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.
  • Jason

    I really hope Google reads this and addresses a lot (all :)) of these issues.

    I find the default SMS Messaging app to be really lacking in a variety of ways. I think they really need to beef up this app so it is much smoother, more options, and better integrated with the other Google services as you mention. I really don't see why Google doesn't integrated GTalk directly into the Messaging app similar to what Apple did with iMessage. Integration aside, just fixing some simple things in the Messaging app like being able to properly view MMS with text instead of viewing a goofy slideshow would be nice. Fortunately there are 3rd party apps that address some of these shortcomings.

    My other big complaint about Android is the way permissions are handled for apps. In my opinion, having to decide whether a particular app should be allowed all of these permissions when you go to install it is a really poor way of dealing with permissions. It is possible, for example, that you never use a particular feature of an app that demands a particular permission but you have to grant the access anyways. Instead, apps should not require any permissions when you install, but ask for them on-demand. "Someapp wants to take a picture. Allow? (Yes) (No) (Always)". Obviously this would require apps to be written to support this on-demand model so maybe if they allowed the old method for backward compatibility but move toward the new model over time. A common argument against this is that apps that need internet access and looking up your phone ID for displaying ads would get denied. But I say that if a user denies a permission then the app should be able to detect that and simply not function.

  • skeezmoe

    Thank you for pointing out the two most frustrating things that irritate me about Google Play:
    * Does not remember scroll position after looking at an app - THIS ANNOYS ME TO DEATH!
    * I cannot see all the apps I purchased - This was in the old Market PLEASE BRING IT BACK!

    I hope Google takes notice of this, I am almost tempted to install the old Market because of this.

  • SoffMouf

    Great points all around - I hope the Android team takes note, especially about the play store scrolling positions and inability to list purchased apps.

  • casinrm

    Ok the back button is sometimes annoying but it isn't THAT bad. There's only a few niche scenarios it really applies. 95% of the time it works. As for multitasker, I've noticed the issue you've described too but the trend I notice is that whatever you last had open with X app is what you're going to get. If you opened Youtube with GReader then tapping will bring you to Youtube. If you opened a picture from Gmail, then tapping on Gmail opens to the picture page. The advantage to programming it like that is that even if apps open other apps, they're counted as a screen of the original app that opened it so pressing back sends me back into the first app. It's really handy when I read an article then open the Youtube link and then pressing back takes me back into the browser.

  • BrettLewis

    As I understand it, The back button takes you a level down each time it is pressed. Or if it is in the same type of screen, it will take you back before going down. But before exiting completely it will almost "rewind" the app to it's home state.

  • Alan Lin

    I would like to add another.

    When in an app, say chrome, if you get a notification, and you click on it, pressing back will throw you back to different locations.

    I've noticed with a whatsapp notification, tapping back will take me back to chrome, but with a Gmail notification, it will actually take me back to the home screen. I think it makes more sense to take me back to what I was doing

  • Eleminohp

    In regards to the recent apps menu and the Chrome icon showing the Play Store, I am assuming that you selected a Play Store link in Chrome and it pulled up the store. If you were to hit back it will take you back to the website where the link was displayed.

  • http://twitter.com/wonderyak wonderyak

    No hate for the scrollbar placed too close to checkboxes? Fat finger a checkbox and watch your place skip halfway down the list!

    https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-KxfARZQIMbQ/T-3yykAE30I/AAAAAAAAFA4/BsvcP2Wd9e0/s472/12+-+1.jpeg

  • Fernando Bártolo

    Great job pointing them out for Google to fix.

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

    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!

    https://plus.google.com/114892667463719782631/posts/NWdbD1AmyTA

  • nsnsmj

    I agree with most of these points, but dude, some of it sounds like whining. Some of the things you consider problems are not problems, you just don't like how they are. Not hating or anything, just my opinion.

    Anyway, it was a good read, as most of the pieces on Android Police are. This is the best Android site, and that's thanks in part to it not being full of Android fanboys. Things like this is one of the reasons I like about android fans in general. They have no problem criticizing Google/Android, unlike the fans of other platforms.

  • http://0xf.nl antihero

    I adore Android and this is a fantastic article I can get behind. The key to decent UX is consistent, predictable behaviour, and Android fails at this at certain points, which is tragic, because since ICS, Android has been far more beautiful than iOS.

  • http://twitter.com/Dr_MBambi Moaz Bambi

    I thought I'm going to say.. "Yeah whatever man, just live with it."

    Now I'm saying "Someone, send this to Matias Duarte!"

    Great Article. I hope Google sees this ;D

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

      It's been done and he's seen it and the article has his feedback at the end.

      • Vincent Hon

        Hi, actually apart from Matias Duarte, another googler +Romain Guy gave his comment "Most of your navigation confusion comes from the Android notion of "tasks." For instance, if app A launches an activity of app B (Reader -> YouTube, etc.), that new activity is part of app A's task. Tapping a recents thumbnail or a launcher icon takes you back to the task." This may be helpful.

  • zach

    I agree with your article, but I must say that it's impossible to make the back button consistent in 3rd part apps. The reason for this is that in each activity (screen, usually) developers have the ability to handle the back button differently; sure, the default handler to go back to the previous screen, but often that's not viable from a programming perspective.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6706714 Ofir Fatal

    Eagle-Eye Ron! Great job as always on this article. I'm glad I'm not as OCD as you are, to be honest :)

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/MetalMessiah78 José Gómez

    "Google is the Baskin Robbins of texting services." <- This is hilarious! I can't stop laughing. Very good write up though. Many of those things bug me also, especially having so many ways to text someone. They should just get rid of Google+ Messenger altogether especially since there is no way to respond from the desktop client.

  • Robert Mahon

    The Play app, as you note above, is the main thing that winds me up beyond belief. Not tracking where you're upto when you dip into an app to install, go back, and start at the top of the list is just bad. Not being able sort by install date/size/name. Some way to get rid of an app that you installed for 10 seconds, realised it wasn't the one you wanted, uninstalled, but it's there forever now. If I can install apps from the webpage, why can't I uninstall them too to manage? And update them too (if I've turned off auto update). Even go back to a version that worked before a patch (can see devs wanting to turn this on/off, but the use would be great).
    And...
    For Google to actually be THE search engine, why IS it so hard to search through lists of apps to install? When a new app goes live, it's a 'part II' to an app I've already got, and it matches the name of the phrase I typed in, why isn't it THE first on the list sometimes? Google gets search spot on for me everywhere else, but finding an app...

    But yeah, keeping where you're up to in the install list alone would save me countless frustrated mad amounts of scrolling.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I've said since the days of the Market that the Play Store app was mediocre. It's still one of my least favorite apps to use. The app description cards are where they should be, but the sorting and browsing UI, along with all the usability bugs and search retardedness, make it a nightmare. It's no small wonder discovering new apps on Android is hard.

  • Absodez

    Only issue...the reason the Maps icon now goes into Latitude is because Latitude is a shortcut for a part of the Maps app...opening Maps again brings you to where you where...which was Latitude...which is a part of Maps.

    Other than that, spot on, and I love that Matias responded....

  • http://jakespurlock.com Jake Spurlock

    Totally agree with everything here. My nexus is for sale...

  • http://www.facebook.com/zenilnshroff Shroff Zenil

    Pretty interesting article and i must admit highly researched, the biggest thing i hate in every android's version is that the default apps handling various tasks, changing them should be made pretty easy.

  • Huggies

    The Google reader widget and the Gmail widget - both are Google widgets with almost identical functionality, yet they have completely different dimensions even when resized to take up the same grid size -.-' Just one example of terrible Android widgets.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CoryG89 Cory Gross

    Maybe spot on, Alas, perhaps the author should think about submitting bug reports as he discovers them, instead of saving them all up (doing no one any good in the mean time) and creating a huge blog post about it.

  • mreid6

    my biggest gripe is how the default messaging app handles group SMS - I and everyone else expects it to work like a group IM or chat but it doesn't work like that at all. All texts are classified as MMS (don't mind that per se), are grouped separately (each individual number has it's own thread, but only sometimes), and times when they are grouped correctly - it's a coin toss whether or not the reply will be added to the group message or individual. It's embarrassing that my friends on all other platforms (One BB Curve on BBOS7, iP3GS, iP4, and an LG Quantum on WP 7.5) can do this better than my Galaxy Nexus running JB 4.1.1!

    • Freak4Dell

      I've never seen it grouped correctly, and that's really annoying. I hate that it splits it into multiple threads, because if you need to send another message to the group, you have to make the group all over again.

      But, at the same time, I would also be annoyed if it was grouped, because that would probably mean that the individual threads don't get updated with the group messages. I'm a stickler for keeping a history of my conversations (other than verbal, anyway), and I don't like having to visit multiple places to see my conversation with one person.

  • Darren Swanson

    I agree with the vast majority of things here. I don't think the different sized icons are that big of a deal. Nor do I think the legacy menu button down in the bottom right corner being illuminated with a full light grey circle is terrible. And the rotate animation is fine. Just too slow on the Galaxy Nexus. Other than those three things, though, I'd say you're spot on.

    • http://mikelward.com/ Mikel

      Different sized icons are the reason I now use the Tersus launcher theme.

    • Jaredsutter

      You can change animation speeds on the nexus in settings, developer options. There are 3 settings for animation "scales." I use .5, .5, and none.

  • Usama Ahmad

    This is a great, great post. Thank you for doing all the screen shots and writing this up. I'm going to link to this. Hopefully Google's Android team sees this.

  • Jon Garrett

    So let Google know ASAP so they can fix this.

  • Androiderp

    Glad you mentioned the Navigation back button problem - It kills me a little bit every time I need to change from Car to Walk.

    Speaking of Navigation bugs. A recent update brought in a new 'voice' - the only problem is the old voice still speaks about 20% of the directions (typically the 'turn here' voice). The turn by turn navigation goes like this:

    New Voice - "Stay on Georgia Avenue for 1 mile"
    New Voice - "Turn left onto Texas Avenue in 30 feet"
    Old Voice - "Turn left onto Texas Avenue"
    New Voice - "Stay on Texas Avenue for 2 miles"

    • blunden

      I think that's because one of the later versions of Navigation (well, Maps) added more spoken directions and for some reason those don't get picked up by other language packs. If you run it in Swedish for instance, you get a mix of Swedish and English for that very reason. I'd be interested to find out why.

  • http://twitter.com/humancyborg Human Cyborg

    Also why are you able to slide to see the left-hand navigation in the YouTube app, but not in Google+? Minor, but also confusing and inconsistent.

  • Damien Diehl

    I gotta say, I don't agree very much with the section about the back button. I always expect the back button to navigate up through the stack in the application that I'm currently using. If I want to go to the home screen, I will never hit the back button, I'll hit the home button. If I want to go to a different application, I'll either use the recent apps button or navigate from the home screen.

    But everyone has their own mental model about how this should work. The important thing is that app developers utilize the back button consistently.

    • Freak4Dell

      Agreed. I wish they'd just get rid of the whole action bar back button nonsense and make the back button just go back within the app, instead of making it go back between several different apps.

  • ari_free

    I like this level of attention to detail. On the other hand, the last thing I want to see is Apple's skeu-tastic design, which is often inconsistent and prefers a concrete, physical model over more usable designs.
    For example, picking a number by scrolling down a long, narrow wheel of fortune instead of simply typing it directly from a numpad. I really hate this because some android apps have adopted this iphone nonsense and it is so much harder to use.

    • Aaron Maslen

      You can still type directly from a numpad though? Just tap (or was it double-tap) on the number and the numpad appears

      • ari_free

        Stopwatch & Timer just has the wheel of fortune. I had to uninstall it because of this issue. It was fine before the update.

  • Karlo E. Meléndez Peña

    My lord did you hit the nail on the head with the icons... I can't stand the way they don't line up and there is no consistency with my home screens.

  • eoes5991

    Exactly!

  • http://twitter.com/tmwsiy Parker

    Great points!

    My #1 Pet Peeve: Recent Destinations in Navigation is a total mess. It is never chronologically sorted, some appear, some don't, and sometimes a location that I navigated to weeks ago pop up. This is total NONSENSE! Every other nav app I have ever used can keep a chronological history of most recent POIs. Why is this?

  • adsharma

    Impossible to read quick text messages from the lockscreen. iOS is a lot better in this department. I understand this is a trade-off between convenience and security. But stock jelly bean provides few choices for phones with a PIN/password.

  • Cole Boggess

    Google fixed the blurry contact pictures, you just have to add your own pictures. Even if you added your own in ICS you have to do it again in JB.

  • WestIndiesKING

    i am so in love with this site for reason like this. The fact that
    Matias Duarte commented about it seeing all of this is a damn shame man. Plan and simple. The play store bug, taking screen shots and the 2351531 different messaging apps are my biggest pet pevs of android. I pray these changes take effect in small updates.

  • Freak4Dell

    I agree with some of this, but you're just nitpicking with others. The back button works weird, I agree. The recent apps thing is valid, too...I see that all the time when opening a file from Solid Explorer. The UI of the various Maps pieces is disorganized, but it doesn't hurt the user experience any (other than just looking strange).

    The menu screen in Navigation is Holo themed, at least as far as I can see. The thin, clean design of the icons shows that. Just because they have put pictures on the buttons doesn't automatically make it a Gingerbread theme.

    The Voice icon makes perfect sense. It's an app that combines phone call features and SMS features. The icon is a combination of the Phone and Messaging icons. Also, about telling your dad which one is the texting app, either stop being cheap and pay for a messaging plan from your carrier, or stop complaining. If you choose to do things the ghetto way, you'll have to live with the sacrifices that come with that.

    The icons being different sizes are a subjective thing. I prefer them like that. Complete uniformity will just end up making them look boring, like the iOS icons.

    The different messaging apps don't bother me, but that's probably because I don't use any of them other than Messaging. If I do GTalk on my phone, I use Trillian, and Voice is only used for texting when I'm selling things on Craigslist. In fact, combining them only makes it confusing. I've seen Voice just blend into the regular Messaging app if you don't have the Voice app installed, and I couldn't figure out if replying to a message sent to my Voice number would result in my reply coming from my real number or my Voice number. I'd rather just have them kept separate. If you only use Voice for texting, just disable the messaging app or delete the shortcut. Problem solved.

    The rotation thing makes perfect sense. It's rotating the entire screen, rather than just part of the screen. It would look fine either way, and there's nothing wrong with the way Google chose to do it. It doesn't look broken by any means. Want to know how to avoid that problem altogether? Bring back physical buttons. Software buttons suck.

    • Jaochoui

      "The rotation thing makes perfect sense. It's rotating the entire screen,
      rather than just part of the screen. It would look fine either way, and
      there's nothing wrong with the way Google chose to do it. It doesn't
      look broken by any means. Want to know how to avoid that problem
      altogether? Bring back physical buttons. Software buttons suck."

      Yes, everything on the screen is rotated. The problem is, they are not suppose to rotate as a single unit. The content is supposed to rotate independently from the buttons, and vice versa. The buttons do in-place rotation: in terms of physical location, they don't move.

      But that's not what the animation is conveying. It rotates everything, including the buttons, as a single unit. Then, magically, the buttons pop back to the side, but with in-place rotations.

  • mkranzler

    Very interesting article. I agree with a lot of it. The problem is that I'm a developer and I also am confused with how the back button/up navigation should work. Event when I make it work the way Google says it should work in the docs (which I still don't fully understand) it doesn't feel quite right.

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    Great post. I love Android and what ICS and Jelly Bean have done. These are the best criticisms I've seen in one place, and frustrations I've had at some point or another myself.

    Here's hoping Google takes notice!

  • Petal

    AWESOME article. You should feel proud of it.

  • naja

    I have desktop dock for Nexus S. Launcher and App drawer are in landscape mode!
    Phone app should never ever rotate... Ever!!
    Phone on the desk -> picking up -> UI rotate -> hit the wrong button...

  • kyle

    Why do I have to leave dialer to see my phonebook (ics, droid 4)

    • Aaron Maslen

      Are you talking about the Blur dialer? In stock ICS, you can swipe across to your contacts or tap on a tab.

    • http://twitter.com/vinceklein Vince Klein

      You can swipe to the right on JB (Gnex) to do this

  • TinmanTinman

    Agreed there are inconsistencies but Jelly bean is still the best Mobile OS out there

  • Jei Arc

    This is why i like AP even if you like something you can still see the issues and hope for big G corrects all this and further improves on them, making the OS more consistent, reliable And easier to navigate, great piece

  • hollywoodfrodo

    I agree with all these things. A few of them don't bother me or are things I haven't personally come up against, but some of them (Play store not remembering your scrolling place & Navigation UI way outdated) drive me crazy. It makes no sense the same company that's creating cutting edge things like Google Now can't tackle all these little things. These are the kinds of things Google has to fix to really be on par with Apple in the UI arena.

  • rohail6

    most of these dont really bother me and some of em ive never noticed until you pointed it out but over all your point is very valid we still have a long ( but REALLY FUN :D ) way to go LOL

  • butlerpcnet

    you really did some incredible tinkering and in-depth explanations of these little Android quirks. Great job and great article.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/no6969el Noel Barcellos

    Since is use the Google voice app exclusively for voice mail I interpret the icon as "Phone Messages"

  • http://twitter.com/ImSteevin ImSteevin

    Great article!

  • http://twitter.com/SparkysShocker SparkysShocker

    Your Google Voice icon argument made me laugh because it is so idiotic. The voice icon is a combination of the Messaging app and the phone app icons, because guess what you can do moth. Secondly most new comers to android have no idea what voice is and last time i checked it doesn't come pre installed, therefore they would use the happy green messaging app.

    Other wise pretty good article.

  • Mikko Markko

    Play Music and refreshing of library & sync to cloud. it's complete hell to manage stuff...

  • cfergus

    Anyone notice Jellybean auto-corrects email addresses and adds spaces? Even when you add '@' it just adds a space between it and the address and corrects it to the closest word.

    • http://twitter.com/SparkysShocker SparkysShocker

      I have not noticed that or had it do that but then again I have not used the stock keyboard since the original Swiftkey.

    • darrenf

      I've only had that experience with the stock Galaxy S3 on ICS (is it Swype?) and only in places where the application doesn't properly specify the email address entry mode. It is terribly annoying, but I haven't experienced that in JB with the stock keyboard.

  • http://twitter.com/SparkysShocker SparkysShocker

    I see the whole 4 messaging be cleared up fairly soon. Messaging was your basic messaging app. Talk was your legacy gmail chat. G+ is there answer to facebook and twitter. And voice was their voip solution.

    I see them rolling G+ and Talk together very soon or just phasing Talk out. Whish would leave 3 apps. I see them then merging messaging into the plus app. Which would leave 2, where I think it'll stay. Voice is a unique solution which is good but not everyone will use it.

  • syu

    i think the recent menu should have "close all" at the buttom like touchwiz

  • Boris Lewandowski

    Great article. #thxs

  • http://www.appwolf.com Gehan Dias

    Fabulous work mate and great to see that the Google UI chaps are paying attention. Will look for more of these as Android evolves

  • http://www.facebook.com/m.kashiff Muhammad Kashif

    Such a great article and analysis. Good job.

  • xaniphus

    i had the same issue with the back button on gingerbread, but it was because my launcher (zeam launcher) had updated and the default launcher setting reseted itself. hope this helps. =)

  • Sunil

    I just can't stand the fact that I can't add a playlist made by music app as an Morning Alarm.

    The small messages sent by the Service provider pauses the music. That sucks.
    I'll think about more.... :) This is the best way to help android grow fast. Critics from a very important part of an opensource ecosystem. :)

  • vasras

    Good analysis! There is actually *much* more (I'm an old, really old, HCI expert) and am very tired of waiting for Google to fix really basic UI bugs (yes bugs, not features).

  • BillPosters

    Great analysis. Google should be pay you and others who do these detailed reviews which end up being valuable and free UX consulting work that Google's well-paid teams should have already sorted out long ago.

  • Zafer Ozsoy

    Fantastic article
    One addition:
    When you launch Maps app and immediately start typing something to search for it, it will back out from the textview and close it show you your location on the map. ( I think this is because current location kicks in and app updates the view) super annoying.

  • VJ

    Amazing article .. I had noticed the Maps/Navigation quirk, but just brushed over it. I expect most users do the same. Sure hope all the stuff you pointed out gets fixed within 2-3 future releases

  • Ken

    Great Ron, now I know about these bugs! Ignorance was bliss. But yeah, some very good points that have caused some frustration previously.

  • darrenf

    Great article Ron and I'm happy to see that it got Matias Duarte's attention.

    I tried to read all the comments but couldn't even get my browser to load them all. :-) I hope this isn't a duplicate:

    In Messaging, why will the compose window only show me three lines of what I'm typing? With Google voice-to-text I can compose long text replies without needing the keyboard, but proofing becomes a chore because I have to find a way to scroll back through the message three lines at a time. Combine that with positioning the cursor and text correction and... I've already driven off the road just thinking about it. ;-)

    When I'm composing a text, I've already read the messages that I'm replying to. I could care less about those staying on the screen and if I want to refer back, I wouldn't mind scrolling through those because the need is infrequent. The compose window, on the other hand, should expand until it takes up most of the screen because that's where my focus is when I'm composing a message.

    I think this is a safety issue as much as a usability/UX issue -- despite laws to the contrary, lots of people text while operating dangerous equipment and the more attention it requires, the more likely it is to take the operator's focus away from things more important.

  • Ken

    Would you agree that the recent Apps list is more eye-candy than user-friendly?

    You have all this screen real estate - why would you not list the recently used apps in a large grid instead of a one dimensional list that needs to be scrolled. The icon+window preview is sometimes redundant and the size means you are required to scroll a further distance.

  • Ric

    I mostly agree with the article except the gallery lanscape thing. When looking at photos, I dont need notifications. I want the whole screen to display the picture. It would be cool if the software buttons disappeared as well (like when watching a video).

  • http://www.facebook.com/eviollet Emmanuel Viollet

    Just a quick comment for the Music player in horizontal mode. The status bar DOES disappear, but if you swipe down from the top, it appears again and can be used normally.
    This applies to most of the apps that hide the status bar...

  • gumbald

    Great article, have experienced most of these things!

  • Stephan Paukner

    You _can_ delete Instant Upload pictures on Android: from within the Google+ app!

  • Laurel Raven

    I've found I can't use Google Music for what I want to use it for: to play music while doing anything else with my phone. Maybe this has been fixed, but just recently, I put in ear buds, turned on some music using Google Music to play something on my phone already...then immediately had to stop everything I was doing and hunt down a different player, since it immediately halted playback when I hit the home button so I could browse the web while I was waiting for something.

    This is pretty basic functionality.

    As much as I love Android, I have to agree with just about everything in this article. In the 1 year I've been an Android user (couldn't afford a new phone before that), I've seen it improve by leaps and bounds, however, so I am very happy with it over all, and I'm glad to see it grow and improve.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Knausclod Claudio Contin

    if you don't understand how to use Android, go and use ur apple dumb os(s)

  • George.M

    A couple of my own gripes include that there is a limited amount of spelling dictionaries. on iOS I can choose from a vast array of language dictionaries, and select from any keyboard format I wish to use (QWERTZ, QWERTY, etc...) and flick between them at will.

    It is great that in theory I should be able to import an Add-on Dictionary (which does not exist for the language I am looking for), but this is Google we're talking about… Google Translate anyone? (Find the options here: Settings:Language & input: Android Keyboard:Add-on dictionaries)

    In the SMS app, why can I only delete one message or the whole thread? I would like to be able to select multiple & delete multiple messages from a person.
    When writing a message in either the SMS app, GTalk why does the text input field not expand?

  • http://twitter.com/vinceklein Vince Klein

    Two interface choices I find questionable on JB:
    1) Google search bar on every home screen. IMO that only eats screen real estate without real functionality. All you have to do is swipe up to bring up Google Now,
    2) Widgets are still inconsistently implemented, margins both horizontally and vertically don´t allign most of the times. Having multiple widgets on a home screen quickly looks untidy. Google should enfore stricter policies on this.

    and of course....the ununiform icon mess.

  • marjoleink

    Ever since Google started the 'Play Store' nonsense I've avoided going there. I don't buy games, so what should I go there for? I know it's just a name but it irritates me enough to avoid it.

  • plotfi

    Most of this stuff is dead on, and I have encountered all of it. About the icon sizes though, I think that may be on purpose to avoid violating some apple patent that says icons are all the same sized rounded square or something like that (one of the things they sued samsung over was the fact that they fix this in android).

  • http://twitter.com/C14KAA Harps

    Yep pretty spot on with a majority of those, Some I have never come across, maybe because you have a rooted device? Although, I do love the modified notification bar with settings.

  • DEAN ROBERTS

    I wish gtalk would allow file transfer through the app and on the g+ website built in google chat, it would be so easy. I agree the low quality contact pictures are a joke. The scroll position in the play store annoys the hell out of me too. The gallery images I agree with too, I with google drive had a folder in the gallery though too.

  • Mars Mountain

    The "Complete action using" dialogue box is the most annoying one IMO. Nice of Duarte to comment the article btw!

  • kkjdroid

    I really wouldn't mind the different-sized icons--they make Android distinctive from iOS' grid--except for the text positioning. Why not just pretend that the transparent space matters too and center it that way? The calculator complaint is irrelevant to a lot of people, though, because the built-in calculator is mediocre anyway. Might as well switch to a free alternative and uninstall the stock one.

  • doktorn

    Great job just to find all these errors! I do love the constant improvements on Android, but these findings are spot on awkward and should be top priority to fix. First and foremost Googles own apps must be consistent, which they are not. Secondly g+ messenger must be integrated into talk.

  • born2bwild

    I think its "amazing" that I cant zoom in as much on a picture with the pictureviewer as I can with the camera app. I took a pic of a car in an accident and tried to read the licenseplate. In the camera app I was able to read out the plate but not with the picture viewer because of the lack of zoom to that level...

  • Anynomous

    You do realize that Voice can be used for calls. I do it from my PC, even.

  • http://twitter.com/mahan_h Mahan Hooshmand Rad

    The tethering icon bugs me so much. seems like they haven't revised it for ages.Awesome critics BTW

  • nicooo

    Long time lurker, first time poster here. THANK YOU so much for the incredibly detailed work on this piece (and all your others in fact). This is why I love Android Police. Your site goes places where the others don't bother.

    Even though I got kind of used to the broken app stack, non rotating dialer, play store not remembering list positions and so on it's still maddening and very frustrating. Let's hope the Google team takes this article to heart and fixes at least the most blatant inconsistencies and bugs with the next iteration of Android.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.tobeck Paul Tobeck

    I'd love to see this put into a checklist, then post a follow up in 6 months and see how much of this gets fixed in 5.01 (can't really get too much into a .0 release because .01 usually pops up 30 days later!)

  • wanowrie

    Thanks for the great review. I think Google should send you some cool Android swags for this effort :)

  • http://twitter.com/TheMrDerp Trevor Utzy

    Great article. Really hits on every major UI snafu in 4.1. One thing I would like to see is the ability to set a default quick reply number. It's annoying when someone calls me from their home phone and I have to decline, go to the messaging app, then clack out a message just to say I can't talk right now.

  • jackie chan

    quit whining.

  • Tarek El-Ghazaly

    I hate not being able to access quick settings directly at the notifications drawer...

  • -Dante-

    And thats why i love the Android community, we can make critics to our beloved OS like no other fan cant do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/frogstar42 Jeff Goebel

    Excellent way to make me content with ICS for a while. Previous to this read, I felt like I was being ripped off by buying the new HTC top of the line, and having it be one OS behind.

  • subramanianv

    That's a pretty long list. Adding one more item to that:
    While on a Bluetooth headset, after ending the call it doesn't lock the phone automatically. When you are driving and can't take the phone out to manually lock it, things go haywire. Once it called some recent contact and another time it went to airplane mode. I am guessing I may not be the only one faced this issue.

  • lolobabes

    The Play Store Doesn't Remember Your Scroll Location - this is what annoys me the most! ahihihihi

  • http://twitter.com/RAGman_7 WK

    I guess another option which is bothering me is YT offline option… why the heck Google
    can’t add the option to selectively choose which vid to download? It’s beyond me. I don’t want to download dozens of vids on my “Watch Later” list just to watch offline but only chosen ones…
    There is no indicator showing that videos are being cached or downloaded… bummer

    Great article by the way… Google should shape up and DO something about all this
    quirks and faults, simple stuff like – Google Play don’t remembering position in search list or small pics in contacts is simply outrageous… mildly saying…

  • http://thedangerbrain.com/ Alfonso Surroca

    Not to get into iOS vs. Android, but every time I read one of these rant articles, it reminds me of a key difference between the two fanbases. Android fans never shy away from criticizing Android, Google, or any of the hardware manufacturers, where Apple fans defend or make excuses for Apple (who hasn't heard things like "they'll fix it in the next version", "no one uses that feature anyway" from your Apple fanboy friends?)

    We're not really fanboys or apologists here. When Google screws up, we don't make excuses or pretend it's not a big deal, we call them out publicly. And that makes Android stronger. Good on all of you, especially you Ron!

    • Fatal

      Go to any youtube video with Android vs iPhone and trust me, there's a TON of Android fanboys that think Android is perfect.

    • Behinder

      Most Android fanboys never admit Android sucks. I know many Apple users that admit something good is in Android but never met Android fanboy that likes something in IOS

    • Jaochoui

      I'm not so sure. There are plenty of criticisms by iOS users as well about iOS... some of which are even on why Android (and Android phones) has a feature for aeons but iOS still haven't. Both sides can be equally critical of their platforms.

  • http://tasomaniac.com Said Tahsin Dane

    You are hilarious. Great article. I hope google gets what you have said.

  • http://twitter.com/udayms Uday M. Shankar

    To me, the best part of an Android phone is - "To hell with the stock OS, let me download a custom ROM (MIUI, Ressurection Remix, AOKP) and customize it further and use!!! :)

  • qqe

    "The Play Store Doesn't Remember Your Scroll Location" plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz fix this google plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Lie Ryan

    Good article in general, one thing I disagree though is about horizontal modes.

    Just because horizontal support is available on the system, doesn't mean that every apps have to have a horizontal mode even if it doesn't make sense. The dialer and the launcher are two examples where I'd be annoyed if they added horizontal mode; for these particular apps, adding horizontal mode hurts usability. Horizontal mode is excellent for videos, games, and lengthy reading, but for most other apps, adding horizontal mode means you'll be juggling constantly to hold the phone at specific weird angle when you're using the phone on the bed or something like that. IMO, most apps should not have horizontal mode.

    • Jaochoui

      Coincidentally (or otherwise), iOS (at least the iPhone version of iOS) does not seem to have horizontal views for some of the same screens as well. Perhaps there are underlying usabilities issue which both companies realised.

  • http://twitter.com/core_form coreform

    Back button:
    Its a mess but the solution is apps aligning to best-practices.
    If you want to go back to home then press the Home button. Back button _really has to_ to go back to the last app when it has been opened by that app to provide a service for that app (e.g. apps that use a camera app to capture photos (the camera app handles Back button very well in that situation). Otherwise its good for Back button to be debounced (to prevent accidental flams) & go back to the main/home area of app before leaving it to go back to whatever previous app (especially if the app is being inner-Intented by its own AppWidget or hyperlink. Tabs are an interesting complexity to throw into the Back button/backstack equation.

  • http://twitter.com/core_form coreform

    Voice chat (well whatever the app was you said had useless buttons): its probably just highlighting the selected list item, which is then where you scroll from if you, say, use the scrollwheel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aleksandr.popov.313 Aleksandr Popov

    If even Google's Matias Duarte admits that it's 1/3 ready, why on Earth should Google release third-baked product? It's just insane... o_O

  • Leonardo Oliveira

    Really nice article... A great in-depth look at the OS...

  • https://plus.google.com/117125023630262605212 Kelly

    the back button usually goes back to the last app, unless it gets stuck in the current app's history stack - happens with messaging a lot.

  • http://twitter.com/Gem_Jefferson Marty McFly

    My biggest peeve is not having a T9 dialer in stock Android. Inexplicable. I'd unroot my phone of it had it. Power widgets built in to the notifications wouldn't hurt either (yes, I'm using notification toggle, but still).

    Not having numbers along the top row of keys on Nexus 7.

    The market issues with not remembering scroll location or organizing paid apps sucks too.

    Chrome not using flash and not replacing it with an alternative.

    And typing in web browser text fields like this one can be difficult from phone and tablet.

  • cas_e

    This is so spot on. Bravo.

  • LeamNoran

    The only part of this I don't quite agree with is the rationale behind wanting to change the Google Voice icon.

    I have never used Google Voice for text messages. Google Voice is used by myself those around me for international phone calls, and me specifically, for visual voicemail replacement on all my devices.

    So the icon works perfect for us, as it's messaging/voice/voicemail all in one.

    The centralized topic isn't missed though. Google has so many messaging apps, maybe they should just roll the core of Voice directly into Android and just get rid of the app icon entirely.

  • mma173

    Here are the two annoyances that I hate the most:
    The groups has no use. You can't send them an SMS or an E-Mail. Moreover, the MMS app does not support adding a group of recipient at a time.
    The corporate support is weak e.g. the exchange E-Mail does not sync the subfolders of the inbox, does not let the user choose which folders to sync, and has no 'Out of Office'.

    Thanks' for the great articles

  • Dshroyer

    I dislike how I can't access my Google drive from my Gmail account. If I need to send an attachment, I have to download it to my device and then attach it. Very annoying.

  • FrazerMcIntosh

    A very good article with some great points, but the suggestion of fixing the back button action wouldn't work. If Google did this then the back button would completely break on many apps, such as games where there aren't many 'activities' that are distinguishable by the system.

  • ArKain

    This article needs way more visibility.

  • blunden

    It seems you got the reason for the "Jelly Bean Broke The Menu Button Glow" wrong. I can't find any specific drawable for the glow for that button. You can see the commit they changed the color below (from CM github because it's nicer to browse).

    https://github.com/CyanogenMod/android_frameworks_base/commit/e2bd3fac1c5c57cc34f8541539341840455ad1a7

    I went as far back as Honeycomb/pre-ICS and didn't find any such drawable removed. My guess is that that horizontal rescaling of it was done as part of the layout or directly in the code.

    To be honest, I only noticed it once a few weeks ago and thought it was a fluke since I didn't recognize it. That must mean that I have almost no apps which still use the legacy menu button. I think it was in Jump Desktop where the use of it actually made sense (it was used to toggle the RDP/VNC overlay UI). That app has some serious UI issues on the first screen of the app though.

  • http://twitter.com/arrioch Milos Mirkovic

    Forgetting scroll location in Google Play is extremely annoying, so search and browsing in Google Play is nearly impossible, since it always gets you back to the start of the list. Because of that i use apps like AppBrain and BAM for browsing, and Google Play just for installing.

    “Eh, whatever, just eyeball it.” - i design icons for living, tried to eyeball it, now my eyes hurt.
    I'm guessing that reason behind lack of consistency between apps is that different teams handle different apps, but still, someone should oversee and test their behavior. But let's remember the chaos before ics, this is still a leap forward.
    I'm confident Google will improve and fix these issues quickly, hope someone there sees this article. And hope to see more holo apps, i love that design approach.

  • Leandros

    I found something regarding the widget confusion: http://developer.android.com/design/patterns/navigation.html#into-your-app

    Interesting, isn't it?

  • mahad3v

    Very nice article. I agree, many flaws remain. But I am proud of where it is heading.

  • Gaurang Dave

    Hi Ron, being a die hard anroid and google fan I came to this article expecting some Android Bashing from a typical apple fan...but...man the design issues you have raised are really good...these detailed oriented improvements is something that Android really needs to polish it self...hope some one at google hears this.... :) keep up the great job..

  • http://rymdvader.wordpress.com/ PetaFlux

    I guess you have to kill yourself then.

  • Nplus1

    Great article, really spot on!
    I completely agree with all the design issues and inconsistencies. Some of them are just inexplicably stupid, like that "CLR" button.

    I laughed a lot and when I checked the browser slider I was only about half way. :D

  • http://twitter.com/SoWhy Prof. Professorson

    Great job in compiling that list, I'm pretty sure Matias Duarteis happy that you gave him a detailed list of stuff to fix ;-)

  • Spetsen #11

    A great post, but I have a couple of comments.
    "I Never Have Any Idea What The Back Button Will Do"
    My smartphone history consists of iPhone 3G and Galaxy Nexus. This was one of the biggest problems I had with Android in the beginning. Now I've more or less learned how the back button should work and I've even learned most areas where it doesn't work as expected. The problem here is that the Google people seem to argue all day over how it should work and then implementing it in whatever way they feel like at the moment. Your first example was defended at this years Google IO, but I agree that it's the wrong behavior. If I wanted to navigate like that I would use the up button (top left corner...).
    The example from Maps is probably a result of Maps and Navigation more or less being different apps, but somehow the same. It could be argued that the back button would skip screen 2 because it's more or less a fullscreen popup, and popups should not reappear when using the back button. Which brings us to your next example, but first I'll have to say that I think both screen 2 and screen 3 are acceptable destinations after pressing the back key at screen 4. A zoomed out version of screen 1 is not acceptable in any way.

    In your Play Store example it is not in any way expected to return to the popup window. I'm not entirely sure how you got to the popup, but it seems that it happened by clicking the widget? In that case, I would say the reasonable thing would be to return to the home screen. Returning to a previously visited app in the store is one of the strangest things I've encountered. Actually, Play Store seems to be the source of many inconsistencies in Android, I don't like the up button, the back button or how it takes over Recents (something you wrote about later).
    "Navigation Is Still Gingerbread-Themed"
    To be fair, Navigation is still in beta. But of course this is not acceptable. Because ICS was my first Android, I was very confused by these sorts of menus in the beginning. Now I've realized it's a heritage from earlier versions, but this shouldn't appear in Google apps. Beta is an excuse, but not a good one.
    "No Two Icons Are The Same Size"
    Actually I kind of like this. I think iOS has a very boring interface, where all icons are exactly the same size and shape.Giving the developers the opportunity to use any shape gives a much richer experience according to me. Different shapes will naturally lead to different sizes and of course they should be scaled in an appropriate manner so all icons look roughly the same size. And the text below should really be properly aligned with the text of other apps.
    "Google Music Has No Status Bar... In Landscape"
    The argument behind this is probably that the carusel is an interactive experience, but the argument is bad. The argument for the same behavior in Gallery is probably the same, but still a bad argument. There has actually been blog posts from the Android team about how apps should never hide the status bar without a really good idea and everyone seems to agree on this. So the y should really fix this one.
    "Horizontal Support Sucks"
    Most Google apps support horizontal views, so I wouldn't say that it sucks. I have never encountered any problems with apps that I've expected to have landscape support that didn't. Except for maybe the launcher, but it isn't really expected to support landscape views (iOS doesn't support it and neither does WP afaik). It sould be great if it did though...
    "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."
    I see no need to defend yourself in this area, this is the most irritating aspects of any operating systems. But I'll still have to comment on two of the issues... ;)
    "Jelly Bean Broke The Menu Button Glow"
    Well, the menu button shouldn't even exist, so not really a big issue. It's always sad when something used to work and doesn't anymore though.
    "App Navigation Styles Are Diverging"
    Drawers (that's what the G+/Youtube things are called) is a concept that was just recently adopted by Google. I think they saw the pattern in other apps (read Facebook...) and thought it would be a good idea. As with many things Android, they implemented it before they decided any guidelines about it. They got a lot of questions about it at this years Google IO and since then they've put up a small section about it in the design guide (http://developer.android.com/design/patterns/actionbar.html, scroll down a bit). Basically: the Youtube way is "right". Personally I don't like the pattern at all, especially not how the up button is used on what seems to be the top screen...
    TLDR: Great post, I agree with most of it.

  • Miles Conrad

    I very much agree on some of the topics, a couple I don't care about at all as they're such minor things that in my opinion only affect those with a OCD or something.One thing, Google Voice. The icon is a great icon, a messaging icon fused with a phone. Why? Because it's a text AND CALLING application. I have no idea what you're talking about there. I use the app to call everyone, record/answer/manage voicemails, text, etc. all within the Google Voice app. It's a fantastic application that's completely free to use (in the US with free texting for those outside the US), so I don't know how you came up with that result. Are you not in the US?
    One suggestion from me to Google, PLEASE put in a specific app volume function, like in Windows Vista/7 where you can control the volume for individual programs that are running.

    Another one that I suggest putting in your article which really bugs the crap outta me is categories, like folders/labels/tabs in the app drawer. I am so freaking tired of just having to sift through tons of apps to get to the right one. Launchers like Apex Launcher have tabs which are fantastic and make getting to the right app much faster and easier, but it's stuttery and not as fast as the stock 4.1 Project Butter.
    Another thing that Apex Launcher has but not stock is the ability to set the amount of home screens you want. I don't want a bunch of home screens, I just want three. Why can't I just have three homescreens?

  • Thoughtlesskyle

    can we all at least agree that its going in the right direction? its gotten drastically better since 4.x

  • Andrew Wilson

    Good article. Lots of good points; the Play Store forgetting my scroll position is one in particular that makes me nuts. I do have a minor point of disagreement: Personally, I don't text with Google Voice. It's my voice mail, and that's it. So the icon makes perfect sense to me.

  • http://blog.ravrahn.net/ Owen Cassidy

    I agree with many of your criticisms but your icon height tirade is nonsensical.
    It doesn't add consistency unless you want icons to all be squares, like on iOS. Icons have different aspect ratios, and they should - it's the best way to get different silhouettes, which is what Android Design wants. This sometimes manifests as different heights, but also different widths.
    There's no design reason to keep things the same height. Consistency is maintained stylistically. That's why Android Design wants the slight 3D effect.

    • TimTheK

      Thank you. Saved me from typing the same exact response! I don't want Android Applefied where every icon looks the same. Differentiation makes is so much faster and easier to identify an app.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Denny-Craneftw/100000896630404 Denny Craneftw

    I have a Nexus 7 and MANY of these "issues" simply don't happen... and the others, like Navigation? That's an app and not part of the Jelly Bean OS. The icons are different sizes? Go buy an iPhone. They're all the same there. Google Voice? It does NOT look like that on my Nexus 7. And the rant about the back button not acting like a home button? The HOME BUTTON IS RIGHT NEXT TO THE BACK BUTTON. Try using it.

    I don't know... maybe the author is using some custom ROM? It's like he's talking about some other OS and not Google's Jelly Bean.

    • Jaochoui

      "and the others, like Navigation? That's an app and not part of the Jelly Bean OS"

      Read the introduction again. He specifically mentioned that he would not just cover Android, but the default apps within.

      "And the rant about the back button not acting like a home button? The
      HOME BUTTON IS RIGHT NEXT TO THE BACK BUTTON. Try using it."

      It's more like a critique on why the Back button does not act like a proper Back button, and has such inconsistent behaviour.

      Now, it doesn't mean the Back button can't go to the Home screen. It can, *if* the home screen is indeed the previously visited screen; that behaviour will fit perfectly with the Back button's intended purpose.

  • Woodson Hansell

    i am not sure if we are using the same os. i'll just comment on two items. the first one is this supposed to be about jb. many of your comments are about apps. no slider in music? why is that a jb problem not a app problem? do you really use the music app?
    i hit a major bump on you first problem, the back butten. the back butten almost always makes sence to me. if i open an app the was previously open, when you hit the back you go backa page in the app. if its a new start it goes to preious window. some apps do something different but thats the app again.
    i always look forward to checking out AP, however this article is disappoint and written for the head line whitch in my opinion is very miss leading. i spent a lot of money on an ipod touch and ill take my androids any day over touch any day.
    woody

  • Megan L

    I absolutely hate the new texting with Jellybean!!!! It is absolute garbage!!! The autocorrect makes me want to rip my f*&^ing hair out!!! The developers HAVE to do this crap on purpose!!! How do I get the old ice cream sandwich platform back? I'm also mad that downloading this new crap took just about 200mb of phones data usage!!

  • Myrddin Emrys

    You can see your apps in Jelly Bean. The very list that you have a screenshot of shows "Purchased" for apps that you have paid for, but not currently installed. The UI could be improved (such as filtering), but you can see purchased apps.

  • Soji

    Good job, hope google will hear about it and make those improves!

  • lgfanboy

    iOS fanboy. Fuck AndroidPolice

    • cancerous_it

      i know right. just to spite andoid users, i'm going to use ios 6 maps and drive off a bridge.

  • http://twitter.com/yorksranter Alex Harrowell

    And don't even start on "low storage". we've got 140 MB RAM free and 2 GB of external storage and you're wasting my life bitching about being short of storage? Plus the whole fuzzy-math crap where you dump 8MB of cruft and go from 1.8 to 1.2MB free? And listing apps that live on the SD card and store data there in the "internal storage" menu? And all the utter toss that just duplicates bits of the filesystem? And HTC Likes? And all the carrier shite installed with root?

    WAAARGH KILL KILL KILL.

  • michaeljc70

    I doubt most users experience most of these. I use my tablet and phone all day and haven't experienced many of them. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be fixed, but I don't think they are major issues.

    My biggest issue is the gmail app will not let you download email for offline browsing. That is a feature missing rather than a bug though.

  • ugh

    Google seems to be good at starting projects that will do awesome things once finished. Problem is they get to some point in the development and then start something else, leaving many things with a half-baked feel.

  • Manas Kumar

    A good read on android, this is beauty of android that it is open to critic comment and evolve. These bugs will be fixed, well hope so. Yes android needs polish, loads of it. And it could get much faster than any other platform.

  • k_osi

    First of Ron, even before i read the article:

    "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."
    Not cool at all. You'll find many desktop linux users here and they appreciate polish and more so improvement. N they tend to be the worst nit pickers, just head over to ubuntu and launchpad forums.

    Back to readin your likely awesome article. Thanks

  • CeluGeek

    The sad thing about Landscape support is, all those apps do support landscape... if you have a phone with a sliding keyboard. Why hasn't Google extended this support to touch-only phones is beyond me.

    The Play Store not retaining the position of the last item to scroll, also happens if you are scrolling through all the applications you have ever installed. Seriously, when I factory-reset a device, I'd rather go to the Play Store on a PC and send all applications I want from there than trying to use the store app on the device.

  • br_hermon

    I think you hit the nail on the head on a LOT of problems in Android. The only one I actually would disagree with you on is Google Voice and the icon. The scenario in which you described, while done by many, isn't how the app was originally intended to be used. I actually use GV for its original purpose, calling. I use my GV number as a second number which I use regularly. Because of that when I open the app and it shows my inbox, it displays calls (made, missed and voicemails) as well as texts. Used in this way, the icon is really fitting, Google voice is a service that offers calling and texting, which I feel the icon accurately displays.
    Now for you, you referred to it as a texting app. But that's simply wrong. You're simply choosing to use it as such. Since you use it as a messaging replacement your inbox is primarily filled with text messages. But your unique use of the app shouldn't dictate a change in icon design. Let's remember here, you are intentionally using the app one sidedly as a messaging app. You choose to disregard the other features of the app. That's on you my friend, not Google.
    Aside from that, right on! I hope Google sees your article and takes every single item to heart. Nice read!

  • http://www.facebook.com/trinhthanhtrung Trinh Thanh Trung

    My main complain is setting default app. You set an app as default, and tomorrow you wanna change to another app. Managing default app has been terrible and there aren't even an app for that in the Market

  • http://www.facebook.com/magnet.man.54 Magnet Man

    I'll add a few. I'm on a Nexus 7:

    1) It is impossible to set a high res image as a background on the launcher. What happen is that you are forced to go through the gallery to pick an image (makes sense) and then set it as the background (also makes sense). The problem is that the gallery only provides a low res image, and on a Nexus 7 it looks horrible at full screen. I have tried this with 3K * 3K images with the same effect. This should be working out of the box, but I had to download a separate app (QuickPic) in order to set a high-res image as the background. Why shouldn't this be working out of the box?

    2) The full-screen clock decides to turn blue and jump around every few seconds if it's left on. This is the most bizarre behaviour ever. In fact, even if it's plugged in, it decides that it should turn itself off after a period which is counter-intuitive and not very useful. It would be far better if it just stayed one colour and stayed on if plugged in.

    3) Google Now and the search, which do exactly the same things, seem to be different apps. Why? They are also very slow to start. Often time's I'm waiting multiple seconds for the app to open, which somewhat conflicts with the idea of 'now'. Many Google apps, despite being functional, are quite slow to start. There are apps in the market that simply put these to shame in terms of speed.

    4) Chrome and Google Now have a bad habit of blocking the UI thread. If I'm entering a search or something on a page, it's not unlikely that chrome will freeze for a few seconds until I can see the results of my actions. The same is true when typing things in the search bar on Google Search/Google Now. Nothing, and I mean nothing should block the UI thread, which is exactly what Google recommends in their documentation.

    I'm sure there are more. Android is a phenomenal OS. I see features like passbook for iOS, and such a feature would be child's play for Android with its intents and services, allowing apps to communicate with one another, rather than needing to be a specific part of the OS. The major problem with Android is the apps. Even with Jellybean, Google sets a terrible precedent with its own applications that are simply unpolished. Though I have no doubt things will get better, it's a shame that after all of these iterations, Google still doesn't get it. Polish counts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    Glad to see some constructive criticism. The back button is ridiculous sometimes lol.

  • Greg Bissell

    Contact pictures are high res for me in JB so I dont know why you are saying they didn't fix it.

  • animalkrack3r

    Honestly my JB doesn't do this

  • Bruno Prado

    I don't know if anyone said something about my complaints, but here they are:

    - Why every time I try to multi task while browsing, when I come back to the browser it has to reload the whole page! Hate that.
    - Why Google Chrome has different theme from Jelly Bean? Isn't supposed to be the default browser on Android? And if so, why it doesn't take the fu****g address bar and the command bar (back, home and apps) away from the browsing experience, like so many other apps do it?
    - Why didn't they implement toggle control in the status bar already? Everybody does!

    -

  • http://www.facebook.com/vaughnb21 Brandon Vaughn

    Half of these don't happen in my version of JB(which is CM10, generally the same.) The thing where the recent apps showing different thumbnails is normal. It shows what that particular app instance last showed. In this case, it showed, for both, App Store thumbnails because that's what they both opened last. It didn't open the app store as a full app right away, just that once part. As in, I can open a youtube link from Dolphin, it'll open Youtube ON TOP OF Dolphin. And hitting back will simply go back to Dolphin, or hitting the Youtube icon in the upper left corner will go back to Dolphin too, with youtube not being open anymore.

    There is most certainly a place to see your purchased apps. It's the third button on the top of the Play store. A line with an arrow going down above it.

    Last thing is just different services.
    -Messages: SMS/MMS Messaging
    -Messenger is just Google+'s messenger

  • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas

    The rotation animation is garbage too, regardless of the on-screen buttons (it doesn't actually animates the content, but rather it merely takes a shot from the buffer and rotates it while fading it out, it's a pretty lame and lazy animation). In fact, the animation used in the Galaxy Note running 2.3.6 was infinitely better.

    But my biggest complain is the fact that I can't bring the notification drawer if the statusbar isn't visible. This is among the most annoying things I experience while using Android. While iOS notifications drawer is a lot more shitty, it is indeed better in this respect.

  • Mohamed El-Qadi

    Can this page be send to google someway or another? Probably not but........

  • david_inuk

    And how about the inability to delete apps from your
    installed history on the market!

    This is the most annoying thing possible!!!!!!!! There are some apps in my
    history which I wish were not there and I cannot remove them!!!!!!!!! This is absolutely RIDICULOUS!!!!!!!

  • Andreas Ottosson

    The Google Music player has a status bar in landscape, there's no play/pause fwd/rev buttons in it in landscape though...
    It's right next to the search button...

  • TB

    Oh, god. Reading about these ui design flaws in android i've just recognized how bad the system is. I for myself do not want to be the 'testmouse' of tech trash if better solutions are around. It's the simple philosophy "machine follows man", not the other way around.. I want keep on following. My next phone won't be an Android. Big ups to the Police, i'm using 4.0.4 on a SGS3.