"The subtle, pervasive lag that has characterized the Android UI since its inception is still there."
You have got to be kidding me. How is it that Android still doesn't map a user's finger movements with nearly 1:1 accuracy on the screen? Pinch, zoom and flick response times on the iPhone have been superior to Android for years, even with significantly less powerful hardware (compare a 3GS response speed to a Nexus S and it's painfully different).
Imagine if your mouse cursor couldn't keep up with your hand movements, or if letters didn't appear on the screen until a moment after you pressed your keyboard. That's what using Android is like for me, someone who has owned an iPhone since 2007. When I use my friends' Android phones, any of them, especially in the browser, it boggles my mind how laggy everything is. When will this actually be addressed?
>letters didn't appear on the screen until a moment after you pressed your keyboard.
<eyes-closed> <imagining/> </eyes-closed>
Even in my imagination, Android installed base is still growing at nearly 2X of that of the iPhone. Apparently, most people don't care for whatever you're saying they should care about. I have experienced the lag you mention, but I have a big, lovely screen on my Galaxy S [which is one of the reasons I upgraded from my iPhone 3GS], so I'm okay with it. My wife (a realtor) has never mentioned lag as an issue.
I don't mean to be rude, but we hear so often that Android fanboys use the silliest things as justifications for the shortcomings of Android [and they do!]. At the same time, Apple fanboys trumpet the silliest of things as justifications for the superiority of iOS [witness the many apologies/rationalizations after the 4S announcement]. You're trumpeting a silly thing.
This reason is personal. Others don’t care about it. That’s certainly true. But I do. Why am I not allowed to bring this up? Why is that silly?
I remember seeing a chart awhile ago which showed that while Android's market share is getting larger than the iPhone's, it isn't actually taking away any share from the iPhone but instead from RIM, Windows phones, and feature phones. (just did some googling and found the link):
What I think this means is that the people aren't moving away from their iPhones, but instead people who don't have a smart phone to begin with are more likely to pick an Android phone instead of an iPhone.
Maybe it's due to things like finger lag, or how great the camera / video is, or maybe for completely non-technological reasons , i.e. cost, or even as simple as which phones are available on their carriers, which I honestly think it could be it as I have heard that where I live (Australia) the iPhone has one of the largest market shares in the world (4.5 million iPhones with a population of 22 million), and I think is one of the only places which place no restrictions on which carriers can stock the iPhone.
In all fairness, it is early days yet and I think once the smart phone market has reached saturation we might start to see a different story play out between the competing OSes.
Android is the new Feature Phone, in some ways. Just because someone buys a cheap Android clone doesn't mean they embrace the features in the way that nearly every iPhone user does.
Google need to work exceptionally hard, else I figure even Microsoft will catch up.
Android is very inconsistent.
Isn't Apple proof enough that simply hitting the bullet points is not enough? Or Sony (with the PlayStation, which got thoroughly trounced by a machine bearing inferior specs across the board)?
People love polish, they love attention to detail, they love absolute frictionless products. Apple has priced themselves out of the low end (the 3GS' performance is a joke compared to the Android phones at that price point), so Android is largely dominating that segment.
But make no mistake about it - Apple owns the high-end smartphone market because their product has all of those things you just blithely dismissed.
Most people want a cheap car that gets good mileage. The lack of heated seats, automatic wipers, and a V8 under the hood makes no difference to most people. But yet, we know that the dynamics of the automotive market can't be hand-waved away so easily - why do it to the smartphone/consumer electronics market?
If you don't think the lag is a problem, fine, great. I personally think it's unacceptable. It's one of the reasons my daily use phone is iOS and not Android.
Why are we talking about this instead of the other new features? Because for a long, long time, Ice Cream Sandwich was touted as the solution to these performance problems.
I personally find Android unpleasant to use because of it. Worse, I think it makes my software look shitty, which makes me look shitty, which makes me tell people to demo my apps on iOS rather than Android.
the sad thing is there's more intelligent conversation about Androids new features in the techcrunch article than here. Its sad once theres a hivemind mentality in a community.
Two years ago! You'd think they'd get animation, finger mapping, etc down by now, considering the arms race in Android seems to be around screen size and processor power. I appreciate what Google is doing and I did like my Android phones (I don't have any right now however), but the animation thing and finger mapping bugged me.
Personally I just think it is clear that Android has gone well beyond the limits of caring (not perception) for the vast majority of users. There will always be nits for picking, but acting like this really needs to be addressed (especially considering how subjective this performance perception can be) is silly.
They also are regularly out of pre-paid credit.
As a developer I couldn't care less about that kind of user, and I suspect few developers make a living on a fragmented and inconsistent platform like Android.
This in turn means less quality and variety of apps, which detracts even more from the experience.
If you have no money and no taste, sure lagginess, a terrible UI and advertising laden apps can be acceptable.
I don't have this problem at all (Samsung Galaxy S2)
Kudos to Opera. I would like to ask: has anyone else observed this? If not, could you give it a whirl and see how it compares?
Only downside is that it takes a while to load and seems to lose its state when switching away. Still, it's a much better experience than the stock WebKit browser.
So the question on my mind is, how does Opera do it? Is the WebKit browser simply failing to use GPU acceleration? Why? Clearly Android as a platform can do responsive, non-laggy UX because it's right there in Opera. And yet the WebKit browser lets us, and the many apps that exploit it, down.
Is it purely that GPU support hasn't been baked in yet because of lack of handset support? Or is it something more fundamentally problematic in Android?
One final tangential observation: OS X suffered from similar poor performance when it was first released. I clearly remember the tech press scoffing and ridiculing it in comparison to Windows XP and OS9. But it matured, helped by ever improving hardware, and grew into a great OS known for its style and snap. Is Google treading a similar path?
But so far all the hardware we've seen out of MS's camp has been me-too almost-clones of existing Android devices. None of the hardware have contained any features or industry design that would really make it desireable.
MSFT desperately needs a piece of hardware to act as WP7's flagship - something with the build quality and design quality of the iPhone 4. A real piece of art people can hold in their hands - IMO this would be the ticket to MS having a fighting chance in the smartphone wars.
They also desperately need to stop marketing in-house. Microsoft blows at marketing, and everything they do in-house falls flat on its face, and so far everyone they hire from the outside seems to suck equally as much (if not worse. Seinfeld?). Microsoft desperately needs to get its marketing act together.
And that is exactly the problem.
Perhaps we should only count phones that are sold for the full, unsubsidized price, to avoid giving an unreasonable edge to phones that sell for $200 with contract.
The article in question is http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/26/androids-dirty-secret-shipp..., and the claim in question is "many return rates are approaching 40% said a person familiar with handset sales for multiple manufacturers." And that's exactly the amount of detail provided. Forgive me if I'm not bowled over.
> Imagine if your mouse cursor couldn't keep up with
> your hand movements
Same story: Firefox, or even Chrome - when compared to Opera. Opera has it's weak points, but it's interface interaction is amazingly snappy. Actually, it's quite amazing how big difference these tiny things can make.
We are simply spoiled by the Apple's way of doing things: fixing things that aren't broken for the betterment of UX. Take the smoother folder opening animations in iOS 5, for example. Apple didn't have to fix it but Apple did it anyways because both Apple and its users care about things like that. Unfortunately, some people just don't.
"Poor responsiveness"? Yes, that's on my list. 2011, and 2009 back when my 3GS made every Android phone on the market look like it was running through treacle.
The gap has narrowed, but it's still embarrassing that so much computing power has been thrown at this, but still it feels like Android just can't keep up with my finger movements. Coming from iOS, this is a really big UX issue. List and scroll views on iOS feel like they're glued to your fingers. On android they don't, and it makes the whole UI feel 'slippery' - like you don't have a decent grip on UI objects.
Boston fans used to complain about their streak of 80+ years without a World Series win, but of course that's all over now. The Cubs, meanwhile, have passed the century mark: since they didn't even make the playoffs this year, the streak stands at 103 years, with the last win in 1908.
Thirty years into my personal fandom, I've grown accustomed to shrugging and saying "there's always next year" because, well, there is. Of course, "next year" never really happens; even when they get so close there's always something, like Game 6 of the 2003 NLDS when the wheels just completely came off in the space of about an inning.
But then, "next year" probably isn't going to materialize soon anyway. The Cubs have spent too many years in a row now chasing over-the-hill ex-stars, giving them huge contracts and then living with the results. The farm system's a mess and there's no cohesiveness to the team or the organization, and won't be for a good long while.
Which is why a lot of people probably think it's crazy to keep betting on "next year", when what's really needed is a massive overhaul and then four or five years of rebuilding effort. They probably think it's crazy, too, to just pretend there aren't systemic problems in the organization, to talk about how this year's problems were different from last year's problems, to act as if bringing in a couple big-name hired guns and slapping some lipstick on the pig will lead to winning it all, and soon.
But I've been watching the Cubs for three decades now, and I'm a devout member of the Church of Next Year. I'm a fan, and I'll always be a fan, and even if there isn't a championship in the cards I can be proud of the fact that at least Wrigley Field will always be packed, which is something you can't say for a lot of teams that actually win (heck, Tampa Bay fans didn't even turn out to watch their team mount an epic September comeback and make the playoffs on the very last day of the season). And, of course, a stadium full of seats is probably worth a lot more to the owners than a championship, right?
Less Crappy apps
Better user interface
Better battery life
Android is free to license, and the OEMs are benefactors of an incredibly wealthy company that seems to have no qualms about throwing gajillions of dollars into R&D to make a best-in-class mobile OS.
Android not being "good software" cannot be in any way spun as a win for the proletariat - because there is no opportunity cost. The cost to engineer the OS is in no way passed on to the consumer, and so far only the hardware is (with some marginal amount of software integration).
In other words, Google is pouring hundreds of millions to develop Android. The average phone consumer (in any part of the world) is not paying for its development (customers of other Google products are), so the argument that somehow these "cut corners" has resulted in a more affordable product is a complete non-sequitor.
> "This allows people with probably no other way to access the internet to be able to have the same luxuries through there phone."
And that is an excuse for poor engineering... how? Your point is that, if Google didn't "cut these corners", this free product may very well not exist, and thus unable to provide these benefits to the developing world at low cost.
Which is, again, a non-sequitor, since there is no evidence whatsoever that Google treats Android like an exercise in budget engineering for the developing world. They are banking practically the whole company on it, and throwing top talent at Android, with a seemingly bottomless budget.
Suffice it to say, if Google spent some more time optimizing and improving UI responsiveness, the developing world will not suffer, and in fact will get a better product for the same price they're currently paying: $0.
This is the same stupid argument that people used with Nokia years ago, before (surprise!) Android came in and ate their lunch. Those budget candy bar phones sure did bring mobile telephony to the masses, and any attempt at critiquing the phones' hardware or software was rebuked with claims of "well if it was better it wouldn't be affordable you elitist".
And of course, then Google came in with Android and now we have touchscreen smartphones in the developing world. And people continue to jump on criticism of Android with the same lame-duck excuse.
If it doesn't, that'd be supremely disappointing, since it's truly one of the things that has been plaguing Android since it first launched.
> "Android supports just about all possible hardware configurations from low end to high end."
All the more reason the UI stack needs to be optimized from end to end. Apple can pretty much just assume you have a 800MHz dual-core under the hood, Google cannot. It's taken some serious firepower to get Android's UI to be suitably responsive (we're talking dual-core, 1+ GHz beasts)... what hope does the developing world have trying to run that kind of software on little 400MHz ARM chips?
We know from the development of OSX (or iOS, depending on where you want to look) that even a minimal amount of hardware acceleration from low-end GPUs can do wonders for overall UI performance. A reasonably low-end GPU will lay waste to a large number of problems that even mid-high-end CPUs are poorly equipped to solve.
If anything, if Google wants to make a difference in the developing world this needs to be a top priority - after all, this is the market that is least able to brute force their way past performance problems with raw hardware.
> "As the parent comment was pointing out, people are willing to pay for the luxury of animations, or polish. For most people just getting calls, text, email and mobile web, at affordable prices is all we really want."
I think it's short-sighted to call responsive, rich UI a "luxury". Before Android phones hit the developing world, the status quo was candy bar phones. I'm sure there were enough people back then proclaiming they couldn't imagine needing anything more - it places calls and gets texts, what else could someone reasonably wish for?
But then Android brought smartphones to these parts of the world and the goalpost moved. Now expecting mobile web and email on your phone is entirely reasonable, thanks to what used to be the sole territory of luxury devices. Software is something that has literally no marginal cost - once produced, it can be shipped on ten million phones for negligible cost, and in this sense is pretty much the cheapest way you can improve your products. IMO saying that good UI is exclusively the territory of luxury devices is doing a great disservice to the developing world.
Google ought to be doing better, considering the sheer force they have thrown behind Android, and if these long-awaited hardware acceleration features fail to significantly tame the UI performance beast, it is in every way appropriate to call them to task on it.
We are simply spoiled by the Apple's way of doing things:
fixing things that aren't broken for the betterment of UX.
It really makes me wonder.
This reminds me of Amiga vs Windows. Many years after Amiga's demise, the bloody mouse cursor still lagged in Windows very noticeably. I guess not many people had done much work in Amiga's workbench so it wasn't a big deal for almost nobody. But it wasn't until Pentium III times that it stopped disturbing me on a daily basis.
By opt in, they have to bump their targetSdkVersion, so it's not a big deal. Source: http://developer.android.com
Given that it hasn't been available in phones until now (that is, in ICS), it’s understandable why we've seen laggy UI.
Each SDK introduces new permissions, so now your app doesn't auto-update anymore. Which means you have a bunch of different versions of your app floating around, without converging. (I can write a whole essay about how their permissions stuff is broken - see iOS' model for a non-broken alternative).
There is a reason Honeycomb adoption is abysmal - developers haven't gotten around to customizing their apps for it, which in turn results in lower sales of Honeycomb devices. And keeping up this pace isn't going to make it easier.
Am I just being unreasonable here, or do others feel some of this pain too?
If you know the details and spend a few minutes thinking about what's involved in making stuff 'just work', you'll realize how painful it is. Google's solution is to let devs release multiple APKs per platform - that is it's own maintenance nightmare (bugs/servicing, testing, dev environments, etc).
As an exercise, try converting a mildly complex app from using Activities to using Fragments. I guarantee you that you will need to sacrifice some functionality (for instance, try using ViewPager with ListFragments, and implement keyboard filtering). Now, hack stuff till you're only sort-of broken. Then, try to make it work from v1.6 to v3.0. Then, test it all in the ass-slow emulator (because you're unlikely to have devices running all those versions). It'll drive you insane, I promise.
Oh crap. I may be a fan boy. And I may be a gadget guy... Stupid technology and its awesomeness.... <insert Homer Simpson drool sound>
I'm also really excited about that camera. Instant photo capturing, and the video recording looked incredible. Hopefully it works as well as advertised, too, when launched.
Does the fact they're moving from hardware buttons -> software buttons mean that current handsets are left out of the upgrade process? If so - I think it's a huge mistake. They didn't seem to cover it in the meeting... hopefully current Android owners won't be completely left out of the upgrade...
I'm sure it won't block upgrades, but it's definitely at least a little bit awkward. I'm also wondering what apps will look like with the menu button--is there a 4th added onscreen? Then how does the hardware/software button mapping work?
The menu button will likely be handled similarly to Honeycomb (it will appear for legacy apps, and disappear for modern apps).
As far as I know, manufacturers are still allowed to include hardware buttons for now, thus old phones can still be upgraded. I expect they will phase this out eventually though, thanks to the flexibility that purely soft buttons can offer. The honeycomb buttons really do work better than the ones on previous phones (fewer inadvertant taps, easier to tap when wanted, etc).
I'd be surprised to see current phones upgraded to ICS at all, anyway, and manufacturers who choose to use hardware buttons will likely choose the 3-button Honeycomb/ICS layout.
I was roughly halfway towards either peltier elements or Stirling engines, when I realized hat Ice Cream Sandwich is probably one of those silly names that people feel they have to give to their software.
This is like those HN comments that ask who rms is.
If they'd simply call it Android version x.xx there would be no problem at all.
The only other arena where I recall come across such silly names is when people name their horses.
Who RMS is is important enough for me to remember, I couldn't care less what each android release is named because (1) I don't have an android phone and (2) I don't develop for Android.
Saying that it is just a dessert name and that I'm supposed to realize that is the same as telling you that you should have known that Grießbrei is a dessert too (and that one at least roughly translates). There is no equivalent to Ice Cream Sandwich in any other language that I'm aware of.
From a user perspective, the interface is super cluttered. Its like Windows, just a screen full of icons and battery-eating widgets.
Check the video out on the link. Watch how long it takes him just to find the camera for the demonstration--at first he doesnt even know which way to go. Its just too much for a phone if you ask me. Even with its oversized screen the Nexus looked crowded. Its not a tablet--less is more.
Furthermore, as a developer I dont like this descision to keep apps running even when you side-swipe them out of the 'active-app' list. Google reps claim that Android can handle resources well enough that we never need to worry about completely closing any app but if you ask me that sounds suspect. If resources are that plentiful and the OS is still completely open-source then its only a matter of time until this is exploited and the phone starts to lag. And if something does go wrong in an app I apparently can't kill it? I just see a number of problems down the road.
I'm not a developer, just a 4th year CS student who doesn't even own an Android handset yet, but I do agree about how apps being kept running even when side-swiped away is kind of troublesome. It would be nice of we were offered some sort of option as to whether we'd like to permanently close it - but that distinction and its effects are probably lost to a majority of handset users, and is probably Google's justification.
The VM that Android runs on, as is pointed out in another comment, is designed to kill off processes if it needs resources. Either way, its never been a selling point of Android for me, personally.
It's really not a function of plentiful resources. It's that the contract only allows applications to keep running, it doesn't guarantee it. So if resources are a bit low, Android has the right to kill -9 any background process.
In Android 2.2+ this actually works really well, in my experience.
I do agree with your other points, though. Matias Duarte is good at making it pretty, but his designs tend to be quite cluttered and complicated, IMO. I wish they would focus on simplifying and making the interface more welcoming.
I find iOS's homescreen extremely cluttered and VERY frustrating to use.
ICS now has the home-screen x666 panels, your apps list, a seperate tab for widgets and another mess of panels, the new people window, your list of recent apps, a home button, a back button, twelve-hundred other buttons (all of which can be reassigned by any running application), blah blah blah.
I know I'm obviously exaggerating, my point is the OS shouldnt promote the kind of clutter that I'm seeing in what should be a clean-cut OS-release demo.
You can also access the camera from the lock screen. I'm not sure that's a good example of how the interface is difficult to navigate, actually, rather than of how easy it is to fumble a demonstration.
As a nexus one user, I am worried that the stock ICS may not support the phone's hardware. The whole buttons things is a mess. Love Android!
But I am curious if Android still decides for me that I cannot take a picture if my battery is less than 10%. I sure hope not... I prefer making the decision myself.
You flick items away in some cases, you pull screens to rotate/pan them. This is already implemented in some mods and is totally natural.
My confusion stems from the contacts app. They swipe to get another 'page' of the UI like switching between home-screens. If it was consistent with the GMail app swiping on the individual contact should bring up more information about the item not switch to another page?
This headline is funny, and a little stupid. I wish more stuff was just version numbers and not codenames. /endgripe
I have a Droid X, and while at first it felt a bit big, I've totally fallen in love with having a ton of screen real estate. I have relatively small hands, and I rarely have issues.
Also, I think the stuff about Apple having found the One True Size because it fits your hand for one handed action is bullshit, since one of the main novel interactions -- pinch-to-zoom -- requires two hands.
It's a simple matter of preference. I think it's fantastic that I have a range of sizes to choose from. I wish everyone would let me decide for myself.
This screen has an HD resolution screen with ~316 ppi. So they made a bigger and higher pixel density screen. With AMOLED.
But thanks anyway for the downvote. ;)