Google I/O looms: We need an Android revamp, facelift

Summary:Android has market share, global domination and an army of developers, but is starting to look tired and clunky relative to other platforms. Can Google refresh Android and herd its partners to create a more integrated experience?

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Google I/O, the search giant's annual developer powwow, kicks off Wednesday and expectations are for a heaping of wearables, smart home and health hooks, something resembling a cloud strategy, design and Android, which is the glue for the whole shebang. The problem: Android is looking tired.

Sure, Android has all the market share. Yes, Android dominates in emerging markets. It's hard to knock Android's success. But Android requires too much tinkering. Android is harder than the other mobile platforms. And hardware partners screw with Android too much. Android's biggest reason for adoption shouldn't be because it happens to power smartphones with 5-inch screens. 

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Add it up and Android is a bit of a miracle, but has become splintered into varying user experience approaches. How happy are you with Android? Well that answer largely depends on what device you have, how fast updates come and whether you like dabbling in settings from time to time. Android does everything. It's good at some things.

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Simply put, Android is the old Windows---a multi-purpose tool that has market share, but not a lot of love.

Consider recent events:

  1. Amazon launches its Fire Phone . I have serious questions about how the device will do, but Amazon's Firefly is innovative. There's a bit of envelope pushing with a customized Android.
  2. Windows Phone gets a lot of crap---and still lacks the one or two must have apps I need to even consider it---but the experience is more coherent than Android's in many spots.
  3. Apple's iOS is being refreshed and if you use both an iPhone and Android device (iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S4 for me) it's jarring how clunky Google's platform feels at times. Both platforms annoy me in uniquely different ways for what it's worth. Apple CEO Tim Cook has gone directly after the Android experience
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Google's I/O agenda reveals the following themes:

  • Android and what's new.
  • Web development.
  • Wearables.
  • Cloud.
  • Design.

Before Google runs off and yaps incessantly about the wearable push and Android powering everything, the core mobile experience needs a bit of time. What I'd like to see:

  • More Google Now throughout Android and less app icons and swiping. I know the app icons are the standard, but cards are much more appealing.
  • Android needs to reach out. You hand Google all your data and it's useful in spots with Maps and geo targeting. The Android experience overall needs to be helpful.
  • Better integration. The Android experience is lumpy and doesn't get you to where you want to go fast enough.
  • Updates. Google needs to herd cats to deliver the latest advances. I get it. But I don't care. Herd the damn cats already. 

Google needs to lead the way, but the gut feel is that Android is resting on its market share a bit. Hopefully, Google I/O will change that equation.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Google

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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