Android News

Dear Molly at CNET: You are wrong about Android

October 15, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka

Android, Android OS

smartphones

Molly Wood did what many journalists seem to do when it comes to Android vs. iPhone – throw out a lot of opinions, mix in some misinformed statements to justify them, and then completely miss the mark about what makes Android excel and what holds it back. In her Molly Rants column, Wood says she is given Android one final chance to get its act together before she moves on to iPhone pastures. While Wood should switch to whatever operating system make her happiest, it doesn’t seem like she has her act together when it comes to Android.

Wood attacks Android for its very real fragmentation problem, but for all the wrong reasons. She claims that “Honeycomb is being killed off to make room for ICS,” and laments for the developers who spent time and money building tablets apps. Apparently she’s unaware that ICS actually helps those developers because their apps will now be available for tablets and handsets, exposing their work to a much larger audience. Google has already explained how developers can adjust their current Honeycomb apps to support phones and tablets with one app. Believe it or not, the fragments system of Honeycomb/ICS will help stem the very fragmentation that she complains about.

That’s not to say Android doesn’t have a problem with handsets not being updated. We’ve covered that many times, actually. But here’s a dirty little secret most people gloss over: iPhone users suffer through their own update hell. The big feature that everyone raves about in the iPhone 4S is Siri, a voice command and search feature similar to what Android has had for more than a year. Yet this revolutionary feature that people keep talking about is officially available only for iPhone 4S users. Wood says she’s “not buying a new phone every year just to keep up,” but that’s what Apple has forced Siri lovers to do. The same happened when iOS 4 kept some features away from iPhone 3G and 3GS users, or performed terribly on their hardware. iOS 5 abandons them just as readily. Tech journalists rightly fault Android for it’s fragmentation problem, yet remain silent on iOS not being a uniform platform either.

Wood then goes on to complain that Droid X users had to wait months for a Gingerbread update. That’s unfortunate, but guess how long iOS users wait for new features – a year, because that’s the only time Apple updates the software. Android users smirked during the iPhone 4/5 announcements because Apple touted features that Android had many months – in some cases 2 years – prior. And while I am the same person that says “being first doesn’t matter, being best does,” the notion that moving to an iPhone ensures all the great features for 2 years is silly.

Droid X users didn’t get the latest software as quickly as others because Android’s system allows for more frequent updates so users don’t wait forever to get new features. Microsoft has also criticized this structure and opted to hold back Windows Phone 7 to avoid it. See, Microsoft does a great job of avoiding fragmentation. And sales.

While I can appreciate the simplicity of holding back the majority for the benefit of the collective, I’d rather have the system that gives me a chance of new features now. It’s unfortunate for Motorola owners, but most of us with HTC are happy to not have to wait 12 months to get a major upgrade.

The one point of contention in which Woods and I are in agreement is that carriers do a terrible job of servicing Android. Software updates “cripple” phones, carriers don’t respond well to complaints, and quality testing is shoddy at best. Carriers also botch BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 updates. The one unmatched feature that an iPhone user has is that when something goes wrong, that person can go to an Apple Store and have someone take a look at it. Carriers are rarely any help, so you shouldn’t expect them to fix it.

You also shouldn’t expect Google to assume control of Android, as Wood suggests. That’s not the way the system works and she knew that when she bought her Motorola Droid, Samsung Fascinate, and Motorola Droid X. Android enables the different spins on the software that people can embrace or shun. If Wood doesn’t like what one company does, she can move on to another. If she wants a platform where one voice dictates the experience, the sales clerks at Verizon are happy to hear “iPhone, please.”

Conclusion

I’m all for people making the switch when a smartphone doesn’t meet their needs. I don’t care about OS loyalty or sticking up for the brand that I prefer. These are products, not sacred institutions. If Apple introduced a new phone tomorrow that I felt was better than Android in every way and allowed me to do what I want with my phone, I’d bid you all farewell and use what makes me happiest.

On the other hand, my father has been an Android user for 2 years and he just made the switch to iPhone. I actually encouraged him to do it after many discussions. His HTC Hero was dead to rights, neither the HTC EVO 3D nor Samsung Galaxy S II appealed to him, and he doesn’t want to leave Sprint. He’s leaving Android behind after making an informed decision and for the right reasons. Molly Wood should do the same when her exit time arrives.