As I flip through the pages of my calendar, I realize how close we’re to Google I/O now, which starts on 15th of this month. A new version of Android is just around the corner and if rumors are to believed then the next dessert might be considerably more delicious than the last one, possibly bringing in unified messaging, a gaming center and a lot more.
Ron Amadeo of AndroidPolice has compiled an excellent list of new features he’s hoping that Google will release with Android 4.3 (or maybe 5.0). And it’s an interesting one.
However, there are certain things that no one is talking about — the small things.
As an Android enthusiast, who has been following the Google overlords for about 3 years now, I’ve witnessed Android improve bit by bit with every update. Post v4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the progress has been a significant one. But it is still far from an impeccable mobile platform.
There are various elements in Android that are mostly overlooked, but seriously need to be improved.
1. More Consistency
While all the system apps in Android are more or less the same in terms of visual elements, my less than stellar brain has always wondered why do they differ so much in terms of gestures and other user interface elements? For example:
- Why is there no swipe to delete gesture in Messaging, similar to the Gmail app?
- Or a slideshow view to switch tabs in Browser / Chrome, similar to Gallery?
- Or why is the amazing new dial pad introduced in the new Clock app not present system-wide?
Wouldn’t it be awesome if the same set of gestures were present in all the apps?
Another element of Android that irks me is the Quick Setting Panel, which lets you toggle various settings. The current implementation is to:
- Long-press to toggle a setting
- Normal-press to go to its settings page
Does anyone else find this a bit strange? Or opposite perhaps?
Long-pressing in Android has been a standard for revealing extra settings / information in cases where a single tap would have only let you access something such as a page, link, etc.
Flip it please, Google. In the next version of Android, I want to experience a more consistent Android.
2. Expandable Notifications Everywhere
The notification system has always been one of the most important offerings of Android. In 2008, when the term ‘unified notification center’ was still unknown to the mobile masses, Android had nailed it since day one lf its release. It’s been several years since then, but other platforms are yet to master it. Windows Phone for example, still doesn’t have one while iOS on the other hand, took the easier route of, ahem, copying Android’s implementation of drag-down notification system.
Expandable notifications, introduced with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean upped the ante. It made interaction with various apps so much easier and faster, directly from the notification window.
While developers have been increasingly adding support for notification shades (expandable buttons) in their apps, there are a few places in Android where I find its presence could be extremely useful:
This screenshot has been taken from a CyanogenMod ROM, which already includes notification shades in the messaging app.
3. Improved Chrome for Android
PERFORMANCE OF THE OLD BROWSER + NEAT UI DESIGN OF CHROME?
Chrome for Android used to be my favorite browser until recently. Over the course of updates, while other browsers have become better and faster, Chrome has been seeing an opposite graph.
Previously, performance lags while browsing heavy websites was the only gripe, but it now seems to have been downgraded with stutters in the UI as well, especially the last two versions, v26 and v25. And that too on a high-end device such as the Nexus 4 or Nexus 7. On devices having lower specifications, the condition is even worse.
Comparison of Chrome beta (v25) with v18:
The actual UI is a bit faster than what I was able to capture in the above two videos. Sorry for the crappy frame-rate and quality, but screen casting is nearly broken in Android 4.2.
When compared with the smoothness of the good old Browser, it makes me wonder how messed up Chrome has become.
With Chrome for desktop, Android and Chrome OS, Google is working towards a more unified experience across various platforms. However, the sluggish performance of Chrome, until fixed, is no small hurdle in the path.
Please fix it, Google. Until then, I’ll continue to use v18 of Chrome, which I recommend it to everyone else too for its lag-free interface:
Download: Chrome for Android v18 APK
4. News & Weather or Currents?
The News & Weather app is perhaps the most overlooked bundled app in Android. It has stayed the same for more than two years now (or four Android versions) and still has a Gingerbread-ish design.
However, I don’t want an improved News & Weather app in Android 4.3. Rather, I want Google to sort out its confusion between Currents and News and Weather.
Currents and News & Weather app share a lot of similarities — they both are a magazine app in essence and the only difference is that Currents lets you add sources while News and Weather displays news from its own set of pre-defined sources. Wouldn’t it be better to instead have only one app that does both the jobs? News & Weather, being the lesser known side, can be easily integrated with Currents.
Furthermore, with Google Now, I also find it a bit confusing that there are now two apps in Android that display weather conditions to the user.
This ends my list here. Your views? 🙂