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Android venting

I became so incredibly frustrated with Android last night that I had to vent somewhere. Sorry for all of you who have heard this before.

With the hiptop, it seemed that there was some considerable effort expended in asking “what is annoying about using devices on a flaky cellular network?” The OS and applications incorporated all kinds of wonderful features, from aggressive buffering and queuing to a standard “this hasn’t been sent” indication (italics) to the “your web page is done” notification—it all worked well and was a source of enjoyment and delight even when the network was broken.

With Android, this doesn’t happen. Not at all. Standard Android applications (particularly Market) do an astonishingly atrocious job of handling network drops, download failure, etc. A modal dialog telling you “THE SERVER IS DOWN” is completely useless and user-hostile. Operations that seem like they should not require a network connection (like seeing the list of installed applications) load in multiple undefined stages that make you wonder if something broke. Asynchrony seems to be in all the wrong places.

A very obvious example of the difference is the data connection icon. As maligned as it was thanks to T-Mobile network failures, the 3-dot connection icon on the hiptop was wonderful; it was clear to both technical (for whom the dots had actual meaning) and nontechnical users that the process of connecting to a cellular data network had several stages, and that it was quite possible to have a data connection without an operable Internet connection over it.

Oh look, Google Voice just failed to download. The notification says “Download unsuccessful.” So helpful. When I tap on that notification, it lets me stare at a “Loading…” spinner for 30 seconds before I get “Attention: A network error has occurred. Retry, or cancel and return to the previous screen.” I’ve got 3G data with 4 bars.

The words that came out of my mouth at this point are not fit for posting on this blog.

3 comments on “Android venting”

  1. 29 March 2010 | 1:27 PM

    I noticed some similar issues when I was playing with a Droid a few weekends ago. What was really strange was that I had the Droid connected to my Airport Extreme, but occasionally the WiFi would just drop out. The WiFi icon would be present in the notification area, but no data could be sent or recieved. This made all sorts of things break in not entirely obvious ways — web pages would stop loading, e-mail would stop coming in, and the Market would just be totally broken. It took me awhile to figure out that I had to go ito settings and stop/start WiFi.

    Android as a whole just doesn’t feel done or polished yet. Maybe it will get there, but at this point, I’m not so sure…


  2. Dave
    2 April 2010 | 3:05 PM

    Now you understand my pain of being a netadmin for a department that likes to buy these things for large scale network experiments, see that it’s flaky at best. And have nothing more constructive to say than, well, they just don’t work very well.

  3. 2 April 2010 | 4:32 PM

    Yeah, the combination of organizational/political/cost constraints not permitting use of the best (or at least least-buggy) software/hardware is really, really frustrating.

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