Five Reasons Android Might Not Be for You

Android is the popular competitor to iOS in the mobile computing market. In addition to being incredibly open-ended and featuring some very cool UI options where iOS is more locked down, it also comes with its share of challenges.

To start, I’d like to state that I’m a big fan of Android. While I use an iPhone for day-to-day business, my hope is to switch back to Android again once my current AT&T contract is up. I loved my Samsung Captivate, and the free spectrum analyzer app that came in handy on numerous occasions during on-site troubleshooting for a company I worked with. So let me state for the record that I love Android.

That said, there are some points that deserve consideration before dropping hundreds of dollars on a gadget that you may be locked into a contract with for a number of years. Buying contract-free can be very expensive, so most consumers will opt for the two-year plan. No platform is perfect, bottom line.

Here are five reasons Android might not be for you.

Updates Aren’t Always Available

Five Reasons Android Might Not Be for YouI’m writing this piece as a one-time Android user. I bought a Samsung Captivate (Galaxy S) as a replacement for the aging iPhone 3G. My initial response was very good. The representative I worked with at AT&T assured me that the Captivate was due for an update to Android 2.2 Froyo within a couple of weeks. This was my first lesson in Android updates. The update did not come a few weeks later, but six months later. Some variants of the Galaxy S, including the Continuum, have remained on 2.1 for a much longer period of time.

Bottom line: Google’s updates aren’t universally accepted by carriers and/or manufacturers. Different architecture and various agreements made between carrier and manufacturer can cause havoc on the update process. Each update could open up features that carriers love charging more money for, like tethering. Every manufacturer has its own terms.

Apple’s iOS is put on one primary phone architecture. This phone is sold directly by the operating system developer, cutting out the middleman that causes the majority of the delays. Better agreements and an understanding of carrier architecture comes in handy when it comes to getting approval down the line.

Recently, Samsung announced that Android Ice Cream Sandwich would not be available for the Samsung Galaxy S or Galaxy Tab. The reason Samsung gave for the lack up update was TouchWiz, an experience enhancement software. This software eats away at the RAM and processor capacity. Adding a more advanced OS built for modern (as if 12 months can make something less modern) tablets and smartphones.

Not All Apps Work on Every Phone

I love audio recording apps. Unfortunately, these apps don’t always work on every phone running Android. Features such as enabling active recording with the screen off (a handy battery saver during interviews) isn’t universally allowed by multiple manufacturers. Motorola, Samsung, HTC, etc. all have their own flavor of Android UI running which can interfere with certain apps.

Android, by and large, is a consistent platform in terms of scripting and capabilities, but like any OS, things you have installed that alter the interface in any way can conflict with what another app is trying to accomplish. That’s one of the downsides to any open architecture, especially when multitasking is enabled. Another factor to consider is that different hardware works in different ways. The camera on one phone may be very different from another, throwing off or otherwise giving lackluster results to the user.

iOS is a little different. Not only does each and every app have to make it through a specific review process, but the capabilities of these apps are inherently limited. Aside from jailbreaking, your apps live in a space of their own. You can’t install one app that enhances or restricts the abilities of another. Where it might be considered more restrictive and limited, the upside is that you’re pretty much guaranteed that the app will work on your OS and hardware.

Even the Best of Today Will Be Obsolete Tomorrow

How many times in 2011 did you hear about a new Android phone coming out that would be the biggest and best Android device that ever existed? If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard about plenty of them. The Transformer, Transformer Prime, Galaxy S II, etc. have all claimed to the be latest and greatest at one time or another during the past year. New Android devices are coming out seemingly every day.

In a world of two-year contracts, seeing expensive smartphones or tablets come out with the latest version of the OS, better hardware, and more sex appeal (figuratively speaking) can be disheartening. The same can be said for iPhone users who see the latest and greatest iPhone come out almost every year.

Different Devices Have Different Interfaces

As mentioned before, every manufacturer wants to come out with its own flavor of Android. In a market where devices are often competing in terms of hardware, having some software advantage can give one brand the edge over another. Unique devices like the Transformer Prime have taken this competitive edge to the point of creating a dock that turns a simple tablet into a small notebook computer.

Where the downside comes in is the sheer complexity of learning a new interface every time you switch devices. For the 1% of us who enjoy the challenge of using a new device and tweaking the UI, it’s not a problem. For the other 99%, every change and alteration can throw them off and create complexity and anxiety. No device sold to the general market should confuse the user, and this is a downside for many individuals.

Not only that, but you might really like the default Android UI. Having keyboards and other interface options swapped out by the manufacturer can ruin the experience for you. Who wants to spend their valuable time putting things back the way they would be on another device?

Security

One of the biggest downsides to an open-ended OS is security. While open source software does enjoy the benefit of having thousands of eyes on the code to discover and quickly fix security flaws, Android isn’t purely open source. Updates are released by a company as fixes become available.

In August of this year, McAfee released a report indicating that malware is a growing problem on the Android platform. This malware piggybacks on seemingly legitimate software and can bog down your phone. Not only that, but the security conscious certainly don’t appreciate malware on a device so closely tied to their private life. Everything is on your smartphone, from friends and family’s contact information, your email, and even your location.

Apple controls the software made available for iOS. The approval process is much more stringent, making it harder to sneak through anything Apple wouldn’t readily approve. The few cases that have risen to the surface were quickly reversed by Apple and the applications wiped off the iTunes App Store.

Final Thoughts

Is Android for you? This question requires a lot of thought on the part of the person facing a two-year contract or high price tag. Even an investment of a couple hundred dollars for an Android device is a big deal to most consumers, so it’s for that reason all the pros and cons should be weighed.

Apple’s iOS platform isn’t necessarily better than Android. For many people, it flat isn’t. The differences between the two are where decisions need to be made. Not everyone has the same tastes or preferences. There is a large market of users out there that appreciate alternative platforms such as Windows Phone 7. There are plenty of options out there from which to choose.

24 comments On Five Reasons Android Might Not Be for You

  • Android is the best if you like to root and play with the SW

  • Mauricio Fleury

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah….Happy Festivus

    Can we expect to see ICS on Galaxy Tab 10.1? I’ve heard that Samsung released a communication saying … The Galaxy S not getting ICS isn’t a Samsung problem, It’s an Android problem. What?

  • I would almost disagree. Most of these problems apply to all phones. My dad happens to own an iPhone which many people consider a comparable phone to Android phones. Even if the phone is a year or 2 old, the updates are so slow the phone is unusable, and of course there is going to be an iPhone 4s squared or something next year, it’s the same with all phones. As for the security and interface, I would personally list these as pros instead of cons. If you want a background service to run on an iPhone, you are going to have to either install a 3rd party OS, or your going to have to be involved in the people at Apple pushing the new OS versions. It makes programming a lot more flexible on android, and with the unsupported apps, it also allows better support to programmers. Google Wallet might only be available on a phone or 2, but it’s a great piece of software that is leading the way in mobile phone purchases. Sure it might not work on my old Android phone, but it sure gives my something to look forward to in my next phone.

    • False statement about updates. I know many people who use a 3gs (2 year old phone) and it runs the latest version of the iOS, iOS 5, just fine. In fact I would go on to say that iOS 5 runs better on the 3gs than iOS 4 ever did. So good that a lot of people still won’t upgrade their 3gs phones.

      • That’s interesting, I’m glad you had a good experience with the new operating systems.

    • Google has a lot going for it, and Android is an excellent OS for many different applications. This is why I focused on reasons why it might not be for someone. These problems listed here are ones I actually experienced. Thank you for being civil and offering points to support.

  • Totally agree with you Matt Ryan, you really couldn’t have said it better. Excellent article.

  • Shit reasons.

    1. Updates. Root your phone. Yes I agree you shouldn’t HAVE to but it is a simple process once you understand what you are doing. Yes I am running ICS Chris, have been for about a month. My phone is a Samsung Vibrant, similar to your Captivate. Or another solution is to not buy non Google Experience phones.

    2. Fragmentation: YMWV. Back in the day it was a huge problem, these days not so much. I am not saying it does’t happen, but it does. Not much of a problem anymore. 

    3. Even the Best of Today Will Be Obsolete TomorrowWell if that is a problem for you don’t buy any electronics ever. That’s how it is. New stuff comes out every year, don’t be obsessed with stuff, it’s just a phone. If you can make phone calls you’re golden.

    I will agree with you on the security aspect. Android seems to let anyone through who can write an app and nobody reviews software unless it is too late. But I don’t think it is going to change, that is how Android is, it is like a little computer. Anyone can write apps without any restrictions, you have to know what you are downloading.

    • I would have loved your feedback if you hadn’t started by summing up the problem in those particular two words. That said, stay tuned for the next article explaining why Android is a better solution than the iPhone for many people. I always cover two sides here. Don’t get defensive just yet.

    • Fragmentation not much of a problem? How could you say that on one hand and notice that there are FAR MORE Android devices on the market today? Do you simply not understand the definition of “fragmentation?”

      • just my way to see it but here it goes; fragmentation will always be there because of the gigantic amount of phones android is available on, this would be the same if iOS was allowed to be on other phones as well.  fragmentation has been an issue for now as the newer versions of android were getting much better fast, and people wanted those updated versions of the operating system.  however, I believe as yourself and matt knows that this is not going to be much of an issue very soon, as when each version of android releases it just gets better and better and less major updates will be needed to allow for a better user experience so less people will be in the want.  and now with ice cream sandwich, as I am experiencing on my nexus s, MUCH better, it is not only super fast but more beautiful to look at and use.  future previous versions, when running as good as ice cream sandwich does and look, will not be an issue to have on your phone as they will be not much different than the one so close to it.  the bottom line overall is this, use what makes you happy, but do not be so brand loyal as to not look at the emerging technology from other companies that may and are doing allot of things better now.  🙂

      • just my way to see it but here it goes; fragmentation will always be there because of the gigantic amount of phones android is available on, this would be the same if iOS was allowed to be on other phones as well.  fragmentation has been an issue for now as the newer versions of android were getting much better fast, and people wanted those updated versions of the operating system.  however, I believe as yourself and matt knows that this is not going to be much of an issue very soon, as when each version of android releases it just gets better and better and less major updates will be needed to allow for a better user experience so less people will be in the want.  and now with ice cream sandwich, as I am experiencing on my nexus s, MUCH better, it is not only super fast but more beautiful to look at and use.  future previous versions, when running as good as ice cream sandwich does and look, will not be an issue to have on your phone as they will be not much different than the one so close to it.  the bottom line overall is this, use what makes you happy, but do not be so brand loyal as to not look at the emerging technology from other companies that may and are doing allot of things better now.  🙂

    • The problem with #1 is that most people do not want to root – most of them don’t know how and would be too worried about bricking their phone. I’m pretty savvy with tech and almost bricked my Droid X a couple of times while rooting. 

      Most people can’t handle dealing with a bad printer driver. Rooting a phone is out of the question for them.

  • Correction: Nokia doesn’t make android phones.

  • Is this article available in English?

  • I still love the new Google Phone. 

  • Great, Honest article!

  • Great, thank you!

  • love android

  • love android

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