Android – The dumbest smart phone OS
After over a month with a new Android phone, I’d say, it is the dumbest smart phone OS, out of the box. For an OS that came from a company that made its mark in search, you’d think it would have the best search capability. No, it has the worst of all. For such a lousy search capability, the developer (Google, that is) even has the ball to display a search widget, by default, so prominently on the main home screen.
My Samsung Vibrant came with Android v2.1. Here are a few things that make me go nut:
- The first thing I tried out (ok, not really, the first thing was trying to make calls and receive calls) was the contacts list. I have over 1200 names in my contacts list. Oh big disaster, the list was not sorted. I have names in Chinese, English and French, they were all messed up. We are in the second decade of the 21st century now, nothing is more pathetic than having a modern OS that can not handle multi-lingual information, out of the box. The only more pathetic thing is to have such a modern OS from a company that has an army of computer science PhDs.
- Search was even a bigger disaster. As an example, I have these three names: Charles, Charlie, Chuck. Entering “ch” in the search box gave me Charles and Charlie, but no Chuck. Entering “char” only gave me Charles. It couldn’t even handle search in English! I was dumbfounded. Searching in Chinese is even worse. I have tens of Chinese names with the last name 李 in the list. Searching on that character gave me about 70% of all contacts with that last name. With Chinese names, I had the impression that search was a random thing, it was never consistent. Chinese names usually consist of 2 or 3 characters, and in some rarer cases, 4 characters. I was expecting that I could input any character in the search box, and I could get the right results back. I could never be so wrong. Some characters would return results (even though the results are not really correct, just like the last name 李 example, but there is nevertheless results), some characters would never return anything. As an example, my wife’s name never showed up in any search result, no matter what. Ok, I can remember her phone number, that’s not an issue. But that’s the only number I remember. What could I do with others? In order to get away with this, I had to put those names that could not be searched into the favourite list. But to do that, I had to go through the whole list in an O(n) scanning method. The list was not sorted, remember? Ouch!
- Group was not working properly. Grrrr… My contacts list came from my Windows Mobile device, which synced with Outlook. To get my contacts list to the Android device, I synced my Outlook to Gmail contacts, which then synced to my Android device. Some of the names were not in the right group any more. Ok, we might claim that the sync application as the culprit, but then, it was also an application from Google.
- Search only worked, if it worked at all, on names and email addresses. What the hell? For all the names from my university alumni network, I put “McGill Alumni Network” in the Note field. When I entered “mcgill” in the search box, nothing was coming back. Man, my Palm Pilot from 13 years ago could do better than that.
- Time to send some SMS. Oh cool, you had to remember the phone number you want to text to. In the To field, all you could enter is a phone number. You could not even enter some names and search from your contacts list. I’ve never seen any SMS application as dumb as that, not even on a so-called dumb phone.
- Time to test some emails. The Gmail app was working fine. But the email app could never connect to my email server. It just timed out every time. So, it is basically useless.
- I send emails and messages in three languages: English, Chinese and French. Why is it so hard to have a French keyboard? Ah well….
- Data sync (emails, contacts, calendar, etc) can only be set on or off. You could not set how often you want to sync, etc. What’s so hard about having this feature?
- Why we could not set an entire picture as the wallpaper, why it it that a picture had to be cropped before setting as a wallpaper, even though the picture fit perfectly in size? Why? Why?
After these first impressions, I didn’t even bother to try other things. Time to go online to grab some new ROM and flash it. I was hoping that the problems above were screw-up from Samsung, and a new ROM would make the problems go way.
I grabbed Froyo and installed it.
Problems 1 and 2 are gone. That’s better.
No way to test the problem 3, as this would require me to remove everything in my Gmail contacts list, then resync again from Outlook. I’m not going to bother with that.
Problem 4 is still there. I still can’t search in all fields. And guess what? That’s not even new, people had been screaming about that for years now. Look at this thread here. An application, from a search expert, that can’t search. Ha. Hopeless.
As for problem 5, all I can tell you is that…. err, I’m speechless. I don’t know what to say. Time to install something better, from a third party. Handcent to the rescue.
Problem 6. Still not working. K9 solves the problem. One day, I’ll have to package my own ROM, and get rid of all the junk applications. This email app and the stock SMS app will be the first to throw away.
Problem 7. No hope there. A third-party keyboard and input method app solve all the problems.
Problem 8 is hopeless.
Problem 9! Even for such a simple thing, we had to install a third-party application to accomplish the task. Why?
If every application has to be replaced with a third-party app, why bother providing apps at all? You could just provide a bare bone OS, and let people who have more common sense handle the applications. The annoying thing is these useless stock apps can’t be removed, because they are packaged in ROM. If you want to get rid of them, you have to package your own ROM, without those junks.
I thought I could live with these problems. After all, there are millions of Android users. And I had intentionally waited many release cycles for Android to mature, before buying a device. Therefore, I should be fine.
Until today. I had to search for a name in the contacts list today, I couldn’t remember the person’s or organization name, but I know I had put a small description in the Note field. And I definitely remember the description. I was out of office, with only that stupid Android device with me. I know the information is there, right in my hand, but I just couldn’t pull it up.
At that time, a violent thread kept popping up in my head. That’s not sane, I know, but you can’t help it. After getting back into office, I had to drink three huge glasses of ice water to cool down, before I can vent it out here.
After over a month of usage, all I can say is, this is the dumbest smart phone OS, with the worst set of default applications. It has given me the worst first impression, ever.