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Last Updated: February 7th, 2013

A few months ago I wrote "Stock Android Isn't Perfect," an article where I turned my usual harsh UX critique on stock Android, instead of just picking on TouchWiz and Sense all the time in my reviews. The article went over pretty well, and even got a few responses from Googlers! I didn't cover everything that was wrong with Android, though, and there have been a bunch of updates since the original article, so it's about time I wrote a sequel.

So we're officially making this a series now, and it'll serve two purposes: One, there's a new version of Android out, and more things to complain about; and two, to give credit where it's due, because, since I wrote that article, a lot of things have been fixed. Just like last time, this isn't just the base AOSP stuff; Android plus all the Google Apps are fair game.

I'll say the same thing I said in the first article: I criticize because I care. You can't be a blind fanboy all the time. Being able to have an open and honest discussion of the imperfections of your favorite piece of software goes a long way towards improvement, and it's with that in mind that we lay bare the faults of Android.

Fixes And Updates From Last Time

Before we drive into the new stuff, we should take a look at the old list and see if anything has been fixed. After all, one of the best parts of Android is the ridiculously fast rate of updates. Not only do we usually get 2 updates per year, Google also delivers a significant trickle of app updates through the Play Store. Part of the reason I wanted to list Android's flaws was so I could also keep track of those flaws over time. Doing this reveals Android's real rate of improvement, and it is truly impressive.

So here's the current progress report. I'll point out what's been fixed, and, while I won't run down the entire list of things that aren't fixed, I have a few extra bits of commentary and updates for the unfixed issues.

Not Fixed: The Back Button - Let's Just Rename It "Shuffle"

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Really, nothing has changed regarding the unpredictable behavior of the back button. It's still horribly confusing for a normal person. Most people just consider it an "anywhere but here" button, so I suggest we just rename it "shuffle" and tweak the icon a bit.

Often the unpredictability is the fault of the individual apps, but that excuse doesn't really work for me when we're looking at Google apps on a Google OS. Why is the back button programmable, anyway? I've yet to see an example where allowing developers to screw with the back button is a good thing. All it seems to accomplish is a lack of consistency. I vote we just nuke all Back button programmability and make it work like the back button on a browser: it always goes to the previous screen, and no one can ever mess with it. That's easy, useful, and predictable.

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And while we're on the subject of the back button, did you notice this? Apparently the art department had some kind of vector snafu which left the back button with a dark blemish where the shaft meets the head. How much this stands out on an actual device depends on the type of display and the quality of your eyesight, but on some devices, it looks like you have 2 dead pixels in the middle of your back button. If you're an OCD type and you've never noticed this before, you're welcome.

(Credit for spotting this one goes to Cyril Mottier. You're awesome.)

Not Fixed: Navigation Is Gingerbread-Themed, But iOS's Version Is The Future

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There is also nothing new to report regarding the sorry state of Google Maps Navigation, but when it does finally get its inevitable revamp, we at least have a good idea of what it should look like, thanks to Apple.

Late last year, the Maps team released a stunning iOS app in response to Apple taking over the default iOS Maps application. The Maps team came up with an all-new design that completely outclasses the Android version. It's like Google Now and Google Maps had a beautiful baby - everything uses clean, white cards, fluid animation, and intuitive swipe gestures. We should be jealous. Google, please bring something like this to Android. The Holo UI style has been out for a year now. Navigation, one of your most popular features, should have been the first to make the switch, not the last.

Partially Fixed: Recent Apps Getting Confused

Here's a good step toward improvement. Last time, I came up with a few apps-launching-other-apps shenanigans that completely screwed up the Recent Apps listings. It culminated in this ridiculous video, which shows a Recent Apps listing with a Gmail icon and Gmail message thumbnail launching the Gallery and displaying a picture:

I'm happy to say, this one got fixed. Here's the play by play of what used to happen:

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In the above example, when you open a picture attachment and navigate somewhere else (for instance, home), the Recent Apps list would display a thumbnail for the Gmail message, but tapping on it would bring up the attachment in the Gallery app. The thumbnail never updated, and said it was taking you to the Gmail message, when it would actually take you to the Jelly Bean image. Tapping on the Gmail entry in the right picture would trigger the crazy scene in the video.

Here's what happens now:

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With Gmail 4.2, Gmail has its own, dedicated image viewer, and when you open an image and check out the recent apps list, it now correctly displays the attachment thumbnail, instead of the Gmail message. What used to be a crazy, confusing flaw has now totally been fixed.

Other fun new behavior: Unlike the Gallery, Gmail's new image viewer doesn't stretch the image to full screen. That Jelly Bean logo is only 175x267; stretching it to fill a 1280x768 screen is not a good idea.

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The other super-annoying thing I demoed was this Google-Reader-to-YouTube example, in which the Recent Apps thumbnail (right picture) would display a Google Reader icon and thumbnail, but open the YouTube video. If your video was interrupted and you wanted to navigate back to it, you'd never be able to find it.

This was tweaked a little bit, but still isn't totally fixed:

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Now you'll get a thumbnail from YouTube with a name and icon from Google Reader. This is still wrong, but it's better than before. Now you at least stand a chance of ignoring the icon and using the thumbnail to find your video again.

Of course, the right way to do this would be to spawn YouTube and Google Reader Recent Apps listing when you do this. That's the only thing that really makes sense - I was using one app, opened another app via a link, so both apps should be listed.

Still though, this is progress, progress is good.

Getting Fixed: Inconsistent Icon Sizes

In the first article, I pointed out that Android's icon sizes were seriously out of whack. Sizes ranged from 94 pixels high to 72. That's a 30% difference between the largest (Local) and smallest (Movie Studio) icons. To illustrate this, I lined them up the icons, alternating tallest and shortest. It was a mess:

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If you want to fix this, you need to either make the big icons smaller, or the small icons bigger, and it seems Google's plan is to 'deal with' the little guys. Since I made this image, the top 3 smallest - Movie Studio, Latitude, and Messenger - have been fixed, along with Google+, the 6th smallest. Check it out:

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Everything is not only bigger; the new icons are all the same size. Well, they're very close to the same size. Movie Studio and Messenger are 87 pixels, and G+ is 88. That's much better than before. If I slap the new icons on top of the old ones in my old picture, you get something that looks like this.

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That looks like a much more cohesive family of icons, doesn't it? The new runt of the litter is actually the new Camera icon that came with 4.2, weighing in at only 73 pixels high. It is a camera, though, and cameras are not (and should not be) square, so I'm willing to cut it some slack. The new camera icon is actually shorter than the old one, though. That's going backwards.

The second smallest is the Navigation icon, coming in at only 75 pixels. This gives me yet another complaint to add to the list for Google Maps Navigation. Hey Googlers, when you guys finally rewrite the entire Navigation UI from scratch, update the icons, too.

This is great progress though; more icons are close to the same size. It's great to see. Just keep picking off the little guys. The new short list is Camera, Navigation, Play Movies, and Drive. Fixing the Camera icon is kind of tough, but the other 3 would work just fine if they got hit with an enlarge ray.

Fixed: Play Store Scroll Location

Digging through search results in the Play Store used to be really painful. When you looked at an app in your search results and hit back, it wouldn't remember your scroll location - you'd be bumped to the top of the list. Now it remembers, you can check out an app in the list, hit back, and you'll still be at the same spot in your list.

Fixed: Gtalk Messages Are Pointless Buttons

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In Messaging, the stock texting app, you can long press on a message and copy it. In Google Talk, you could press on the messages, and the message will turn blue, but you never get an option to do anything with it. This was silly. I was hoping they'd add the ability to copy Google Talk messages, but instead Google just disabled the highlight effect. That works for me. Fixed.

I Think Google Is Trolling Us: The Calculator's Delete/Clear button

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In 4.1 the calculator's clear button was way too large and didn't line up in a nice grid with the other buttons. In 4.2 Google shrunk the button down, but they shrunk it way too far, so it still isn't in a uniform grid.

Fixed: The Uninstall Interface Is Half Popup and Half Full Screen

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Left: The first uninstall screen for both versions | Center: The 4.1 "finished" screen | Right: The 4.2 "finished" Screen

The uninstall interface used to be half popup and half full screen, but in 4.2, the "Uninstall Finished" screen was completely replaced with a little toast popup (right picture). This was one of my favorite features of third party skins and launchers. Uninstalling apps feels a lot faster without the pointless "OK" screen.

More Broken Stuff

It hasn't been all roses and sunshine in Android land, there are still quite a bit of things that suck. First, there's a bunch of stuff that escaped my wrath the first time and deserves to be called out. There's also been a whole new version of Android released since the last article, and not all of the new UI decisions are fully baked.

Settings Shortcuts Suck

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Have you ever noticed the Settings shortcuts are horrible navigational hacks? Either when used as an icon or from the Quick Settings panel, they are just broken in all kinds of ways. For instance, they never, ever spawn a Recent Apps entry:

You can just tap away, and the Recent Apps panel never notices you opening an app. This is really confusing if you don't know about it and start hunting in Recent Apps for that setting you were just messing with. This bug was pretty low key, because almost no one used the icons, but now with settings shortcuts being front and center with the Quick Settings Panel, a lot of people are going to experience this.

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The other annoying thing about Settings shortcuts is that the screens they don't have "Up" buttons in the action bar. Check out these two screenshots. The one on the left was opened normally, so it has an Up button carat next to "Bluetooth," the one on the right was opened via a shortcut, so it doesn't have a carat next to the icon. So if you open the settings via a shortcut, there's no way to go to the main settings page - tapping on the icon won't do anything. Weird.

Google Music Is A Mess

While Google Maps is my favorite app to beat up on, but Music is a close second. It's so bad it's going to get its own section! Starting with the Menus:

The Menus Are Impossible To Figure Out

Google Music's menu system needs to DIE. It is impossible to wrap your head around. There are THREE different menus that pop up depending on which view you're in, and there is really no logic as to what option is on what view.

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Above we have the menus for an individual song in the Queue, Song list, and Artist list. These are the 3 sets of similar-but-not-identical menus that are just randomly used throughout Google Music. If the only difference between them were view-specific options like "Remove from queue," that would be fine, but core song management options are randomly missing from some screens.

The queue has "Instant Mix," "Delete," and "More By Artist," but it's missing "Keep on device." Songs has "Instant Mix" and "Delete," but it's missing "More By Artist" and "Keep on device." Artists has "Keep on device" and "More By Artist" but it's missing "Instant Mix" and "Delete." There is no rational justification for certain options being omitted from certain screens; it's just a mess. The best part is that the Artists screen shows "More by artist" when you are already looking at everything by that artist. It just shows the same information in a slightly different view.

And strangely, they all have "Play" as an option, despite the fact that a simple tap will start playing them. This might be the way right-click menus work on computers, but that never made the jump to phones. It's not like you can long press on a Gmail message and choose "Open." Adding every song management option to every song screen would make the menus slightly larger, so "Play" is the first thing I would cut.

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If you'd like an example of just how confusing this is when you're trying to use Google Music, try this pop quiz: You want to delete this song. Is the "Delete" option under door number 1, 2, 3, or 4? This is the problem every Google Music user has to deal with every time they want to do something. And this is just for the 2 Artists screens; the other screens have a million menus like this, too. (The correct answer is #4, no other arrow has "Delete" as an option.)

The reality of all of this menu mayhem is that the options like "Delete" and "Keep on device" seem impossible to find. You will never keep a model of this in your head, so when you need one of these options, you just randomly wander from view to view hoping to stumble across it. It's frustrating.

The 'Now Playing' Screen Is Useless

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The disorganized menu system is further exacerbated by the completely useless "Now Playing" interface. There are no song management options here at all.

The overflow button's only options are navigational (Equalizer, Instant Mix, Settings, Help) or, strangely, queue-related. The fact that it is offering to "clear queue" and "save queue" from this view is completely insane, because I cannot see the queue at all. Why would you want to clear or save the queue when you can't even see it? (You might be able to see the queue from this screen on a tablet, but that doesn't make it ok on a phone, especially when phones are the majority.)

Now Playing is probably the only screen on Google Music that does not have another set of options somewhere, and that is sorely needed. There is absolutely no way to manage a song from this screen. This fails spectacularly for so many situations: "I hate this song and want to delete it," or "I love this song and want it on my device all the time" or "Yes, let me add this to my 'party' playlist." You can't act on any of that from this screen; that is all hidden somewhere else. You have to go on a menu scavenger hunt.

All of the song stuff needs to be accessible from here. That means "Delete," "Keep on my device," "Add to queue," "Add to playlist," "Make instant mix," "More by artist," and "Shop for artist." I am currently looking at/listening to this song - I need options for it. Imagine if Gmail didn't have Archive/Delete/Reply while looking at an email and you had to go back to the inbox to do any of those actions. That's basically what's going on here.

Portrait and Landscape Function Completely Differently

Learn all of Google Music's quirks in portrait mode, flip it sideways, and you have a completely different app with things in different locations.

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Just count the number of differences here. This is the same screen (Genres) in portrait and landscape.

Landscape scrolls horizontally; portrait scrolls vertically. Landscape is full of album art; portrait has none. Landscape has a scrollbar letter preview; portrait doesn't. Landscape doesn't have a status bar; portrait does.

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Portrait uses horizontal swipes to navigate between views (Recent, Albums, Artists, etc.), and landscape uses an action bar drop down. An action bar drop down exists in portrait mode, but it only switches between "All Music" and "On Device" music.

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Portrait and landscape differences are just the tip of the iceberg. It seems like no two screens in Google Music share a common anything. Every screen has its own style and its own rules. Sometimes you'll get 4 huge album thumbnails per screen, sometimes 8. Sometimes they'll be in a swoopy, 3D 'curve,' and sometimes you won't get any album art at all.

All of this just continues to add to the inconsistent mess that is Google Music. I really don't think there is any human out there that can confidently use this program or predict where things are or how things work on any given screen. Your best bet is to pick one screen and one orientation, learn it, and ignore all the others.

They Forgot The Action Bar Title

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This is the example of a good action bar, from the official Android Design web site. We're mostly concerned with label #2; what Google calls "View control." I usually call it the "title."

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There tends to be two versions of action bar title: There's the Gmail version, which uses the action bar as an informative navigational element. It displays where you are (for instance, "Inbox"), and tapping on opens a drop down that allows you to navigate to other places ("All Mail," "Labels," etc.). The Play Store uses the action bar title another way - it's just a text object that shows you where you are ("My Apps," "Settings," etc.).

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Google Music screws this up completely. Sure, in some screens it's a navigational element, in others it's a static, "you are here" element, but in some screens it's missing completely. Check out these two shots, there's just a mass of blank space there. How about "Now Playing" and "Song Queue" as titles? That would look significantly less broken than a big empty space.

It's Still Tron Themed

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This is indicative of the core of all of Google Music's problems: neglect. Sure, Google Music gets the occasional bug fix update, but it's been a very long time since someone at Google critically looked at this app.

Google Music was birthed on the Motorola Xoom as the oddly-named "Music Beta by Google." At the time, the Xoom was running Honeycomb, a Tron-inspired, all-blue OS that I like to refer to as "Android's awkward teenager phase." Google Music was designed to fit into this environment, and, while every other app has outgrown the sharp-edged, blue-laser aesthetic, Google Music is still all about "non-conformity" and has stubbornly stayed blue.

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One of these things is not like the others

I don't know if you've noticed, but the Tron look is dead. Everything is white now. Check out this lineup of Google Apps and tell me which one doesn't fit. It's time for Google Music to get with the program and go for a white base, like everything else.

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The Tron aesthetic doesn't even match the rest of Google Music. Music.google.com uses a perfectly sane-looking white background with black text. That looks much better than the crazy blue theme. Check out the web app next to the Android app; that doesn't look like a unified, cohesive UI to me.

You know what? Here, I'll do it:

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This is a mockup I whipped up in an afternoon. This is what Google Music should look like - a white base with black text just like the rest of Android. It's nice looking, it's readable, it matches the web app, and it doesn't look like a sci-fi space ship. It's mature. That's all I'm asking. After Google is done beating the Gingerbread out of Google Maps Navigation, they should focus on the next-ugliest-duckling in their lineup and bring Google Music's design into the year 2013.

And while they're fixing the design style, I hope they at least try and make the app usable by a normal human being. Pick a display style and apply it to as many screens as possible. Make all the song management options available in every song menu, and add them to the now playing screen. Make the app work the same in landscape as it does in portrait. Just stop being so inconsistent.

The Camera's New Quick Controls Require A Transparent Thumb

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Quick controls from the old stock browser were a neat idea: slide your thumb inward from the edge of the screen and a set of radial browser controls would fan out from your fingertip. Sliding your thumb over an option would highlight it, and activating something only required lifting your thumb off of the desired option. It was a unique, decently-designed interface that took up minimal screen real estate and was enjoyable to use.

When Google made the switch from the stock Browser to Chrome, quick controls never made the cut. The idea didn't die though, when it came time to design the new Camera controls in Android 4.2, Team Android decided to resurrect this idea for the UI. There was only one problem; rather than arrange everything in a semi-circle, like the Browser quick controls, they arranged the options in a full circle. This is wrong.

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It only takes a few minutes of playing with the new Camera to see why 360° quick controls are a bad idea: you can't see through your thumb. The browser fanned everything out in a half circle, away from your thumb. On the right side of the screen it would fan out to the left, and on the left side it would fan out to the right - it was perfect. The bits of human connecting your fingertip to the rest of your body never obscured the on-screen controls.

The Camera quick controls seem to be designed for use by some kind of disembodied fingertip that doesn't have to worry about human parts getting in the way. Arranging everything in a circle means the options at 6 and 5 o'clock are going to be covered by your thumb. In the picture on the right, there are six total options in the circle. Good luck figuring out what the hidden two are.

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This probably worked great using a mouse on an emulator, but this should have been scrapped after one real world test. I have a challenge for whoever designed this: use it to adjust the white balance.

I'm not saying using this is impossible, but the stock browser implementation was so much better! Why did they screw it up so badly?

Luckily, none of this is a huge deal, because tapping on the circle in the lower right will bring the options up in a regular, tappable UI mode. This is what most people probably resort to after fighting with the lower options a few times.

I just wish I could disable the camera quick controls, because, in addition to controls along the top and bottom of the circle, swiping right to left will bring up the Gallery. If you try to do this quickly and move your thumb in a slightly upward or downward motion, you'll trigger one of the quick control options instead of opening the Gallery. There have been so many times when I imperfectly swipe to the left, and instead of seeing the Gallery, I trigger quick controls and launch the front facing camera.

Widgets Use The Worst Possible List Style

At the core of every app is a list - a list of contacts, a list of music, a list of apps, a list of emails, a list of Facebook statuses. Just about every app uses a list, and sometimes these lists get rather lengthy. Luckily, Android is very good at displaying big lists, and has several great ways of dealing with them when you have to scroll large distances.

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1: Lists are always flingable. A quick swipe up or down will send the list quickly scrolling in that direction and, if that's not fast enough for you, you can keep swiping and you'll add to the momentum of the list.

2: Long lists will usually have a grabbable scroll bar. If flinging is too much work, tap and hold the scroll bar, and you can fly from the top to the bottom of the list in one second.

3: If the list is alphabetical, there will often be a pop-up letter preview, allowing you to zip right to the letter you want in a second or two.

4: Search.

All of these features greatly help with navigation through a long list, and even if you have a million contacts, finding someone isn't that big of a deal. Android is awesome at displaying long lists. Google has this figured out...

Except when it comes to the Widget drawer. It's a huge list, and it gets bigger every time you install an app. For some reason, Google chose to use absolutely none of these handy list management features when it came up with the design for the widget drawer.

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This thing is a piece of crap. There is no way to accelerate your way through the list. You get a page of 6 thumbnails, and then you can swipe over, where you get a page of 6 more thumbnails. I have a very minimal suite of apps - less than 3 pages in the app drawer - and I still have fifteen pages of widgets. That means if I want to get to a newly installed weather widget, that's fifteen swipes to the right - there's no way to get there any faster. And, again, I'm on the low end of this - I'm sure there are some widget enthusiasts out there that can easily hit 30 pages.

Why does the widget drawer discard every method Android has for easily navigating a large list? It's not flingable, you can't grab the scroll bar, and there's no search function; it's a complete disaster. You should never ask anyone to make 15 swipe gestures to get to something they want. This page idea is fine for the app drawer, which is very dense and will rarely go above 5 pages, but it is completely wrong for the widget drawer. It only displays 6 widgets per page, and many apps have multiple widgets. Pure Calendar, for instance, has 14 widgets, that's more than 2 pages just from just 1 app. The widget list is going to get very large, very fast.

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One of the first things a home replacement app does is throw out the unusable widget drawer and replace it with the list on the left. This is a much saner implementation of the widget list that takes advantage of Android's list prowess with a flingable, vertical list. They also reduce the size of the list by stacking multiple widgets from the same app under one listing - both of these are great ideas. I understand the utility of the thumbnail previews; so Googlers, if you want to keep those, just take a look at the Google Music app, it has several examples of displaying a list of thumbnails in a manageable form.

They had a million options for the design of the widget list, and chose the slowest, least user friendly option. Copying the app drawer for something this large not a good idea. Scrap it.

The "Timer" Voice Action Doesn't Actually Use The Timer

Here's a fun one: Use Voice Actions to set a timer, then actually time it. You told it xx minutes, but does it actually give you xx minutes, exactly? No. It doesn't. The "Set a timer" voice action actually sets an alarm, so it is only accurate to the minute. This is most noticeable on shorter timer duration, like say, one minute. Observe:

Because it's really setting an alarm instead of a timer, it interprets "1 minute" as "the next minute." If you time it right, your "one-minute" timer will actually only last one second.

This is a leftover hack job from when Android had no timer app. In 4.2, Android received a beautiful new clock app, which included a built-in timer, so it's time to make voice actions use the timer app.

The Lock Screen's Buggy Keyboard Arrow

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I don't actually use a lock screen, so if you're looking for someone to rip it to shreds, I'm not really your man. While initially testing it, however, I noticed it doesn't like to hide the keyboard back arrow. If you have the keyboard up while you lock the device, you'll often get this sorry sight.

Adding A Word To The Dictionary Is Clunky

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Ever try adding a word to the dictionary? Type in your made-up word, tap the word in the keyboard suggestion panel, tap the word in the keyboard suggestion panel again, then confirm again that you really want to do this by tapping "OK" in the box that pops up.

Why is this so hard? This is at least 1 tap too many; it just feels so clunky. The crazy part is that the box that pops up in step 3 is editable as if you would want to type the word in, tap on it twice, and then finally decide to change something at the last minute. A double tap in the word suggestion panel would be fine, and not feel like a chore.

Does The Gallery Get A Notification Bar, Or Not?

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Left picture: Launching the Gallery from its icon. Right picture: launching the Gallery from the camera. One gets a status bar and one doesn't. Why would you ever hide the status bar in portrait, anyway? The Nexus 4 takes 4:3 pictures and displays them on a 16:10 screen, so it's not like you are going to need that vertical space. Landscape is a different story; there the Gallery always hides the status bar.

YouTube Breaks Auto Rotation

Everyone watches YouTube in landscape, right? Have you ever noticed, if you let a video finish in landscape, it forces the screen to portrait, and it won't go back? So if you ever want to watch a video twice, or just want to get your phone (and status bar) back to landscape, you have to either leave this screen, or flip the phone to portrait and back to landscape.

The worst is when you are trying to show a video to a group, and want to hit the replay button after the video finishes so more people can see it. The replay button is basically useless, because the video will always be sideways the second time.

Conclusion

That's it for this batch of imperfections. Hopefully someone in Google Land is hard at work at fixing this stuff. Like I said earlier, the best part of Android is its phenomenal rate of improvement, which is all thanks to the group of hardworking developers Google has assembled. Android has come a long way in just a few years, and will hopefully only get better. I think Matias Duarte put it best in response to the first version of this article:

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!

So kudos to the devs that work on Android and have to put up with picky users like me. You guys are the best... Now get back to work!

So, did I miss anything here or in the first article? What bugs you about Android? Let's hear it in the comments.

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.
  • Carlos Manuel

    I really didn't have time to read all of that sh##!
    For Me Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean is the best OS yet, Google Music Player is great, I don'y use any shortcuts!
    The only things that I don't like it these:
    Google Music Player:
    - Ugly default album picture (luckily they made it better in the latest version)
    - "Use As Ringtone" and "Ringtone Wave Maker" isn't enabled and I didn'tunderstand how to enable them when I decompiled it!
    - Instant Mix and Show more about artist is not supported here.

    Google Apps:
    I live in Finland, I'm Estonian!
    Many things like e.g.
    Google Ears "What's This Song?" Widget,
    Movies,
    Magazines,
    Books,
    Chrome To Phone ARE BLOCKED HERE! Why won't Google support them here? What's the point with this, before Chrome to phone worked there..

    I really don't understand why Google supports only some countries and blocks everything good in Baltic countries and in Scandinavian countries! If I would not have Nexus I would use iPhone because of its features which are available everywhere!

    That really sucks, because I like Android OS but if the developers are so stupid what can be done, nothing....

  • Billy Kent

    good article, I disagree with a few things, like for instance, like using a widget to get to say bluetooth settings, you should see a carat to go up. I see the logic in what you say, but I see the logic in the way it is setup, i go all the way through the process to get to the settings, the up button should be there, i came from that location, so I should be able to go back to that location, but I use a widget or shortcut to go to that location, there should be no up a location as I didn't come from that location, i came from the desktop. Anywho, I won't drag this out, but I did want to point out that there is another side of the coin, as we sometimes forget to do when we write articles. and again, thank you for sharing this with us. Very indepth and a good read.

  • Jimmy Lee Matthews III

    You forgot to mention how the Google+ app does not allow you to "copy" text from posts, nor does it support the Strike-through formatting. In fact, if you edit a post that has strikethrough (which you would never know because it's not displayed), the n-dashes that created the effect will be "lost" even if you don't touch that section of text. It's infuriating!

  • Xin

    details make bigger successes, still needs lots of tweaks~ carry on

  • Josh Flowers

    "Embiggens...I never heard that word before I moved to Springfield"

    • Andromedo

      I almost died laughing when I saw what word he was adding to the dictionary.

  • Marco Baxemyr

    My phone got stolen last week, and I did not use any lock screen security. Regretting that, I now use a lock screen pattern. The problem is, I don't want to enter the pattern every time I check my phone quick. So I've turned on "Automatically lock ten minutes after sleep". Works great except that there's no lock screen at all for those ten minutes. It really should display the normal lock screen without security for those ten minutes. I find the current system very inconsistent.

  • Jeff Tycz

    There are some things you said that logically make no sense. Lets start with the deletion of a song from the music app.

    Why in the world would the delete option be on anything else but the song itself?? Lets go step by step here so you can understand what is going on here. You are in the artist list that has an expandable list that shows all the artists albums you have, clicking on the album takes you to the list of song for that album. Why would you want to option to delete a song from the screen that shows all the artists albums? that just makes no sense. Just because you have one song from that album does not mean its a "song" that is showing, It lists ALBUMS not songs so again why would you want an option to delete a song there??

    Next the "Title" as you call it and the "View Control" are 2 separate items and you are getting them confused. The title does not have an option to select views like the View Control does. The title is just that a title, it technically is only there to show the name of the app but just so happens that you can change the title whenever you want or not show the title for that matter. The view control is used to change views you are in like you see in the gmail app. It is not there to show you the title of a view if thats all you want it to do, thats what the actionbar title next to the icon is for both of which again can not be shown. Technically you can have the title and the view control show but they are not the same thing.

    WIdgets screen, this was changed so that you can view the widget before you go to apply it (which granted most applications do not provide a preview if it). Something that I personally was annoyed with in earlier versions of android where I did not know what the widget would look like. Lets say you download a widget app that has a bunch of different static clock widget themes and they show in a list with just the dimensions of it. How do you know what it looks like until you apply it? I certainly dont know what it looks like do you? I would rather go through 15 pages of widgets to actually see what I have then keep going through a list of widgets and having to apply every one to see what it looks like but that more of a preference.

  • Didraskein

    You want to see a real issue (*cough* or "feature" from Google's point of view) since ICS ? Take a look at this: http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=27245 .

    • Didraskein

      TL;DR ? Let me sum this up: Since ICS you CAN'T download zip files from emails. Forbidden. In fact you can't download these kinds of files: "ade", "adp", "bat", "chm", "cmd", "com", "cpl", "dll", "exe", "hta", "ins", "isp", "jse", "lib", "mde", "msc", "msp", "mst", "pif", "scr", "sct", "shb", "sys", "vb", "vbe", "vbs", "vxd", "wsc", "wsf", "wsh", "zip", "gz", "z", "tar", "tgz", "bz2".

      Those deadly .exe can surely brick your android device, better block them !

  • hasan

    Another bug since always and still on Android 4.2.1. You cannot download from a https site.

  • giblet

    ***this. It's all true, it was all in my head and you wrote it down. Hoping googlers are reading :)

  • EH101

    One thing you should count against the play store is the fact that we have to hit the menu/overflow in order to get to our apps on a phone, while a tablet (at least my tf101 does) has a nifty little button next to the search icon that takes you straight to your installed apps. There is more than enough room on for phones to have the same button.

  • triobot
  • Zachary Bogdanski

    I feel like the little spot that looks like a dead pixel on the back button is an optical illusion. I just examined the screen with a 60x microscope and all the pixels look the same as far as brightness and color. Very strange.

    Oh, and fuck you for bringing this to my attention.

    • Andromedo

      I had never noticed it before either. I took a screenshot, opened it in the gallery, zoomed in to the back arrow... Sure enough, it is clearly there.

  • sh0rtshift

    What about the horrible UI involved with making an alarm and the dispicable Google Voice app.

  • eduardo garcia

    the best articles 2013 and top 20 articles of android(off tutorials,wiki)

    please send e-mail's with this articles to google, we will make they listen us.

  • Sycobob

    I just remembered a good addition to this list. When leaving reviews in the Play Store, the keyboard overlaps with the bottom of the review popup when there's enough text in it. This makes it impossible to see what you're typing or press 'Ok' or 'Cancel' without closing the keyboard.

    Edit: I just noticed it's caused by the extra word bar at the top of most keyboards. The review popup does move slightly when the keyboard comes up, but only enough to put the bottom of the text box even with the top of the keyboard.

  • VANdaMAN

    My calculator app (JB 4.2.1) has "DELETE" instead of "CLR" and it's properly aligned to the division button :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/unethical.hacker Adie Bhatt

    Don't forget a lack of delete button in 4.2 gallery.

  • http://geniousatplay.blogspot.com/ Bikram Agarwal

    How about giving different settings shortcuts a little different icons? Say I want to put 5 settings icons (wifi, bluetooth etc) on a dock page. But since dock won't have icon label, I won't know which icon is for what? Add a little identifier icon at the bottom right of the setting icon. Like, wifi symbol at the bottom right of the setings icon for wifi setting shortcut, bluetooth symbol for bluetooth setting shortcut etc.

    I'm ok with the direct setting shortcuts not having 'up' carat. But they not showing up in recent apps is big issue.

    Google music - I just open and tap "Shuffle play". Trying anything else is time consuming, which 'music app' shouldn't be. Agree with what someone said in the comment - we don't need delete option everywhere but only in the individual songs' menu. And Portrait/Landscape comparision is somewhat not right. Scroll - whichever side is bigger (vertical in portrait, horizontal in landscape). Having 'album arts' was the idea behind having a different UI for landscape view, wasn't it? And adding statusbar in landscape mode - where we already have very less vertical space - not a good idea. But the 'Now playing' screen does need a breath of life, stat.

    Totally agree on widget, camera and dictionary issues.

    Now, thinking like Google. Say someone from Google is reading this article.

    Back button - ok, we'll see what we can do.

    Navigation - alright, it is in queue.

    Next few - ummmh.. are you done?

    By the end of the article - Why do you hate me so much..!!? (full on crying and throwing feet).

    LoL. I'm not criticizing the article. Just making a joke.

  • Sergio

    Great, great post. HOPE someone up there listens to you...

  • Fabio Santo

    Also app drawer is useless...i can't find an app between other....

  • V3dran

    I also noticed, when your contact have more than one phone number, and you pick "make default", sometimes it won't be default... Also, I have problems with contacts with multiple numbers, it won't let me pick which one do I want to call. It is buggy.

  • Matt

    What about the scroll bars in Google+, when you're looking at comments on a post? The size and position of the scroll bar is just about completely meaningless (and you can't grab it to scroll faster). If you scroll through a long string of comments, the scroll bar sometimes even grows and shrinks randomly as you scroll.

  • Zee

    *Dat google music skin

  • http://twitter.com/Bankyy Bankyy

    omg. I love these articles. Much love.

  • http://www.facebook.com/akulion Akbar Khan

    If they pay attention to the user experience and make it more uniform - I am sure they will win more people over. I have been using Android for the last 4 years and quite frankly sometimes it just pisses me off to see all these inconsistencies. So its good to see articles like this pointing out the issues so they can (hopefully) work on them!

  • http://www.facebook.com/boe.dillard Boe Dillard

    The only feature "missing" IMHO that the skins give me is the icon I click to open email or text messages or voice mail have an indicator on them to tell me how many new emails, texts, etc. I have. I'd be fine with running neked Android if the icons also indicated the number of items waiting.

  • Diego

    Two other ones :

    - Unable to use voice recognition/dialing/actions when connect with a BT headset

    - Messy transmission of "bookmark" names from GMaps web site to Gmaps Android app

  • Tom Burke

    To see your queue in the now playing screen you just tap the song title above the album art.

  • krapfa

    love your pickieness :-) please continue to do stuff like this!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1798886043 Danish Prakash

    If i'm not wrong you are from Microsoft ? :P

  • martin

    Dont forget all the problems with Bluetooth!

  • Andrew Kachaniwsky

    I can't help but see the two dark pixels in the Back arrow now.. thanks for that :)

  • Jeffrey Matthews

    You touched on the Youtube rotation glitch, but is it just me who finds the fact that YouTube can just override your rotation lock whenever it feels like it? Even with auto-rotate off, it rotates like normal.

  • Adam Pascual

    How about the conflict when you're in landscape mode, and you want to switch cards in Chrome or swipe through photos in Gallery, but instead you activate Google Now? You're forced to use portrait.

  • Akhil

    One thing i have noticed over the past what more than 2 months with the phone is that the Google Music app on the lockscreen at times start flickering and you can see the widget elongated over the unlock patter buttons and this can only be fixed by unlocking it and locking it again, which is at times an arduous job as the widget is flickering on and off. Next time this happens I will probably take a screenshot of it if possible. And the camera thing, dont even start me on that. Cant use the white balance feature.

    • Akhil

      And why cant i seek music with the volume buttons. Who the hell wants to take out the phone from their pocket everytime i have to change a song? Sure i can install ROMS and earn that feature but who decided on not having this in stock in the first place

      • Akhil

        Oh I dont know if it is possible or not, just that i have not been able to figure it out. The youtube Videos always start in HD mode on Wifi, sure you can decide the default quality over data, but lo and behold if you want to stream lower quality over wifi. Cmon, not everyone has a good internet like google does damn it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/skerit Jelle De Loecker

    About the back button, and it "always working" in the browser: you're forgetting the HTML5 history api, which also makes it programmable. Actually, Google should look at that for inspiration.

  • Francisco Alvarado

    The new Share menu in JB wastes a lot of space between icons (I'd prefer they had keep the old share menu), and it still sorts always alphabetically the icons: it doesn't offer an option to put recent / most used apps on top of the list, as one could expect. So some app developers workaround this adding "Add to" to their app names in order to they go straight to the top of the list: if Googlers don't fix that menu, most of this list entries eventually will start with "Add to".

  • http://twitter.com/trickedoutdavid David Margolin

    this was a really good read... most of these things didn't bother me too much until you explained them... now im a bit paranoid about the little imperfections in 4.2.1... but i love android and everything about it.... only thing that really grinds my gears is the widget selection...

  • Facundo Raul

    great post

  • drew

    Why does everyone have a problem with the back button? It's not that confusing...

  • Elias

    Dear AP staff,
    Since you're so worried at all those little annoyances in Android, I'll help you by pointing out a BIG annoyance I have with your website.
    Take a nexus 4 fresh out of the box, with the latest Android and updated Chrome. Open Chrome, nothing else. Load this very same page , mobile version, and try to load the entire comments section. You'll see LOTS of white space, lagging, stuttering, unresponsiveness. Now try to write a response without killing yourself.
    And I ask you why. Is that because the best quad core processor currently on the market has not enough power to render your website? Is that because 2gb of RAM is too little for your website? Is that because the mobile version of a Android blog is not supposed to be accessed on a Android mobile? Or is that because you chose to use the slowest, heaviest, crappiest comment system on earth? Seriously, there should be more full-featured comment systems out there which as not slow as a dead frozen slug. Give it a think. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/CLFatica Chris Fatica

    Anyone else have complaints about Filmstrip mode? I like that from the camera I can swipe right and get to my last taken picture and then back to the camera. However, when I launch the Gallery app and go into Filmstrip mode to delete a bunch of pictures why is the Camera the left most item in the filmstrip? I don't want to launch the camera, I want to manage my Gallery.

    I feel like this is a bit clunky.

    Also, the lock screen widgets. I don't use them but constantly end up accidentally sliding over to the empty add a lock screen widget. Could I please disable it?

  • Matt Woodson

    When I have multiple apps that need to be updated, I can click one button and update them all. When only one app needs to be updated, I have to click through 2-3 screens to update this one app. I want to click the same button to do updates, even if it's only one app.

  • edude03

    All of these ring true for me. All stuff I've noticed but lived with. That said I think one other big one is no unified message app. Why is there Voice, Talk, G+ Messenger and "Messaging" when they all do roughly the same thing. At a bare minimum Talk and G+ Messenger should be combined, but I could make the argument that SMS could be combined with those two as well to make something like iMessage.

  • Angelo

    buy an iphone asshole.. or make youre own OS. greetz from europe.

  • zk78751

    My vote is to never allow the back button to kick out of the app.

    • Freak4Dell

      That's a terrible idea. If an app spawns another app, you wouldn't be able to get back to the original app without going home and relaunching it.

  • Bariman43

    The "CLR" button on the calculator is aligned for me on 4.2.1. The rest of these design flaws are valid though. Google plz fix.

  • Dan

    "it looks like you have 2 dead pixels in the middle of your back button. If you're an OCD type and you've never noticed this before, you're welcome."

    ...you rotten bastard! I can't stop looking at it now!

    All of the incredibly bad things about the music app are even more painful when you read Kirill Grouchnikov's blog post about the work done making the Play store's music section more sensible. Reading his post and then looking at the app makes me want to print out his post (in a really big font) and staple it to somebody.
    http://www.pushing-pixels.org/2012/12/05/android-layout-aliasing.html

  • http://visionaforethought.wordpress.com/ Oflife

    Speaking as a UX designer (working on a huge Android/Chrome/Google ecosystem based project), I wholeheartedly concur with this well written and pertinent article.

  • CoreAndroidDev

    Brilliant article. Brilliant.

  • Christopher Orr

    In Google+, click on "Write" to start a post, then click the Circles thingy to open the "Share with..." activity.

    Now scroll or fling through the list, then hit the checkbox next to a contact in order to select them.

    Oh... you didn't select that person, but you randomly skipped elsewhere in the list.
    The click target of each checkbox overlaps the click target of the quick-scrollbar. So if you tap a checkbox within ~1.5 seconds of having scrolled, you'll skip elsewhere in the list.

    Annoying.

  • Johannes

    Great article, ron!
    I noticed some other things that I don't really like when using google apps:
    1. when i open currents, I'll get a loading indicator most of the time and nothing happens unless i press the back button (then the screen hides, a other activity with another loding indicator gets called and then content starts to show up)
    2. when I'm in Google Music, viewing the "currently playing" and try to grab a element and move it to some other palc in the list it is totally laggy! Apollo uses the same mechanism but is fluid as hell

  • http://twitter.com/MuthNe MutheN

    Totally agree with what have been said in this article. Especially about Google Music. Its so annoying to use. Like why is there a queue of all the songs I heard till now in the Now Playing view? This should contain only all the songs in the album I'm listening to right now And going backward or forward or clicking the Repeat button once or the shuffle will include all the songs in the queue!! If I want to hear songs from different albums/artists together I can use playlists.
    Also don't forget the curious case of the word selecting knobs or cursor knob. They're sometimes so slow sometimes while moving one knob it will suddenly revert back to its original position neglecting my moving finger. Sometimes clicking on a word in a text field will bring the cursor but without the knob.
    (For example go to Google mobile page, search for anything, now a long click on a word will select the word, now click anywhere in the text field, it will suddenly zoom in then clicking again will zoom out and then if you add more word and it goes beyond the text field boundaries and then try to select some words, trying to select words that's after the text field boundaries will not revel them)
    And why do i have to long click to paste something, it's annoying.
    Android is still not perfect but hopefully its getting there.

  • Simon Belmont

    Wow. I still marvel at these articles and I always look forward to sitting down and reading them.

    So much detail. Every nuance addressed. It borders on an obsessive compulsive approach to locating each and every change, issue, and triumph. Of course, that is JUST THE WAY I LIKE IT. Keep up the great work, Ron. You are an asset to AP.

  • Nick

    Like to point out another inconsistency that I found while checking out Google Music. When using the scrolling bar on the side of what songs/artists/genre/playlists you are browsing through, the letter of where you are in the alphabet does not pop up like it does in the People application. I apologize if this has been mentioned already, but I did not see it while glancing through the comments, or while reading the article.

  • rmeden

    How did you get the Latitude icon back? It went away with a maps update.

  • http://lukeskaff.com/ LukeDukem

    One thing that really needs to be discussed in the next article is the lack of bluetooth 4.0 (low power) support. The Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 both have bluetooth 4.0 hardware but no software support which leaves unable to use a bunch of great devices like heart rate monitors and other health sensors. This is incredible annoying for anyone who wants to use there phone for workout tracking and really hard for me to understand how Google is crippling there flagship devices by leaving out a key feature.

  • Matt Foot

    Simple guide to aid phone purchase:

    ## Google do SEARCH, and experimenting with eternal "Beta" crap that try to play catch up, and fail (AKA: "having one's fingers in too many pies, many of which are not yet cooked, or cooked and stale")

    ## Apple do simplicity and make beautiful, simple and intuitive products, based upon patience, and waiting to see where others have failed DRASTICALLY (and whether the other company got the thing to catch on), then step in and make it 100x simpler, 100x BETTER and 1000x "Why didn't WE think of that before?"

    Android is great, because if you are an Android owner for long enough, you will buy an iPhone eventually, as the simplicity will floor you!

    • Abhijeet Mishra

      Too bad there are some users who want flexibility and more control over their devices (and truer multitasking than iOS can provide) rather than the simplicity you tout. Simplicity is great, but not if things are limited and locked down to make it simple. Please, go use your iPhone, we'll stay with Android. :)

    • timbuck93

      Go look at a Droid DNA and tell me what you think, 5" screen so stuff is BIG, and it's 1080p so stuff is REALLY clear, how's retna compare to 1080p?
      Anyway, just have a look at it and tell me what you think

  • Matt Foot

    The only thing Android has in the way of simple and predictable consistency, is messing up and never becoming beautiful, EVER.

  • Jelanie Sandiford

    Just came back to this article and realized a few "issues" with Google Music aren't as cut and dry as I first thought. For instance, the "which of these will let you delete the song" question is misleading. You're in the artists category, not in the songs category. A few swipes over to the correct section, and you'd be able to delete the song directly. However, the issue of deleting an artist does come up here. There is no menu item that allows you to delete an artist or album...at least not in the few seconds I just checked.

    Second, the article presumes incorrectly that your currently playing song has nothing to do with the queue. It completely forgets to note that the song view and queue is pretty much attached at the hip...and the queue is one button press away. I do agree that certain options need to be shown from the song view without having to go into the queue, and the way everything is set up is clunky, but this portion is still functional.

  • stpaulborn

    Upgraded to latest. Now 'Homepage' doesn't appear on browser menu even though it is set. Can't find any mention of this anywhere.

  • http://www.facebook.com/igor1glinsky Igor Glinsky

    Not sure if this can apply, since I just installed Jelly Bean 4.2 on a HTC One S (i.e. not a native phone for the OS). This phone has dedicated capacitive touch Back, Home, and Menu buttons below the screen. When I had ICS installed (from Viper/Venom devs) I was able to decide what my Menu button does. A single tap would give me the menu in any app; a tap'n'hold gives me the recent apps. Now with JB the Menu button only brings up the Recent Apps screen! :(

    I can see [in the Settings] where you are able to change button behavior in the Nav Bar (I'm assuming the Nav Bar is the dedicated screen section for back/home/menu buttons), but is there nothing for us capacitive button equipped users??

    Help!

  • The Other Side

    Wow reading this article (well, I couldn't manage to read it all!) just proves to me that parallel universes do exist - and I've just glimpsed into one.

  • Yossi Cohen

    GALLERY...
    running 4.2.2
    why can't i make the gallery ignore folders???? and picasa....
    do i have to suffer about 20 albums just for every music folder i have?(nomedia will kill the music too)

  • opepet

    The author is an apple paid guy. The formatting of his review is the standard apple style given to all those apple paid guys ot there .
    Bottom line, apple is just one sorry company that could not get its act together to make a decent hardware and software, other than keeping on recycling garbage out of 2006 technology.
    Uhhhhh apple is an american company, so that explains the garbage.

    • timbuck93

      America is awesome

  • http://www.facebook.com/FRUHD Betty Chiang

    Holy crap I didn't know I could laugh so hard over a tech article about my stupid phone. I almost peed myself. Multiple times.

  • hami5h

    Wow - I noticed some inconstantancies but I cannot believe there are this many! Very annoying from my point of view. I'm a designer and i would never allow this sort of discrepancies in my work. I love android and recently moved from iOS but i have to say when it come to a cohesive ecosystem apple is the mutts nutts. Everything has such a high level of cositancy which will hopefully only improve now Sir Jony Ive is on the case - Google need to work quicker!

  • Vit

    There should be no deletion confirmation dialog at all. The icon drag action is already hard enough to do by accident. The dialog it actually very annoying.

  • Ex-AndroidFanatics

    So true. I just upgraded my Note to JB 4.2. Play with it for a couple of hours, and I'm selling the Note now for an iPhone 5. NOW

  • Ars

    Excellently researched and very well written. Thank you.

  • Lie Ryan

    As far as I can tell, "Recent Apps" and the "Back button" are working as designed. Perhaps, it should be pointed out that "Recent Apps" are perhaps slightly misleading term, it really should be named "Recent Tasks".

    Multitasking is not at all just about being able to run multiple apps, but about being able to have multiple tasks. A task often spans multiple apps, for example, I might be on the task of reading a news with Current and one of the article plays a video by launching the Youtube app; me watching that video is not a separate task from me reading news even though it's handled by another app. I would expect that if I switch to another task while halfway on the video, when I resume my news reading task by launching "Currents" from the Recent Apps, it makes more sense to return to the video, not to the news article.

    Even more important is that I would not want that my "watching Youtube video while reading news task" to interfere with my "watching Youtube videos for entertainment task". If I launched Youtube from Recent Apps, it would make no sense to return to the video that I watched while reading news; instead it makes more sense to open up the music video or the vlogger that I was listening before reading news.

    Under this light, the current Recent Apps is working as designed. The thumbnail display the last active app in the task, while the app name represents the actual task.

  • Alexander Terry

    To accelerate the widgets, tap on the side of the screen reply fast.

    The nexus 7 do set have a camera icon on srtock, you need to download a separate app to do that for you.

  • Hotdog

    Adding words to dictionary was much easier in ICS. There you could press add to dictionary, then a popup would appear then and there where you could add the word, and then continue what you were doing earlier. After JB it became irritating and time consuming.

  • Yossi Cohen

    GOOGLE MAPS AND MUSIC PLAY ARE FIXED!
    also you might wanna update the status bar change...
    you can now close it by grabbing the middle of it...(you dont have to grab the bar esxaclty in order to close it... just puick an empty spot.)

    good job and make an updated verision!

  • Víctor González

    Oh boy... "Shuffle button"... I'm not gonna tell you what I think about you...
    You know what a stack is? Back button removes the top element from the stack.
    Why do you people talk about things you are not even close to understand?

  • Leander Berg

    I agree in most points, but especially the back button thing is a little more complicated. "Just go to the previous screen" is what you said. So image an App with the recently introduced NavigationDrawer (the thing you can pull out on the left side in youtube, play music, keep etc.). If I use it a couple of times, say go from A to B to C to B to C to A. Would back bring me to C to B to C to B to A to the homescreen? That seems to be a bit messy as well, right? I myself programmed it in my app so that it always brings you back to the main screen (maybe A in this example) and then it does the default thing (usually go back to the homescreen).

  • EZY

    wow I am impressed how detailed you are in noticing small mistakes, illogicalitys and broken design, also you really have eye for design, I really like people who always strive to perfect design.