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

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?

TOPICS: Mobility, Android, Google

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. 

CNET's Google I/O live blog on tap Wednesday

Duckett: Waiting for Google I/O

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.



Cook launches frontal assault on Android: Does argument hold?

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

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

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
  • Editor in chief and...

    You think Androids reason for market share is screen size? Wow... I guess they let any English major work at tech companies. Please tech Marketing 100 or Economics 100.

    PRICE!!! No other reason.
    • Take*

      When are they going to bring back the edit button?
      • *

        About the same time you learn how to proof read what you wrote before hitting the Submit button .........
        • irrelevant

          That's just stupid. Everyone lets a typo slip through from time to time no matter how many times you proof it.
    • You have to love how Apple fanboys keep

      moving the goal post on why Android is still popular.

      first it was "the iphone is only available on at&t, they don't have any other choice, once the iPhone is available on other carriers, it's all over for Android

      well that came and wen. And then it became "Well it's not on Verizon, the most popular carrier, once it's available on Verizon, it's all over for Android"

      ok that came and went which then led to "Well all Android users are buying the free and cheap phones" Totally ignoring the fact that the iPhone that is two years old is free, the prev. generation is diccounted to under a $100. never mind the fact it also came out with the iPhone C *rolls eyes* SMH

      And now it's "Well the only reason Android is more popular is because it has larger screens"

      It's going to be interesting to see where Larry Dignan and other Apple lackey's are going to move the goal post's next year after Apple releases larger screens that will undoubtly spell doom for android again.
      • And the cheap Android phones aren't the big sellers

        Phones like the Galaxy (S3, S4, S5) are the real high-volume sellers - to the degree that people refer to Galaxy phones vs. iPhones.
        And other competitors, like the old and new HTC One, the G2, etc... those aren't cheap phones.
        Especially if you buy on contract (as MOST people do), you're paying the same $200 up front for all of them.

        It's an irrelevant argument, made by the kool-aid drinkers.
        • American centric view

          "Cheap Android phones aren't the big sellers"

          Correction: ..... in America. Those cheap Android phones sell in enormous numbers in the third world.
        • IMO

          Any lagdroid phone is cheap, it is a cheap OS that delivers ad information to scroogle, that is all it is. All the fandroids have bought in hook, line and sinker because scroogle beileves in FOSS, exept when they don't.
          • how is that different to the others?

            WP gives info to microsoft, iOS delivers to Apple..

            also, my M8 is crazy fast... I have 45 tabs open in my browser and it's still crazy fast.. nothing with android speed now days.

            scroogled is a campain championed and seemingly lead from behind by Microsoft.. guess we know who butters your bread.
    • Agree and disagree- but stop drinking the hype. RDF lives on.

      I agree that a 5" screen size has very little to do with marketshare.
      If it did, then Apple would have been history long ago.

      As a business user (and putting aside all my political and economics reasons for more fundamentally hating Apple as an entity), my choice of an Android phone has nothing to do with screen size.

      It has everything to do with the following:

      - Swype. Going poke-poke on on-screen keyboards does not facilitate efficient business use. I can match my touch-typing WPM with Swype, and Android supports me being able to replace the keyboard to one of my choice - my choice is Swype, and now there's tons of competitors.
      Until this latest-announced version, totally impossible on an iPhone. Poke poke poke.

      -UI configurability. And that includes widgets. Not many, but I have discrete, purposeful panels comprising my homepage -
      Utilities on the far end,
      Center "Home" panel with clock, weather, camera, gallery, and a few I use all the time.
      Work panel - my Calendar widget showing the day's agenda, Lync, other Work apps
      Games on the other far end, for the rare times I have time to kill.
      Impossible on an iPhone.

      -Ability to change the launcher - fundamentally you can install a launcher that completely and fundamentally changes the UI. There are power tools like Tasker that let you completely shape your experience. I have a magnetic dock in my car that has an NFC tag that when I place my phone on that dock it begins wirelessly charging, automatically turns on my Bluetooth, and syncs to the car.
      Totally impossible with an iPhone.

      -Ability to root my device. Rooting is more than just hacker kids. It's taking control of the device. It's the ability to install an app like SuperUser or SuperSU that will prompt you every time anything (including malicious software) attempts to write to root. It allows you to secure an important device that handles your business communication.
      By contrast, Apple actively cracks down on "jailbreaking" exploits - and the name "jailbreaking" alludes to another reason that platform is fundamentally undesirable to a power user. You are exclusively locked into their walled in environment.

      I think Apple has also behaved in some pretty disgusting ways, launching "thermonuclear war" to take out competitors (and patent defense went out the window when they began purchasing companies for their patent portfolios to use as weapons of aggression), tax sheltering in Ireland to avoid paying US Taxes, avoiding building factories in the USA despite having over $150B in cash (which in my opinion DOES change things), and even avoiding hiring full-time staff save for a small management tier because you don't have to pay temp workers benefits or a living wage - all despicable.

      Honestly, even if there were even ONE functional advantage over Android (rather than the overwhelming vice-versa), I'd avoid Apple for those reasons alone.
      • Spot On

        I can't understand how anyone can think that Android is tired and needs a re-design. It's the OS that is continuously evolving at the fastest clip. And I prefer the Holo look to the iOS and WP look. Agreed it's not the most consistent (especially across apps). But I'll take the power and sheer usability over looks any day. It's always provided a far superior UX to iOS. iOS8's extensibility finally makes it less awkward to use. And if they continue (and Google keeps trying to push me to Google+), maybe at some point I may go back to iOS. But at the moment, I'm solidly in the Android camp.
      • Corporation lacking morals..

        "Honestly, even if there were even ONE functional advantage over Android (rather than the overwhelming vice-versa), I'd avoid Apple for those reasons alone."

        So you dislike Apple simply because it is a tax-evading, immoral and unethical corporation with questionable business tactics, correct?

        If so, here is another one such corporation for you to hate on..
        Tax evasion, bribery and price-fixing: How Samsung became the giant that ate Korea

        Korean lawmaker who exposed Samsung corruption forced from office

        King of Samsung: a chairman's reign of cunning and corruption

        Samsung Bribery Probe Points to Pattern of Graft in South Korea


        Corruption Scandal Spreads at Samsung

        Another Lawyer Steps Forward to Accuse Samsung of Bribery

        Samsung admits paying students to lambast rival phones in fake web reviews

        Vanity Fair Profiles Samsung’s History as a Willful Copycat in ***Multiple Industries***

        It looks like Samsung is behaving just like Apple plus *bribery*...
        Bribery has got to be a worst sin than that double Irish tax avoidance strategy Apple and Google implemented..

        Nobody likes corporation that is unethical and has questionable business tatics.

        So based on your exceptionally high standard of moral compass, I assume you also dislike Samsung and will never buy Samsung products for the exact same reason you hate Apple and will never buy Apple products, correct?
        • Korean troll.

          I know nothing of these issues to comment on them. That's what a person of proper moral compass does.

          And I shouldn't, I'm not Korean, these are largely Korean domestic affairs.
          My concern with Apple has much to do with them being an American company.
          Tax evasion. Not giving back. That hurts our economy. As an American, these are American concerns. Our American laws. Our cultural norms.

          And I didn't see anything in your list of headlines about suicide nets surrounding Korean factories in there, regardless. If there were humanitarian issues, there, then sure.

          But I have something else to point out to you...

          iOS is Apple.

          Android is Sam.... no wait, it's not. It's Google.

          I think you missed. But good trolling anyway.
          • America is not the World

            If it happens outside America then it still happens and it's not devalued just because it doesn't affect Americans.
            If Apple does these stunts as an American company then they are morally wrong, if Samsung does them as a Korean company then they are just the same - morally wrong.
            Grow a world view that extends beyond California and New York.
          • Trolling? No... Just want to know if *you* are a hypocrite or not

            You see I liked the way you compared the Android vs iOS based on their respective technical virtue and advantage because that is how you should compare two competing platforms until you mention you will never purchase Apple's product simply because they are basically an unethical corporation practicing tax avoidance strategy and what not.

            Curious minds must know if your purchase decision is solely based on whether a vendor or company is a unethical entity or not.

            Since you appear to be an Android fan, they best way to test *your* moral compass is to present facts related to the number one Android device vendor Samsung to find out what *your* thoughts are.

            I was hoping to hear you say you only support LG, HTC and other lesser Android vendors who don't have as much unethical, corruption and bribery problems like Samsung does.

            But to my disappointment your answer surprised me; you basically indicated you *don't care* about Samsung's corruption and bribery practice whatsoever.

            That also implies there is high probably that you are a Samusng supporter and own at least one Samsung devices.

            Since you have not said whether you are indeed a Samsung device user or supporter, I thought it would be fair to give you a chance to clarify your answer to help everyone here better understand your "moral compass" with regard to the number one Android vendor Samsung who is just as unethical as Apple plus bribery.

            Is *your* moral compass pointing toward one of the following directions?

            1) Hypocrisy:
            You dislike Apple for their unethical business practice such as tax avoidance strategy but you are okay with Samsung's corruption and bribery practice?

            2) Ignorance:
            You are okay with Samsung's corruption and bribery practice because you can simply claim you don't know about them?
            (Who the hell doesn't know about Samsung's corruption and bribery scandal? That's like saying you never heard of North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un and how he and his gang of thugs mistreat the people in his own country).

            3) Indifference:
            You knew about Samsung's corruption and bribery practice but you *simply don't care*.

            Before you reply again (which I have a feeling you will not), let's make one thing clear: I don't support Apple or Samsung so do not even try to turn this into some kind of Apple vs Android fanboy debate by trying putting a Apple fanboy label on me.

            Both companies have unethical business practices. Even Google, the owner of Android platform, uses the very same tax avoidance strategy you despised. I have not heard you complain about Google either.

            So when I see a person such as yourself displaying one sided support for a company/ platform and despise a competing company/platform solely based on *your* moral compass, I simply must know if your moral compass is fair.

            So it's time to backup and clarify your *moral compass*.
            Which direction is it pointing to with regard to Samsung and their corruption and bribery practice?
  • Come on Larry; you're writing like an Intern

    You know better than that.

    Why turn the unavoidable 'speculation article' into a childish fanboi squabble?

    When I used to write for a magazine, our news editor used to say "if you've got nothing to say, shut up and go find a story".

    Any fool can write twaddle and pretend it's a story. This isn't.
    • Welcome to the brave new ZDnet

      .. home of the moneygrubbing blogger and integrity-liberated clickbait author.
      Flawless Cowboy
  • Could you please expound upon "clunky" ...

    as I am not sure what that means in the context of Android or really any OS (do you mean non-uniform, disjointed, etc... ?). Help us understand, please.
    • Really...

      Any of those things apply double to the Windows platform (Why is there no clock and no battery meter on the 'metro' screen of my Dell Venue?!).

      The only thing I can think is that the wide variety of hardware and mods provides an unpredictable experience (although...Windows, again, is in many ways worse).
      • Why is there no clock and no battery meter

        Swipe in from the right to reveal your Charms and you get both of those things.
        x I'm tc