What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

Summary: A recent system update on my Android phone led me to stick with the stock interface and not customize things so much. This led me to realize that the Android 'fiddling ratio' is extremely high.

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TOPICS: Android, Google
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A thoughtful article on MobileUnwrapped today addressed a factor the author termed "Android fatigue", and the observation was so right on the money it got me thinking. Once I get thinking about something an article is almost always the result, so now everyone must pay.

The reference article covered the author's growing dissatisfaction with Android and subsequent realization that iOS 5 looks to offer a complete system that functions well. I have been growing uneasy with Android myself recently, the result of a system software update on my HTC EVO. Since the update have used the EVO with the stock user interface and not customize the phone as heavily as I normally would. This leads me to the realization that the Android 'fiddling ratio' is extremely high.

What is the Android fiddling ratio? That's the amount of time owners of Android devices spend fiddling with the interface to customize it just so. The beauty of Android is that every aspect of the system and interface can be tweaked by the user to make it look and work in just the desired way. Unfortunately, while users are busily customizing the device, they aren't doing anything productive with it. That's what I discovered was happening to me without even realizing it until I stopped and just used my phone like it is.

Looking back, I spent a tremendous amount of time tweaking my devices. My situation is worse than most uers as I use a lot of different devices. I regularly spent hours at a time installing different apps that let me customize the look and feel of the phone. Additional hours were spent on top of that experimenting with the tools to get them to look a certain way. Then came the search for additional apps and widgets to do other things related to making the phone work just so.

The simple fact is while I was doing the nearly constant fiddling with Android to fit my "needs", I wasn't using the device to get anything done. Sure I'd end up with a feeling of accomplishment once I got a new tweak to work just so, but I really wasn't getting anything of substance done. The fiddling ratio was off the chart, and not the correct side of the chart.

Since leaving my phone alone and using it as is, I have been frankly amazed how useful it is. Now every time I pick up the phone I actually do something with it, and that has positively impacted my routine. I find myself thinking about things that really matter, and not just about how something looks. It's like I have recovered a lot of time each day that would have been lost not that long ago. The ability to customize a device is a good thing don't misunderstand me, but when you take it so far that it's all you do the fiddling ratio is much too high.

I'm interested to hear from Android device owners, smartphones or tablets, about your thoughts on fiddling with Android. Give it some earnest thought about how you use it and let me know in the Talkback if you find your fiddling ratio to be as high as mine was.

Image credit: Flickr user mogmismo

Topics: Android, Google

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62 comments
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  • My fiddle quotient has gone to zero.

    Now that the 'new gadget lust' experience has worn off.

    You're right. Just leave be and use it. Works as advertised.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
    • Went from really high to almost nothing

      @Dietrich The early days I spent a lot of time finding just the right calendar app and widget as well as remote connectivity apps. Some other stuff, too. Now, I just pick it up and use it.

      Might be forced to start over, though. It looks like one of my apps is blocking gingerbread. Trying to decide if a reset is worth the effort.
      markh@...
      • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

        @markh@... I have a Nexus One and have had Gingerbread for a while and love it. Definte improvement over Froyo.
        Thinks4Self
    • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
      chuckle - no way! Love to fiddle :D

      Anyway, fiddle with Android less than I fiddle with a JB iDevice...
      rhonin
    • My Take

      I bought a droid incredible about a year ago, and I fiddle with it all the time--but I also use it. My favorite feature is still long pressing on that search icon and saying, "navigate to walmart"...not that I shop at walmart :/

      The ability to tweak and adjust our phones is part of the android experience, and there are so many options out there one could easily get overwhelmed. But I don't see this as a problem with the platform. It's just something us "fiddlers" need to be aware of.

      As for the vast majority of people out there with "droids", they don't know how to tweak their phones and wouldn't want to if they did know how. When I run into these people, they usually just hand their phone to me and ask me to put "the good apps" on it...different folks, different strokes.
      Kangaruhs
      • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

        @Kangaruhs I think you nailed it. The fiddle ratio might be pretty high for readers here but not so much with the average users out there. Of the people that I know that have Android phones not one of them is a techie and I would be shocked if any of them really fiddle, they don't have a clue what they are doing.
        non-biased
    • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

      I might be classed as a user with a higher "Fiddling ratio" but it's not so inordinately high I feel any sorrows. I think the optimum experience to fiddling ratio is a large variable depending on the user. I'm more of a technical person so my tolerance to fiddling is rather high. At times I will give in to fits of fiddling in the quest to fix a problem I'm having with something but it's not always too bad. My latest fiddling fight, which I've all but won and am just tracing the learning curve on, is one with JuiceDefender. I installed tasker to give me a bit more control over when and how my screen turns itself off automatically. I like JuiceDefender's features no doubt, but at times I do wish the screen to turn on/off rapidly and others where I'm using the phone and DON'T want the screen to auto-lock that fast. It's a hassle to change the setting itself, sometimes you just need a temporary and quick way of setting the timeout to a more wait tolerant time space. So with Tasker I added widgets to my homescreen that can make the phone wait longer before switching the screen off, thus preventing the pains of looking away for 15 seconds only to find the phone must be unlocked again, and the wifi connection warmed back up. Then there is a widget to restore the desired default behavior, when the phone is going back into my pocket anyway or I'm not doing anything that doesn't require me to lift my fingers from the screen for longer than 15 seconds. (Like making a phone call or something simple.)
      ZazieLavender
  • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

    Mine is a Motorola, and came with Moto-Blur which was really annoying, so there was a bit of fiddling to find a launcher that was cleaner and simpler. Now my fiddle factor is just spiffy, fun new applications that came out, and that would be no different on any OS.

    The new toy factor has quite a bit of effect on this as well.
    grant@...
  • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

    Root your phone, its quite easy for most of them, then install Titanium Backup.

    It backs up both the app itself and the data it uses, so you only need to "fiddle" with it once.

    The only thing you need to do is redo your homescreen widgets, as those don't like being backed up for some reason.
    sgredell
    • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

      @sgredell Am I understanding correctly that whenever there is an OS update you have to go back and set everything up again?
      non-biased
  • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

    Isn't it the advantage of using Android over the iPhone is the fact that if you want to "fiddle" with the UI, you can and if you dont, you can just use whatever your branded UI is (i.e.Moto-Blur/HTC Sense/etc). Whereas, on the iPhone, you're just 1 out of the millions other that uses exactly what/how Apple wants you to use. Sure it is a complete experience but it is 'a fixed' experience and you have no other choice.
    JJ_z
  • Far less with Nexus S 4g than it was on Evo

    I fiddled with my Evo for a year and (mostly) enjoyed the process of rooting, themes, CyanogenMod, widgets, etc. The Evo is still a rock solid device and easily keeps up with the newest devices for the most part so I was planning to keep it for another 6-12 months. Sadly, I dropped it about a three weeks ago and shattered the screen. I was going to pay the deductible and get a replacement, but realized I was eligible for a full rebate as a Sprint Premier customer and could get a new phone for an extra $50 or $100. So, I had a decision to make - wait for the newest dual core Android (Evo 3d, Moto Photon, etc.) or go with the pure vanilla experience that is the Nexus S 4g. I fell in love with the form factor of the Nexus S, the beautiful screen and Gingerbread 2.3.4 with Gtalk chat and the quickest access to Android updates. I miss little things about the Evo (kickstand for ebooks and movies, hdmi output, etc.), but overall prefer the Nexus S. I am not rooting and am loving the stock UI which is lightning fast, has much better battery life and allows me to GTalk with the kids when I am running late and want to say goodnight. Overall, I feel like I am much more productive with this phone as the stripped down UI without root requires virtually no fiddling after the initial setup is complete and the new device infatuation subsides.
    OJMc
    • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

      @OJMc
      Not exactly on the article but...

      My daughter dropped her EVO 4G. She bought the glass on Ebay and fixed EVO using her hair dryer and a Youtube video. I was quite surprised with her success - I did not expect she could handle it. ;-)

      You can buy both a glass and a digitizer for EVO for a reasonable price and then follow DIY process.
      Solid Water
  • I think you missed the more fundamental issue

    High fiddle ratio means, crappy interface that needs to be fixed.
    fr_gough
    • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

      @fr_gough I quite like the stock Xperia Play's interface. No fiddling for me.
      Aerowind
    • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

      @fr_gough Not necessarily... by your logic the iOS interface is the epitome of perfection as there is a low fiddle ratio with it... and perhaps you feel that way but as an iPhone owner and proponent I do not feel that way at all.

      I like the iOS interface but the lack of customization options drives me nuts... hence one reason for me to jailbreak and yes my fiddle ratio goes higher as I tweak my device how I want it and try new themes, fonts, tweaks, apps, etc. And to bring this post of mine back around to the topic at hand I also have a high fiddle ratio with my rooted Nook Color running Android 2.3 Gingerbread using the Cyanogen Mod 7 project - partially due to the customization options and partially due to trying out new CM7 builds (using an SDCard as I dual boot my Nook Color with the stock Nook Color OS and Gingerbread).
      athynz
    • No, it means you can option the car to taste

      @fr_gough

      You must also believe that any carmaker who offers OPTIONS of a vehicle is doing a bad job. One Beige Toyota Camry with grey vinyl seats and no-sunroof for you! What? You wanted Tungsten Pearl paint, a trunk passthru, the upgraded stereo, two-tone leather interior, sports seats, and the all-weather package? So sorry - only companies who make inferior cars allow you to customize the experience.

      What a load of crap.
      spark555
      • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

        @spark555 lawl. Exactly.
        A. Noid
      • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

        @spark555 Reminds me of the famous Henry Ford's quote -"Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black". Rolls Royce phantom offers limitless customization is it because it is so inferior ?
        Customization is out there. If you are the tinkering type do it. Others can just use whatever comes with the phone.
        ponkarthik
      • RE: What's your Android 'Fiddling ratio'?

        @spark555 While I don't think his statement was needed at all in this thread that was pretty civil your analogy is not correct. Now if you said you would change the color of the car or the interior after purchase to make it what you wanted then it would have worked.
        non-biased