31
Dec
htc-thunderbolt-official

2011 was a great year for Android - Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was announced. The Galaxy Nexus was released. A whole truckload of Android tablets came out. The first 4G LTE smartphones appeared. But there were some significant speed bumps as well. Here are, in no particular order, the five things in the world of Android in the last year that really got our hopes up, but ended up being a little disappointing.

1. HTC ThunderBolt / All Early Verizon 4G LTE Phones

It's really hard to know where to start with the ThunderBolt. It wasn't actually a terrible phone in terms of usability or performance, but the delayed release, abysmal battery life, overheating, and seemingly endless wait for Android 2.3 drew more angst from owners than probably any other device we've ever seen. With a starting price of $300 on a two-year agreement, it drew a lot of raised eyebrows - only to unceremoniously drop to half that price in less than a month.

htc-thunderbolt-official

The awesome part of the ThunderBolt was its status as the first Verizon 4G LTE phone, and if you've got coverage, Verizon 4G LTE is crazy fast. Verizon soon started dropping 4G phones like they were going out of style, and those they did drop tended to, well, suck - the Samsung DROID Charge was a plasticky, slow, TouchWiz-infested nightmare. The LG Revolution was anything but one. It seemed like Verizon just couldn't release a 4G phone that was actually good.

Since then, we've seen phones like the RAZR and Galaxy Nexus raise the bar for Verizon 4G phones substantially, but it was definitely a rocky start for Big Red's next generation network.

2. Motorola DROID BIONIC (Or, Insert Other Quickly Outdated Phone Here)

I own a BIONIC, so this one is a little personal for me. I reviewed Motorola's much-awaited flagship (at the time) handset back in September, and while I did find it had a lot of flaws, I was willing to give it a generally positive review because, at the time, it was far and away the best Android phone on Verizon. That changed when Motorola came out with a certain little device called the RAZR, which was better in every single conceivable way. Oh, and it came out 2 months after the BIONIC. This, in my opinion, is part of a larger problem - Android devices are just coming out too quickly.

155907-motorola-droid-bionic

After waiting since CES, in January, for the BIONIC, suffering through a massive delay (original release date having been Q2 2011) everyone expected that it was going to be Motorola's king of the hill handset for at least a couple quarters. How totally, unabashedly wrong we were. Despite a total redesign since its initial unveiling in Las Vegas, the BIONIC was outdated so quickly that I'm not even sure why Motorola released it in the first place.

I don't hate the BIONIC - I'd just much rather have a RAZR. And so would every other BIONIC owner, I imagine. In fact, the DROID BIONIC has pretty much become the poster child for smartphone buyer's remorse. It doesn't suck, but I'm pretty sure every person who bought one wishes they had been able to see approximately 60 days into the future at the time.

3. "Android Alliance" For OS Updates From Google I/O 2011

Remember hearing about Google's awesome idea for manufacturers and carriers to commit to timely OS updates and a standard period of post-release software support on their new Android phones? Yeah, we had trouble finding the evidence, too. We were excited - this alliance promised to eliminate a lot of the uncertainty that comes with buying an Android phone, the question of update support, as well as the timeliness of those updates. An awesome idea.

updates_alliance

After the I/O announcement, the Android Alliance was never heard from again. Why? Probably because it completely fell apart - at least that's what we're assuming. The idea of an 18 month OS update support window for new devices was never actually cemented. At the time, Google claimed it was a "working number" of sorts, indicating final agreements had yet to be made.

While we're used to a certain level of radio silence from Google on projects like this, nearly 8 months later, El Goog has yet to say word one about this then-proposed alliance, leading us to believe it has either experienced a significant stall, or been abandoned altogether. Unfortunately, we're leaning towards the latter at this point.

4. Android Tablets

There have been a lot of Android tablets that have come out on the last year. Let's make a short list of the big ones:

  • Acer Iconia A500 / A100
  • ASUS Eee Pad Transformer / Slider / Prime
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 / 8.9 / 7.0 Plus
  • Motorola XOOM / XYBOARDs
  • HTC Flyer
  • Toshiba Thrive / Thrive 7
  • Sony Tablet S / P
  • LG G-Slate
  • Kindle Fire
  • NOOK Tablet

Some have been expensive. Some have been cheaper - though none aside from the Fire and NOOK have flirted with an initial MSRP below $330 (in fact, most were $400 or more). Some have been pretty awesome - like the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Unfortunately, most have been pretty mediocre, and sales figures (or lack thereof) seem to reflect that. If any device has come close to denting the iPad's domination of the tablet market this year, it's the Kindle Fire - which doesn't even run stock Android, let alone Honeycomb. It's also $200 - occupying a price point most manufacturers could only dream of making profitable given the cost of the Fire's innards (Amazon sells each one at a small loss).

Some tablets out there have been pretty great, like ASUS's Transformer Prime (which we loved), or even the original Transformer (we loved that, too). Some have not (we won't name names). Some have been great, but constantly remind us that we could buy two Kindle Fires for the same cost.

We like Honeycomb, and we like the idea of Android tablets. But it's pretty clear that when the best-selling Android tablet (at least here in the US) doesn't really look like any other Android tablet out there (or run the tablet version of the OS), but sells to end-consumers in quantities (4 million plus) in six weeks what all of the other tablets listed above combined probably didn't manage over the course of 2011, that Android tablets still have some tweaking and re-thinking that needs to be done before the majority of people will willingly put down their iPads for one in the $400-$500 range.

Tablets like the Transformer Prime have us optimistic that Android tablets are only getting better, but we'll have to see what 2012 brings.

5. 3D Android Phones and Tablets

OK, I'll be the first to admit I have a total vendetta against 3D television and movies. Absolutely, unabashedly hate them. But I'm not here to talk about how 3D sucks, or how much I hate it.

3D phones and tablets were a big deal at CTIA 2011 (a mobile technology convention) when we attended back in March. The LG G-Slate, Optimus 3D (aka Thrill 4G) as well as the HTC EVO 3D were the three big devices sporting 3D technology at that point. The G-Slate, though, required glasses for its 3D. The Thrill and EVO 3D did not. It's easy to see why the G-Slate failed (glasses, T-Mobile contract required), but are 3D smartphones a thing of the past as well?

evo4

Since the EVO 3D and Thrill 4G this summer, there haven't been any other buzz-worthy 3D smartphones or tablets. HTC has released several major Android smartphones in the US since the EVO 3D, none of them supporting 3D. LG seems to have dropped the technology for their smartphones as well. Motorola and Samsung never got on board, the latter of which I found surprising, given their status as the maker of some of the highest-end 3D TV's on the market.

Are 3D phones dead? Without more 3D phones, there's really no need to make 3D-enhanced apps or games, and without apps or games, the 3D becomes almost useless for anything but taking photos and videos to watch on your 3D TV. Without those apps or games, there's not much point to the technology on a smartphone, aside from the aforementioned photo snapping (which really only requires a stereoscopic camera, the display is just for viewing them in 3D).

What about you - any big Android gaffs this year you think should have made the list? Let us know in the comments.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • iamtyy

    How about the massive blunder that was Verizon's release of the Galaxy Nexus?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      It only lasted about a month and a half - compared to the Bionic and the Tbolt, it's nothing. Plus, the phone is actually really good, sans some battery issues related to LTE.

      • Mitch Samuels

        Hey! I love my Thunderbolt!

        But yes, I would gladly trade it for a Nexus if I could. Ugh.

        • http://www.mobiletechview.com J_Dav1

          yeah, my bolt is great, would much rather have the gnex, razr, or rezound, but I will hold off till my upgrade next year when there should be some phones with good battery sipping 4G radios.

        • Deltaechoe

          I'm so glad they sales rep messed everything up when I bought the thunderbolt which put into motion the series of events that got me some serious discounts on my galaxy nexus. While I didn't exactly hate the thunderbolt, I much prefer stock android over bloated OEM skins, and without a completely finished RIL, stable data connectivity on stock is just a pipe dream.

      • Spydie

        The Galaxy Nexus?...and bad camera.... and poor volume. Those two things kept me away from it entirely.

        • justin

          Bad camera? Mine works great.

        • Deltaechoe

          I have to ask the question, why would you buy a smartphone for the camera on it? No smartphone camera is what I would call picture worthy (iphone comes the closest, but still far from what I would consider acceptable). If you are dropping as much money on your phone for its camera, I would suggest buying just a decent camera instead.

  • Bas

    Too bad about this alliance :(

  • NuLL.n.VoiD

    Sorry you're so remorseful about your Bionic. I'm actually quite happy with mine. After living with a OG Droid for two years (1.5 years rooted), I was actually first in line for my Bionic. I bought it at Costco and got the great bundle deal which certainly softened the blow when I saw the price dropping so rapidly a few weeks later. I was rooted less than 24 hours after i bought it (I had everything loaded up on the laptop about 2 weeks before and waiting). I've never looked back. I still believe that an unlocked boot loader is still a possibility. The devs are building 2nd init support into the ICS alpha ROMs which means a overclocking is soon to follow. I've even read about some experimental scripts that can boost it up to 1.3GHz. Try not to be so sad just cuz it's not a GNex. The Bionic is still just as capable with any of the apps and games out on any of the markets.

  • Dave

    I'll take my Bionic over a RAZR anyday. I'd never even consider a phone without a user replaceable battery.

    • Andrew – Des Moines

      While waiting for my wife to finish shopping today, I took a closer look at the Razr. I noticed compared to my AT&T GSII with the same 4.3" screen, my thumb did not comfortably arc to the far side. I held the Razr face to face with an Infuse (4.5") and noticed the Razr's bezel actually made it bigger. Presumably Motorola was trying to enlarge the battery while maintaining the thin profile, but I would call it a fail.

  • Josh

    I have to agree that Android phones and tablets come out at too quick a pace. Also the tablets need some better names, like Galaxy tab, Galaxy S, Galaxy Nexus.

  • sriracha

    nice writeup, as is most everything on AP, but pointing out [pun (un)intented] statements makes me feel dumb when i actually got them, or it makes you look silly when there is no actual pun. and it's never funny or clever. just a personal preference, and not a troll on AP or David.

    great site guys, my day would never be complete without you!

  • http://justreboot.wordpress.com Dei

    Bittersweet: The Patent Wars Saga
    When Apple had the tables turned on it when they were ruled against and got the injunction to pull their devices in Germany or wherever (I'm foggy on the details)

    Bittersweet because we won, but the war was far from over

    • L boogie

      +1 for that because the war continues on with Apple/ Samsung then Htc (who faces a possible U.S ban in a few months) , Motorola etc.... This war played an interesting role in the Android universe in 2011 calling for patent reforms among other things. Hopefully the war ends in 2012 permanently

    • Deltaechoe

      I agree, I think apple's less than ethical use of patent litigation should be the top android related disappointments not just of the year, but of all time.

      Apple's motto: Don't innovate, litigate

  • Dan Bobke

    The Galaxy Nexus fiasco is noticeably absent here. Much like the Thunderbolt in terms of an awfully executed release, and we will see how much the price drops in the next month. My prediction is that you will be able to get the phone for less than $200 by February 1.
    The Android Alliance is a complete joke. Google has made a mistake in not establishing hardware standards with the manufacturers that allow them to establish such an alliance. By allowing manufacturers to "skin" the interface and basically do whatever they want to the OS, they cheapen the Android experience. While some may reject comparisons to Windows Phone, Microsoft took the right approach overall. They established hardware standards to ensure a reasonable update cycle, and the experience with the OS is uniform across manufacturers. The ironic thing is that Samsung - the seemingly "premier" Android device manufacturer with the last two Nexus devices - is the worst of them all.

  • L boogie

    How about the fusion grid 10 thing? Or Galaxy s 2 NOT COMING to Verizon though the Gnex was a nice substitute.

  • Mneighbo

    I have no buyer's remorse with my Bionic so please don't assume all Bionic owners are regretful. I direct other people to buy it all the time. It's a damn good machine!

    • djembeman

      Yeah!!! I didn't realize how bad my Revolution was until two crapped out on me and Verizon let me get an early upgrade to a Bionic. Love my Bionic and webtop on my 46" TV. Considering a Lapdock 100 too.

      • http://www.ThaMessageMag.com PayDay

        I don't regret buying my Bionic, I even bought my wife one after I got mine. The ONLY problems I have with it is 3G/4G connectivity and the camera...other than those issues it's the best phone I've ever owned.

  • gogakhan

    google comes with a lot of ideas, but they are never executed well. google lags behind ensuring that customers have a consistent experience through all android devices.
    i am amazed that the great ICS+GNEXUS combo couldnt even dent the iphone dominance... too bad google... too bad!

    • Allen walker

      Very stupid comment. Don't you know android had at least double market share than iphone and its still growing and increasing the gap.

  • irtechneo

    I bought the thunderbolt on launch day and i have to admit I was disappointed until I finally got the courage to root. Then I found Team BAMF's gorgious ROM and I have loved my phone ever since.

    • CAMPBELL

      Amen, brother!

      Das BAMF Forever 1.10 kept me from returning to the iPhone (which I really don't want to do).

  • Lazarus Dark

    Apple lawsuits and injunctions are the biggest fail. It's sad that Google felt forced to buy Moto just to keep Android from being sued into oblivion. Is this the future we have to look forward to? Every step of innovation being fought tooth and nail by greedy lawyers and companies that cant compete on the merits of their products. Why can't I just have the best tech available to mankind at a reasonable price?

    I guess really anti-competitiveness is the real big fail of the year.

  • christopher

    The Bionic is a respectable phone, and I would rather have it than the Razr.

  • Tyler

    I too love my rooted thunderbolt despite all its gripes in the beginning. But it wasnt until late july that I started to love it and I bought it two weeks after its release.
    However, I would gladly trade it for the HTC Rezound or Gnex any day.

  • mike

    Droid charge did have a seemingly endless wait for gingerbread but now that it's here the phone is great. Rooted I even better. 4g in my area is just insanely fast too. Awesome screen as well

  • Valerie

    I went from my Thunderbolt to the Bionic and hated every moment with it. It was slow, lagged, had the worst camera I've ever seen on a cell phone and the battery was horrible. It barely lasted two weeks and I could be happier with the Rezound.

  • Tim

    Thunderbolt and Bionoc hate in these blogs is really getting old. Both are nice devices. Thunderbolt had some issues, yes, but that happens when you are first (much as the xoom was). The Bionic is a very solid device. Did it have some connectivity issues? Yes but they are basically gone now. For all the hype, the RAZR is only slightly better specs wise and we got it at the cost of a removable battery.

  • Spydie

    I find it hard to believe how many Kindle Fires have been sold, and to even include that and the nook when talking about Android tablets. They are not. They are android powered, but not true tablets. I had the Kindle Fire for a few weeks and sent it back. It's so far from a tablet or phone experience that it really isn't usable for much of anything. It more like a DVD player which has all sorts of transistors and electronics in it, where all it does is play DVDs... but that doesn't make it a computer.

    • CAMPBELL

      I bought the Kindle Fire with the sole intent to root it but when I actually began using it, I realized I very much enjoyed it for exactly what it is. That said... I bought another Fire and rooted that one. Which do I use more? I use the stocker to read and watch videos and the rooted one to play and experiment with.
      And for $200! C'mon! You just can't go wrong!

  • Matt

    Best thing i ever did in the phone world was sell my bionic and buy a nexus. True story

  • http://androidpandora.blogspot.com/ Myself

    samsung, but also htc, need to start getting better names, so galaxy was supposed to be the top end devices, but there's too many! galaxy gio, galaxy ace, galaxy s, galaxy tab, galaxy s2, galaxy mambo jambo

    get some better names, less confusing, by the name you would assume galaxy ace would be better, when they aren't

    then i see galaxy w's wtf is going on, this not only is lame but it also breaks the charisma of the devices, and that's important

    one thing that disappoints me greatly in android is seeing it being used in all those subpar devices, underpowered, and providing an overall bad experience for the end user, hardware specs requirements are needed

  • DAVE

    samsung disapointed with de galaxy nexus i bought one had to return it , poor 4g signal and the voice calls sound really horrible other then that I can wait for ICS for the RAZR

  • Simon Belmont

    Having 3D on a handset, by itself, may be a gimmick. Albeit a pretty neat one. However, I mainly bought my EVO 3D for the hardware specifications. They were the best on Sprint at the time and still are top tier even now.

    I admit, I don't use the 3D all the time, but it is a fun novelty to show family and friends and it does work well. Wasn't there a rumor that the Galaxy S III might have a 3D screen?

    • Tim

      Yep, I got a Thrill (Optimous 3D) for the same reason, had nothing to do with the camera or 3D, I wanted the gorgeous LG screen.

  • Daniel W.

    You forgot to mention about how long Motorola kept us waiting for the 4G LTE upgrade for the Xoom... A date would be given only to allow that date to pass. Eventually other tablets would come out & have 4G already part of the unit. Over half the year went by before our upgrade was officially released.

    • Tim

      Most of those dates were just leaked info in the blogs and not actually announced, Much like the Nexus, Bionic, and Thunderbolt releases we cant really hold that against the carrier.

      • David Ruddock

        The BIONIC's release time frame was announced by Sanjay Jha at CES as being Q2 2012. Didn't happen - they barely made a Q3 release. As for the ThunderBolt, it was obvious from evidence presented by excellent investigative sites like Droid-life that Verizon was internally continuously pushing back the release date because of problems with the phone - the Desire HD (on which the TB is based) had been out in Europe since October 2010.

  • https://plus.google.com/106674799679375471535/posts Ronnie

    Pretty soon the names from Android Makers are going to go the way the Auto Makers have and just start making up words that sound cool to name their devices. I cannot wait to get my "Samsung Galaxy Lesabre" or My "HTC Lumina".

  • http://htcwildfireapps.blogspot.com/ htc wildfire apps

    Droid looks like a sweet phone !!

  • Steve

    I also wouldn't trade in my Bionic for a Razor because of the razor's nonremovable battery. The Bionic is a great phone sp after the recent updates.

  • XzinteR
    • David Ruddock

      By Sharp - a phone that will likely never be released outside Japan, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

      Also, Sharp (and many Japanese smartphone makers) are notorious for releasing hardware with woefully outdated internals. Sure, it looks pretty, but by the time it's available outside Japan I doubt it'll be all that impressive anymore. Also, buying from a small-time Android manufacturer like Sharp means this thing may never get Android 4.0.

  • stephen younger

    Who cares about the release date of the phones? If they get it right or take the time to make it right then that's a plus for the Bionic

  • paul s.

    Just too sad to see Apple Become the "establishment" they so Heavily & Brilliantly showcased in their " 1984 " ad ...
    Karma's a Bitch.

  • vernon

    Too bad about you hating 3d lol. I just got an evo 3d and its killer. Kinda hurts my eyes tho

    • CAMPBELL

      Kinda hurts your eyes?!

      I guess you'll still have 4 other senses once your eyes go, at least.

      Hurts your eyes. That's just funny. Kinda like saying, "I love my car but I hate that I need to push it everywhere."

      Ha! I assume your comment was meant as a funny. if not, read it again. :-)

  • Tny S

    Only complaint with my Tbolt is of course the battery life. Other than that I love it, fast as a Kardashian finding another way to make money.

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