When having an “Android vs Apple” discussion, unfortunately it’s not uncommon for me to hear people tell me about their “horrible” experience with Android and how “they wish they had an iPhone” or “are so glad they got an iPhone”.
What’s my reply to these comments? Not all android phones are created equal. Why? Let’s get started.
I currently use the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon) but here the list of some the best Android phones of 2012 (via CNET):
Having never used any of these phones, like you, I am probably just taking their word for it; but judging from the specs of each, I doubt they disappoint.
That said, these phones all bolster some similar things; i.e. 4G speeds, dual-core or quad-core processors, large displays and plenty of memory. As of this post, none of these devices have the latest Android OS (4.1 JellyBean) but Ice Cream Sandwich is still impressive and the hardware helps out as well.
In my opinion, it’s anything running on Android 2.3 or lower; which according to recent reports from Google is a lot (72.6% of Android devices):
So maybe that’s a bit of generalization but as good as Android is now, I’m not afraid to admit that it has not always been so; these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. That said, Android took huge leaps forward with Honeycomb (3.1) and has been continuing to do so with every release since.
My first Android phone was the original HTC Incredible and although it was an impressive upgrade from my Blackberry Curve, it pales in comparison to Jelly Bean on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus. When I got the Incredible, it was running Froyo (2.2) and was upgraded to Gingerbread (2.3) shortly afterwards.
I was first introduced to Honeycomb (Android 3.1) when I bought my first tablet, the Motorola Xoom; it blew my mind. Then came the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and the improvements were incredible, again. Now I have the same Nexus with Jelly Bean (4.1) and I can’t believe I was ever impressed with Froyo or Gingerbread.
According to the numbers I referenced above, about 3 out of 4 new android users are being introduced to much less impressive (older) versions of Android; less features and lower grade hardware. One of the great things about Android is the amount of customization that can be done. All of my devices are unlocked and rooted (it’s what we do), so even with some of the disappointments with early versions of Android, it wasn’t that difficult to get apps or mods to boost performance. Anything from menu customization to hardware accelerations are available for the android hacker; but I do realize that we are not in the majority.
Today, the rooting and unlocking process are much simpler than the past but the process can still be intimidating, especially for the new android user. People don’t want to “have to modify” their phone, they “just want it to work”. The good news is that many of the features that required root or modification in the past now come “out of the box”. The bad news is that you usually have to have one of the newest devices.
Since Google is getting into the manufacturing side of things with their Nexus line of devices, it seems that they understand that this is an issue. But keep in mind that this is not a Google issue; this is a carrier issue (one of the few downsides of Android). Take a look at this post on Google+ by Jean-Baptiste Queru (a Google employee working on the Android Open Source Project); an excerpt from the post:
“The part that blows my mind is that some variants of the Google-engineered flagship devices still haven’t received Ice Cream Sandwich (or are stuck with older versions of Ice Cream Sandwich) because of delays introduced by operator approvals. I’m very glad that Google is back in the business of selling phones directly without any middlemen to interfere, and I’ll be even happier when I see that program expanded to more countries.”
In my opinion, this “carrier issue” is a big reason why people have “horrible” experiences with Android. People are stuck using a device with an older version of Android that let’s face, is not awesome because it’s cheaper, they don’t know any better or it’s simply the only one available from their carrier; there’s probably a million of other reasons I failed to mention. But if you’re a new android user, or just stuck on a older version of Android (2.3 or lower), please understand that not all android phones are created equal but with some time, this problem should begin going away and before you decide to jump ship and head to your nearest Apple Store, maybe try another Android device.
There are rumors flying around that not only will the next Nexus device(s) be unveiled by the end of year and come loaded with the latest Android OS (4.2?) but that there may be multiple manufacturers producing a Nexus device. If these rumors are true, this should help put the latest and greatest of Android in the hands of more users; allowing more people to experience how truly great Android really is. Although it’s a tablet, I believe that the Nexus 7 from Asus was a step in this direction; even when I wrote about it back in May.
What do you think? Share your comments below.