HTC's successor to the G1 is on the way, but with few details to go on, we've compiled a wish list of what could make the sequel to a good phone significantly better.
We've included lots of hardware-only feature we want to see, but also on our list are improvements to Android that could be made independently of any phone. But with Android, phone makers can customise and modify the distribution that shows up inside their phones, as long as its done responsibly and in a way that allows future stock updates to still apply. We'd love to see HTC put some innovation into Android for the G2.
As we've said several times before, Android will only be as good as the developers making software for it. And so far, due to a lack of market saturation and a number of small to significant obstacles (many of which we're proposing fixes for here), we haven't seen that developer community take off. Here's a list of features we could see on the G2 that could go a long way toward changing that.
• Better Battery Life: For God's sake. Please. One of the G1's most crippling shortcomings is its horrific battery life, and the fix will have to go beyond simply squeezing in a more dense Li-ion cell (although that would be nice too). No, the root of the problem needs to be addressed—namely, Android's power-hogging connection management, and the G1's inefficient 3G and Wi-Fi chips. Whether it's primarily one or the other or a combination of both, HTC and Google need to sit down and get this right, because a mandatory lunchtime charge just to make it through the day under standard use is totally unacceptable.
• A Smooth, Consistent UI That's Skinnable: One of our major gripes with the G1 (and Android in general) was a lack of consistency across its UI. Sometimes a long-press pulls up a contextual menu, sometimes it selects something, sometimes it does nothing at all. Graphically, the OS itself could use a bit of polish in several places, although the fundamental design vocabulary we're OK with. Thankfully, Android is flexible and open source, and HTC is totally capable of bringing its own UI improvements to the stack as a whole, or offer them only on HTC phones.
HTC already has experience in re-skinning mobile operating systems, and even though TouchFlo isn't that great sitting on top of Windows Mobile, it does look pretty, and placed on top of Android's decidedly more solid and competent foundation, a slightly tweaked graphical UI—that still stays true to Android's fundamentals—would be cool to see.
• Sexy Hardware: The shots we've seen look great and all, but we want an Android phone that's really going to wow us. We know HTC has it in them—they've given us blue balls a-plenty with the Touch HD. Let's see some high-end hardware—be it an ultra-high res screen, a slick form factor, anything—to get the blood pumping a little.
• Better Media Handling (and a [email protected]#&ING 3.5mm Headphone Jack!): Android's media apps feel half-assed. People now expect to have a fully functioning PMP built into their phone—that is one area where the iPhone truly pushed things forward. And while the G1 will never work natively with iTunes (prove me wrong!), it can do a lot better with their media apps. By adding video playback, for one. And maybe better playlist management, and an overall sexier look. And of course, almost above all else: a 3.5mm headphone jack. DEATH TO DONGLES!
• Ditch the Qwerty Keyboard: My opinion is not mainstream, as many companies and studies have cited general public favourability for physical keyboards over touch—but touch keyboards, done right, are the future. I have yet to play with the soft keypad found in Android's forthcoming "Cupcake" OS, but if it's good enough to fluidly handle texting and light emailing, that's all i need. This will allow for a much slimmer profile for the hardware and a more intuitive (and less schizophrenic) control setup. Word from the source of the leaked G2 images is that the QWERTY has in fact been ditched, but with no side shot, we can't tell yet for certain. Hope so.
• Front Camera/Video Chatting: Google Talk already can handle video chats easily via its web interface and standalone app; why not bring it to the phone for the first truly mainstream mobile video chatting package, which could be a killer app? For that we'll need a front camera (something we don't see clear evidence of in the spy shots).
•Built-in Flash Memory: We are oh so happy that the G1 has an integrated microSD card slot for added storage flexibility, but built-in memory ensures that we don't lose access to images or music if we need to switch SD cards.
• Add Multiple Google Accounts: Another huge crutch for the Google Accounts integration is the ability to only use one account at a time, and the fact that you have to perform a full phone reset to switch. That's ridiculous. Not only do we want to use the superior Gmail app interface with our work email (which also uses a Google Account for Domains), but we don't want to have to wipe everything on our phone to change accounts. A smart interface for living with multiple Google accounts on your phone would solve all of this.
•Give Users the Option of Desktop Sync: Only being able to use Google Contacts was a huge, huge pain when I first set up my G1. I had never used that system, so I had to figure out the best way to get my OS X Address Book contacts into Google and then into my G1. But I'm still wading through dupes and contacts I don't want on my phone, which I'm too lazy to fix because it's not intuitive. And if it's not intuitive for me, God help the average Joe.
• Wireless File/Media Sync: As a corollary to desktop sync, let's go crazy and make it wireless. This will be another leg-up on you-know-who, and even if it's just for media and file syncing, the ability to easily pair my phone to my PC via Bluetooth or, better yet, auto-detecting Wi-Fi to transfer files back and forth would be great, and one less cable on my desk.
• System-Wide Multitouch: We know for a fact it's possible. And we also know Google is scared of potential litigation from Apple. But until Android adds multitouch as a core service for every app developer to utilise in creative new ways, it won't be a cutting edge platform.
• Android Market Tune-Ups: There are two major problems with the Android Market right now—there is no easy way to manage updates, and there is no way to browse through the available apps via the web, or any place other than on your phone. As for upgrades, apps can phone home to an upgrade server, but all that usually brings is a notification to go download the updated app manually from the store. And as far as the lack of a Market web interface, this is a problem for a lot of people—the developers who don't get any exposure, the potential G1 buyers who want to browse what's available, and, frankly, the press who publicise the apps and don't want to waste precious time wading through a lousy interface to find apps. These are both Android-specific problems, but let's hope some improvements here come hand in hand with the G2's launch.