2014: I'm still sick of Android

With no solid business productivity apps, as well as continually perpetuating the 'toxic hellstew', Google's mobile OS is still missing from my personal tech stable two years after I abandoned it. But there's some hope for it yet.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

This morning, I read with some amusement my colleague David Gewirtz's article The year Microsoft lost my loyalty.

I'm not going to attempt to refute his conclusions, because whatever reasons David has for choosing his particular mix of technology is unique to his own situation.

Gewirtz is not the only ZDNet contributor to forsake a technology or a technology vendor when it comes to their own bag of stuff they use every day.

In March 2012, I publicly called it quits with Android.

This raised a bit of a stir, that coming from such a long history of being an open-source advocate I would forsake a platform I had spent so much time using and was so philosophically aligned with.

Of course, as memory serves, I joined Microsoft later that year.

To the causal observer (translation: Mouth-breathing fanboy), it would seem my newfound gripes with Android would have something to do with my newfound employment.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

My romance with Google's mobile operating system had been souring for quite some time while I was still at IBM. You know, that "We're spending another billion dollars on Linux" company that now apparently has a thing for iPads.

Things began to go sour with me and Android in 2011, which I referred to at the time as the year of Android multiple personality disorder.

In 2011, Android handsets and tablets ran on totally different OS builds, Gingerbread and Honeycomb. The overall poor quality of the hardware, as well as the horrible stability of the Android tablets of this period, was a reflection on this situation, which was eventually proven to be untenable.

Prior to this development, my ZDNet colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes' "Toxic Hellstew" was simply a spicy broth that might give an unfortunate diner a bad case of heartburn. A particularly potent Bún bò Huế, if one was to use a culinary analogy.

But my tummy ache was only just beginning.

As I had explained, both of my Android smartphones turned out to be victims of carrier and manufacturer abandonment.

The Motorola Droid Bionic, which I had waxed rhapsodical and was so hopeful about back in September 2011, took an eternity to get upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich (the great unifying Android release) from Gingerbread, and didn't get Jelly Bean until April 2013, a full 10 months after that version's release.

OK, so maybe buying a Motorola product and hoping it would get timely updates from Google, which had only just purchased the company, was wishful thinking. In reality, it ended up being completely hopeless. And we all know what happened with Motorola.

You'd also think that going with an actual Google flagship device would avoid some of these problems. You would be wrong. In July 2012, I declared my Verizon Samsung Galaxy Nexus to be a lemon.

That was the straw that broke the camel's back. I bought a pair of iPhones for my wife and myself, and a Nokia Windows Phone not long afterwards.

Despite my growing issues with my handsets, I bought and reviewed a brand new Nexus 10 during Thanksgiving 2012, which I had declared the best Android tablet yet.

In 2014, I'm now on my third generation of iPhone purchases and my second generation of Windows Phone. I also ditched Verizon like a bad habit, but that's a different story.

And that Google Nexus 10 tablet? Yeah, well, when it finally got Kit Kat (4.2) it was missing features that other tablets got in their own Kit Kat builds, because it turned out the SoC that it and Samsung chose for it was underpowered.

Oops. Guess what: The Kit Kat upgrade made it slower. Oh, and a next-generation large-format Nexus tablet? Google hasn't released one yet. The future for Android is smaller tablets and bigger phones, it seems.

So it's not like I tossed Android out in the cold overnight. It worked extremely hard at making me reject it wholeheartedly, which is a tough thing to do, considering the fact that I have always considered myself a technology gourmand who keeps a mix of hardware and software around for educational and recreational purposes.

But I also have to use the tech, so it can't be strictly a toy. I've got a certain amount of discretionary income that I can spend on stuff for research purposes, but it isn't unlimited. And I'm not in the business of reviewing mobile devices like my colleagues Matthew Miller and James Kendrick, so OEMs aren't lending me equipment constantly.

Most, if not all, of the apps and services for Android exist on iOS and also on Windows. And in the case of iOS relative to Android, the apps are better quality and the hardware is simply faster and better engineered.

In terms of entertainment apps, there's no contest between an Android tablet device and an iPad. We can argue about the UX and what Google is doing with material design in Lollipop until we are blue in the face, but if the game or app I use doesn't run better on an Android tablet, it doesn't matter.

And in terms of Google's own services, I'm not seeing a lot of value add-on for Android relative to what they write for iOS. In fact, I would say that Google's iOS apps, overall, are as good as their Android equivalents, the only exception to that possibly being Gmail. But even its new Inbox app is functionally equivalent.

Don't look at me like I'm some kind of flamebait-inducing ogre. In almost The Onion-like fashion, Android's loyal fan base seems to agree with this sentiment as well.

Aside from all of this, one of the biggest reasons I stopped using Android was that for real business productivity, it was useless, and integrated poorly with enterprise messaging and authentication systems like Exchange and Active Directory (and, yes, even Lotus Notes when I was an IBMer).

In fairness, the iPad itself was largely unsuitable for productivity and real business use until Office became available on it this year, and I still have my qualms about whether the iPad can ever be a true enterprise player.

Even with all of this bad blood, I am receptive to revisiting Android. With Office for Android Tablet coming out in early 2015, and now an official Exchange client in the form of Acompli, I'm thinking about picking up a new Android tablet to join my iPad Air 2, Surface Pro, and Surface 2.

But I'm still concerned about getting burned by Google and the Android OEMs themselves after my Nexus 10 experience.

How do I know, if I spend $400 on a Nexus 9 with Lollipop or whatever top-end Samsung tablet device that's out there today, that I won't end up with another hemorrhoid hellstew of software upgrades again? Presumably, when Mallowmar, Mars Bar, or whatever comes up, a year from now?

Yeah, I've got my enterprise issues with iPads. That's well documented. But Android? I have fundamental issues with how Google and the OEMs support their products after they sell them.

Until that problem is solved, I'm going to be extremely reluctant to spend my hard-earned money on Android tablets, let alone smartphones.

Were your Android software upgrades by Google and your device vendor long awaited and painful? Talk back and let me know.

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