8 Ways To Improve Google Android

We like Google Android. A lot. But despite this summer's 2.2 solid Froyo update, we can't help but feel that there's something missing. Several things actually. But here's where they can go right.

1. Built-in Flat-Rate Music Service

Ask any Android user what they really want in their smartphone, and you'll hear the same response over and over again: a music service that allows downloads, streaming music and automatic syncing. This is the holy grail for the Android army, and it's the one truly glaring weakness Google has in comparison to Apple's iOS and Microsoft's new WinPhone.

Don't get us wrong; we appreciate that Android is open-ended enough that we can use a variety of media players and clients to upload/download our media. And more and more, the emerging presence of streaming players and services are releasing us from localised media. But no matter how you cut it, the ability to purchase and synch songs between your PC and your phone is a much-needed fix. If Google is really smart, they'll mirror the WinPhone's ability to synch wirelessly via Wi-Fi while plugged into an AC outlet.

Based on leaks from Google and other blog sites, it's clear that Google is working on a Google Music service, probably as soon as the 2.3 Gingerbread Update. For details on what this might entail, click here.

2. Simultaneous Upgrades Across All Devices

This is far and away our biggest complaint with the Google Android OS. The upside of the device's open-source nature is proving to have a major downside for consumers: We're repeatedly forced to wait for operating system upgrades because the handset manufacturers and wireless service providers have to work out kinks in their interface customisations. The Samsung Epic 4G is a great example of this; it has literally taken months for Sprint and Samsung to deliver the Froyo 2.2 update and, as of this writing, we still haven't seen it. Google has to figure out a way to deliver across-the-board OS updates to all devices.

3. Increased Resolution Support

Support for resolutions up to 1280 x 760 seems like a no-brainer, particularly in light of the upcoming wave of Android tablets and big-screen smartphones. It sounds like higher resolutions are definitely on the to-do list for Android 2.3, which is scheduled for release at the end of the year, thankfully.

4. GPS and Google Maps

We hate to say it, but we're beginning to suspect that there's something strange going on with some combination of Google Maps and Android's GPS services. Of all the mid-range and high-end phones we've tested, we've yet to see consistent (and fast) GPS lock-on and performance in any device. That's a problem.

5. Increased Privacy

Theoretically, all smartphone browsers are private, particularly when protected with a password. But given how frequently our phones change hands – both intentionally and unintentionally – wouldn't it be nice if we could maintain some kind of temporary or pass-word protected private-browse mode? All three major desktop browsers have some kind of private-browse mode for the same reason. We'll go one step further here, however. In addition to (or instead of) a private-browse mode, we want the native ability to password gate individual apps, media, documents, and smartphone functions on our Android devices. This way, we can keep our slightly odd musical preferences to ourselves.

If you're interested in private browsing via an application, check out the TorProxy and Shadow apps.

6. Gaming Achievements

We appreciate the plethora of awesome games on the Android platform, but Microsoft's implementation of Xbox Live-style achievements in the Windows Phone 7 operating system is a new standard. It's a subtle but universal truth: Unlocking achievements is a powerful incentive to keep gamers hooked-even on mobile devices. The notion of a unified front around games is an ideological departure for Google, so this is not a likely evolution. Not any time soon at least.

7. Built-in Screenshots

We're a little biased because we frequently find ourselves taking screenshots of our smartphone devices for the stories we write. But we're baffled as to why we have to root our Android phone in order to take screenshots. Apple's iOS allows you to quickly and easily capture any screen on your phone by pressing the Home and Sleep button. Why not you, Google?

8. Improve Battery Life via OS/CPU Optimisation

Talk to any Android power user and you'll hear the same complaint over and over again. Standard, out-of-the-gate battery life sucks. Initially, we theorized that this was because Android smartphones were overpowered for the OS. But then we considered that the iPad and iPhone 4 are built on a similar platform, and that Microsoft's Windows Phones are also built on roughly the same hardware platform. Both of these competitive smartphone families deliver significantly better battery life. Our conclusion: Google needs to optimise their OS code to be more efficient. To be fair, Apple and Microsoft both have head starts on their mobile code. Google needs to catch up fast.

Imagery by Sam Spratt using Rich D's awesome Android 3d Render. Check out Sam's portfolio and become a fan of his Facebook Artist's Page.

Maximum PC brings you the latest in PC news, reviews, and how-tos.


Comments

    As an owner of a galaxy s, here are my thoughts
    1. Not an issue, I got an ipod and never bought music from itune. I don't need a music store for android.
    2. Agreed, in fact I think this is the biggest issue of android.
    3. Not an issue for phone, 800 x 480 is plenty enough. Would be rectified in future android for tablet though.
    4. Yes, would be nice if it is faster, but it is no slower than my friends iphone 4.
    5. Haven't thought about it, never occurred to me to be an issue.
    6, 7. Don't need either, others might beg to differ.
    8. This is the same across all platforms, screen is the biggest power drainer. Will admit though, android needs greater care with killing task, but thats the down side of having true multi tasking

    I said this over at MaximumPC too, and as I subscribe to both MPC and Gozmodo, I may as well repost it here...

    Main point where Google needs to up its game is with compatibility of 3rd party accessories. Audio equipment for cars is now able to stream from and control iPhones, and you can dock your iPhone in a HiFi as a replacement for your old CD HiFi at home via Apples standard data connection. Along with the articles first point (and the additional argument I've made below), this really does make the iPhone stand out as the smartphone of choice for someone who wants a device to fulfil their multimedia needs.

    Google really needs to get on the ball, and start dictating to their OEM's of a form-factor or data-connection port (with the ability to stream music/video and allow remote control of the phone) that is standardised across all devices and manufacturers, If this happens, 3rd parties will no doubt be quick to jump on this and begin allowing user's to enjoy their phones experience without having to hold it in their hand.

    In regard to the original articles points:

    1. Double twist seems to have answered a lot of this, but I'm yet to try it out. The main failing I find with Android and music, is the seemingly inability to run any for of EQ, 3D sound, extra bass etc to boost my listening experience. While I'm usually happy to leave music in its normal state, low to mid range headphones need this functionality from the device they're connected to to avoid sounding hollow and tinny. I still carry my old Samsung P2 mp3 player around with me due to exactly this reason.

    2. Agreed on all counts. I'm still waiting for FroYo, never mind Gingerbread. Nuff said.

    3. Really not important unless you're looking at a tablet or a smart-phone/tablet cross over (Acer's new phone for example)

    4. Haven't had a problem with this yet, except for indoors, which is hardly surprising. Caching maps to the SD card as allowed by brut mod would be a big help though.

    5. I really don't see the need. Everyone has their own phone these days, and odds are if your friend doesn't have a smartphone with web capabilities, they're probably not yet interested in using yours.

    6. Want achievements? Play Foursquare. Or grow up, either is good.

    7. Again, not really needed, though I don't see a reason for it to be disabled.

    8. Having never owned a WP7 or iPhone device, or for that matter a device other than my current HTC, I don't know how my phone stacks up against the opposition. The quest for longer and battery life should be an ongoing one for all manufacturer's however.

    While these are all valid ways to improve Android I don't think most of these would be that high on people's priority lists.

    1. I'd rather a better music player than some music subscription service.
    2. I'm not so stupid to think my phone is crap whenever a new version comes out.
    3. Only important with larger devices which will be addressed in future versions of Android.
    4. I've never taken more than 10 seconds to get a lock. Is that slow?
    5. Nice to have but, most people won't use it.
    6. I don't play games much but, for those that do I can see how it'd be good.
    7. Why not? Probably because it is low, low, low priority.
    8. This was addressed in Froyo and they will continue to address it in Gingerbread.

    I agree with all of the points in the article.

    Number 2 is clearly the biggest and most painful.

    I also hate not being able to take screenshots...

    The thing is, a number of these 'issues' just aren't Google's problem to solve.

    1. i would prefer a drag and drop capability and being able to download mp3s from the stock browser and save is straight to any folder i want... so no problemo there...

    2. Agree a bit crappy for everyone who don't have enough skills and hacks to upgrade on their own... but it doesnt stop them from using the phone, i just upgraded my samsung galaxy s optus version to Froyo, to be honest i rarely use the new "features".

    3. not needed. 800 x 400 is sufficient enough especially if you placed them beside an iphone 3.5 inch display... my 4 inch display and colour clarity wins thumbs down (even my gf admits it) she has the iphone 4.

    4. GPS was a big problem for me before froyo upgrade but now less than 10 sec lockdown so thats fixed and its samsung's fault on trying out new GPS system not google.

    5. not important not needed.

    6. again useless just use your facebook to show off =)

    7. not a problem press home and back simultaniously on my samsung galaxy s and it takes screenshots instantly =) it even puts the image on its own folder called screenCapture!

    8. my galaxy s battery wins hands down to my gf iphone 4 especially after froyo upgrade =) so that would depend mostly on the different hardware and openess that we have as android users... no problem on the apple side since they only have 1 phone lol

    gizmodo please stop being bias pretty please... =) its not nice and it definitely ruins the image of gizmodo =.=

    Some interesting points. I can't speak for any phones other than my Desire, but:

    1. Not an issue for me. I don't ever want to do this. Even if Google adds this feature, I won't use it.
    2. It's a fair point, but post-2.1 I don't see it being an issue. Going forward, I think we'll care less and less about this.
    3. Fair enough - it will have to happen sooner or later with so many tablets in the works.
    4. My GPS locks quickly every time. Not an issue.
    5. App locking, privacy etc is available with free apps. Add it if you want it...no need for a native app.
    6. I don't take my gaming that seriously. Sounds like a waste of Google's resources to me.
    7. Never wanted to take a screen-shot. Can't imagine why I'd want to. Pass.
    8. My battery life is fine - easily on par with others with iPhone 4 and SGS. I don't see that WP7 or iDevices have significant bettery battery life. Power management is an ongoing issue for all mobile devices, but I don't think Android is "broken" in this respect.

    All in all, an interesting list but I'd only agree with a couple of them....the others appear to be "filler" to me.

    @ Ando - please learn some English skills. The word you're looking for is "biased."

    Comments about "greater than 800x480 resolution not needed on phones" are rubbish. I will admit I was one of the people calling the retina display marketing hype when it was first announced, until I actually saw it for myself and started experiencing what a massive difference it makes to legibility of text and detail in any app coded for it. This is particularly noticeable for web pages and obviously games.

    I have an HTC Desire and while I know this is only the regular AMOLED variety, it's still the same resolution as all the other Super AMOLED screens out there. The detail, sharpness and clarity are clearly inferior to the iPhone 4. By a huge margin too. The AMOLED wins with black levels and colour saturation (in fact the Desire's screen is a little over-saturated IMHO), but that means very little unless you watch movies on your phone. On small screens detail is what matters. We're talking 384,000 pixels on a 800x480 4" screen vs 614,400 pixels on a 3.5" screen. As if that kind of difference in pixel density won't be glaringly obvious?

    There are many areas of iOS and Apple products that leave a lot to be desired, but not recognising the massive leap the retina displays are over their predecessors (with exactly 4 x the resolution) is just technical ignorance.

    bloody proxy support. including username and password authentication.

    don't care about music service or gaming achievements, but agree with your other points. Biggest issue is number 2!

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