18
Sep
Jelly-Bean-Logo
Last Updated: January 25th, 2013

In my reviews, I frequently abuse and pick apart TouchWiz, Sense, and MotoBlur. I point out flaws, say "that's stupid," and wonder what the heck was going on when someone approved whatever half-baked change they've come up with. A lot of the UIs shipping on phones today are bad.

But it's not just the 3rd-party skins. Stock Android isn't perfect either, and that's what we're here to talk about today. Jelly Bean has all sorts of confusing user interfaces, weird bugs, things that don't make any sense, and things that desperately need polishing.

I criticize because I care - that goes for Sense, TouchWiz, and MotoBlur too. I want the Android user experience to be good, and this is a big component in making it better - open, honest discussion of what sucks (and, hopefully, receptive developers). If you always think everything is awesome all the time, and that polish, "nit picking," and user experience don't matter, then you turn into desktop Linux. No one wants that.

First though, a few ground rules. I'm not going to talk about just Android. Any reasonably popular Google app is fair game. Gmail, Maps, Voice, Docs, etc. - the big ones that you think about when you think "Android." So let's get to it. Jelly Bean and its assorted Google Apps are going in front of the firing squad. These are the things that are wrong with Android.

I Never Have Any Idea What The Back Button Will Do

Here is a screen cap from Google's official Galaxy Nexus User Guide (PDF), explaining what the Back button is supposed to do:

Capture

So the Back button should open the previous screen. Use of the word "History" makes me think it should work like the back button in your browser. Boy, would that be awesome. There are so many times when that just doesn't happen.

The back button is broken in a million different ways. Here, I'll show you.

Sometimes It Goes To A Screen You’ve Never Been To

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Open an email from the Gmail widget, then hit back. According to the manual, you'll go back to the previous screen, which would be the home screen. You don't. You end up at the beginning of your Gmail inbox. That's not the previous screen; that's a screen I've never been to. That's incredibly unexpected. A second press will take you where the first one should have: the Home screen.

Sometimes It Works The Way It Should

Since we can't believe the user manual, let's be smart users and learn from this interaction: the Back button takes you to the "main page" of an app, then a second back press will get you to where you were - lesson learned.

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Ok, so, with our newfound knowledge that Back actually takes you to the main page of an app, let's take a screenshot! Open your screenshot notification and you'll be viewing it in the Gallery. Now, from here, back should take you to the main screen of the Gallery, right? Gmail took you from a message to the main page, so Gallery should do the same.

Nope! Gallery closes. This time, the back button is working as the manual states, and just takes you to the previous screen. So here are two Google apps that treat the back button completely differently. What is a user supposed to think?

Sometimes It Skips Several Previous Screens Entirely

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We’re going to McDonalds! Screen 1: I’ve searched for it; I’ll click on this MickyD’s to see the info. Screen 2: Ok, looks good, let's get directions. Screen 3: Navigate! Screen 4: No wait! I picked Driving Navigation but I actually need Mass Transit Navigation, let me just hit back and change that (and hit ok on the "are you sure" message). Screen 5: We’re back to… screen 1?!

Yes, here, the back button completely skipped 2 screens of UI for no reason. My search was over, and I just wanted to hit back and change the navigation settings, but the Back button threw me all the way back to my search results. It also zooms out for some reason. This is even more frustrating when you take mass transit, because then the "directions" screen has all sorts of settings. Settings that you had better get right the first time.

Sometimes It Takes You To A Screen You Opened Hours Ago

Things get even murkier when you add 3rd parties into the mix. Before we try this one, open the Play Store, hit menu, go to "My Apps" and pick an app. I'll go with Chrome. Now hit the home button and you're primed for some Back button mayhem:

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Screen 1: OK, so, here's Beautiful Widgets, the #3 paid app in the Play Store, and owner of a "Top Developer" badge. Let's tap it and check it out. Screen 2: Oh, a popup that takes us to the Play Store. Ok, hit "yes." Screen 3: Actually, on second thought, let's hit Back and read that message again...

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Wait. We're looking at Chrome now?!

Remember, Chrome was the last thing we opened in the Play Store, so for this particular quirk, the Back button goes to that. If things followed the user manual and went to the previous screen, we would be looking at the Beautiful Widgets popup. If you've got a lot of RAM and processes never die, looking at Chrome in the Play Store could have happened several hours ago, and you would be thoroughly confused.

This doesn't even go up a level in the Play Store's navigational hierarchy, it just throws you into the Play Store back history (a "Back Stack" in Android developer lingo). Hitting back a second time takes you to "My Apps," and a third Back will load the main screen of the Play Store. Where did Beautiful Widgets go? We are just totally lost now.

Yes, I know this is probably Beautiful Widget's fault, but why is Google letting developers screw with the back stack in the first place? If it is only supposed to "open the previous screen," like the user manual states, why would developers ever need to mess with it? “The back button loads the previous screen” is the only way this button should ever function if you want users to understand it. Have the system keep track of back history and don't ever let anything change it, and you'll have a consistent, understandable button.

Right now, "Back" is a seemingly random command that takes you to something sort-of related to what you've been doing in the past few minutes. You never quite know where it's going to go, or which quirk it's going to exhibit this time. Every single time the back button does something other than load the previous screen, it is incredibly damaging to the user. When you aren't quite sure how a button works, each time is a learning experience, and all it ends up teaching you is that the Back button is a totally unpredictable, inconsistent mess that shouldn't be trusted. I firmly believe that Andy Rubin himself could not reliably predict what the back button will do at any given moment. It's a mess.

Navigation Is Still Gingerbread-Themed

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This is not a "new vs. old" comparison of Google Maps. The left picture is Google Maps 6.11.1, and the right picture is Google Maps 6.11.1. Both of these shots are from the same application running on the same phone. The left shot is the layers menu in regular map mode and the right shot is the layers menu in navigation mode.

Google has just totally forgotten to upgrade Navigation through two versions of Android now. Google Maps is a flagship Android app, and some of it is still Gingerbread-themed. How can you go around tell people to upgrade to Holo (the name for the ICS and above theme) when you don't even do it on all your apps?

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Same thing goes for the menu button; this is an old-school Gingerbread menu. Navigation actually has both Gingerbread and Holo menus. Hitting "More" will bring up the normal layout.

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There is just so much wrong with Navigation's design. Just look at these two pictures, and tell me if the UI matches. Android doesn't used rounded gradients on everything anymore. Things are supposed to be flat and clean looking. Check out how regular Maps, on the right, handles the UI elements. Do that. Flat, semi-transparent backgrounds would look great. These two screens are from the same application - they need to look like it.

See that button in the lower right? That's also not what a menu button looks like anymore. This is trying to emulate the hardware menu button symbol you see on many older devices like the Nexus S, but the vertically-stacked lines were replaced with vertical dots in Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Recent Apps List Gets Confused

Recent Apps can't keep its thumbnails, icons, and apps straight. Sometimes it will say one app, and open another; sometimes it will have the name and icon of one app, and the thumbnail of another. Things can get seriously confusing. Here are some examples. Feel free to follow along.

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Open up any browser, and search for an app, like Angry Birds. Find the Play Store link and open it in the Play Store app (not the browser). You're now looking at Angry Birds in the Play Store. Great.

But now, hit Home and check out your recent apps. You get your browser's name, and your browser's icon, but the Play Store's thumbnail. Here you can see it failing in Chrome and the stock browser, so it's definitely an OS-level bug. I'm pretty sure you can replicate it with any link from any app (Talk, Gmail, Text, etc.).

Ok now, pop quiz: If you tap on one of these hybrid entries, what do you think will open? It says "Chrome," but the thumbnail is of the Play Store. So which is it? It doesn't really matter. It's broken and confusing and should be fixed. For the record though, it's the Play Store. The thumbnail wins.

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Oh, but don't go thinking "The thumbnail is always right" is a rule or anything. Here's a totally different way to break Recent Apps. Find an email with a picture attachment and hit "view," you're now looking at your picture in the Gallery. Hit Home and check out your Recent App entry: It says "Gmail" and has a Gmail thumbnail. So it's going to open Gmail, right? Nope. It opens the Gallery with your image.

This is all especially ridiculous when you see it with the transition animation:

The thumbnail starts as Gmail, begins to expand, and then fades into the Gallery. And no, you weren't seeing things, occasionally (especially with slow animations on) this causes a crazy tear to happen mid-animation, because, understandably, Android has no idea what the heck it should do when this happens. Sometimes System UI will even crash, and the software buttons and status bar will go away completely.

Sure, in this example, Gmail is only a back button press away, but you could go further down the rabbit hole and do things like hit the menu button and start doing image editing, and the thumbnail would still be blissfully unaware that Gmail is now the Gallery. In the Angry Birds example, you navigate all around the Play Store and the Recent Apps listing will never update.

It's never ok to tell the user you're going to do one thing and then, when they tap it, do something else.

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This bug also gets seriously confusing when you do something like open a YouTube link from Google Reader. Say I get interrupted in the middle of my YouTube video and have to jump out. Even though I was using YouTube, there's no YouTube thumbnail in recent apps. Where did my video go?

Icons Will Open The Wrong App

Here's some really basic UI functionality that I can break: I can make an icon open a different app. The most popular apps that do this are Google Maps and Latitude. So, if you'd like to follow along, grab yourself some shortcuts.

Tap on Maps, Maps will open! Great. Now, hit Home and tap on Latitude. Latitude will open. Everything's good so far, hit Home again. Now tab the Maps icon again. You don't get Maps anymore, you get Latitude. You will always get Latitude until you close it. So the Maps icon will open Maps, until you open Latitude, then it will open Latitude. The same trick works with Google+ and G+ Messenger, where the G+ icon will open G+, until you open Messenger, then the G+ icon will open Messenger.

This is incredibly disorienting, especially when, like with the Beautiful Widget/Play Store bug, this could have happened hours ago on a modern, high-RAM device.

There are three Android quirks going on here that make this possible.

1) Android icons work differently than every other icon ever made, in that, if the app is already open, it will switch to it and load the last-used screen instead of opening a new instance and showing you the default opening  screen. Sometimes, there is no difference between opening a running app with an icon and using recent apps.

2) Android presents Maps/Latitude and G+/Messenger as separate apps to the user, when to the system they are the same app.

3) This would all actually be fine if the icons worked the same, but they don't. Latitude will open the existing Maps process and force the display of the Latitude screen, while Maps will open the existing Maps process, but it doesn't force the display of the default Maps screen. So once you open Latitude, Maps opens Latitude. The same goes for G+ and Messenger. Apps like this should really force a consistent opening screen. Recent apps should be for switching to an app and saving the screen state. Icons should always open a certain screen.

No Two Icons Are The Same Size

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If you’ve ever thought two icons looked “weird” next to each other, this is why – icon sizes are all over the place. The tallest, the Google Maps “Local” icon, is 94 pixels high on a Galaxy Nexus, while the shortest, Movie Studio, is 72. A 22 pixel swing is not ok. Local is 30% bigger than Movie Studio!

There isn’t even a single dominant icon size – it’s a pretty even distribution from 72-94 pixels. This is like, interface design 101 stuff. Make everything a consistent size. The varying text heights are from the icons centering themselves, that’s not consistent either.

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This mess of iconography is particularly noticeable in the home screen dock, where things like the above picture are possible. Some icons just don’t “look right” next to each other. These are all stock icons that come with the phone. Heck, the two on the right are from the same app. Yes, Google Maps somehow managed to include both the tallest icon and the second-shortest icon in my survey. Amazing.

You people make Android design guidelines, follow them! Surprisingly, the Android Design Guidelines don’t specify an icon height. They give launcher icon dimensions of 96x96, but then say “You can also include a few pixels of padding in launcher icons to maintain a consistent visual weight with adjacent icons.” Translation: “Eh, whatever, just eyeball it.”

NO! Bad Google.

The Google Voice Icon Makes No Sense

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Speaking of icons, this one kind of makes my head hurt. On the left is the first screen that pops up when you click on Google Voice. It's your text inbox. Voice will also show you missed calls and voicemails (so will the phone app), and the initial setup will hook up your Google Voice phone number, but I think we can all agree that, day to day, this app is used for texting. Right? Good. So then, what the heck is up with the icon?

So tell me, those two icons in the center, if you've never used Android before, do you think you'd be able to guess which one was the phone and which was for text messages? They look like the same thing!

If this is a texting app, why is it called "Voice"? Why is the icon a picture of a phone? This app doesn't make phone calls. I recently switched my Dad over to an Android phone, and I always feel like an idiot when I have to remind him of this: "The texting app is called "Voice." It's got a picture of a phone on it, in a speech bubble."

How is a normal person supposed to keep this straight? I understand why it's called Voice, because I know the history behind the app and I know what the desktop version does, but normal people don't know that, and it's ridiculous to expect them to.

The Play Store Doesn't Remember Your Scroll Location

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Open the Play Store and search for something; I'll go with "Clock Widgets." Scroll down a bit (note the scrollbar location) and pick an app. Now hit Back. You're back to the top of the list. It totally forgot your list position.

Every list in Android remembers your location except for this one - even other Play Store lists.

Google Music Has No Status Bar... In Landscape

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This one makes me rage every. single. day. Why is Google Music a full screen app?! It has no status bar in landscape. Is dealing with a notification while listening to music an unheard of use-case or something? This isn't a video game, sorting through music does not require my full attention. Taking away the status bar in a regular app is completely crippling and makes me never want to open music in landscape.

I use my phone in a car dock (while stopped) all the time. If music is open and you get a notification, you have no easy way of dealing with it. You have to leave the music app just to see what the notification is. This is completely ridiculous. Google Music breaks one of the core UI elements of Android.

Portrait, for some reason, is completely ok with having a status bar. I have no idea what was going on when they decided to do this.

Gallery is the same way. No status bar in landscape. I don't browse through the Gallery that often, but it's not acceptable here, either.

Horizontal Support Sucks

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Landscape mode was introduced pre-Android 0.9, and, something like 10 versions later, it has yet to trickle down to every app. Most notably the launcher, app drawer, dialer and answering a call. Do you have a horizontal car dock or kickstand? Did you want to launch an app or answer a phone call? Good luck with that.

Unmanageable Cloud Storage Pictures In The Gallery

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Google+ Instant Upload, if you don't know, automatically uploads every picture you take to a private Google+ folder. If you use Google+, it makes sharing super easy, and if you don't, it's a free, automatic, unlimited picture backup that you should really take advantage of. When they launched this feature, they decided to sort-of integrate it with the Gallery.

The Gallery displays your instant upload pictures, and that's it. You can't delete them, you can't move them around, you can't edit them or do anything you can with a normal picture. There is only a teeny, tiny Picasa icon denoting this, and I bet no one understands that.

Automatically uploading every picture obviously makes this folder pretty spammy, and just about everyone with an Android phone has asked me "How do I delete pictures from this folder?" The sad answer is "Go find a desktop computer and log into this website," which makes absolutely no sense.

This has the bonus effect of storing picture in two places on your phone, the camera folder and the Instant Upload folder. So for most people, pictures that they think have been deleted aren't deleted. I can just imagine all the panicked, late-night Googling from sexters that suddenly discover their thought-to-be-deleted dirty pictures are permanently stuck on their phone. If you're going to integrate something, Google, go all the way. Don't show people pictures they can't delete.

Instant upload is the most obvious example of this, but it happens to a million other Google services too. Have a Blogger blog? You'll have an untouchable album in the Galley. You also have untouchable albums for G+ Posts, Google Maps Picture uploads, G+ Albums, and Instant upload will spawn a new album every 500 pictures. All in all, I have 15 albums in my Gallery, 3 are from the phone that I can touch, 12 are untouchable, pointless crap.

Small Things That Give Me A Headache

Yes these are small, but when people say things like "iOS is more polished than Android," this is what they are talking about.

Jelly Bean Broke The Menu Button Glow

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Jelly Bean changed the color of the software button glow from blue (in ICS) to white. The problem is, when it came time to do this, they updated the glows for the big buttons and copy/pasted it over the Menu button. This looks terrible. The Menu glow used to be smaller and sensibly sized; now it overlaps the other buttons. This makes my OCD hurt. *twitch*

GTalk Messages Are Buttons That Don't Do Anything

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Every message in Google Talk is a button. They turn blue when you tap on them... and that's it. A tap doesn't actually do anything, and neither does long press. Maybe someday you'll be able to long press and get some options, like copy text, but right now they are just pointless.

This probably happened because Google Talk was obviously a copy of Messaging, and Messaging actually has some long press options.

This Calculator Button Is Broken

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OK - Calculator. Notice the delete button: A nice, uniform size that's in line with the other function buttons. Now, do some math and hit equals, and "DELETE" changes to "CLR."

Two things: 1 - Why is the button bigger now and out of line with everything? "Delete" is 6 characters and "CLR" is only 3. CLR doesn't need a bigger button. And 2 - Why abbreviate "Clear" with "CLR"? "Clear" is 1 character shorter than "Delete" - you could have fit the whole word. Go with all full words or all abbreviations.

Note: This doesn't happen in ICS, it's actually a Jelly Bean regression.

The Uninstall Interface is Half Popup and Half Full Screen

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This cool little popup uninstall interface was added to Jelly Bean, but they only changed half of the uninstall interface. You still get this huge, empty, screen-filling UI during and after the uninstall. On the Nexus 7, you get a little window for both interfaces, and it looks much better.

The On-Screen Button Rotate Animation Is Completely Wrong

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Why do the buttons move during the screen rotation animation?! They don't actually go anywhere! They start at the side, rotate downwards, and are replaced by a second set of buttons.

Go open the camera app and rotate it. The icons rotate on their axis, they don't move out of position because they don't change position. This is misleading, confusing, and it looks broken. The whole black bar should stay and the app area should rotate.

Contact Pictures STILL Look Like Ass

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An old favorite from way back in 2009. Still unfixed. ICS and above is designed for 256x256 contact pictures, which is probably too low of a resolution. Google Contact Sync likes to hand out 96x96 images, which are way too low. Artem admirably tore this issue apart right here, after Google claimed they fixed it.

There Is No Way, Anywhere, To See Your Purchased Apps

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Yeah, so, tell me, what apps do you have purchased in the Play Store? You used to be able to tell, but at some point a Play Store update happened that wiped out that feature, and currently, for months, there has been no way, anywhere, to see what apps you have purchased. Personally, I have no idea what apps are floating out there that I've paid for. It's gotten so bad that people have taken matters into their own hand with things like the Legacy Play Store.

Google Makes A Million Texting Apps

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Google is the Baskin Robbins of texting services. You want to send a text message to a friend? Pick your poison: Messaging, G+ Messenger, Google Talk, or Google Voice. Messaging is for sending carrier text messages, G+ Messenger is for Google+ messages, Talk is Google's multi-platform IM service, and Voice is Google's carrier texting replacement. All of these do basically the same thing with slightly different UIs.

App Navigation Styles Are Diverging

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The picture on the left is the "normal" way to navigate and switch accounts in ICS and above. You tap on the current location (in this case, "Inbox") and a drop-down appears. This style is used in Gmail, Email, Maps, Calendar, Drive, Talk, and Voice. Google+ and YouTube, however, were recently updated with this crazy side-menu thing that pops up when you hit the app back button (the app icon in the top-left).

I like this design, I really do - the problem is that these two apps use roughly the same idea but implement it in totally different ways. YouTube doesn't slide the top action bar over, while G+ does. In Google+, tapping on the icon opens and closes the side bar, while on YouTube, it will only open it. YouTube's side bar can be opened and closed with a swipe gesture, but G+'s can only be closed with a swipe. It's just a mess.

Conclusion

Android still needs a lot of polish. There is hope though, one of the coolest things about Android is the phenomenal rate at which it improves. Just over the course of writing this article, I've had to remove some complaints because they were fixed.

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Google Drive, for example, had an incomprehensible paste icon, and in the latest update, it was revised to a more normal, clipboard-style icon.

Since Matias Duarte took over Android design, consistency and UI issues like this have significantly improved. There's still plenty of work to do, but Android is in good hands. Things are loads better than they were a year ago. Hopefully stuff like this gets fixed, and we all end up with a prettier, more user-friendly, more cohesive Android.

Ah. Well. That was cathartic. You should try it! Let's have a hate-fest in the comments. Tell me, what bothers you about Android?

Update: Matias Duarte commented with the following:

It's true, we still have a lot of work to do. Personally I feel like I've gotten only about a third of the way to where I want to be with regards to consistency, responsiveness, and polish.

Better get back to work!

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • TB

    ".... icon sizes are all over the place"...
    And i was wondering why it took so
    long choosing the right icons which
    look good next to each other. Also the
    icon text comes in one or two rows
    flavor.. Which can't be changed. It's a
    desaster of an grafical user interface
    which might not get fixed in favor of
    a faster cpu or better camera mpixel.
    It's truly about tech-spec, not design.

  • TB

    The calculator issue (clr vs clear) made
    me lough loud. It's really tastic fun. Thnks fr th artcl, vry gd

  • hyperbolic

    I am glad Android isn't perfect, because there is always room to make it better and better.
    If it was perfect there was no where "to go" or even develop.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667020551 Jose Torres

    This is one aspect I like about the Android experience. We don't rave about how perfect and glorious the latest OS is, we use it and we break down the ugly parts, and the developers actually LISTEN!

  • http://www.raymondduke.com/ Raymond Duke

    Voice is Google's carrier texting replacement? No. Google Voice DOES make phone calls; it also happens to have an option for texting.

  • http://twitter.com/Vizualize a.d.AM

    All valid. But thats prob why the Android designer guy said Android was 33% where he wanted it to be. Sorry for the vagueness, you know who im talking about.

  • Ian Thomas

    These are valid complaints but the overarching problem is the lack of enforcement to standards. What Google needs is a group of people that do nothing more than critique apps on their standards starting with their own. They should then offer it as a paid service to developers and have some kind of badge system like the top developer badge so users can see which developers are good and which developers are not so good.

    It hurts me to see them recommend apps on the front page of the market that use gui's comprised of whatever they felt was best. Either promote the standards or don't. Asking us developers to promote the standards then forcing us to use third party libraries like holoeverywhere to try and comply more easily is painful and time consuming. Help us help you and everyone at once!

    • Alan

      Exactly how I feel, two of the worst offenders are Netflix and Blackboard Mobile. They both feel like they belong on Android 1.0 not Android 4.1

  • Fatty Bunter

    Fantastic article. I was very skeptical, but am utterly convinced of every single point you made now

  • Arnaud Léandre

    I am not familiar with AndroidPolice, but I love Android and this article parallels much of my own experience. An insightful article !

  • Adam

    Maybe I somehow skipped over it but a huge annoyance for me would be the "Always vs Just Once" for apps option.

    It really ought to elongate the "Always" button to fill the whole bottom, get rid of "Just Once" and it will be assumed that's what you want if you choose an app without selecting "Always" first.

  • ScroatFan

    Good stuff. All valid. Also, why can I not get swype for jb ? If it worked for froyo and GB, why isn't it in the play store?

    • Alan

      Swype is available and works on JB but you have to go to the Swype website and sideload it.

  • Steve

    I feel discouraged from buying now.

  • Peter Phan

    Contact pictures looking like ass has been my biggest pet peeve.

    Although...
    I wish Voice would update notifications if I looked a my messages online rather than linger in my notification bar until I cleared it myself (note: Gmail does this well, so WTF GVoice team?!!?!?!)

    I wish Voice has MMS capability.

    I also wish Voice didn't lag everytime I had an incoming message. Typing while an incoming message pops up? Your keyboard freezes until your phone went through the motions of letting you know you have a new GVoice message.

  • Alan

    The thing that I really hate is not being able to Join the Me contact with the other Me contact to have all my contact info in one place. You could do this in ICS but it's been removed in JB.

  • http://www.facebook.com/OleIChristensen Ole I. Christensen

    What a whining old man you are.. :-D

  • http://nurudin.jauhari.net/ Jauhari

    "Contact Pictures STILL Look Like Ass"
    If we need HQ Image, we need to Re Upload and we will get HQ images.. why old images didn't automatically turn into HQ? I think, Google not yet saved your old pictures in HQ..

    Another annoying GTalk is... the did't remember our latest position.. each time we move go to others apps and back to GTalk.. the chat will be displayed the latest.. not our latest position...

  • http://twitter.com/maxkrus Max

    Holy christ, I've used JB so many hours now and I never got to notice anyone of these things.

  • Will

    home screen and app drawer rotation sucks. trust me. it's actually a good thing that it stays in the default potrait mode. i tried it in cm10 and reverted back immediately.

  • http://www.facebook.com/NoriSteMagni Stefano Magni

    Which app do you use to slide the brightness directly from the notification bar? I found lot of apps that control the brightness directly into the n. bar but all of them use a button to switch the different level of brightness, I want a slider as shown in you screenshots :)

  • http://twitter.com/nzfashion Designer Direction

    This is awesome. Ron, you are the man!

  • Lyn Scott

    I couldn't say that better... There are some bugs in jb that are not cool.. In stock widget control (quick toggle) screen rotation lock doesn't work, when I make a call sometimes I can't hang up (the only way is going to home screen and pull down the notification tray and hang there).. In group contacts why they don't simply show a list instead of big pictures.. Google now understand Spanish but commands just works in English.

  • http://tumblr.blitux.com blitux

    Well done. Android supporter here, but these things upsets me though. Also, the lack of a realtime SDK for audio is what I hate most. There is a big market of audio apps that could make the difference but the OS is still pretty much behind iOS. I know the hardware fragmentation does this really difficult to implement; there is a lack (also) of standards.

  • Chris

    Wonder how many android stock fans you pissed off.... Death threats on on the way I bet

  • fatal

    I really like people that can admit Android isn't perfect. I never understood why everyone said it's 100X better than iPhone. Don't get me wrong, I'm really starting to come around again (I used to be an Android fanboy until I played with the iPhone) on Android. I personally have a Windows Phone 7 right now, but was thinking about getting the iPhone 5 (I had a 4) because I simply love the polish, and while it may seem stupid to many, I love how everything on iOS has that beautiful 3d look and feel to it and all the apps have a similar feel to them. It's something Windows Phone and Android don't do well. There's so many 2d things, like all the menus. Don't get me wrong, I understand why people love it, but it's one thing I really like about iOS. Basically, it's really refreshing to see someone point out some things on Android. Don't get me wrong, iOS is FAR from perfect and lacks many features that I wish it had. I don't know... iPhone 5 or Galaxy s3... Can't decide.

  • David Manvell

    I expect all of this to be fixed in Kandy Korn or whatever they will be calling the next Android version.

  • Mikey B

    what about headset support omg the worst

  • http://www.facebook.com/reyfcarillo Rey Carillo

    say something useful rather than "Nav is still Gingerbread themed" "Icons are not of same size"

  • hansandersen

    Hey. Nice round-up on the different stuff in Android/JB. I was wondering where to find the Icons that is used in the height-comparison-part? Basically I'm just looking for a JB Icon-pack.

  • mel897

    Android needs to rethink the way it switches between apps completely. I also use a PlayBook and they do it in a much more intuitive manner with a ribbon of open tasks. Vastly superior IMO.

  • revelated

    To be fair...some of these are little more than rants and nitpicks. Some are valid...but still nitpicky. Like the whole CLR button argument. Who really uses Calculator so much that this is something worth calling out?

    Speaking of call out I have to do such with this statement:

    "....Voice is Google's carrier texting replacement. All of these do basically the same thing with slightly different UIs."

    Voice is NOT Google's carrier texting replacement. Saying such a thing emphasizes the nitpicking.

    Google Voice is essentially half a SIP that just happens to deal with SMS. SMS is only one feature of it though. It can receive calls. It can forward calls. It can make calls (via GMail). It can send and receive faxes (via OBi). It can handle voicemails. It can transcribe said voicemails. It can filter inbound calls. It can screen calls. It can even email you when you've received a message or a call.

    In short, Google Voice is to "carrier replacement" as Red Lobster is to Long John Silver's.

    Also, they don't do the same thing. The carrier phone app is ONLY for calls. The Android Messaging app is a receiver for whatever you tell it. By default it handles SMS from the carrier phone, but you could also tell it to manage SMS from Google Voice. Google Talk is an IM client; IM is a totally different tech than SMS, but even still, you can tell Google Talk to send Messaging chats through the Messaging client if you wanted and never touch Talk directly. Google+ Messenger is effectively pointless unless all you care about is Google+, but at that point you likely don't care about the other clients anyway.

    • Jaochoui

      "To be fair...some of these are little more than rants and nitpicks.
      Some are valid...but still nitpicky. Like the whole CLR button
      argument. Who really uses Calculator so much that this is something
      worth calling out?"

      Well, that's why the point about the Calculator is placed under the "Small Things" section. It's all about the details and polish, even if functionally everything's fine.

  • atmanndroid

    the most annoying thing is the menu button moving. it could be on more places: on the menu strip on the bottom right (where it should be) or downside right, but not on the menu strip, or on the upper right corner.
    somtimes theres more than one menu button on the screen.
    and the ultimate lameness: when the menu button is there, but do nothing, because the app has its own.

  • cmorticum

    Nice article hombre. I love doing this with UI's in general, especially desktop environments for linux.

  • Bariman43

    That Instant Upload thing pissed me off so badly that it's the sole reason I deleted my Google+ account. I opened it back up recently, but now I make damn sure that whenever I install a new ROM from a clean wipe that I ALWAYS disable Instant Upload. It's really irritating. Sometimes there are just some photos that I don't want to save (get your mind out of the gutter, sometimes I take multiple pictures but only one of them came out good).

    The other stuff you mentioned are also mildly annoying, but I tend to simply ignore them whenever I encounter them.

  • Michelle

    ndroid suck. Dealing with Google to access apps is a nightmare. Requiring sign ups and new gmail accounts that require passwords more complicated than those of my bank accounts (Ill never remember them) is ridiculous. Cant stand my phon

  • Carl DiClementi

    I agree whole heartedly with every point I have read. The only things I have to add are a couple issues in Messaging.

    1. Why do messages that I sent as I group message not show up in the individual threads?

    And 2. When I click new message, then select a contact because I don't want to scroll down till I find that contact (not to mention that when you search it doesn't search contact names, just the message contents), why isn't the message history loaded?

  • http://www.facebook.com/alberto.blasi.3 Alberto Blasi

    Did 4.1.2 fix any of these?

  • DrDoppio

    I was tricked into reading this article, and I regret wasting my time. Here's a brief summary of what I learned:

  • http://twitter.com/robespain Roberto Navarrete

    I still use Gingerbread, but I think the problems I face are still in JB. Can some JB user make me a favor and check for me if there is still those issues?
    For example, I get a message from a Gtalk friend in notifications. A friend asking me for a website. So I open the web browser, but when I whant to swich to the app I was before (long pressing home to see last apps) Gtalk is not there, so I have to go to the app list, open it, search for my friend and then keep on chatting. It seems when you open an app from a notification, it doesnt count it as an open app.
    Another thing is with keeping the place of the list in Youtube. Search a video tag, find a video in the bottom of the list, wach the video, and when you hit back, I just get to beggining of the list. then I have to scroll down to find the place I were to play next video.

  • Taher

    Excellent article. One more on the icon mess. the SIM Toolkit app icon. Looks like they used the same icon from pre-Gingerbread even in Jellybean. Makes my eyes hurt when I look at it.

    Ron for Google!

  • Taher

    And here are some more gripes.

    Why does the default clock app suck so much? Functionality wise. I'd really love a default Holo style timer/stopwatch/world clock. This isn't a complaint about aesthetics but it's something that's sorely lacking in stock android. Inspiration shouldn't be too hard for this: https://plus.google.com/113735310430199015092/posts/WPM4bg1W7cz

    Nexus S's Car Home app hasn't changed since Gingerbread. Another annoyance.

    Google still hasn't Holo-fied their Finance app.

    Thankfully we have Team Tasks's excellent 'Tasks' app as a native app alternative to Google tasks mobile.

    Matais was right. They're only a third of the way there.

  • Squirrel

    Great article Ron. It took me a while to realise that some of your comments were to do with a Jelly Bean phone rather than a tablet, so since you appear to have an Nexus 7 as well, it would have been good to have done a side-by-side comparison & highlight which issues were with the phone, which were with the tablet & which were with both.

  • http://twitter.com/dakpluto Michael Harrison

    Another big issue for me, why does Google move their buttons all over the damn place? In portrait Gmail, the buttons for actions to an email are on the bottom. Rotate to landscape, and the buttons jump to the top of the screen....WHY?!!?! Every time I rotate to landscape it's like I have to hunt for them. Keep them in the same place, don't move them to the total opposite.

  • khaled

    Could u update this post after 4.2 comes out?

  • 8Charlie

    Great article. The whole back-button issue is IMO because engineers are trying to think for/as consumers. And this is never really a good thing. I sat there shaking my head during a large portion of the Navigation seminar of the Google I/O.

    But my biggest gripe, because I face it daily: No previous button on the Music widget. We never skip back to a song? Only to the next song? I suppose I could keep pressing the next button till I skip all the songs in my playlist and get back to the song I wanted to listen to?

    And they can manage to fit in Album Art, a title and artist name, back, pause and a next button in the status bar of the Music app. But somehow and for some reason the same can't be done in the widget or notification area. Ho to landscape and it appears again. So this can't possibly be some weird kind of "usage principle".

  • sooraj79

    The thing that annoys me most is that certain games are not 'full' full screen and the menu icons remain on top. This causes accidental launch of 'Google Now' every now and then especially if there are a lot of quick swiping involved in the game.

  • AndroidAlex

    I noticed many of these small details, but thought that perhaps my inexperience with the system was the cause. Now I know better!
    I have an issue that just popped up when I upgraded to Jelly Bean. I use the stock browser, and anytime I switch back to the home screen or another app, then back to the browser, it automatically goes to the broswer's homepage. Then I go to the history page to find where I was just browsing. I don't back out (close) the broswer, just switch tasks. This did not happen with ICS, and it annoys me to no end!

  • http://www.flexlabs.org/ Artiom

    By the way, the Google Contacts photo thing is finally fixed in GMail too! And it syncs glorious high-res pictures to your JB phone ^_^

  • http://twitter.com/zeevg zeevg

    Wow, excellent summary of everything that truly sucks on Android. Kudos!

  • http://twitter.com/zeevg zeevg

    What about the ridiculous new "open with" dialog? Where you MUST click "Always" or "Just Once", THEN you get warned, EVERY TIME, about how to Clear Defaults? (Or is that just a TouchWiz thing?)

  • Edmund Tam

    Shameless plug: I made 2 posts here describing some doubtful decisions in Android 4.2:

    https://plus.google.com/u/0/102789087115720447264/posts/V8PQD5w4EWN
    https://plus.google.com/u/0/102789087115720447264/posts/Du9FAcoxCc6

    The problem is that I feel that Android 4.2 is even less polished. I hope this is not Android's future.

  • SpoorthyVemula

    Couple issues. You really nag about the back button. But the function of the back button is totally independent on each app. Same for the icons. I really prefer the android icons to ios though because they are more spacious. Also ive never had the problem where you click an icon/preview and it sends you to the wrong app

  • Matt Peters

    This was a fantastic write-up. I thought I was the only one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cgundersen2 Christopher Gundersen

    i agree with alot of it, but i dont agree with the navigation bar rotation animation, no one said the actual buttons have to rotate, and its a half a second long animation and the glow when you push the menu button, that just makes everything more consistan looking, and if you press the menu button on google play there should be a option to see all purchased apps

  • JohnDoey

    Is there anybody in a position to both 1) fix this, and 2) get paid more because it is fixed?

  • heyheythere

    The calendar does not have "go to date." Huge peeve of mine.

  • Jaochoui

    That's the problem. People shouldn't have to "know how to"; it should be working well right from the beginning. All the "know-how" isn't something a typical user will want, or need, to do to get basic stuff like these working.

  • plankton

    switched from iphone to nexus 4 after 4 years and after 2 days of testing. This is a really nice summary of the difference between both. My question is : does this bother standard android users or not? There's a big difference in price, but right now i know why ;-) Iphone is really spot on!

  • http://chadkohalyk.com/ Chad Kohalyk

    There is a BACK button but NO FORWARD button!

  • http://twitter.com/leonzandman Leon Zandman

    I have this whole Windows Phone Back Button rant unfinished/unpublished on my blog. You kinda beat me to it... Back Button == evil!

  • Br_d

    I primarily use google voice for voice calls day-to-day, not texting. I actually use Facebook Messenger for 90% of my text-based messages.

    The clr button is not out of alignment on my Verizon GNex. Not sure why I can't reproduce that issue.

    The new version of Beautiful Widgets released a couple days ago has started showing up in my recent apps list even though I never opened the app. I think if the widget shows up on my homescreen, it shows up in my recent apps. Yuck.

  • http://www.facebook.com/logan.ny Logan del Sol

    The Google Voice section is a bit confusing.

    For one thing, Google Voice does make phone calls. And it does send text messages. But as far as I'm aware, this is handled through the native applications (i.e. call sends you to the phone app, and texting sends you to the messaging app).

    The exception would be if you actually have a Google Voice number. I personally don't, so I'm unaware if the app routes call functionality when you do have the number linked. Even if it doesn't, the app still does let you make phone calls.

    I guess we're on Android Police, and so this isn't representative of "most" users, but since very few people have a Google Voice number, even fewer have it linked to their phone and fewer still might have the app installed or even be aware that it is capable of sending texts, it's not crazy that this isn't the aspect highlighted in the iconography. To say that it's a texting app is like saying that the Messaging app is a photosharing app simply because you can send MMS.

    For most people, Google Voice is simply free visual voicemail. This is what it purports to do straight from installation, and it does it fairly well. So the icon, while perhaps not perfect, is a nice representation of what the app does. Someone's voice ("phone icon") is transcribed into a visual form akin to a text message ("speech bubble").

    Otherwise, the article is pretty spot on.

  • Whui Mei, Yeo

    As an app developer, I can tell you that Android multi-tasking is complex (not complicated), extremely flexible and deceptively simple. I have spent many hours trying the gazillion options available in the SDK that control the behaviour of my apps and getting cross-eyed looking at "adb shell dumpsys activity" printouts to understand. More help and consistency from the Android team in this area will be very much appreciated by all Android developers.

  • Radim Vachtl

    Latest Android is nice. There's just one thing that really bothers me about it: the navigation bar with home/back/options buttons that cannot be disabled (Nexus 7). This just does not work right in many applications. It's TOOO easy to click by mistake and leave current activity by accident. Also it occupies so much space on screen, which could be otherwise used by the application. It seems that for example Amazon has made this better on their latest Kindles, as the navigation bar hides automatically yet it can be brought back easily by pulling it back with single swipe.

  • iPhone user

    This is crazy. Why would anyone put up with all that?!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=656305002 Christian Johansson

    One thing that annoys me is when i update several apps my tablet gets really slow. I think it should be possible to give the updating process a lower priority so that the tablet would still be usable while updating.

  • Mattias Winbladh

    I agree with pretty much every point you make, but the icon sizes? Come on. If you align them the way they're supposed to; with the text as an alignment base, they look perfectly normal. Just open the app drawer and use your eyes.

    A much bigger gripe for me is that 4.2 and also 4.2.1 completely and utterly broke Bluetooth support for headsets and, according to other users, Bluetooth support for car audio connections. That is not OK. Sure, let's say it broke in 4.2, then you would expect this kind of basic functionality in a cell phone to be fixed ASAP, lets's say in the next release, in this case 4.2.1, but no. Core functionality must never fail, and in a cell phone, I consider Bluetooth a core functionality since the early 00's...

  • david robot

    "I Never Have Any Idea What The Back Button Will Do"
    Weak argument, Make your own application something small with some child windows etc then open it hit back see what happens... You will be annoyed these are seperate applications your GMAIL app was no doub't updated when you connected to the net the layout changed so in the BOOK means nothing.

  • david robot

    The On-Screen Button Rotate Animation Is Completely Wrong, This thing happens Try coding a small app that rotates with buttons and see what happens.
    5 mins tops it should take you with basic knowledge

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Philip-Warrillow/100003006596275 Philip Warrillow

    I agree with nearly all of what Ron has said, I actually email'd Google with similar comments only a couple of days ago. This is why Apple still manages to sell large quantities of iphones, At first glance they look so so so much prettier (and consistent) It seems like Android is getting more boring looking and black and white with every new version. Good thing with Android is the user can change nearly anything, pity we have to change so much, a launcher is essential now. Come on Google get it sorted chaps.

  • David Jin

    And after reading this whole article, I still prefer Android over iOS.

  • YESYOUCAN

    Stacked icons when you create a folder on the homescreen pisses me off! We want to be able to see what apps in the folder dammit! And the circular icon is butt ugly!

  • oj88

    Go to mobile networks then APN and press an APN. The coloured feedback is still Gingerbread-orange!

  • 2mecode.blogspot.hk

    thankyou for your help!!

  • Big Flamingo

    One of the things that gets me is when you use the messaging application, and you have to type which contacts you want to message instead of a simpler drop box or something else like that. The multiple messaging in SMS is also crazy as the message appears to have been sent many times to every recipient. I would use the MMS but most people haven't downloaded the correct settings to receive these type of messages. Since getting a nexus, I have lived the customisation of android in contrast to iOS, but these bugs are ruining the overall experience. I would be extremely happy if Google fixes these issues. Thanks.

  • Jonathan Campbell

    Speaking of messaging... Why, for the love of God have they not fixed the fact that I can't use the group I created within gmail contacts to send an SMS to that group? Why does Google even have a group option in the people app? You can't do anything with it. No email, no sms... You can only edit the group. This lack of resolution makes my blood boil.

  • Daniel Stefanov

    "The left picture is Google Maps 6.11.1, and the right picture is Google Maps 6.11.1. "
    Wait, what??

    • gumbald

      Precisely, there's two different interface styles within the same version of the application.

  • shiva

    i was a user of galaxy s2 till now and have got used to the touchwiz interface. i have migrated to nexus 4 and thought the pure experience would be great but it is not. A couple of things which i find odd are - you cannot remove additional pages in the home screen, when you start dialing a number the system does not look for matching telephone numbers which was available in gs2, there are a lot of screens which are devoid of colour (pure black/white with minimal colours). I tried some launchers which provide solutions to some of the above issues but have not found one which can provide the touchwiz kind of interface. May i am expecting too much with a pure android and an app which can be like touchwiz/sense.

  • Boruga81

    You forgot to mention the pop up alert you get from sending a lot of text messages asking if you want to deny or allow messages to continue sending SMS messages. So far no one has found a way to disable that, but only by rooting, which I'm not into.

  • Aneesh De

    I realize this is a fairly old article, but there's one issue i'm surprised no one's brought up. Why doesn't the stock launcher allow folders in the app drawer? Or even rearranging in a custom order?

  • Katherine

    My Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 was upgraded to Jelly Bean this past weekend, so I've only found a few things so far.

    The vibration when hitting nav keys is gone. Why? I really want that back.

    Is there any way to customize what's in the mini app tray? I don't like their choices and would prefer to substitute my own. And we already have a dedication nav button for the Task Manager, why do we need it there too?

  • http://www.facebook.com/nathan.borup Nate Borup

    I hate that my nexus 10 navigation buttons are in the middle... why do they do that on a 10" tablet?

  • lynn

    Just stay with your iphone and use your phone the way apple wants you to

  • rankar

    I just switched from iOS to android and it's been painful. one of the things I already miss (this is day six on android) is the complete integration with exchange activesync with ALL of the iOS apps (calendar, phone, mail, etc.). Because android is deemed a security by our large company, we have to access mail, contacts, tasks, etc. all through nitrodesk touchdown. what a pain. it doesn't integrate with anything. every app is unique in its navigation (right on, Ron). The other big thing: global search. iOS' global search will search all apps, all docs, etc. for the keyword you enter. For android, you have to go into each app and do a search. horrible for the enterprise user that has their personal and work life so intertwined.

    • rankar

      i meant "security risk"

    • Freak4Dell

      I believe you can go ahead and thank good ol' Apple for that global search feature being missing. That was the subject of one of the many legal cases those idiots brought forth.

  • Chris Johnson

    This is why betas are betas.
    Im having _none_ of the above issues, and there are several i can see straight away that can be easily fixed because the damn thing is an android. i dont use touchwiz or any of that crap so i got rid of it.
    The sole issue im having is with the browser turning blue. there doesnt seem to be an answer for it yet...

  • http://twitter.com/kreemer kreemer

    fantastic

  • Nicolasdij

    Really great piece of work here. I would only be like to add a missing feature: native integration with GTasks in stock calendar. I can't figure out why Google hasn't done anything about the yet after so many years of Android and GApps

  • b

    I love you. I want to marry you and bear your child-apps. These are all the reasons that even though I love android obsessively, I still routinely recommend apple products to most people. The app heights drive me nuts.

  • Simon

    Jellybean "go to date" work around. Create a new event but only set the date you want. This will take you to the date you want without actually creating a new event.

  • Rebecca Leonard

    Google Voice is NOT a texting app. It didn't even have texting for the longest time.

    I'm trying to be understanding with your article, but some of the things you list out are really stupid or just plain incorrect.

  • topor.j

    Andro starts to smell. I assume Google is focusing on impressing us with something else than user-friendliness. Obviously, new versions of Andro are written by iOS or Blackberry users, and the testers spend too much time on Facebook instead of working :/

  • Michael Morris

    I find some of these complaints, most notably the size of the app icons and contact pictures, to be a bit extreme. I Agree with the idea that if you open a picture from an email the recent apps icon should still be gmail, but there’s no excuse of inconsistency. Maybe that’s a result of my low expectations. Problems with the play store, back button and number of texting apps are valid. Overall my level of satisfaction with android is higher than this dude.

  • bob

    this retard is funny
    the icon thing really gets me rofl

  • vijer

    Google apps? You use those? I deleted all of mine, except I do sync my CalenGoo and GO Contacts with my Gmail account.

    Gallery has another strange bug, I have an Icon folder and it was populated with 20 or so icons. This folder displays in Gallery. All well and good. Then I added several new icons to the same folder and now Gallery shows two icon folders, one with the original 20 icons and another icon folder with the latest icons. All the icons are physically in the same folder though.

    Not too mention I should be able to open setting for Gallery and tell it which folders I want it to include, it shouldn't be a grab all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/seehypnosis Mark Turnbull

    Please please send this article to Google, along with the questions.....Why does the gallery app scan the whole device and load every single image, icon, and clipboard cuttings, with no way of just scanning the external sd card, or just the "pictures" folder? This is just a ridiculous oversight. Also, why have they got rid of "apps to sd card"? So many people are raging about this!

  • Yossi Cohen

    The biggest problem is the lack of undo and low latency audio.
    And browser missing link positions...
    Dialer has landscape mode (hidden) so does call menu, home? You can replace It.
    Google plus no opening swipe is to prevent accidents... the closing is just "why not".
    Yt is a dynamic content provider so no problem here.
    Different Yt and Gmail menus are due to design. Gmail and maps are more for real use while yt is just entertainment and supposed to look good.
    We ain't iPhone we don't need same size icons.
    Back button is fine by me most of the time. Gallery closed cos gallery has a mini instance while Gmail is an app.
    The landscape no status bar is good in the gallery as this bar takes a lot of space while in landscape.
    Music? Just for the 3d...
    Recent apps are good too... Most of the time especially sense ones.
    Most stuff here are curable by rooting .

  • http://www.facebook.com/nishant.soniji Nishant Soni

    He forgot to mansion the biggest flaw in Jellybean, Jellybean forces the user to crop the pic before setting to Home screen or lock screen wallpaper. Now if the picture is already portrait. That blue box cropper sucks and pisses me off. I installed an app. it works for homescreen but no luck for lockscreen.

  • Charlie

    very well said. I totally agree with you. they are not very particular. but they are good in advertising :D

  • hjax

    When I look at this article all I see is that you play starcraft II. Destiny and LAGTV

  • LisandroVaccaro

    My biggest gripe with android is this: go to music, open an album and play a song, then click the app up/back button, instead of taking you to the previous screen it takes you to the first one skipping completely the he one with the album's songs. This makes me completely mad, the reason being that it could be fixed in 5 minutes.

  • steff worthington

    I was expecting critique of it's infamous battery drain, the overheating, it's wifi-energy suck, its paralised home button, or its random reboots... but instead I got a very long 'this doesn't look pretty' blog.

  • Anonymous

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    perry jordan from United Kingdom

  • cabbiebot

    I'd like this article revisited and progress checked.

    • cabbiebot

      obviously Ron can't do that anymore :D

    • http://the-jade-domain.com Jaime J. Denizard

      Seconded.

    • Joshua Hill

      According to you in another forum the users wants are not important.

  • Robin

    Luckily some of those issues are fixed. Sadly not all of them.

  • Hrod

    This was my favorite article when I read it way back when. I'd love to see a new article on how 4.4 compares to 4.3 to address any of these points. And if 4.4 brings even more issues than these. Because if so, I'll stick to my Nexus 4 that I've customized to suit me than 'upgrading' to a Nexus 5.

  • randomname

    This is what happens when you set engineers free.

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