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More thoughts on the Galaxy S3 (and Android)

July 9, 2012

I’ve been using the Galaxy S3 for almost two weeks now, so I thought I’d share a few more thoughts on using it. Although this time around more of the thoughts are around Android than the Galaxy S3 itself. In fact, here’s my sole observation on the hardware: I find that I’m more willing to read content on the 4.8″ S3 than on my 3.5″ iPhone 4. I took my daughter to her ice skating lesson on Sunday, and instead of bringing along a tablet to read on figured I’d try reading off my S3. It worked better than I expected; since I could see more content per “page” I felt like I had to flip pages less and could concentrate more on the story. So I also like the larger form factor as a reading platform.

In general, then, I’ve been pleased with the S3 hardware. Android, however, still leaves something be desired. Not so much as an operating system, but as a platform. My biggest complaints:

  • Even when an application provider offers both iOS and Android versions of their applications, the Android version tends to feel like a 2nd class citizen for both look and feel. Where are the (non-Google) applications that are better on Android? I would argue that on iOS the best applications are not provided by Apple. But on Android? Google’s applications tend to provide the best experiences. I don’t regard that as a good thing, since to my mind it indicates that app developers aren’t competing to raise the bar.

    Incidentally, I think the quality gap for 3rd party applications is going to reduce the impact of Jelly Bean. Yes, it increases the polish of the OS overall. But in general the operating system itself isn’t that bad these days (or at least Ice Cream Sandwich isn’t). Jelly Bean doesn’t tackle the biggest problem with the Android user experience: the fit and polish of the 3rd party apps.

  • For applications that are more about functionality than access to a particular service, I can’t find quality applications (even paid applications) that meet my needs. For example, on iOS I have a choice between several high quality applications to let me read feeds and manage my todo list (I personally prefer Reeder and Things respectively). Android? I can’t find an elegant application for either. I’ve thought about writing my own feed reader just to try to fill the former gap. For the latter I might be stuck hoping Cultured Code let’s a developer create an Android client that interfaces to Things Cloud.

  • Google needs a new revenue model. If Google offered a paid service, say for $10/month or $120/year, where they collect and mine my personal data and continually innovate to provide new and compelling functionality (such as Google Now), I’d happily cough up and eagerly cheer them on. Instead, I feel like Google is innovating new ways to collect my data and offer me up to advertisers (and yes, provide enough functionality that I keep coughing up data). And since Android’s best applications are made by Google and the operating system itself seems determined to send Google information (Would you like to enable WiFi position determination? You’ll just have to allow Google to periodically mine your location data…), I find myself focusing too much on what information might be collected from my use of the phone rather than just focusing on getting things done. I’d like Android a whole lot more if I were paying Google to work on my behalf. When someone else is paying them it’s too easy for them to make decisions that aren’t really in my interest.

Unfortunately, I’m not holding my breath on those issues improving anytime soon. I suspect I’m more valuable to Google as a product than as a customer. And Android users seem to be unwilling to pay for mobile apps, which means developers can’t make as much money as they can on iOS, which means Android is going to remain a 2nd class citizen for applications. At least for now.

From → Mobile, Musings

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