Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

Summary: Android 4.0 on the Galaxy Nexus is still not as good as the competition.

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A lot of noise is appearing on some popular tech web sites about the "polish" of Android compared to iOS. I'm not going to wade into that fracas as I recently voiced a similar complaint about Android.

My earlier article was in reference to going back to the Nexus S 4G running Gingerbread after using the iPhone 4S. A few Android enthusiasts took umbrage at my daring to compare iOS to the Gingerbread version of Android on the Nexus S 4G, neither of which were considered state-of-the-art for Android. Now that I have the Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0, both the latest and greatest versions of both hardware and software, I can state without reservation that Android is just not good enough for me.

The hardware comprising the Galaxy Nexus is really powerful, yet I still see occasional stutters and glitches during normal operation. It's not as bad as it used to be in earlier versions of Android on slower handsets, but it happens often enough to be aggravating. It is observable most often when scrolling in long pages, both in the browser(s) and in apps, and when swiping from one page to the next in apps. There's a little "hitch" in the scroll that is annoying as can be, at least to me.

Even Google's own software exhibits this stuttering behavior. It is common for me to swipe a page in the Android Market only to have nothing happen. Do it again and then the page starts scrolling as expected. It's not smooth, it's not fast, and it's not the way it should be. If you have owned a car that hesitates when you press the gas you know the feeling I get using Android. Push the pedal and nothing happens for a split-second, then it surges forward.

Ice Cream Sandwich is the best version of Android yet in my experience, but it still annoys in a lot of little ways that add up to a frustrating user experience. Google has made Android an open platform, a good thing, but there's such a thing as being too open. Android is too open for the user's own good. It's as if Google set out to make sure Android app developers could have a good time by doing things however they wish. In all that touchy-feely openness, me the user is not having a good time. And the user is the only one in the ecosystem that ultimately matters.

Don't misunderstand me, Android is good enough to do what the millions of users need it to do. It is a well-rounded OS that keeps getting better over time. Where it fails is in the way it does those things. At this point in Android's life it should be better than it is, especially given the powerful hardware it is now running on.

Pick up a Windows Phone handset and you will find using it to be a joy given how fluid and smooth the entire OS works. You touch a control on the screen and you know it will be handled properly. The same experience is provided by iOS on both the iPhone and the iPad. So why does Android still disappoint in basic operation? It is almost 2012 and things don't have to be this way.

I have been using Android since the very first phone. I like the OS, but I expect it to work as well as the competition. It should have evolved further than it has, and there is no compelling reason for me to put up with its shortcomings until it gets better.

I will hear from those claiming their Android phone doesn't do any of the things I have described. The experience I have described is what I have seen while using dozens of Android phones, running all versions of the OS since the platform launch. The performance issues I've described have permeated every single one of those devices I've used, so if yours is running perfectly then lucky you.

Sure I appreciate how customizable Android is, and how you can even replace the shipping OS with a third party version as desired. But that doesn't mean users have to excuse inferior operation. Having a fluid user experience is not mutually exclusive to the good parts of Android. We should have both. Until we do, Android is just not good enough in my book.

Image credit: Flickr user Eric Kilby

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Topics: Hardware, Android, Apple, Google, Mobile OS, Mobility

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165 comments
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  • Windows 8

    I'm holding out for Win8.
    Tim Acheson
    • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

      @Tim Acheson <br><br>Me too. I'm also holding out for Windows wait.
      Return_of_the_jedi
      • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

        @Return_of_the_jedi - You've evidently never used a Windows Phone - I've never ever seen mine (or any of my family members, colleagues or friends) stutter, hang, pause or lock-up periodically.

        Actually, I lie. I did have a friend with a Samsung Focus who saw some pretty serious lock-ups but he'd augmented his device's RAM with a (cheap) MicroSD card. Once he removed said card and re-paved his phone, all his perf issues were gone.
        bitcrazed
    • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

      @Tim Acheson I have an iPhone 4s and love it. If it wasn't for iOS I would absolutely go with Windows over Android.
      Masari.Jones
    • better is better

      @Tim Acheson
      while the corvette can satisfy most sports car enthusaists, I prefer the Aston Martin one-77
      sparkle farkle
    • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

      @Tim Acheson <br>You are holding out for Windows 8? That's nice. I'm holding out for for a fuel-cell Mercedes. <br><br>But what on earth does that have to do with this article about smartphones?
      lelandhendrix@...
  • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough ...

    And then you went on to say;<br> "..., Android is good enough to do what the millions of users need it to do."
    Return_of_the_jedi
    • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

      @Return_of_the_jedi <br><br>Hmmm. You edited your original comment so my response makes no sense. Just to point out that you were calling out JK for being "just one in a million". <br><br>One in a million who hasn't been sold the cheapest phone in the shop. The main issue I have with Android supporters and their knee-jerk responses to pieces like this is that they equate Android's large numbers with the sales of Android's flagship phones like this one. Unfortunately for them this is not the case and the vast numbers of Android "activations" are coming from the bottom-end bargain bin sales at the carriers. <br><br>Pedantically, Android is also not outselling everything else by a million to one, either.
      jgpmolloy
      • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

        @john@... <br><br>It's all subjective. Hence the edit. <br><br>PS. In your post, find and replace Android with Windows.
        Return_of_the_jedi
      • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

        @john@... Sorry John, but I think your missing the value that separates phones like the Galaxy Nexus from the iPhone. Bottom line is there is more that I can do with my GNexus than any iPhone. Functionality like Google Navigation, Flash, and the fact that I can do whatever I want to with the $250 phone I bought (ie: jailbreak). Oh, and if the battery goes bad, I can get a new one without needing a new phone! HD video out, NFC? Are those features available in iOS or Windows Mobile?

        I'm not saying the iPhone 4S isn't a great phone, I'm respectfully suggesting that some of us ask more of a phone than the iOS is capable of delivering currently. All of these phone comparisons seem to forget that the better device is highly dependent upon an individuals priorities.

        And, finally, demand is demand!!! You can downplay Android's success all you want. Bottom line is that "bottom-end" android that's being activated is being activated because someone found it to be a viable solution to their need. To say Android fans are under a false impression is simply untrue. The fact is, no one is saying those lower level phones are comparable to the iPhone, nor are they meant to be. They simply account for a part of the market share that Apple won't compete in.

        We need a bit more objectivity and less fan-dome. What can each phone do that the other is incapable of? That's what I want to read about.
        noahtritz
      • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

        @noahtritz: "...there is more that I can do with my GNexus than any iPhone. Functionality like Google Navigation, Flash, and the fact that I can do whatever I want to with the $250 phone I bought (ie: jailbreak)."

        Flash is now officially deprecated and abandoned by Adobe; iPhones can be jailbroken; there are plenty of navigation options for the iPhone both built-in and 3rd-party (including free).

        "Oh, and if the battery goes bad, I can get a new one without needing a new phone!"

        Same with the iPhone.

        "HD video out"

        The iPhone not only has HD video out, it has wireless HD video out, including full screen mirroring, all built-in.

        "The fact is, no one is saying those lower level phones are comparable to the iPhone, nor are they meant to be. They simply account for a part of the market share that Apple won't compete in."

        The iPhone 3GS is available for free (with a plan), running the latest version of iOS.
        deasys
    • "Good enough" translates to settle. It does not equate to "want".

      @Return_of_the_jedi

      It avoids any real emotional aspect. It works. It is adequate. It gets the job done OK. It is good enough. It also means repeat purchases are less likely.

      That is the difference.
      Bruizer
      • Well said

        @Bruizer
        Last year ATT ticked me off enough that I finally dropped my iPhone after 4 happy years. My service from Sprint has been excellent and my EvoShift is "Good Enough". Next year when I can once again upgrade, I will be staying with Sprint, and returning to the iPhone.
        use_what_works_4_U
    • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

      @Return_of_the_jedi

      You can get a free Android phone with a haircut at Supercuts.
      dhmccoy
    • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

      @Return_of_the_jedi yeah like the year 2000 nokia phones.
      m3kw9
  • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

    [quote]Ice Cream Sandwich is the best version of Android yet in my experience, but it still annoys in a lot of little ways that add up to a frustrating user experience.[/quote]<br><br>Like:<br><br>No Turn by Turn Navigation<br>No Ingore Button when a call is coming in<br>No Send Directly to VM<br>No Flash<br>No ability to download directly from Alternative Sources (Has to be side loaded)<br>No Problems understanding names when using Voice Recognition<br><br>[quote]It is common for me to swipe a page in the Android Market only to have nothing happen. [/quote] <br><br>I personally have not seen this since the OG Droid (and that only happened after the 2.2 Update) but I have seent the same behavior on iOS and denying that would seriously be a bad idea. Reality is, this could be a malfunctioning piece of hardware and for all I know my iPad 2 digitizer could be glitching but I seriously doubt it is the hardware.<br><br>[quote]But that doesnt mean users have to excuse inferior operation[/quote]<br><br>Technically, a locked down system is an inferior system to many people so consider those words carefully.
    slickjim
    • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

      @Peter Perry - Nice list which could actually be expanded.

      As to the original article, it is nice framing. Was it fed to James via the Apple PR department directly? As the list above shows, Apple iOS is hardly bullet proof, and James is hardly an objective writer when it comes to Apple products.

      Not that Android is perfect, but I also work with iOS too, and knowing how both operating systems actually function in the real world, this article is easily seen for yet another PR piece for Apple. How about some serious journalism by someone that isn't wedded to either platform?
      unbound55
      • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

        @unbound55
        Oh c'mon. As someone who has used iOS, Windows Phone and Android handsets (and Symbian and webOS) in the past 6 months on their latest and greatest hardware as well as on their lower-end offerings, the fluidity of the OS and the applications that run on it unequivocally goes in that respective order (smoothest to least responsive). Un. Equiv. Ocally.

        In terms of attractiveness, this is user preference. I would put them at WP, iOS, Android. You may have your own opinion.

        In terms of features, however, that is "things I can do" the story gets more interesting. Putting aside a slight advantage for iOS in applications, there the order becomes Android, iOS and waaay behind, WP.

        That is, while Android is unarguably a laggy, unresponsive OS relative to its modern peers, and arguably still quite unattractive, it is also the most flexible, powerful, and featureful OS. There is [i]lots[/i] to recommend it. But blindly jumping to Androids defense against a plainly valid critique is not helpful. Indeed, as an Android fan you should encourage the Open Handset Alliance ([i]a.k.a.[/i], Google's behind-closed-doors development team) to work to improve the responsiveness of Android in future versions by [i]supporting[/i] such critiques.
        x I'm tc
      • @jdakula: Great post. Agree with every single word.

        100% agree with each and every point.

        I am puzzled at how poorly WP7 is actually doing. Well not really puzzled as there is a lack of carrier and handset commitment but from a sweet design, WP7 has lots going for it.
        Bruizer
      • RE: Galaxy Nexus proves Android is just not quite good enough

        @unbound55
        basically he has a habit of 'screeding'
        I think a normal tech lover should avoid him
        lol
        silvergirish