Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Why my Mom Bought an Android, Returned It, and Got an iPhone (betabeat.com)
291 points by spiffae on July 29, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 196 comments

The real issue here is not the hardware and not Android, but what device manufacturers and network providers cram down the throats of their customers. Custom UI enhancements/replacements, useless bundled apps that can't be removed, and the removal of standard, OS-delivered features. None of this should have been new or a surprise to the writer's mom, who was coming to Android from a feature phone. Feature phones have been plagued with the same crap for years, except they don't have a marketplace full of replacement apps that range from the serviceable to the remarkable.

I'm glad the author's mom found a smartphone she likes, but this isn't an Android problem. It may very well be a Google problem, since Apple was indeed successful in keeping the kruft off the iPhone, but Android devices come to market in a completely different way than iPhones, and as long as we sign over our rights in exchange for a $400 device discount we're going to have to deal with some of it.

This is the same problem that has plagued Windows on PC for years before this. Buying a PC from Dell or any other large retailers with Windows pre-installed meant a day worth of removing their crap-ware, support software, and back-up suits. Or you could reformat straight out of the box.

Only this time the problem is more perwasive. With PC an average user did not get botherd by all this trash, the machine was good enough for surfing and email, which is what they used it for. Only advanced users and techies would get frustrated. However, with smartphones it seems to be a real problem even for an everyday user.

What I don't understand though, is all this fat that providers pile on the phones and PC really worth it for them. They spend time and money to develop all these custom themes and apps, than users remove them. Even if users don't remove them and find them good enough to use, where is the profit to the provider? Branding and recognition?

I think laptop OEMs got kickbacks for bundling crapware, especially antivirus software. I imagine the same is true of those mobile phones that bundle, say, Amazon.

At one point Sony offered a no-crapware option on some Vaio laptops. Until a PR shitstorm broke out, they were charging $50 extra. One can only imagine how much they're earning per-unit on kickbacks.

Best Buy's "optimizes" computers prior to purchase. They charge something like $40 to remove the bloatware.


PC makers made extra money on each PC sold by bundling other people's apps for them. Until recently, this was a reasonable business strategy, since users didn't have much choice and had to put up with the poor experience, so why not make extra money at the minor cost of frustrating your customers?

For wireless companies, the custom branding is how they hope to be considered more than just a dumb pipe by providing additional "value" to users. This is why Verizon bundles their Vcast music store, and AT&T includes their custom Navigation and Yellow Pages apps. They desperately want to be seen as content companies. This is not a reasonable business strategy though, because the more they frustrate their customers with this nonsense, the more those users will flock to the pristine shores of iOS, where carriers have even less control, thereby cementing their position as a simple utility.

I find that the bundling on PCs have gotten much better in recent years. I bought a Packard Bell laptop for my dad, turned it on, chose the windows language and basic setup, waited half an hour for it to do its thing, and then it was good to go. An almost clean Windows 7 Home Premium, the only extra stuff on it was a 30-day Microsoft something trial, a 30-day Norton trial, and... that's it. And it's not even hard to remove those things if you don't want them.

So the PC experience has gotten a lot better in recent years. I don't know why though, perhaps the industry learned? Perhaps it's not worth it to pre-load it with crap anymore?

Microsoft actively restricts and controls what can be installed by OEMs now. That's why it's gotten so much better with Win7.

The crappy first use experience was ruining Microsoft's image, because people associated the cruft with them.

Norton is not hard to remove??? Have things changed so much since I switched to Linux? I used to tell people they had to reinstall the OS to get rid of Norton.

I agree that unremoveable and unkillable apps are a huge problem with Android. This is why I switched to Linux in the first place and Google needs to fix it, ASAP.

Yeah, my last PC around 2004 came with Norton. Though I consider myself pretty computer savvy (C programmer) I couldn't remove that thing without reinstalling windows.

Maybe it's different now?

Removed two Norton apps on a Packard Bell laptop my grandpa chose (and bought) for himself just yesterday. Hope they will not come back. We spend some time teaching him to do basic internet access and (me) assuring that it's no rocket science (by the way, he's an old-school soviet rocket (and not only) engineer, so ;).. )

Seeing as that was 7 years ago, yes things are a bit different now =P

I really can not relate to that. I hat to "configure" a few PCs/laptops (mostly Acer and HP) during the last year. The amount of crapware was shocking and I'm not even talking about the horrible custom OSDs that some manufactures defile computers with.

But this what you explained is exactly the problem with Android. With iPhone, carriers, phone manufacturers and such are not allowed to install their crapware/bloatware on the phone. With Android, they can do whatever they want, and the only sane option for an end user is to root the phone.

It's still a problem with US carriers. (Other countries have far better carriers and ecosystems than the US)

It still absolutely amazes me that you guys usually pay for incoming SMS messages.

I mean come on. W T F? If the carriers started charging each time you charge your battery the US public would just bend over and take it.

Even worse, Cincinnati Bell charges 25c for incoming texts (if your plan doesn't include them), but then charges you $3 a month to block incoming text messages altogether! I've long since switched back to T-Mobile, and regretted ever moving away from T-Mobile in the first place, but my parents have decided to put up with the stupid 25c charges for spam texts because it's still cheaper than paying a monthly fee for what used to be a free "service" of flipping a switch in their database.

Paying for SMS is awful. Just out of curiosity how would you suggest we don't, "just bend over and take it?"

Just look at what other countries are doing right and copy that. More concrete: Vote for a politician who will force the FCC to create a real market, not a oligopoly of a few large behemoths.

Contrary to most the promises politicians make, this one costs no money and simply involves signing the right bills into law. It will even be good for the economy. Of course, they would have to withstand the rich and powerful lobby of said behemoths, which is of course why such a politician will be very hard to find.

Only if they have a plan that doesn't include texting, which is vanishingly rare now.

Both t-mobile and verizon offer this. And I havent checked the others. Ive never paid for text and have incoming SMS's blocked too.

Oh yeah, my guess is that all carriers offer no-texting plans, I just mean it's getting rarer that people choose them.

> It still absolutely amazes me that you guys usually pay for incoming SMS messages.

What? I've never seen a carrier charge for incoming SMS.

Last time I checked (a few months ago), every large carrier in Canada charges 15 cents for each incoming SMS. That's Bell, Rogers, Telus...maybe some others.

Many people have a plan addon that includes receiving some SMS for free, but the basic stock plans do not.

Canadian cell companies are a special kind of terrible. AFAICT, they exist purely to make the american companies look good by comparison. When I was there for 5 days, the cheapest way for me to get phone/internet on my Nexus S was to stick my Vodafone Germany SIM in and use roaming. (I was just using texts, twitter, and light maps; a total of 10MB for the weekend.)

Only Telus. Bell and Rogers are free incoming texts - or at least were, when I bought my phone (I have unlimited texting, but I like to make sure). However, that's not to say they don't try to jip you at every possibility.

For the last few years, texting to the US had always been at the same rate as Canada (and covered by texting plans). Rogers decided to switch that on me when I wasn't paying attention... although I'm pretty sure I asked, and the Sales guy lied.

In either case. One complaint to the FCC in the USA, or CCTS in Canada will get things your way. Both countries, from my experience, has pretty terrible customer service. I can barely understand half of Verizon's CS team, and one guy at Roger's CS actually told me I should just do nothing, even though I felt cheated, because "if you sue, our company has more money than you, and you'll lose for sure". Sigh.

Actually all three telecoms charge for incoming text messages. Telus pioneered it, Bell followed suit and then Rogers jumped on the bandwagon in 2009.

I called Bell to have them block all incoming text messages and they said that they could not do it because it was somehow tied to their emergency 911 location determination service. After much prodding they said they could turn off incoming texts (but I should hope that I never have to call 911 with my mobile) but came back with a $3/month plan for like 500 text messages so I just took that instead.

I switched to Rogers and am now on an iPhone plan which has text messaging but I would love to be able to block incoming texts again if iOS 5 and Google+ gets serious traction.


Verizon: "20¢ per text sent (per recipient) or received (including Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands)"

AT&T: "All AT&T customers with Text Messaging-capable phones are pre-activated to send and receive messages at $0.20 per message with no monthly charge."

Straight from their websites.

I guess it depends on location, because around my area, all I see are 'GET UNLIMITED TEXT AND DATA FOR ONLY YOUR LEFT LEG!!" ads all over the place.

Also it could quite possibly be that I am indeed living under a rock as I am very satisfied with my carrier so I don't actively look at plans of others.

It doesn't depend on the area. Most if not all American carriers charge for incoming text messages. When you select the "unlimited data and text" plan, you're paying for those incoming text messages.

Have you been in a coma for the last decade? Americans get bent over the barrel on SMS pricing.


The only sane option is to root the phone

How about the only sane option is to not buy a phone with crapware on it? This is what markets are for - so that crappy products can die. If Verizon sells phones with crapware and T-Mobile sells phones without, choose T-Mobile.

Even better, if the US market finally wakes up to buying unlocked phones from electronics vendors rather than locked phones from carriers, you can actually choose between handset brands like consumer electronics is meant to work.

If I buy a digital camera, I have to do a bit of research to find out which one is good. If I'm not that demanding, then the extent of the research can be asking my friend who just bought a camera which one she bought. It would be an easier choice if only two companies made decent cameras and I just had to choose one or the other, but that's not how it is, and I suspect the camera market would also stagnate in that situation.

A local (Brazilian) phone operator made 'we only have unlocked phones' as their selling-point. Also they don't have contracts, and (at least for me) no crapware apps.

Sorta gives me a bit of hope on capitalism. I stay with them on principle.

manufacturers must pass the Android Compatability Test Suite[1] in order to be granted rights to the android trademark and the permission to refer to their device as android[2].

the problem is CTS tests API consistency with the goal of preventing platform fragmentation for app developers. there is also a separate set of tests that specify minimum hardware requirements for each version of android, and specs such as battery life, etc.

compatibility and android brand licensing also requires a certain set of minimum apps, such as the phone dialer, calendar, contacts, music player, etc. but (and quote[3]):

> The Android upstream project defines a number of core applications, such as a phone dialer, calendar, contacts book, music player, and so on. Device implementers MAY replace these applications with alternative versions.

and further -- the gmail, chat etc. apps are proprietary Google apps, and there are various licensing reasons why they can not be enforced as part of 'compatibility'.

API compatibility is good, but UI and app compatibility is very flexible - and given such flexibility, carriers will almost always go the crawpware route.

[1] http://source.android.com/compatibility/android-cts-manual-r...

[2] http://source.android.com/compatibility/index.html

[3] http://source.android.com/compatibility/2.3/android-2.3.3-cd...

If this "Android Compatability Test Suite" is anything like how the video game manufacturers test and approve video games, let's just say a lot of things can get graded on a curve, with the right motivation.

Clearly this phone is one example, if the battery is discharging itself so quickly (and generating so much heat) in an hour.

The only sane option?!

Give me a break. Just get a phone "with Google" and use the pure Google experience and it's a breeze. All of this spinning and complaining about what OEMs are doing to an open source OS is like complaining about the DIY boxcar racer you bought and put together turned out like shit. (and you want your money back.)

This is not the case. I have a Samsung Moment "with Google". The stock Android it ships with comes with unremovable apps (and unremovable game demos), a half-baked navigation app, a terrible voice search replacement, unkillable background services that count how many times you open the keyboard. It's also got a totally broken radio driver that violated FCC 911 regulations for over a year (google it if you care), and has been abandoned at 2.1 officially 10 months from release since it's no longer in Samsung's profit interests to maintain a terrible device that Sprint pulled from their product line. The only way the phone is remotely enjoyable is with custom ROMs. I bought it with 1.5 and accepted a sub-par experience because of Samsung's publicly stated promise that it would get 2.1 quickly, it took several months before an official 2.1 update was released and nearly another year before their radio issues were resolved.

The "with Google" branding meaning nothing in terms of actual phone experience, and Samsung isn't the only vendor at fault here. After my experience, and dozens of similar accounts like this blog post, I don't recommend anyone buy an Android phone that isn't a "by Google", like the Nexus line, and even then, only if they have some strong objection to getting the iPhone, which I would recommend over any current Android device.

I really, really, really wanted to like Android, but you can damn-near put an 18 month countdown on the majority of the Android phones before the manufacturer abandons it and you're stuck using XDA developers or the like for updates, patches and improvements, or just to fix the stock crap they ship. On a 24 month contract cycle, that's just unacceptable.

"I really, really, really wanted to like Android, but you can damn-near put an 18 month countdown on the majority of the Android phones before the manufacturer abandons it and you're stuck using XDA developers or the like for updates, patches and improvements, or just to fix the stock crap they ship. On a 24 month contract cycle, that's just unacceptable."

Somewhat broad generalization ahead...

About once a year, Apple comes out with ONE new phone, an iPhone. If the phone is bad, Apple goes out of business. Apple bets the company every year on that new iPhone, and to make that a reasonable bet, they spend tons and tons of marketing on design, engineering, quality, and customer support. Apples knows a bad iPhone makes WSJ / New York Times front pages. Apple knows that to make a bad iPhone loses them iPad, iPod, Macbook,... customers.

And so ... by and large, Apple does not make bad iPhones.

In contrast

Four times a year, each, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG, Kyocera, Huawei, Sony, and others, come out with a new Android phone. This phone is one of many many products made by each of these companies. The success or failure of any of these phones means almost nothing to the company. And so, the product development and rollout of any of these phones is not a bet-the-company gamble. Accordingly, very little effort is made on design, engineering, and customer support. None of these companies have terribly loyal customers, most seem to buy a given phone based on carrier affiliation, or based on costs. Losing a customer here is bad, but does not carry the long term cost as losing a customer at Apple does.

And so there is very little incentive to make anything but competitive (in all the wrong meanings) phones here. There is a race to the bottom mentality going on.

"We think the phone we make is good, at least as good as the phone they make. Let's get some more marketing dollars from our partners for it and we will all be happy"

"The success or failure of any of these phones means almost nothing to the company. And so, the product development and rollout of any of these phones is not a bet-the-company gamble. Accordingly, very little effort is made on design, engineering, and customer support. None of these companies have terribly loyal customers, most seem to buy a given phone based on carrier affiliation, or based on costs."

In the long run, Google needs to do something about this, or face it doing severe damage to the image of their platform.

Many years ago, I took a look at the Apple iPod website, and looked at the models. The breakdown was simple. iPod shuffle, iPod Mini, iPod. You could see one page with all prices for all sizes (two sizes for each model), and then you just had to pick a colour and you were good.

I then went to look at Creative's website, and looked through their list of products. They had 16 separate models, many of which were very subtle variations (e.g. the 316 vs. the 316z). There was no breakdown page that would show you the differences or help you decide. Some of them had LCD screens, some of them played WMA, some of them had more space, some came in multiple colours, but you didn't know which had what or what it cost until you clicked on the page. Making a completely informed decision would take hours of clicking links, making notes, hitting the back button, and then clicking the next link.

I marvelled that not only was Creative competing against Apple, they were competing against themselves. They produced 16 different models, which requires 16 different manufacturing processes, 16 different packagings, 16 different manuals (each in a variety of languages), 16 different QA processes.

The same thing is happening here. Manufacturers are largely unwilling to challenge Apple in the high-end of the market (where the Galaxy S, Nexus S, iPhone 4, etc. all live), so they work in the smaller end. The lower prices mean lower margins and lesser quality parts. This also leads to less testing and QA, meaning a lower quality finished product.

As a result of these lower margins, they need to sell more phones, which means producing more models of phones and shortening the lifetimes of the phones in order to encourage people to turn them over faster. It's becoming a race to the bottom.

People compare Android and iOS to Windows and Mac, but it feels like the better comparison is Mac vs. PC hardware, not software. Apple makes very few models of computer (Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro), which they refresh lately. There are lots of variations, but you have four base models which are simple to understand. In comparison, if you go to Dell's website, there are a dozen models you can buy, each with subtle variations, and even with different prices depending on which business unit you buy from. Other PC manufacturers all do the same thing, and because they don't control the software they ship (other than crapware), they can only really differentiate on price.

It's become a race to the bottom, trying to slash costs and increase volumes at the same time, and PC manufacturers have realized that they're fighting over a huge chunk of the market and leaving Apple to actually make the profits. Android certainly has the potential to surpass Apple in market share, but they're going to be fighting over a much smaller chunk of profits, fragmenting their efforts over multiple products and competing against other manufacturers' multiple products.

It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Apple is one of the few companies in the world that does both software and hardware in a competent and timely fashion. If Sony / HTC / Samsung had as much software roots as Apple I believe we would see Android handsets that actually offered credible alternatives rather than being showcases for their hardware and physical design departments. Then again I guess shipping Android phones amounts to admitting that you cant do the whole stack. I really commend HP for trying to be the other company that does the whole stack.

You hit the nail on the head. Apple curates the array of products it offers, while its impossible to tell which Android best suits you.

Google needs to create a new platform that curates as well as Apple does. Or sit and watch while Amazon builds one on top of Android.

Apple is great at understanding a customer's user experience. They are making the most profit per handset, too. Making a couple of bucks via bloatware might be driving unprofitability.

Certainly the experience is inconsistent and something I'm willing to accept. Considering the amount of experimentation on implementation and the rapidly changing OS, I will tolerate bad eggs to spoil the bunches. The problem is not with the software but with how Google has handled it's branding of Android and the "preferred" experience it associates with it. "with Google" was suppose to solve this problem, but as you point out there are still issues and loopholes.

I bought the MyTouch3G (2nd Android phone ever), the G2, the Nexus S and recently the Galaxy Tab. Overall, I'm very happy with the experience of each of these phones. There are other phones out there that have great experiences as well. As a consumer, I will research these purchases which matter and will pay with my time to get exactly what I want. If you want to, instead, pay for one company to handle quality end-to-end for you, then you will pay for that, too.

For me, the pluses in Android outweigh the (few) minuses (that remain).

For anyone else, it's great that they have the choice to make. :)

I glossed over it a bit, but one of my points was that I thought I had done due diligence in researching the product before buying. I had compared specifications, Samsung hadn't fumbled any phones this badly before, it was a "with Google" product, they were pretty consistently communicating to their customers about coming updates, Sprint was pushing it pretty equally to the HTC Hero (and Sprint's contract came in slightly cheaper than AT&Ts), the only complaints that had surfaced on forums were mostly DOA devices, etc. All information available pointed to it being a pretty good decision at the time.

If years of market research prowess fails me and I consistently see similar stories crop up every month or two where other technically inclined people regret purchasing some other Android device, it says to me that I didn't simply get a lemon or make a huge mistake in my decision making but the market itself has a problem, whatever issues and loopholes allowed it before have remained unfixed. Since the price difference between iPhones and top end Android phones are basically the same ($100 variance or so on a >$2k total cost...big deal), and that I can mindlessly buy whatever the next iPhone release will be and have pretty good assurance Apple has my back, I'm completely unwilling to waste time researching Android devices and still possibly get bit in the ass for my efforts.

LOL, that is a terrible analogy. If I bought and built a boxcar and I did it wrong then yes my fault, I'm not building the phone, the manufacturer is, so as a consumer I can expect a certain level of quality.

Most consumers don't know the difference between Google-made Android phones and the others. You're missing the core point which is that the Android platform is fragmented and regular people are being given a phone full of advertising and apps built for up selling.

I know the analogy was horrible... -_-

Regardless, the intention of my point was that manufacturers were given "blueprints" and "tools" and they built a shitty product. Even though Android is Google's product, the end result is not and to point fingers at Android is wrong. Is it the fault of Google if people are using the tools improperly? If anything, Google should've better managed the Android trademark so as to not associate their toolbox/blueprints with sub-par implementations.

In the case of the iPhone, Users are not allowed to install certain applications either.

I'm glad the author's mom found a smartphone she likes, but this isn't an Android problem.

I'll be downvoted, but here goes: This shows the Linux heritage. All of Linux's problems on the desktop aren't really problems with Linux. It turns out that Android's problems aren't Android's either.


     All of Linux's problems on the desktop aren't really 
     problems with Linux.
Errr, what?

He's referring to the finger pointing / blame shifting that seems to happen whenever someone starts criticizing desktop Linux. Any time this comes up people pop out of the woodwork to give the solutions, sometimes of staggering complexity, to the specific user experience problems cited.

The reality is that Linux-the-umbrella will be judged by any specific distro's user experience. People more familiar with the situation will know that in many cases bad experiences are caused by choices specific to distros or even the packages they bundle, but the true average user's perception is not that nuanced.

The same argument largely works for Android. In some ways worse because there is a certification process that allows you to use the Android name, but does very little to ensure someone didn't wreck the user experience with their customizations.

In some ways worse because there is a certification process that allows you to use the Android name, but does very little to ensure someone didn't wreck the user experience with their customizations.

In other words, "Hey, let's make it somewhat exclusive to use our brand, but do nothing to ensure quality from the end-user's perspective!" All the disadvantages of exclusivity, with none of the advantages.

What he's saying is that all of Linux's problems are with the kernel and surrounding low level code (which is quite stable, performs well, etc.), but with the integration, support and design of the distributions laid on top of them.

For example Ubuntu has made great strides in this regard, but some would say the continual, sometimes drastic changes in the shipped apps and modifications of the interface make it hard for users.

I actually think he is being facetious. It may be true to say "it's not android", but as far as they end-user is concerned it _is_ android. It's got the logos, came with an android sticker on the box. For that user, when it comes to purchase or recommend another phone, will they make the same distinction or will their previous android experience influence their choice?

It's more of a statement about the culture and expectations growing up around Android, than about Android the technical artifact.

The technophiles are right about the point they make about the latter, but it's the former that will make or break it in the marketplace.

I think he's saying that people can redefine a problem so that it's no longer their problem. Defining the problem out, rather than actually addressing it.

In this case, instead of addressing (usability?) issues, the perceived problem, rather than being addressed head on, is redefined as being at the feet of the user, thus transferring responsibility and absolving oneself. (I.e "It works for me"!)

I think that's what they were saying.

If those problems had been problems with Linux, we could have solved them.

But the fact that some hardware producer doesn't want to give up the specs so that we can support it? Not Linux problem.

They may be a problem for you, if you want to run Linux but it isn't Linux problem.

This case is the same. I would prefer it was some problem with Android, since we could then solve it but crap-ware on carriers isn't a software issue.

Put it another way: Just because it's not a Linux problem, doesn't mean it isn't a problem for Linux. Just because it's not an Android problem, doesn't mean it's not a problem for Android.

I think this has been one of the major innovations of the iPhone: not allowing carriers to tamper with it.

MS understood this and they are doing the same with WP7. Google knows it is a problem so they release the Google Experience phones, but they can’t disallow it completely.

I think it's quite interesting to see google go the same route as MS did with Windows and Windows Mobile which is allow the OEM to customize to make money, while letting user satisfaction drop. At the same time, WP7 is a total different strategy to tightly control the hardware and give a much greater user experience while the OEMs have less and less control.

This is a similar problem to what goes on with PC vendors. They install crap-ware and borderline ad-ware on machines they sell to users who then complain that their brand new computer is already going slow after a few months. Even re-installing the OS using their provided "recovery" discs will re-install all this junk after installing the OS. Luckily you can circumvent this problem pretty easily with a PC. Not so easy with a locked-down phone from Verizon. Too bad there's not many wireless providers that don't pull this kind of stuff.

The battery life and "scorching hot" temperature sound like hardware issues, but I doubt they're representative of all Android phones - just this model.

I owned 3 different Android phones over the past 3 years. My wife owned 2 models different from mine over the same span. My experience is based on using 5 different Android models from different manufacturers. Although I'm focusing now on the things I did not like, the fact that I stayed with Android for so long should suggest that there was plenty I did like.

Battery life was terrible on every Android phone I used. I could not get through an 8-9 hour work day with moderate use (an hour or two of streaming, maybe a few web pages, some texting and a brief call or two). I can absolutely confirm the weird battery issues this user experienced. On multiple phones. At times, the phone would get warm (not scorching hot in my case) and the battery would go from close to a full charge to nearly dead in the span of an hour or so. I kept spare chargers everywhere. Five freakin' phones.

I finally gave in and switched to an iPhone. Now I'm kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Maybe this is a little dramatic, but after using iOS for several weeks I have come to the realization that Android is flat out trash in comparison. I like having an "end call" button that is actually responsive and, you know... ends a call. On Android I would press it several times before the call would end. Just about every time. On too many occasions I had to pull the battery off.

The unresponsive button thing isn't isolated either. Push a button. Wait. Wait. Push it a couple more times. The whole thing is agonizingly slow. Try to unlock the screen. Crap. I have to push the button 3 or 4 times. Arrgghhh!

Don't even get me started on typing. The keyboard would lag on a regular basis, to the point where it was just not practical to use it for texting. I would start to type, the keyboard froze up and then a bunch of special accented characters would show up. Turning off basically every feature of the keyboard like haptic feedback and auto-correction would help, but the typing experience was still the worst of any phone I have used since T9 predictive text has been available.

Apps crashed left and right. I'm not even talking about random stuff from the Android market. I'm talking about the built in ones. I had a task killer installed. It was my most frequently used app. Let that sink in. My task killer was my most frequently used app. I was constantly killing things that were slowing down the phone or eating up battery for no good reason. Search the Android market for task killers. There are tons of them. Some of them run in the background and automatically kill stuff in an attempt to improve performance.

I could go on, but I'd rather not. I'm just glad I don't have to use those Android phones anymore. It will be a very long time before I would consider buying one again.

Wow... I'm replying to this from my HTC Desire, which I've had for over a year. I have had exactly ZERO of those problems. The biggest complaint I have is that I still don't have an update for Android 2.3 yet.

I'm glad yours is working out. I know people that absolutely love their Android phones. I know some others that don't like them so much. After 5 phones, 3 manufacturers and 2 carriers I have seen enough to believe it's not an isolated thing, but I also realize my experience is not necessarily representative of the majority of Android phones. Still, it's enough for me to avoid them. It seems to me like a pretty hit or miss proposition. In any case, my wife and I are happy iPhone users now.

Froyo is the OS version that made Android competitive. Gingerbread is the gravy that made is excellent.

I've had 4 Android devices, all the ways back to cupcake on the G1. In the early years I absolutely saw the issues that the GP observed, tolerating the platform for secondary reasons while hoping it would get better. I, too, had to pull my battery to end a call more than once. Until Froyo I never recommended Android to non-tech friends or peers. With a modern Gingerbread device I would recommend it in a heartbeat.

But...wow...reading their post is like a blast from the past. jm4 seems to have a really bad sense of timing "buy high sell low!" because Android today is a slick, smooth, reliable platform.

> My task killer was my most frequently used app.

Oh. You probably weren't aware of this, but task killers can cause every problem you list -- app crashing, UI lag, etc.

As soon as I got rid of mine, my phone was much more responsive and had about twice the battery life!

Task killers don't do anything, the issue that created a need for them was patched in 2.2. Now they're just a placebo.

I can't discount your experiences. There is no doubt that Android in its earlier years was kind of an ugly baby. The OS suffered fundamental faults, lag on user interactivity being a primary one.

Is that true with current devices? Absolutely not. Gingerbread suffers from zero of the complaints that you mentioned.

"I had a task killer installed. It was my most frequently used app."

You should probably remove this from your post because it betrays that you are an ignorant user. All else follows from that.

While you have edited your post here to temper the zeal, comments like "Android just replaces feature phones" are, well, "fanboy" type comments. Tell my Galaxy S II that.

You're angry about something and are taking it out on Android. No one should draw much from your dated observations.

This story is about a bad device, possibly even a defective handset. Call the press, someone got a lemon!

And thus has the editability of HN posts been exploited.

The GP post originally contained a claim that Android is "garbage", would persist on "feature phones", among other nonse belonging in Engadget comments.

FYI, I edited my comment once to remove an errant comma. The content never changed. I definitely did not have anything in there about feature phones. I was somewhat confused by your reference to that and previous comments I made. Are you sure you were looking at the right comment?

Mysterious battery drain seems like a really common problem on Android phones. Sometimes my Droid X lasts till 6PM -- sometimes it's dead by 1PM. More or less the same usage patterns. When it dies early in the day the phone is definitely warmer than usual.

In my experience doing anything with constant data flow when you have bad reception can turn battery into heat amazingly quickly. Otherwise it works just fine.

I do wish having an idle skype didn't send packets constantly, though.

That's 55 cents a day over a 2 year contract. And if you make $25 an hour after taxes (hopefully you make more), you're be working 92 seconds of every day just to pay the iPhone premium.

Me thinks the better experience saves me at least 93 seconds of pain per day, possible even 2 whole minutes worth.


The touch on my Nexus One (HTC Passion) is horrible the slightest smudge and that's it no touch. I bought my mother an iPod touch a couple of years ago and the touch is fantastic. Actually anyone I know with HTC seems to have problems but not those I know with Android but not HTC hardware.

I played around with a Samsung Galaxy II on display in a store and even after hundreds of people were poking at it and smudged it the touch was flawless.

I've had a few crash on Android OS (v2.3.4 GRJ22) but I prefer it over iOS I find the iPod Touch's GUI suffocating after using Android.

Ironically this is shaking the trust of users in a sound platform and not in their network provider is not able to _not_ break something when modifying it.


The author specifically stated that his mom was.

> I'm glad the author's mom found a smartphone she likes, but this isn't an Android problem. It may very well be a Google problem

It's definitely Google's problem. Experiences like this tremendously hurt the Android brand. What if you bought a "BMW" but it turned out to be a piece of crap because BMW had licensed their engines and logo but exercised no quality-control over the final products? You'd never buy another BMW, regardless of whose fault it really was.

That was pretty misleading. Not Android was the culprit, but the carrier's crapware.

I never understood why people would not actually buy their phones and then decide on a contract or prepaid to go with it? I even bought mine off Ebay in excellent condition and almost full warranty (2 years in Germany) so much cheaper that I still have not reached the difference to the "normal full or subsidized price" with my monthly contract payments.

From what I understand, the mobile phone system in the EU works differently than in the US. In the US, almost all phones are bought at carrier-subsidized prices - i.e. much cheaper than buying the phone standalone. The catch is that you have to sign for a 2-year contract with that carrier to get the subsidized prices. The prices for mobile phone plans in the US are much higher because they include the phone subsidy.

And while in theory you could just buy a phone and then decide on a contract, if you do that, you don't get a discount on your plan - i.e. you're still paying for the phone subsidy that you never used. So, buying a phone then buying a contract for it costs even more.

It's a stupid system, but unfortunately the carriers are all evil and don't want to change it because it lets them overcharge and deliver crapware.

And while in theory you could just buy a phone and then decide on a contract, if you do that, you don't get a discount on your plan - i.e. you're still paying for the phone subsidy that you never used.

When I was looking a few months ago, T-Mobile was the only carrier that actually gave you cheaper plans if you brought your own phone (i.e., they were sane). That's why I'm on T-Mobile now, and couldn't be happier. It's too bad about the AT&T deal...

They also avoid putting crapware on at least some of their phones. The G series is all pretty close to stock with a few reasonable extra apps (Swype and wifi-calling, mostly), a marked contrast to what the same hardware is loaded with when it comes from other carriers.

In the EU (well, I can speak for Greece), you get the phone with carrier subsidies, with year-long contracts. You can choose not to get a phone and deduct an amount off your contract each month.

The carrier-subsidized phones are usually exactly the same as the stock devices. Some carriers install one or two apps (rarely), but I've never seen a carrier-locked phone in the hundreds of devices I've seen. Any carrier-sponsored phone works with any other carrier.

It's your money, anyway.

In France, most carrier subsidized phones are locked to the carrier.

However they must unlock it for free after 6 months.

> In the US, almost all phones are bought at carrier-subsidized prices - i.e. much cheaper than buying the phone standalone. The catch is that you have to sign for a 2-year contract with that carrier to get the subsidized prices. The prices for mobile phone plans in the US are much higher because they include the phone subsidy.

it's the same in most european countries (and has been for a decade or so), and even in countries where this is not allowed (such as belgium), plan prices are not significantly lower.

Although generally you have a sliding scale: most euro countries have laws letting consumer break 2-years contract for a free (which is usually a function of the number of months left on your contract), so you can usually get 12-months contract (lower subsidy => more expensive phones) and no-bind contracts (even lower to no subsidies). They're also generally more expensive per month: having you as a pretty much guaranteed customer for 2 years is much cheaper for the carrier.

There are also bits and pieces of regulation which varies by country. In France for instance, subsidized phones are SIM-locked but carriers must let you unlock it for free after 6 months.

For contracts, I think carrier-subsidised handsets are significantly more popular than the cheaper handset-free ones; but both are widely available (a contract of, say, £30/month will be half that price if it excludes the handset).

More popular still are pay-as-you-go deals where the handset is purchased at full price, though this is more popular in the feature phone segment.

One more fact for your collection: Verizon even subsidizes its prepaid phones. One option I was given to replace a prepaid out-of-warranty feature phone was paying $200 for a new one--though they sell the exact same model with new service for $40. (Ultimately I took a prior-generation refurbished phone for $50.)

It doesn't matter why this person's experience sucked with Android, it still did. An iPhone 'just worked' for this same person.

I know exactly what I'm getting when I get an iPhone no matter where in the world I get it. There's no carrier specific crap. All the models have well known limitations and features. I can trust, for the most part, any apps I get from the app store.

It's great that you can go onto eBay and get a used phone (or possibly new), but how scalable is that? Would you trust your mother or grand mother to do the same? How much effort did it take between bidding, paying and activating compared to the effort that most people are willing to put into getting a new phone?

I don't think Android is going to be a failure -- the phones will always be around. They have basically taken the place of Nokia's feature phones.

At the end of the day, Google should have maintained more control to guarantee a better user experience. They had an opportunity to follow in Apple's footsteps and put another nail in the carrier's control coffin.

Google having more control over Android would make a better UX and platform, but it would not have allowed for Android to take off as it has. One of the key reasons it's selling is because it's not an iPhone. It's open, and comes with all the pros and cons that openness entails.

Normal customers don't care that a phone is 'open' any more than a non-gearhead cares if a car is user-serviceable. They don't even really know what that means.

Tech folks need to stop thinking of 'open' as a selling point when it comes to consumer products and focus on the actual experience for a consumer.

It isn't a selling point for the customer. It is a selling point for the vendor, which is frankly much more important than user experience when it comes to getting phones in hands.

Tech nerds need to stop thinking that UX is anything more than at best a bonus when it comes to a platform's success.

Every Android phone on 3 carriers I have used has random crashes and initially laughable battery life. If the only option you have is "carrier crapware", guess what? It sucks. And i'm never paying $500+ for an unlocked phone (I would buy something that is actually functionally useful like a Sony Ericsson)

It is an Android (the brand) problem though, because that's how Android is presented in the marketplace. When it takes rooting the phone to make it usable, that automatically means that most of the people who buy Android phones are going to get a sub-par experience.

I am a recent convert to Android from iOS and while I'm mostly happy with it I have to say that Android really is like a PC and iPhone is, well, like an Apple. Android takes alot more tweaking, settings aren't always easy to discover, apps run in the background without any obvious indication, etc.

As for the battery, my Droid X2 drained it like crazy for the first day, but as I used it it got better. I don't know why, but over time it got alot better. I can now go a whole day, with some serious app usage, and still have 60% at the end of the night.

Even with its quirks I prefer Android to Apple. I am now able to plug my phone into my Linux box and actually access the data on it! I am not forced to use iTunes to download only 'blessed by Steve' apps, I can write code for it without having to download a new 2G Xcode every 3 weeks.

Android is more free, and while it has some rough edges to it, I prefer the freedom of Android to Apple's vision of a Utopian phone.

I think you've hit the nail on the head.

For people like you, who want to be able to plug their phone into their Linux box and access their data - Android in its current state is a fantastic operating system.

For people like the author's mother (and my mother actually) who want their phones to "just work", Android in its current state isn't living up to its potential.

I have no doubt that if Apple allowed manufacturers and carriers to use whatever hardware they wanted, and install whatever apps they want on the iPhone, iOS would have exactly the same issues.

Do you have gingerbread on your x2? If not, do you know when it will be released for your phone?

Many people are saying its not Android but the carriers and manufacturers that do not understand user experience. The average user simply does not care. To her the biggest motivation to buy the phone is Android and it will receive the majority of the blame whether its deserved or not. That's just the way it is. Windows received a lot of flak because of dumb users which more or less it did not yet recover from. So that's just how it is.

The Android brand is being diluted and sullied by experiences like this and Apple is benefiting with its insistence on one model per device type. Google needs to tackle this very soon. If they get a bad reputation the markets in Asia will suffer. Android is expected to sell tons of phones in Asia and any bad reputation couple with Apple's growing image as a high end phone will be bad for Android.

Android is already selling tons of phones in Asia. HTC's rise as a top tier manufacturer is on the back of Android sales in Asia. Another data point: the Samsung Galaxy S2 has sold 5 million phones and it hasn't even been launched in the US yet.

Shouldn't this be "Why my Mom Bought a Samsung Charge from Verizon, Returned It, and Got an Apple iPhone" ?

Kind of strikes me as similar to writing "Why I bought an American car, junked it and bought a BMW M5" - the american car part isn't half as important as which one specifically.

The important thing here is that most of the Android ecosystem is like this. When you buy an iPhone, you're getting exactly what you paid for. No two Androids are sold the same though. Some have tons of crapware, some have an interface you can't change, and for someone who isn't looking to customize the crap out of their phone, hack it, uninstall things, none of that makes any sense.

The Nexus S is a great phone because Google sold it and it didn't come loaded with crap. Most of the other Android phones you buy from other carriers will be as crap filled as their average feature phones.

So the article could have been called "Why my Mom Bought an Android and Returned It." because the article is primarily about problems with the Android ecosystem.

It seems like the author didn't have these problems with his phone (that he loves), his friend(s) didn't have those problems with the nexus s, I've had four Android phones and I've only had any serious problems with one due to design failures (and only one was a google experience phone). Sure, there are poor android phones out there. If you think you can buy _any_ android based device and expect an apple quality experience you're obviously in for disappointment. But attributing any failure of any device to the platform only makes sense if you see the world as stark black and white and couched in a constant two sided battle of google and apple.

The same could be said about the Windows ecosystem, too. The same could be same about the "Blackberries", as well. I don't think all of them are very high quality, even for people who like Blackberries.

The only difference is that it's Apple who only makes a model per year, and soon 2 per year from what rumors say. But in thise case people should be more like "I'll only buy a phone from HTC", or whatever, if they care about the quality of their phone.

The same could be said about the Windows ecosystem, too

Which is why Microsoft changed the OEM model. Customers were complaining about a poor OOTB experience and blaming microsoft for it. As they should, since its MS on boot, MS on desktop, MS on start menu. If Acer's, Asus, or HP's poorly coded background widget is causing system crashes most users are going to root around for it if they barely got started with the thing.

Now, you can't sell a PC with a Microsoft sticker on it without verification now. (Notice how all the ads say Genuine Microsoft Windows 7 Premium). It's not because HP is slapping bootleg installs on there PCs, it's because they sent that model to Microsoft and they assure you you won't have a crappy experience the first time this PC boots.

> because the article is primarily about problems with the Android ecosystem.


If you want better cellphones with better carriers who don't do stupidly intrusive things, move to Europe.

If you want better cellphones with better carriers who don't do stupidly intrusive things, move to Europe.

That's practical advice, but I still haven't unpacked after moving to Canada to get affordable medical care.

It seems like Canada is half way along the awesome scale to Europe.

...or just get an iPhone.

That won't solve the abysmal coverage and dropped calls enjoyed in the US.

Disclosure: I recently switched to Android from iOS.

The dropped calls and coverage issue are overblown. It is not like any carrier has a magic cure to the vagaries of radio reception. CDMA phones might have some edge on reception, but those tend to be offset in the area of battery life. In any event, I think coverage is in a 'good enough' phase now.

The real problem is that so many android phones sold in the US are not running 2.3, they're stuffed with un-deletable space-wasting crapware, and they often have absurd carrier restrictions. I think it is very conspicuous how the most happy android customers seem to be the ones with phones that do not have carrier mods.

I could definitely recommend a Nexus S to my mom and expect her to be able to use it just as well as an iPhone _now_. I do not have the same feelings about the other phone I tried (and returned), the AT&T Samsung Infuse.

It will if he gets it on Verizon.

Google needs to standardize the platform more, and get stricter with manufacturers. It was good to be more open in the beginning to grow, but I think they have enough growth right now, and getting stricter with their quality requirements and maybe even with using stock Android (something I'd actually like to happen) would benefit the whole ecosystem in the end, and especially the customers.

Android should be more like Windows (not WP7 - that's too strict), where users still have a lot of choice, but it's standardized enough to work pretty well across different hardware. The way I see it from most open to most closed, it's something like this Linux > Android > Windows > WP7 > iOS.

I think Windows is a pretty good compromise for a multi-hardware OS, and it has already proven it works the best in the market, granted it got a big boost from IBM PC's early on with this standardization issue, while Android grew by itself because of the extra openness. But as I said, I think it's about time to move to more standardization now. I'm hoping they've been already working on this issue for a while, and they will start implementing this with Android 4.0.

Can we PLEASE stop repeating that "30-40%" return figure? Even the source article says it only applies to SOME Android phones, which isn't really that big of a surprise - some phones, like the Charge from the sounds of it, are genuinely crap. No decent source is claiming that Android phones are being returned en masse, however, in fact I have my own source on some information: Phones 4 U (high street store in the UK) tell me that 40% of their monthly contracts were for Galaxy S II's, and that the return rate on them was "exceptionally low".

The problem with this is that I can't honestly recommend my family members to go get Android phones... they can't afford legit iphones (they're all on family or prepaid) either.

I spent about 3-4 hours researching what Android phones were available to what carriers, and gave up with all the potential research I still had left to do on the dozen or so options.

The OHA (and ultimately Google) stand to blame here for not setting decent quality standards and caring for the Android brand... a lot of ground could be gained by having a meaningful certification process that takes into account actual usability.

Probably one of Android's biggest issues is the fact that the carriers keep messing with the phone - slowing it down, installing crapware, making unnecessary UI changes, etc. For example, any given Verizon Android phone has a bunch of crap apps that I can't remove or move to the SD card despite the fact that they are the primary reason that I am running out of space on the flash memory. And they completely reskinned the Droid 2's UI, and it looks ugly.

If the carriers would ship their phones with stock, performance-optimized Android software, people wouldn't have so many complaints about Android. No one buys "Visual Voice Mail" or "ThinkFree Office," and all it's doing is ticking people off.

However, at this point I have given up on finding motivations for the actions of Verizon and AT&T, and have concluded that they are just evil.

My take is that the carriers know that differentiation is crucial to keeping a loyal customer base. And since they are having a hard time adding value, they're trying to differentiate by removing value.

Carriers don't want to be a commodity, which in reality is what they are becoming.

So the problem here appears to be Verizon, not android. Also, the fact that the writer bought the phone in a store without trying it out first.

I lost my Nexus one recently* and when I got around to replacing it my wife also decided she wanted a smartphone instead of the Blackberry she had. So now I had to look into family line sharing plans etc. and thought I'd better go to the T-Mobile store, and that I might as well scope out the newer phones while I was at it. So even though I'm tech savvy and know Android phones very well, I spent a good 45 minutes asking questions and playing with the store models. At the end of all that I decided to just get another Nexus One for myself and the same model for Mrs Browl; 4g wasn't so important to me because I don't watch videos or do big downloads on my phone, likewise I didn't need beefy CPU because I don't want to play 3d games on such a tiny screen, and I decided to stick with a naked Android phone because I didn't want all the vendor crud. Also, you can get a Nexus One new in the box for $250 now and avoid a service contract.

* Which is part of why I've been a bit unsocial of late IRL, btw - I owe lunch to a few people!

When I got the phones I upgraded both to the latest version of Android but otherwise left my wife's phone unconfigured, and gave her only minimal 'tech support' - I was curious to see how she'd choose to customize it, and also to get a more objective look at how she'd react to Android and the Google ecosystem (she didn't have a gmail account prior to this). While she had quite different tastes from me in terms of how she organizes it and what sort of apps she likes, she's been entirely comfortable with it.

Her main complaint is the rather mediocre selection of apps in the Android marketplace (she likes apps more than I do); mine is the glitchiness in the stock browser. On the upside, our total monthly bill for both phones is under $100.

I heard from a few friends at google that there are pretty intense discussions going on right now about what they can demand from their partners.

They had to bend over backwards for the carriers and manufacturers at first because they were the new kid on a very crowded block. but now they are the market leader and should use that leverage to demand a certain standard for Android units.

> now they are the market leader and should use that leverage to demand a certain standard for Android units.

But there is little preventing a manufacturer or carrier from using the open-source (subset!) of Android to produce their own Android-compatible (but not "Google Experience") phones. The manufacturers and carriers actually have an incentive do so they can tout their "differentiated" phones.

>But there is little preventing a manufacturer or carrier from using the open-source (subset!) of Android

Except the losses from maintaining the stack separate from google, and potentially losing the google market might not be covered by the kickbacks for shovelware. The real competition will be if amazon steps up to provide a distro to phone manufactures.

I've known a few people who moved from a BB to an Android, returned it, then went with an iPhone.

While I love love love my Android phone, it's definitely a geek's phone that offers a much more capable mobile platform, but at the tradeoff of more exposed complexity. And most of the additional capability are things that most people don't care about (yay! I can add more home screens, and I have a tricorder app! and I've hacked my phone to run emacs!) vs. having access to more and higher quality consumer oriented apps.

I know that the BB platform is also complex, but most people just use it as a phone with a nice email client and one or two very basic (and very common) apps -- like facebook. That's really all they want.

When they buy a phone and it's loaded with crap, and they don't know how to get rid of it (or they can't for some idiotic reason that only the carrier could ever explain), they get turned off. When they go to the Apple store they can get a phone with just the main stuff they were looking for on the screen, and it's relatively easy to get their facebook app or whatever and be done with the entire experience.

>While I love love love my Android phone, it's definitely a geek's phone

Some geeks, like the Linux-user who authored the following long personal analysis, prefer iPhone to Android:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2811768 -- "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the iOS," discussed on HN 2 days ago.

ADDED. In other words, let us not fall into the trap of rationalizing Android's lack of universal appeal by saying that the person who prefers iPhone is not geeky enough to appreciate Android.

I agree, but I do find it interesting how well the iOS devices have caught on with the geek/nerd crowd...people who are usually comfortable with having to go to great lengths to get just that one extra bit out of their personal technology.

Some of that is echoed in this thread http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2823502

"does most of her emailing on an iPad"

If she already has an iPad, isn't an iPhone the obvious choice? I love my Android phone, but if someone is already used to iOS and likes it, why not get them an iPhone?

Just a couple of illustrative data points:

If you want a Verizon individual plan that’s compatible with an iPhone, you will end up paying at least $70/month, plus taxes and what-not, and at least $30 of that is for the data plan.

The cheapest MetroPCS plan is $40, including taxes and what-not, and includes unlimited data (although MetroPCS doesn’t have 4G—you either put up with the slowness of EDGE or you pay for a 4G phone—and there are a lot of gaps in their coverage area).

So if you are satisfied by what a cheap plan offers you, it doesn’t make sense to shell out a massive amount per month just for the sake of an iPhone.

Maybe because iPhone is unavailable from the carrier?

I can confirm that the Samsung Galaxy S2 also suffers from this.

Worse still, it's not just removing stock apps and loading Samsung ones, they've gone and removed the stock Android keyboard too.

My girlfriend hates the Samsung keyboard, and the only other alternative on the phone is Swype which she hates even more.

As a direct result of the keyboard not being the one she knew and loved her use of the phone has plummeted.

She still uses the phone, but not for anything that involves touching the keyboard. So SMS, email, web... all useless in her eyes. She uses maps still to see where she is, and she reads Twitter (but will wait until she's home to respond to things), but that's about it.

This current top of the range Android phone, with it's carrier dictated keyboard, has made the smartphone a paperweight that she lugs around just in case someone calls. She's even asked me if we can dig out the old Blackberry gathering dust in the shed just so that she can be in touch with people again.

I searched the Marketplace, but the Android stock keyboard isn't on there. So until I can afford a replacement for her, it looks like she'll just do all of her communication when she gets home each evening.

The big problem: As much as I explain this is the fault of Samsung, she just associates it to being an Android issue.

I'm just hoping it won't be too long before Cyanogen Mod is available for the S2 so that I can fix it for her.

Dude, you dont need CM just to fix the keyboard. The stock 2.3 is on the Market, and many other nice options (I love Swiftkey X).

The Gingerbread Keyboard is definitely available from the Android Market here: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.moo.android.inputm....

As a Galaxy S user, I definitely agree that the default Samsung Keyboard is pretty much useless to type on, but doesn't the SII also come with Swype like the S?

searched the Marketplace, but the Android stock keyboard isn't on there.

It's called "Keyboard from Android 2.3" and it's being compiled and delivered by someone else than Google. Works fine though and lets you download dictionaries as you need them.

Here, have a market-link: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.moo.android.inputm...

Fantastic, installed.

Had searched, but didn't know which one to trust.

Right from the beginning, it seems Verizon is the problem, not Android. They went to the Verizon store. Then they went home with an unactivated phone, and went through Verizon's crappy activation.

I bought my Epic (Sprint) at Radio Shack, and left the store with an activated phone. I deleted the minimal crapware at home and have no complaints.

I've never left a VZW store with an unactivated phone. Even with the android devices, they set it up in the store (even if I mention that I can do it later ::shrug::).

I've only ever had to activate phones I've gotten in the mail.

This is Verizon's longstanding tradition of crippling perfectly good devices for the sake of restricting users to using VZW's media services. I had a Verizon phone that was perfectly capable of Bluetooth and USB transfers which Verizon's OS had deliberately disabled because heaven forbid someone may transfer content to the phone that wasn't purchased from the Verizon mothership.

It's plain to see what took so long for Verizon to carry iPhone was Apple waited for Verizon to finally accept the condition that VZW can not bastardize and cripple the OS. To bad Google didn't enforce the same policy.

This is Verizon's longstanding tradition of crippling perfectly good devices for the sake of restricting users to using VZW's media services.

Because, you know, if they force it on us long enough, we'll finally realize it's good!

I always find the blame shifting in these sorts of threads interesting. My only comment is, if the user thinks it is Androids fault, then it is Android problem.

More interesting are some of the proposed solutions to tighten controls. So basically you want to introduce enough restrictions such that there is a more consistent UX across Android phones. Which is ... pretty much what Apple does with the iPhone!

I think iOS consistency is directly related to Apples way of doing business. If you want to improve Android and not end up like iOS, you may need a different strategy.

It's really hard to understand all this crippling branding imposed by the manufacturers and the carriers in Android phones. Do you really want people to wince every time they see your brand?

When you buy a PC it comes with all these crap "toolbars" and "dashboards" and antivirus software installed because the manufacturer gets kickbacks from the software vendors. I think the same is probably true for Android phones in the US. I have an HTC Incredible (the first one), which is a great phone, but it has a bunch of third party apps I can't remove.

Manufacturers and carriers want to differentiate their products rather than becoming yet another peddler of generic Android phones. I think Google's strategy from the beginning was to commoditize mobile devices to weaken the carriers stranglehold on internet data (blocking Google's services from their walled gardens).

Although Android wasn't to blame in this article, I have sold my HTC Android to get an iPhone 4 as I was disappointed with the lack of international support.

Android didn't support the Thai language I needed and had to be installed via rooting and copying of font files. It also still doesn't have a native keyboard for the language.

I however booted my iPhone 4 and hey presto perfect Thai fonts and a native keyboard to boot.

Maybe it's not just Android because Thai fonts on Linux suck too.

It seems that Google's mistake has been in allowing the carriers too much latitude in modifying an otherwise decent platform. The carriers have proven, definitively, that they provide negative value for end-user experience and overall device quality. If carrier interference isn't somehow controlled -- or even limited -- then Android's reputation will be severely damaged.

I think being pally with carriers is also whats gotten Android where it is. Among other missteps that Nokia has done - alienating carriers with things like Ovi is one of them - as a result Nokia phones are hard to find on most networks and customers cant buy what is unavailable on carriers. Yes Apple is the shining counter example but until the rest of the world figures out how to negotiate without conceding anything things are as they are.

If his Mum had lusted after an iPhone, that's what they would have bought.

Instead, she lusted after an HTC Incredible, so they bought a Samsung Charge...

In some ways, it was her son that distorted the picture, assuming that all Android phones were equivalent. Without his conviction, his Mum would have dragged him, and his Incredible into a store, and said "I want one like his".

She’s pretty tech savvy –uses Gmail, has a Tumblr, does most of her emailing on an iPad

That is all it takes to be called tech savvy these days?

This is exactly the experience I had. I bought G1 the day it was released, then I bought Droid the day it was released. So yesterday I went to get Droid 3, and I did not buy it. Blur (Motorola's custom UI) makes the phone unusable. I absolutely need a phone with physical keyboard for ssh, so I am stuck. The bootloader is locked. I would actually PAY $50 extra to get a stock Android. Perhaps this is a business model idea for Motorola- charge extra for pure Android... I work for a company that has 10M+ users, and we have been making decisions whether focus on iOS or on Andorid app. Until recently, the thinking was that iOS will be reduced to 10% market share, much like Mac vs PC, so our long term focus should be Android. But recently, with the proliferation of custom bloatware on Android, and based on users' feedback, we are re-evaluating.

I've had similar problems with my Android phone and LatAm carrier (Claro).

Claro has a deal with Yahoo, and they overwrote Browser's search provider configuration, which is a file owned by root, so that when I choose Google the search provider is really Yahoo. They also uninstall GTalk on all phones (which can't be re-installed from the app store) and I had to rely on shady links to .apks posted on forums to install it, and now don't have automatic updates for it.

While I can't directly blame it on Android or Google, I beleive Google should really be the one stepping into the mud and fighting my carrier in order to solve this. As a customer my chances against Claro are almost nil.

"I’m a big Android fanboy and proud PC owner."

How are both related except being not-Apple? Almost as if you are supposed to pick sides - one being Apple and the other not-Apple. Use what suits you. Doesn't matter who makes it.

"... but I worry about the future."

The author's mom is much happier with an iPhone and the author suggests that everything works. Also a friend is mentioned who uses a Nexus S which is "a pleasure to use". Given how things are it's reasonable to say a stock Android will always exists which Google launches with every new Android release. So what's the worry about?

I just got a samsung Gio from China Telecom. The Android Market is not there, instead there are three different lame market apps (estore, gomarket and samsung apps), google integration doesn't work, google maps is not available and it's really just a broken experience using this phone. I tried to install android market manually, but there are a lot of dependencies missing...

Now to be fair, for chinese users, gomarket is probably better and most people don't use google apps that much but it's really a pain...

I never got this ostensible iPhone good for Mom, Android bad thing. My Mom is as technically ignorant as it can get. I gave her an Android phone connected to her home WiFi and with little help she can lock/unlock, make and take calls, see her GMail, visit any photo sharing links I send her etc. Similar story with my friend's parents.

For crying out loud - it's the same simple concept and mostly the same amount of complexity involved. Of course people have preferences - somebody's Mom might perceive iPhone as simpler or better - but that's not a platform issue, it's a preference issue.

Before this can be debated you have give a real thought to how people use their phones - take use cases and compare them on both phones. Checking email - on Android there were 3 different apps installed containing the name mail for example and there was 1 on iPhone. Most newer phones and launchers will allow you to hide apps you don't use - problem solved - one time thing. This is just an example but I don't think anyone goes to this level before claiming this is better or that - I don't think there is much difference now a days given my experience.

Also from the article - "Want to activate your phone? Take the battery out, write down a series of minuscule numbers" - Umm why? VZW will gladly activate and setup your phone and so will BestBuy.

[Edit: Oh she already had iPad experience - no wonder then.]

I recently got the Charge (from Amazon Wireless, saved a couple hundred bucks), and I've had none of the problems listed in this article. This is my first Android phone, I came from an iPhone, and I've found the experience to be very pleasant so far. Perhaps I just "don't know better", but I'm still happy.

It sounds like this guy's experience was "This phone is different than my phone, and I can't do things the way I was expecting to. It sucks." It's like someone sitting at a computer running a different OS then they use, and saying "this sucks, I can't figure out where X is. In my OS X is right here, but it's not right here now. This OS is crap". It's also like someone switching from Office 2003 to Office 2007 and hating it because the menus are different.

Also, I feel like everyone overreacts to the installed apps you "can't" get rid of, and not just on this phone, but any phone including the iPhone (I'm looking at you Stocks app). I don't like or use them either, but it's not like they're getting the way, preventing you from doing anything, or taking up any noticeable amount of the phone's resources. For me, it's more frustrating to not have the option of removing them, then actually having them on my phone.

Hazards of being open to manufacturers. It is a clear trade off, one we seen before with Windows. OEMs and carriers love this access, but more often than not they just fuck a good phone up. Of course, there are clear benefits, such as the ability to sell a phone for $150 outright with $35 a month unlimited data plans. It is a compromise, just like the iPhone model has compromise. It just happens the iPhone's compromises work better for those who have tons of attention to detail and a few extra dollars to burn. But at the end of the day, the Windows model works, even if it is at the expense of some frustrated customers and the scorn of the power users. Most users won't care, smart users will either avoid Android or go for an Android without such BS, and the world will still turn.

Reminds me of a movie quote: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0168122/quotes?qt0294371

I was torn between Android and the iPhone for a while. But fear of experiences just like the one described eventually led to pick the one I knew would work. I picked the one where the single responsible is the best in the world at sanding off all the rough edges of the user experience.

Past experience with Apple Care and with other devices having multiple responsible parties made it easy. When many are responsible, none are ultimately responsible. Except you, of course.

Apple goes out of its way to do everything for you that has a learning curve and where there's no point in you learning it. It just makes more sense to write a piece of software that performs a complex task well than to expect millions to struggle with it.

Yes, I know Android is infinitely flexible. But on a mission critical device like my phone, I don't want to have to infinitely flex.

TL;DR: not Android is the problem, but the vendor crapware. As a rule, always only buy Nexus phones.

I upgraded my Android phone (from HTC Hero to LG Optimus 2x / P990) very recently and I still cannot stop smiling when I pull it out. It's amazing. It is the first upgrade that actually feels like a leap forward. The Hero was okay, but this thing is stunning.

But - I did a lot of research before, compared reviews, checked prices and even made sure that this phone is supported by 3rd party ROMs. Obviously I'm a niche kind of power user - I got the phone and installed CM in the first hour of usage and tried a couple of different ROMs since then (now running MIUI).

Apart from the battery life (which, tbh, is really crap. Depending on usage and what kind of crazy stuff I'm running atm I get between 10 and 30 hours) I have zero complains. Best thing ever.

Title is extremely misleading. Should be "Verizon Android Phone" instead of just Android.

It's frustrating how little progress has been made. In a lot of ways I feel like the problems are getting worse not better. For the average person who has very low expectations and a high tolerance for pain it may not be a big issue but it really gets on my nerves to keep hitting the same issues over and over again every single day. I would be happier using stock Android but the process of rooting my phone is about 25 steps and requires downgrading to an old version of Android to root the device before installing a new ROM. (even though Motorola supposedly decided to unlock their boot loaders I haven't seen any change yet)

"Why not certify and approve a few of the best components and then place some sort of “premium Android experience” certification label on phones that pass tests and use components approved by Google?"

This is a great idea.

If one's nitpicky enough — there are no smartphones that work right — not a single one.

The only thing that varies (mostly between users, less frequently between devices) is what's considered "good enough".

My mom did the exact same thing. She wanted to finally get her first smartphone, so she went to Best Buy to upgrade from her crappy flip phone to an iPhone 4, but the sales rep insisted that Android was "way better".

She knows how to use a computer, but she isn't the most tech-savvy person around. She was calling me constantly trying to figure out how to use her Android phone. I finally said she should probably switch to an iPhone instead, and a day after she did she was playing Angry Birds and sending me MMS picture messages, all without any help at all.

I’m sorry what? To make the phone work right I have to possibly void the warranty or brick the phone and load a customized operating system?

To be fair, that's pretty much what you need to do with an iPhone, too.

That's not true at all, or not anymore after iOS 4, at least. (to be fair, lots of Androids don't need rooting at all, too)

In fact, it's quite the opposite of what rooting is intended to do in the context of this article, which is putting the phone in a pure, clean state.

As the owner of a Motorola Charm, I can relate to the lady.

The Moto Charm sucks. It is full of bugs.

I'm not a Motorola hater, as I've had a couple in the past (including the old v555, which lasted for a couple of years).

The onus here is on Google. They are going to have to more rigorously enforce their platform or it will become useless. Say what you want about iOS, but I know exactly what to expect when I use or develop for it. That makes my life much easier. Android in its best case can be fantastic, but the problem is that there are many cases that are far from best case. I am hesitant to develop for Android due to this.

This is an open/closed debate, nothing more. The OP likes closed systems. "I’d love to see Google somehow mandate the stock Android experience on all phones." He is afraid to customized his stuff and just wants it to work out of the box. Well, that's what Apple is. Go do that. Android is a different model entirely, for a different segment of consumers than yourself.

As we are talking about portable miniature computers with phone capabilities, does anyone know an Android/Win7 phone that can do this kind of stuff...


I'd need audio in and decent non-destructive editing

This has turned out exactly like the Windows PC situation, it seems. Computer comes loaded with so much crap it's almost unusable, and you have to have a tech-savvy friend spend a day cleaning it up (or doing a clean reinstall) to make it usable. I wonder if Google will do more than Microsoft has done to try to retain control of the end user experience.

new Android devices should come with MIUI Rom right out of the box. ;)

As far as I know those guys are in the process of releasing a phone of their own right now. It should be 'ready' in the beginning of August?

They start selling it in China but seem to be open to the idea of worldwide shipment..

The HTC Desire was the best phone I've ever bought. Especially coming from an iPhone 3G, which was very buggy and slow.

This is why I will never buy an Android device. Device manufactures have ruined the platform.

Everything has negatives.

Android: might have to deal with crapware. Apple: oh, you can't do that on an iPhone.

This is verizon problem, not android. Buy smartphone from retailers who is not affiliated with any cell provider (i.e. without all this junk apps and customized UI), buy SIM card from cell provider, plug it in and use. This is how it works in Europe.

I understand that the author is pissed because of the bad UX. But all he claims is a branding issue or a manufacturers fail.

Still it's Googles job to set boundaries to not let them do what they want.

In my opinion this is just one of many imprecised android reviews.

I guess this illustrates one of the downsides of Google Android being free software: when just about any manufacturer can create a sub-standard phone that runs the operating system, it can really damage the brand as a whole.

What a shame.

I've used at least three Android devices now and I always recommend people to buy only the flagship device of a manufacturer. They usually get upgrades...eventually (hello Samsung?) and the experience is usually better.

A fairly similar experience to buying a laptop with Windows pre-installed. Tons of junk and third-party bullshit. Multiple anti-virus bollox, browser toolbars etc. Took me an hour to clean up.

the user has an ipad. is used to an ipad.of course she isnt going to like android. of those smartphone users who started out with wm or palm who has went on most have went to android not iphone cause of its flexablity and IMHO look and feel. some has went the iphone route and love it. me i cant stand it. its just a feature phone to me. many android users wont buy an ipad they will buy an android tablet. reason being is the continuity. LOL

What the author actually meant to title the post was, 'why my Mom bought a phone which was ruined by Verizon and returned it for a handset they couldn't pollute'.

Can we stop blaming Android for what the carries do with their phones? Please?!

I have a Nexus S. I switched it on and it just worked.

In fact about 5 minutes after I switched it on, it informed me that there was an upgrade to Android available. "Do you want to upgrade?" Sure. Just like that, over the air.

Do that with an iPhone, you need iTunes installed (i.e. you need a computer somewhere).

There's no crappy software on it either.

Not anymore. iOS5 has OTA updates. (the last beta update was pushed OTA)

I wrote this up yesterday and didn't publish it because my Facebook friends couldn't care less.

CyanogenMod releases faster, has more stable [stable] releases, uses better, more mature, widely embraced software (mtd over bml, ext4, etc), has more (and more consistent) features. Carriers are asking the manufacturers to lock the bootloaders to keep you from flashing CyanogenMod on it and your mom having a stable phone that receives fast updates.

They prefer methods of control that cause users to want to upgrade because half their phone capacity is already being spent running Blur, Sense or some daemons that have running to support their proprietary front ends. And none of it, of course, is truly necessary. Extremely complex theming options are available, again via an open source feature developed by T-Mobile and shared with the OSS community.

And before anyone says it, my mother hated her Droid in it's later Froyo days. It was faster and better battery than Eclair but was also more prone to freezing and being low on memory. I installed CM7 stable, she gets push updates that are seamlessly handled via Rom Manager. The only thing I had to tell her was to make sure the "Backup checkbox is filled in". If need be, restoration instructions are very simple for me to give over the phone, but in ALL my days of flashing nightlies on several (of my) phones, I've never had to.

Same story with the brother's Droid Incredible with the horrendous and offensive previous versions of Sense. The sad thing is, Verizon killed the Gingerbread update. It was leaked and largely fully functional, but no phone will ever see it.

Not all Androids are created equally. [Just to be on the same page, I'm not using this as an excuse. It's a huge perception problem. End users don't know that the Thunderbolt, Nexus S, and Droid X all have different interfaces and complexities going on in the background.] I'm also not sure if I "want" Google to do anything about it, besides be more emphatic that the "Google" branding on the phone makes it better. (That branding is reserved for the clean, near-AOSP roms)]

>I installed CM7 stable, she gets push updates that are seamlessly handled via Rom Manager.

Does this work for major updates? As far as I know when you want to move between major versions (the next one is 7->7.1) you have to basically wipe the phone and start from scratch. Because most Android apps use local storage that isn't synced to the cloud, to actually keep your data you'll have to use hacky things like Titanium Backup that may or may not corrupt data, particularly so for system settings.

The biggest shortcoming I see in CM is this, the lack of a good Over The Air upgrade method that keeps your data. Ideally I'd like to see Google offer APIs to apps so that their data is continuously synced to my google account and then upgrading or getting a new phone would just be a matter of logging in and letting it sync for a while, making it closer to a ChromeOS experience.

I've gone from super alpha CM7 to CM7.1 and current nightlies without wiping, save for once, and that was due to Google Apps changing.

CM6 -> CM7 you have to wipe, but most OTA updaters will tell you that the OTAs from Eclair->Froyo or Froyo->Gingerbread effectively require a data wipe anyway. My mother had issue after issue after the Eclair->Froyo OTA and they went away when she did a factory reset (wipes /data).

>Ideally I'd like to see Google offer APIs to apps so that their data is continuously synced to my google account

They exist, though there is some fine print about device compatibility that is a bit wonky and NO one seems to use them for anything. I agree. I think this is the missing feature in a large way. I hate having to remember to turn off the loud beep in QR Scanner when I wipe my Droid (it's speaker is sooo incredibly loud). Things like that would be trivial to store in text config and/or sync with Google.

>CM6 -> CM7 you have to wipe, but most OTA updaters will tell you that the OTAs from Eclair->Froyo or Froyo->Gingerbread effectively require a data wipe anyway. My mother had issue after issue after the Eclair->Froyo OTA and they went away when she did a factory reset (wipes /data).

I just checked and 7.1 doesn't require a wipe, I was under the impression that it did. Is it that only when the upstream major android version changes that you need to wipe? A quick googling leads me to believe at least Google's official OTAs for the Nexus line don't require wiping.

"Not all Androids are created equally."

That, in many ways, is the nub of the problem.

It is only really a problem if you somehow want android to 'beat' iOS.

If as a consumer, I'm able to buy an Android phone that makes me happy, I think the situation is doing OK.

This is the problem with Android. You flee the clutches of one unscrupulous and controlling company (Apple) into the clutches of your choice of many other unscrupulous and controlling but also incompetent companies. Android's advantages are strictly hypothetical when the last mile of the user experience is controlled by exploitative bunglers like Verizon.

It seems strange to say "This is the problem with Android" and follow up by describing how it's manufacturers and carriers' faults.

Sure, I'd love if Google rolled out their own VoIP based wireless service, but that's a pipe dream and that's not really the point. Google-branded Android phones avoid these problems. They're not hypothetical, there are many devices that are more than capable of running pure AOSP or CM7.

I guess it's just a matter of terminology, but again, I don't know what people want to have done about it. The model for buying phones in the United States is broken and there's no way to control that ecosystem from where Google sits. Period. The cat's out of the bag, and I vastly prefer being able to build and flash CM7 than the more restrictive alternative across the isle.

This is all true but, for the average user, entirely academic. What counts is their personal experience of the phone. What is a matter of terminology to us is a costly matter of frustration and regret for them.

I'd like to see Google start promoting its own phones a lot more, although it's a tightwire act for them now since they risk alienating the other handset makers if they go too far.

i will say that on every android article.

Android will only be relevant when we start to treat phones as PCs.

the mobile operators of today are the IBM of yesterday that rented mainframes time.

the unlocked mobile phones of today are the PCs of yesterday that you could install any OS you pleased. ...even that at the time you only had a bunch of DOS and BASIC shells, now you only have a couple android distros.

dumping your $600 on an iphone is like still be paying for a mainframe to use a slow clipper app over a slow terminal that could run 10x faster on a local PC.

give that up and buy an unlocked android phone, root it in 2 steps (all you need if it's unlocked), give everyone your SIP phone number (or gvoice if you're lazy like me) and keep changing operators every year to the cheaper promotions.

She should have tried Windows Phone. Same benefits of iPhone with choice of hardware

or, Why i got a non-subsided android phone and kept it.

yeah, it's bad to have some of my options crippled by bloatware. but i can still choose to avoid those. and still plenty of choices, with different screen sizes, batteries, prices, keyboards or not, etc.

iphone has lessbloatware, but no choices.

where are the wireles data provider start ups?

I guess the article was written by Steve Jobs.

So you made a poor choice of device for your mom and you are blaming Android? If you know that the Nexus S is a pleasure to use, why would you buy a phone full of crapware? Why didnt you bought the Nexus S?

I like Android, but I always make a careful research before buy one or recommend one. I use a Nexus S and it is amazing. I will change it only for the next Nexus.

To all those people saying that it isn't Android fault but the carrier's: it is Android fault.

Android wants to be open, and with openness comes crapware, just like your gigabytes of crapware installed on your "some-how-open" Windows machine. The solution? Make sure that carriers won't install crapware anymore, but then how would that be open anymore?

Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact