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.
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