Android, too complex for its own good

Android, too complex for its own good

Summary: Android has grown as a platform in a relatively short time. Unfortunately my experience with the Nexus 7 leads me to believe the platform has grown too complex for Google to maintain it properly.

Android down 600

Android started as an immature mobile platform designed to handle smartphones. Google has added functionality to Android so it now handles tablets in addition to handling smartphones much better than that first version. Unfortunately, the growth of the platform has magnified a horrible update problem to the point that every update seems to break as much as it improves.

Take the Nexus 7, arguably the best tablet currently available for the price. When first introduced just a short while ago, Google made a big deal about how the Jelly Bean version of Android finally ran as smoothly as the competition.

Scrolling is herky-jerky in all apps and for general system operation. The biggest improvement in Android since its inception has been broken by Google.

I found those claims to be accurate when my Nexus 7 arrived, as the Project Butter initiative undertaken by the Android team at Google brought smooth operation to the platform at long last. Typical tablet operations such as scrolling was clearly better on the Nexus 7 than on any other Android tablet.

That only lasted a few months as Google pushed an update to the Nexus 7 that broke the smooth operation affecting all aspects of the tablet's performance. Scrolling is herky-jerky in all apps and for general system operation. The biggest improvement in Android since its inception has been broken by Google.

It was so bad that Google had to push out a quick update designed to fix the other update. Some Nexus 7 owners are happy to get smooth operation back but I'm not one of them. My Nexus 7 is still exhibiting laggy operation across the board. I'm not alone as I've heard from quite a few others in the same situation.

Some Nexus 7 owners have inherited other problems with the last update on top of the performance issues. I've heard from a number of owners who are experiencing multiple system reboots daily since the last Nexus 7 update.

Hopefully Google will push out another Nexus 7 update to fix the update that didn't fix the other update. That's a pretty sad statement when you think about it.

If Google can't get Android updates right what chance do its partners have to get them right for their own devices? We often hear horror stories about delays of updates or updates that break things as happened on the Nexus 7. It's clear that Android is incredibly difficult to maintain properly.

Colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes pointed out that Android is too hard for users. I'm not sure that is the case but I'm beginning to think that Android is too complex for Google to maintain properly. It's to the point that installing an Android update is a crap shoot that may break functionality or adversely affect performance.

The complexity of Android is evident when you look at Google's Chrome OS. That platform is updated regularly with updates that actually improve things without creating problems.

Android enthusiasts will no doubt respond that Chrome OS is just a superset of a browser and shouldn't be compared. That's true to a point but the fact is I do everything on my Chromebook that I do on my Nexus 7. I can even run widgets and web pages as apps in their own windows, functionally similar to Android. Of course in Chrome OS I can run those as resized windows with multiple apps onscreen at once, unlike Android.

I've complained about the horrible Android update situation in the past, but I now believe it's worse than I thought. The Nexus 7 situation leads me to believe that Android is now so complex that Google can't maintain it properly.

Google needs to get control over the Android update situation. Updates should be easier for Google and partners to push out, and they should make things better rather than break things. If the problem doing so is due to Android being too complex, maybe it's time to make it easier to maintain like Chrome OS.

If Google does merge Android and Chrome OS as believed I hope it makes the latter the core of the new OS. Replacing Chrome OS with the impossible to maintain Android would be a mistake.

Related posts:

Topics: Android, Mobile OS, Tablets

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Nexus 7

    I have a Nexus 7. I don't notice that it is any more or less laggy than my wife's Ipad. Seems to me that it does the same thing for 300 less. It's just as easy to use. The size is smaller, but I find it to be a much easier to carry. I play games on it which are pretty resource intensive and they run smooth as silk.

    I love the fact that updates are so easy. I bought a HTC One X last May. Still on ICS. Waiting for 4.1 when 4.2 is already out. I don't like HTC sense. Wish it were just pure android like my Nexus 7 tablet.
    Tom Dauria
    • Nexus 7 -- I agree

      @Tom Dauria: I agree! But, instead of HTC One X, buttered-fingered me settled for a sturdy Sony Xperia Acro S, where Sony is well-known for late updates, if any.

      About difficult-to-use: I disagree, multi-adaptability requires the current setup. But, I'd love a feature set-section in Google Play (college;biz;senior) for budding Android user's, keeping me settled in my trusty old rocking chair. An built-in online remote control of Android unit's wouldn't hurt, either.

      • Sony Updates

        Actually, Sony open-sourced it's entire Experia line which has lead to some of the fastest updates to the entire line of devices seen in Android history. Similar to the author of this article, Google is this great invention that no one seems to have heard of these days and is quite useful... here, I'll even do the hard work of typing the url for you:
    • yes

      This article is just an article with lies...... Have Nexus 7 and so advanced, superior over iPad...... And even don't need to understand Android..... Very very intuitive.....
      Great widgets, apps integration, advanced status bar, photo sphere (phone), etc....... And iPad has still The icons :-D
      • and interior Apple maps?

        And enjoy an inferior apple maps which Australian police doesn't recommend because it's dangerous :-)
      • Huh?

        The dude never mentioned Apple in the article, it was entirely about the shortcomings in the current Android source tree, with NO attempt to compare it to iOS.

        The Android/iOS battle isn't even relevant to this article. There are no comparisons and no correlations, they are two entirely different sorts of beats from two entirely different software philosophies. Comparing them is like comparing Apples and Horse Apple's.

        You can guess which one came out the stern of the horse by the number of phones bricked by updates.
        • think more

          You have to think more....... superiority of Android is without doubts, but in the word there are always Apple's or Microsoft's fans that have to use every opportunity to take down Android without any note about Apple or Microsoft...... We have to defend democracy (android) against fascism (Apple +Microsoft) :-)
          • Take a stress pill

            Your brain is overheating.

            These things are only things. They have nothing to do with fascism or democracy. So, what are you defending...your purchase of a cell phone?

          • think more, dear under-heating brain :)

            so artificial increasing prices of eBooks by Apple is a democracy?
            artificial increased prices of IT product by Microsoft+Apple in Australia now an issue in front of judges is a democracy?
            so limited and authoritative Apples's app store or WP is a democracy?

            so free installs and non-limited Android is not a democracy?

            I presume you would welcome Adolf very gladly :)
          • anywherehome

            Hey dude, give us all a break and stop spewing your nonsense....
          • to simul8guy

            deal with the reality about superiority of Android :)
            you have to perceive better :)
          • I don't like to go here but with people like you we are left with no choice

            You are a complete moron and need to just stop posting. You obviously don't know what you are talking about and are so biased that nobody could talk any sense into you.
          • You need to get a grip there little boy

            Your a accusing fans of other devices of exactly what you are doing. Yes, there are MS and Apple fanboys out there that can't see through the haze of their bias but guess what, you are nothing more than an fandroid which is no better or worse. In your opinion Android is better and for you it might be but that doesn't apply to everyone else. For some Android sucks and iOS is great, for others it's great Android is great and iOS sucks. Time to grow up and realize that not everyone has to think they same as you, to each their own.
        • anywherehome

          Not only does he make no sense whatsoever, he replies to his own posts... Doh!!!!
    • i see it

      My bionic had a horrible headset whine when I got it. A gb update finally fixed it for everyone. Ics has brought back the whine. Sometimes you get new bugs. Sometimes you get old ones back.
    • James is a lazy tech writer...

      who doesn't do his homework. Many, many sites on the net have described the solution to the lag issues on the Nexus 7 after the latest update. The culprit is Google Currents. The update changes the default setting for Currents so it's constantly updating in the background. Simply turn off the auto updating feature in settings. Problem solved. No more lag. Next!
      • THIS

        the Apple fanboy in James wants to slam Android at every opportunity.
        He would go to great lengths to find apps or solutions to overcome iOS limitations but zero diligence when it comes to Android.
        • well said

          Couldn't agree more about Mr. Kendrick. I will admit that his reviews are always good for a laugh...
        • Yet for some reason

          you want us to believe that you are any better than him?
      • Wow, simply go about the net... for a solution, reconfigure your device and you have a useful gadget. Now I need to find out what Currents is for. No wonder the western economy is slowing down.