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Android: An Airing of Grievances

Thought I’d step way way out of character and lay down some complaints against my sweetheart Google and my darling Android, inspired by David K’s recent post about Microsoft continuing to suck with email. A little roll reversal, you know? But instead of just mentioning one thing, I’m going to up the ante with a larger list and see how he responds to that because this could get interesting. Here we go.

Top of the list, the stock keyboard is, what’s the word, underwhelming. Maybe that’s why the hottest third party software on and off the market are better keyboards like Better Keyboard, SwiftKey and Swype. The only good thing not making a deal with one of these guys (I like SwiftKey myself) I can think of for Google is to promote the market itself. The stock keyboard gets the job done but there’s enough room for improvement that a lot of people are making money (hopefully) by filling that void. C’mon. I took the dive from hard keyboards and though I don’t mind firing up another keyboard from the market or a sideload job, it bothers me to know that many people buying Android phones, and there are quite a few such people, won’t ever hit the Market and will stick with the soft keyboard if they don’t have a clunky Droid. I want the world to move on to soft keyboards, this ain’t helping as much as it could.

Number two: Google’s native Android Gmail and regular email clients. Last time I checked, which was a while ago as I switched to K-9 Mail in frustration, a sweet app by the way, you cannot change your From address to anything else you have cleared with Gmail to be your email address on the web side, you can only email with your actual Gmail address showing up — unless you have Google Apps, that is. One workaround is to configure the non-Gmail email client to connect to Google as if it were an Exchange server and specify the alternate email address there, as you can with WinMo (though at least allowing you to add multiple Exchange accounts, which you cannot do with WinMo). What’s up with that? A whole lot of people asked Google, no good answers. Also you can only seem to attach images from the gallery, not random files, at least not directly from the client without third party software or some other trick I don’t know about.

Next up, Google Docs. Google recently announced, stupidly, Hey everybody guess what you can now view your documents using your Android phone! View? What the hell about Edit? Isn’t this supposed to be a mega cloud phone I paid for (and am pushing on my own clients), Google Docs being a core component of their cloud services? There’s a third party editor that syncs up but you lose formatting. Why would they announce this? Not having tried it I never knew you couldn’t view but this called my attention to that past shortcoming, an unsettling one. Thought we’d get a treat in Froyo but that didn’t happen. Not yet at least.

Unless you’ve got Froyo, no voice dialing on bluetooth. And no VoIP with Google Voice (except for listening to voicemail, which I no longer do thanks to the transcriptions), unless you are smart, have a lot of spare time and are really determined. Haven’t found one program out there, unlike with WinMo, for any Android device capable of recording both sides of a phone conversation without being on speakerphone. At this point that sounds either like an operating system thing or a hardware thing, but the XDA guys for WinMo consistently figured this one out. The native gallery program, though fancy with its 3D animation which is impressive, excessively and unacceptably and inexplicably downsamples images when displaying them. Shouldn’t have to hit the market in order to find one that displays images in their full glory. And the video playback support, which codecs and containers it can handle, ain’t nothing to write home about (though like many of the other shortcomings solved by third party software, in this case RockPlayer). Not really Google’s fault (contractual agreement between Stern and Sirius) but still no Sirius client of which I’m aware that lets you get Howard, whereas I had that with SiriusWM5 on WinMo.

I’m glad to see some nice Android phones making their way to AT&T finally, and I understand that Google leaves Android, which is open source, widely open for carrier modification, but a persuasive phone call from one higher-up at Google to another higher-up at AT&T to talk AT&T out of bloating up their Android phones with AT&T bullshitware which unfortunately all start with the letter A so they get listed first in the menu, that would have been appreciated.

That’s all I’ve got without googling for other people’s Google grievances of Android. I’m sure there are others, go ahead and dump them in the comments, let’s get this over with. Your serve, David K.

Doug Simmons