I've been keeping up with Shawn's Android experience for the past week or so on his daily podcast, 'Shawn Today' (subscribe to his site if you don't already), and have been eagerly awaiting his full review. Known for his exhaustive detail, Shawn has collided with so many characteristics of modern Android devices that cause me ceaseless frustration -- characteristics I believe to be emblematic of the systemic problems in the Android phone marketplace today. With specific regard to Shawn's review of the Galaxy Nexus, I latched onto two primary flaws.
Firstly, the sheer size of the device. Android phone manufacturers seem to be in some sort of race to make the largest, most inconvenient phone possible. It's getting to the point, as Shawn rightly points out, that the line between phone and tablet is being forcibly skewed.
This gives the Galaxy Nexus an aura that makes me wonder if it’s supposed to be a tablet that makes phone calls or a phone that you need two hands to use. I realize that’s a goofy and exaggerated statement, but I exaggerate it to make a point I am serious about: the phone is simply too big.
Secondly, LTE. Sure you can squeeze out some phenomenal speeds, but phones today are incapable of efficiently powering such connection pace. Shawn found that lower powered chargers couldn't even keep up with the battery loss incurred by LTE use. Really?
At 11:30 AM I started out and the battery of the Nexus was at 43-percent. After 25 minutes the battery had drained down to 33-percent even though it was plugged into a car charger.
Although I believe LTE is the future, the technology should simply not be present in its current form as a defining, advertised feature. If you expect to have a useable device, LTE entirely undercuts your hopes, and relegates your phone's potential connection speeds to isolated and inconvenient situations.
These two blatant flaws highlight a systemic problem with Android phone production, and the two flaws combined provide a damning indictment of the Android phone marketplace.
Rather than building the best device for the user, manufacturers are intent on differentiating themselves from increasingly similar products. Absurd product names, enormous screens, and LTE connections cannot, and will not, disguise the fact that all of these devices are running the same operating system and have largely similar internals.
Having listened to The Verge's podcast, 'The Vergecast,' regularly in recent weeks, I've heard the team wax lyrical about the sheer brilliance of the device. I've read positive reviews, and I've felt fairly optimistic about the device's prospects. And yet, reading through Shawn's review, I have returned to negativity.
The Galaxy Nexus is the pinnacle of Android devices, and I can certainly see the appeal therein. Having said that, the apparent desire to throw everything possible into making these devices is an entirely unattractive prospect for me. While that might be some gadget enthusiasts' dream, I personally don't need something that is hamstrung by the breadth of what it tries to do. I need a device that is cognizant of its limits, and does everything it should do near flawlessly.
The cause of this problem does not lie with the operating system, it lies with the manufacturers.
The market for Android devices is convoluted, and it poses a great many problems for the consumer. While the underlying operating system is clearly improving, the above ground shitstorm that is the Android phone marketplace is a disaster. Rather than innovating, manufacturers (aside from two notable exceptions) have taken an easier route in adopting an open operating system and doing little more. As such, ugly skins, cringeworthy names, and ridiculous features have become the only source for differentiation.
The Galaxy Nexus is meant to be the flagship Android device. It is the device that should embody the strength and potential of the platform. But it isn't. Android could be so much more, but manufacturers are caught up with faux innovation for the sake of product differentiation in a muddied marketplace. As such, in my eyes, the Galaxy Nexus has become the flagship device of an inexcusably sorry state of affairs.
Amazon and Barnes & Noble are the clear exception to this perfect storm of ill-advised product development, and they are both finding success in the tablet marketplace. Two retail companies are finding far greater success than companies dedicated to the manufacture of consumer electronics. Pitiful.
Nevertheless, Android is selling and growing. But more importantly to me, the OS itself is improving, and I'm honestly pleased that is the case. I think it has been misguided in the past but is steadily finding its way. I think Ice Cream Sandwich is a leap in the right direction, and I truly hope its indicative of the trajectory for the platform.
What tirelessly bothers me is the hardware it is delivered in. These absurd phones lack any semblance of rational tact or sensible implementation, and that is honestly a crying shame.
As an aside, I have nothing against Android as a platform, but what frustrates me is the sentiment that Android is some sort of unified front. Realistically these manufacturers are competing with each other and just happen to be using extraordinarily similar weapons with different camouflage painted over the top. These devices are being sold side by side, and yet there is this misguided impression that they are some sort of device brethren. Do you really think rival manufacturers are patting each other on the back when they release their latest Android device? Of course not.