is not bad at all. A little laggy at times, but again this is a software issue as a reboot solves it as it gets a fresh reload.

Google need to adopt the same development method as Windows and Linux for Android

The Optimus 2X also had a bug that was present on the stock ROM. If you lost signal, sometimes it would not come back (even in a perfect signal area) until you rebooted the phone. It happened more often when you were in a low signal area, such as my work place, that meant it struggled to get signal. It also had another bug where the wifi would not stay connected when the screen was off, despite the option being set to “never turn off wifi”. Again this prevented the phone from being used properly. I tried another ROM on it (Cyanogen) and the same issue¬†occurred. I narrowed it down to the baseband software (the firmware that allows the phone and radio to communicate with one another). If this were a hardware issue a reboot would not solve it. I am also not the only one to experience this issue as it’s all over the Cyanogen forums and nobody has a fix thus far.

So as you can see, Android has some serious bugs that simply should not be present. Other phones also have issues. Take my friend Tom as an example. He went out yesterday and bought a HTC One S. A brand spanking new Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) phone that is a full 2 versions up from my Optimus 2X. Within hours he had issues with it. The wifi was glitchy and would not stay connected properly, and he could not delete synced contacts from Facebook. The wifi bug was documented online after a quick search with a “fix due in a future release”. Great, so until then he has to use expensive 3G data to go on the Internet on his device.

These bugs would not exist if Android took more control over the operating system, releasing patches and bug fixes when issues were found. Anything out of their control such as drivers can be dealt with more seriously by the manufacturers. This setup would make for a much more stable operating system. It’s proven to work, just look at Microsoft Windows and well supported distributions of Linux.

So I call out to Google (if anyone is listening) to employ this development method for Android. It’s a fantastic operating system, but if my phone won’t work as a phone, then it’s useless to me. For that reason I have moved away from an Android device as my phone and over to a phone I know I can rely on – an iPhone 4S.

Read my next blog for more on my iPhone purchase and the stories behind it.