“The more I use Androids competitors the more I start to dislike how Android works”

That’s my opening statement and now I’m going to explain why!

You’re probably reading this article, or at least the title and thinking; what the hell is going on with AndroidSPIN and all this Windows Phone 7 talk and bashing Android. First of all, this is all me and my thoughts and feelings about where Android is heading. These are the impressions I get when I use competitors products to try to keep up with the times, and see what Android has to compete with. I still love Android and it’s still my number one OS and I don’t see anything changing in the near future, but I also like to keep my mind open and see what other people do better or worse and feed this information back to you guys. Read this article before you start to judge and I hope it will get your brains kicked into motion and see if we can get some more informed answers to the questions I’m raising in this article. I’m no developer so all the opinions and findings in this article are based on my own experiences.

Androids Achilles Heel? Maybe!

Everyone states that we have complete multi tasking operating in Android and how awesome it is to have all that power, but I’m saying that’s it’s becoming Androids Achilles Heel.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been playing around with a Samsung Focus S from AT&T that Samsung was kind enough to send me. While I have my concerns about the Interface and the lack of customization you get with Android, I have to say that Windows Phone 7 is pretty well done. It will never replace my Android phone, but it does work well. One of the main advantages is the battery life that I previously reported.

The Windows Phone 7 has never had any problems with memory or slow down and I never have to worry about what’s running in the background.  I don’t have to think about the applications I’ve installed and if my phone is slowing down or becoming unstable due to badly written software running in the background that is not easy to track down or close.  It just seems to keep going.  I’ve gone through the Windows Marketplace and installed application after application, games, social tools and lots more and have not experienced any issues.

What’s with all the developer options?

The guys over at Google want us to believe that Android  has awesome memory and task management and that the operating system will simply take care of things and manage its memory as required.  If this is the case, why does Google keep adding more and more tools in the background to counteract badly written applications?

ICS Developer Tools

The option for “Don’t keep activities” appears to force android to clear out the data used by the application you are switching away from, thereby releasing more memory.  This is something the application should do on its own accord, if the developer has written the application correctly.  From what I’ve read, the function “onSaveInstanceState” is what a developer should use to save the application state from an activity before being killed so that the state can be restored later when the user returns to the application.  This is probably too much information for the average Android user, but I’m just trying to give some background.  You can also set the “Background process limit” which I’m assuming will prevent an application from starting too many background processes, leaving them running in the background.  I’ve done some searching for more information about these options, but I can’t really find any definitive answers.  Most of the answers I find just say that these options are for developers and should not be touched.

What I don’t understand is why we are even seeing these options.  Most people are end users of the phones and not developers so why not have a developer tools application that developers can install with extra setting for their application testing.  They are simply making Android more complicated to the average user and the over all experience.

I’ve talked about Windows Phone 7 before and people commented that they never have slow down on their devices and Android is simply awesome.  I seriously question those statements or say that those people are not really using the power of Android to its fullest or haven’t encountered one of the many badly written programs.

If a program is written correctly, it should release most of its memory and processes when you switch to another task, but this relies on each and every programmer to write their applications correctly in the first place.  Windows Phone 7, iOS and WebOS  enforce this method and freeze an application when you switch away from it, only allowing specially written services to continue to do background tasks.

If a program is written badly on Android, it can refuse to release the memory it should and simply continues to run at full pace in the background eating your precious clock cycles and eventually slowing down your phone.

Why are we trying to make our phone act like a desktop computer?

Android is an operating system designed to run on phones, so the first question I ask is “Why do we need our phones to multi-task like a desktop computer?  Your screen is not big enough or capable of showing multiple applications at the same time so why do this!

I’m sitting at my desktop running Windows 7 and have a dual monitor setup.  I have 3 browser windows open, a number of Google Talk chats and I’m monitoring my tweets while I’m writing this article in Microsoft Word.  Do I want it to multi-task, of course I do!!  I can see everything at the same time so I want it all to keep running and updating in real-time.  That’s the nature of what I call multi-tasking.

Can I create this same view in Android?  No I can’t, so why do I want it all to act the same as my desktop?  I don’t!

It seems all other phone operating systems have stricter control over the applications released for them.  Windows Phone 7, iOS, and WebOS to name the major players.  It also seems that these other operating systems do everything we need them to do but don’t get bogged down with too many programs running at the same time.  They still perform all the same functions.  We still get our notifications for email, Twitter, Facebook and many other social applications.  They still receive phone calls and text messages in real-time in the background.  They just do it differently.  The tighter guidelines and controls over how people implement services that perform the background tasks of the applications seem to work much better and give much less chance of a rogue application causing chaos on our devices.

Is Android Too Much?

The BIG question is.. “Is Android overkill for a device that has a primary purpose of receiving phone calls and keeping an eye on some of our favorite social messaging and emailing accounts?

When we have a rogue application, why don’t we have an easy way to shut down that application?  Why isn’t there a task manager we can get to?  this also raises the never-ending debate of whether we need a task manager or not to make Android run better.

ICS Recent Application List

I made the mistake of thinking that the new “recent application list” in Ice Cream Sandwich was in fact a pseudo tasks manager.  From watching initial videos and presentations from Google, I thought when you swiped your finger across an application from this list that is was not only removed from the list, but it also killed the application altogether.  Silly me.  It’s still just a recent application list the same as we’ve always had, they just changed the way you get to it.  This really makes no sense to me.

ICS HomeScreen Softkeys

They have removed the long press of the Home button that we previously used and added a dedicated button.  Now a long press of the Home button does nothing.  What a waste of screen real estate.  We still have the Home button so why didn’t they just leave it alone and use the soft keys at the bottom for some other purpose or allow us to customize it ourselves?

So I open the debate!  What is wrong with Android?  Why do we need multi-core processors and gigabytes of memory to run what is primarily a phone?  I can understand this need more when we start to get some serious gaming on our phones, but then again, most of this performance comes from the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and no the CPU.

Forget your interface preferences at this point and just think about what I’m saying in this article!  Does Android need to be a fully multitasking operating system that acts like a desktop computer and why?

  • http://mortenprom.com/ Morten Prom

    I’ve not yet seen or used a Windows Phone, but from what I hear where are still quite a few small things you can’t do on it. On my Android Phone I can do pretty much everything… Sure it kills battery to have every service running in push mode 24/7, but hey… I’m sitting at my desk all day, I can load up that battery from my laptop.
    And when I’m out and about? I carry a few extra batteries with me, that will keep me blazing through the mountains with my Android on full power :)

    But boy I love that we now have 3 mayor competitors to keep the development up :)

    • http://www.androidspin.com/author/simonnwalker/ Simon Walker

      It’s true that Android has a lot more applciations available, but for your everyday activities, I didn’t find anythig significant that wasn’t available on Windows.
      When you want to start branching out into the obscure, you have to start paying for application where there are a lot more freely available on Android.
      But this article si more about how we are sufferring from the extra functionality on Android that I feel is really uneeded.
      Thanks for the feedbakc though :)

      • behzad

        Why the rss feed of the website is not working anymore!

        • http://www.androidspin.com Stormy Beach

          Thats a great question! I have wondered what happened to our views the last few days. Thanks for the heads up. We will look into it immediately.

        • http://www.androidspin.com Stormy Beach

          Should be up and running again. Thank you so much for the alert. With CES and being gone for so long we didn’t even notice. Posts will start rolling out soon. Let us know if it works, doesn’t work or you notice anything else that is causing you grief. We really do appreciate it.

        • Mike H

          Got a million all at the sametime on FB…lol

          I think some thought needs to be given for an activity/app that freezes an app/app process once a specific value is reached. With the ability to allow certain apps to run unabated.

  • Travis

    I’ve used both a WP7 phone and an Android phone. While WP7 is very nice and quick it lacks everything that made Android one of the top selling devices. It doesn’t allow users to do really make the device theirs. The Android OS has never really been just a phone OS.

    • http://www.androidspin.com/author/simonnwalker/ Simon Walker

      Agreed on the customization front. Windows Phone 7 would never replace my Android phone due to it’s restrictions. I still ask if Android’s implementation is overkill for a phone, albeit a super-phone, when the others can do the same with more restrictions and dramatically increase their battery life.
      If they had the same apps available, functionality wouldn’t be much different.

  • androidEyez

    For one android is always pushing the limits that’s one of the many reasons why I love this OS. I am in the IT industry so the whole multi task option is a necessity to me in my daily life no I can’t view all applications at the same time but I switch them accordingly to my liking. So windows iOS etc would cripple my productivity and another point is the screens keep getting bigger why? Because the day is coming when I’ll be able to view multiple tasks at the same time on 1 screen!!!(tablets) Soon we will have our phones power our desktops,tablets, cars hell even our houses TVs and security systems sh*t we can do this all now,so Android is just a head of the pack just as they always have been the hardware technology just needs to catch up..
    Just my 2cents…

    • Android4ever

      I really agree with you. Android is pushing towards the future in a way that others simply cannot.

  • http://androidspin androidEyez

    This makes me believe that you should be working somewhere else not here wrong place to bash our beloved OS…

  • Jamaal

    Simply put, every OS has its pros and cons. Obviously Android is included. Now, I have always said that whatever arguable cons that Android has, its pros far outweigh them, especially moving forward. I feel like the OS is truly put into OUR hands as end users, which I suppose is the largest benefit and greatest downfall, according to the article. Many people refer to Apple and its products as the “Walled Garden,” for reasons already understood. Well when I use the iPhone, I dont feel like I’m inside a walled garden. I feel like I’m inside a box. Its a well built, high quality box, but a box nonetheless. It runs smoothly and is “easier” to use, but I dont feel as if I am allowed to do anything I want with it. “My” iPhone looks exactly like everyone else’s iPhone. Hell, it took them 4 versions of the thing Just to allow users to use their own wallpaper.

    With Microsoft, I’ve had a love hate relationship with them over the years, and although Windows Mobile is far removed from what a smartphone looks like today, I felt like it was infinitely more usable than Windows Phone 7. Honestly, I can’t stand Windows Phone 7. It runs smooth and does what it does well (sound familiar), but thats where it stops. The UI is completely boring, which you just have to deal with, and I feel like its really just and endless static menu subset. Windows Mobile was not the most touch friendly OS, but I think that’s what needed to be improved, not a whole paradigm shift.

    So when I look at whatever improvements the competition theoretically will bring, I dont see them as improvements for me, because that would force an entire change to the software starting from a philosophical level, which isn’t going to happen. Alternatively, we also already know where Google’s feet are, as far as what kind of operating system Android is trying to be. They can make improvements to the qualms pointed out in the article, and although Android is supposed to be open and free, I’ve always said Google would be doing themselves a favor by enforcing certain rules in certain aspects of their software. We’ve seen them make some subtle moves on this front recently, so we’ll see Just how far they go as Android matures. For the time being, my biggest concerns are not on a system level, rather its developers playing favorites with Apple, despite Android’s marketshare.

  • oliver

    I completely agree with you! There ought to be a task governor or something that allows for doing a limited number of tasks on android. Developers for phones should concentrate on other things (like, you know, call and speaker quality maybe? They are phones after all) or dayum, more efficient program use in regard to the battery. It’s crazy how each background process has it’s own thread and VM, they ought to share some…*singular* queue or something.

  • Ralph

    I agree with your sentiments regarding the efficiency with which other OS handle the programs in the background. But I think thats what makes android so beloved by droidfans. I dont think android was built for people who are afraid to push their phone to the limit(and mess them up)

  • Ralph

    I agree with your sentiments regarding the efficiency with which other OS handle the programs in the background. But I think thats what makes android so special by droidfans. I dont think android was built for people who are afraid to push their phone to the limit(and mess them up) we have those other OS’ for that. Android is quickly innovating and pushing the boundaries and these are the drawbacks but I would really rather ride in 250mph-breakdown-every 50mile car than ride in a 50mph-breakdown-every 250mile car.. But thats just my thoughts

  • Areg

    i agree with you Simon , this kind of multitasking that we have now is for IT professional use…
    i would agree if google add setting like ON/OFF FULL multitasking

  • Ivan Samuelson

    I can agree with Simon on the multi-tasking. In many respects, the only time I can think of when I use the multitasking is possibly having a music app running in the background to listen to music, or streaming stations, while checking email, surfing the web, or when I’m in my car, listening to the music and using the GPS navigator.

    Otherwise, I really don’t multitask and I really don’t need all those services running in the background.

  • The_Omega_Man

    Phone you are using is a ga

  • The_Omega_Man

    The phone that you are using is a galaxy nexus. This is a developers phone, thus I would expect to see development specific tools on said phone. I would not expect to see the same tools on other phones. The way the multitasking works on this phone is that apps and their resources are both managed and removed by the OS automatically, as needed. The meta data, pointers and tags remain and show in the recent apps list when you swipe the app reference away. The meta data, pointers and tag information, for a given app, get removed thus removing the last traces of the applications from active memory.

    It is important to remember that although Android is designed to be a mobile OS, at its core, it is running Linux. This is traditionally used as a desktop or server kernel, and an as such it is designed to run processes in the background. There are are many such processes that need to run to not only maintain the base functionality of the Android OS but also the Java VM based application engine environment. On top of all of that, is the UI management and the mfg. specific code that may need cpu cycles perodically. Android is born from a desktop functionality mentality, on an incredibly lighter weight (resources) platform, relatively speaking. Given more system resources (cpu, gpu, screen real estate, memory capacity and bandwidth) I can see the potential to actually run more that one VM at a time and for the OS to securely layer and composite the video outputs of each active VM onto the Android device screen, in real time, while leveraging the input stream appropriately.

    While the competitiors are all producing products that are essentually feature phones that run smart apps in pretty UIs, Android has taken the approach of trying to miniaturize the desktop experience and power and added some voice and texting features to it.

    Do you need the multi-tasking power that Android offers? That is a subjective question at best. Some might, while others may not. But I am willing to bet that most folks would rather have the option to have it there if required, than to not have it available at all or to have it more limited.

    The Droid Dose ad campaign was meant to be literal. Getting things done is what Android is really all about.

    • http://mortenprom.com/ Morten Prom

      Great answer… *Like*

    • http://www.google.com Mark Renouf

      Wrong. The Galaxy Nexus is not a “developers phone”. It runs Ice Cream Sandwich. Those settings are in Android. If they are missing on other devices it’s because that particular OEM intentionally removed or disabled them, though I have no reason why they would need to.

      It’s understandable you wonder what all those settings are for, since they are for Developers. They are purely for testing, not as any way to mitigate badly written apps nor anything else for that matter. They are there because it’s important that these settings be easily accessible and built in for developers (like myself) to use to pinpoint a problem when necessary. Having them disabled or hidden, or altogether missing makes our lives harder.

      I personally feel Android is the perfect blend of functionality for what most users need without getting too complex or in-your-face. There’s no need to close apps, or even be aware that you’re multitasking. You just use your phone and everything works as you expect. You shouldn’t care whether an app is really still running or just in the recent tasks list.

  • Darkseider

    OK this article spews nonsense. Yes we want our phones and tablets to evolve into our everyday PC. It’s the natural order of things. No need to be tethered or burdened with a laptop or desktop when it can all be done in the palm of your hand. I can’t wait for quad core or better phones and tablets. Owning a G2X and both a Transformer and Transfromer Prime has given me the ability to shelve my netbook and notebook as well as relegate my desktop to the chore of .ISO burner when I need something on optical media. As for the whole multitasking thing let’s just clear all this up about how Android handles multitasking and to an extent memory management.

    http://android-developers.blogspot.com/2010/04/multitasking-android-way.html

    It multitasks just fine. It manages memory just fine. No need to adjust or kill anything. Let the OS do its’ job.

  • http://gurnted.wordpress.com Awdahelwidit

    Awe….Is your smartphone too smart for ya? Lol J/K…..For real though, are you also going to complain about your desktop blaming the OS when you overtax it? Because that is essentially what you are doing here. If you don’t want the power of a UMPC in your pocket, don’t install a load of apps that run in background….Or just use those same settings you mentioned to limit processes.

    Sure you can only view what is in the foreground, but that dosen’t mean I don’t still want that page to load in the browser while I check that SMS, or continue downloading that additional content for a game, while browsing the market for others, or watching a video.

    I won’t argue with the fact that there are lots of s*** apps that get hung up at times. So yes an upfront task killer would be nice for when they don’t respond. For the most part though, the system does a pretty good job of managing itself. The SGSII T989 I’m using now has 7 accounts synced for push, a sip application, and about 400 apps. I get zero lag, never lack for ram or cpu, and get about 48hrs on standard battery.

    +1 “While the competitors are all producing products that are essentially feature phones that run smart apps in pretty UIs, Android has taken the approach of trying to miniaturize the desktop experience and power and added some voice and texting features to it.”

    ……So true. I’ve tried the others, and see nothing that even really competes w/ us. Unlike the competition, Android is about moving forward with new innovative ideas. WP7 is a joke, it’s like MS said “here take this ’til we make you a real OS next year”, and the iPhone is just a glorified media player w/ a cellular modem thrown into the case.

  • Paul Shirley

    Perhaps last time I didn’t explain why those Developer Settings don’t mean or do what you think they do well enough. The control options are there to deliberate BREAK things and trigger rare events so devs can check our apps deal with those things properly.

    Use them in a misguided attempt to tweak your phone and you’ll only bugger up your phone’s performance.

    Try to remember before the next clueless Android rant.

    …BTW my Play is back to 4-5 days standby and charging every other day after nuking rogue firmware hacks. So much for the Android power problem.

  • Mel

    I think this article made a valid argument on Where Android is heading. Based on what Simon has newly experienced with the WP7 and in comparison to the Android experience, he saw some notable differences. In my opinion, Android is different than the other OS because Android is shared as an open source to other carriers who then can “customize” to their liking. In other words there are many flavors of Android out there and I lost count . In addition there are different versions of Android. Producing quality apps for Android continues to become more challenging for the Developers and Google needs to play a big part in quality control to weed out the bad with the good apps. In short, if not properly managed or overseen, the Android OS will not be reliable or dependable and the Market side there will be low quality apps and the overall Android experience will suffer.