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

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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