My Android Wishlist

Any time now we’re all expecting Google to announce a new Nexus (or even maybe some Nexi) along with the next big version of Android: Key Lime Pie. Now while I love Android and have been seriously impressed with ICS and JB, there are still plenty of areas in which Google could make some improvements. Some of the things I’d like to see include:

Gmail Zoom

I’m beginning to wonder if Google are ever going to implement zooming in Gmail. It’s so annoying having to pan around HTML emails and figure out what they say. Would it just be too sensible to start with an overview of the entire email which can then be zoomed into as required?

Zoom out!

Smart dialling

This is actually quite widely implemented in OEM skins but as a stock Android user I’m missing out. It’s a feature I’ve loved ever since first using it on my SPV C500 back in the Windows Mobile days, and makes every other method of dialling and contact search feel primitive. Smart dialling makes the concept of opening the Contacts app to make a phone call completely redundant.

Dialling, the way it should be.

Message Swiping

Google Talk has actually featured this for a while, as has Gmail since ICS. The ability to swipe left and right between conversations is one of those nice little touches which seems so obvious once you’ve used it. But it’s missing from the one app where it would perhaps be of most use: Messages. Come on Google! It surely can’t be that hard to implement.

Contact Photos

I’m one of those people who likes to have their contacts thoroughly organised with all possible information added, including nice, high quality photos. The problem is that Android doesn’t sync my nice, high quality photos. So if I add a high res photo to a contact on my Galaxy Nexus it’ll look fantastic. But by the time it’s synced over to my Nexus 7 it looks like some low quality pixel art. 

I recently discussed this on the podcast and Mark suggested that it could be down to the storage cost. This could be plausible if it wasn’t for the unlimited instant upload space that Google+ provides and the 20GB of space that comes with Google Music. And if they didn’t want to give unlimited space for this, I’d even be happy for the contact photos to go against my 5GB of Google Drive space. Just fix it already! 

Nice and sharp.

Not so much.

Text wrapping in Chrome

This is something that’s always annoyed me on iOS. When zooming in on a web page, the old Android browser always wrapped text so that you’d only ever have to scroll up and down, and not left and right. Mobile Safari has never done this and, unfortunately, Chrome doesn’t either. Bring it back Google!

Nice and easy to read.

How not to do it.

Universal Search

For a company that apparently makes a living from it, Android’s universal search isn’t all that impressive. The first annoyance is the search box on the homescreen, which despite using up a whole homescreen row, isn’t actually a search box at all. It’s just a shortcut to the search app.

Which begs the question, why not just have a regular app shortcut and free up the space for something useful? It also takes an annoyingly long time to launch. Every time I tap the bar, I prepare to start typing, only to have a wait for a moment or two longer than I’d like. It just means that I mostly end up not searching at all.    

Apple on the other hand seem to have nailed universal search with Spotlight on iOS. It’s both fast and comprehensive, not missing out on obvious information sources such as Email and Calendar. It’s nice that you can choose to search apps but searching my personal information might be a bit more useful. And why do I have to tap to see results on my phone? Just show them!!! You can do better Google.

Yes. Just what I was looking for. Not.

Just show me what’s on the phone!

Here we go. Still not useful though

Lots of sources. Only missing the useful ones then.

Calendar Sync

Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but why oh why does the Android Calendar only sync events for the last few months? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wanted to check my schedule for a past date, only to be met with a blank calendar screen. Could it not default to syncing all events? Or failing that give you a choice. 

And while I’m at it. Why don’t the sports calendars available through Gcal on the web sync to your Android device. I can view fixture calendars for pretty much any sport. But only on my PC. 

Let me just check my calendar. Oops.

Long press Menus

Google removed a lot of Android’s long press functionality in ICS as it was deemed as not being very discoverable. The (laudable) aim was to make features more obvious to users. While I understand the need to make things simpler, I don’t get why they couldn’t have just done both. Add more obvious ways to do things while keeping the old long press menus. They were a great feature which made certain tasks much quicker to perform.

Even stranger, they still left in some long press menus. So now when you long press on the homescreen you get a menu to change the wallpaper But the option to add a widget or shortcut has been removed. Why the discrepancy?

Unfortunately, I can’t see Google bringing back the long press menus but it just makes me feel better to rant about it.   

Wallpapers but no widgets. That makes sense.

Wireless streaming

Anyone who’s used AirPlay on an iOS device will surely wax lyrical on its merits. I’m not going to say it’s magical, but it’s bloody cool. And damn useful. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the 100s of millions of Android devices out in the wild had a single, compatible method with which to stream content wirelessly? Something that was so ubiquitous that it would just be built into TVs and other displays by default.

I know that the likes of Samsung and HTC have their own solutions but does anyone really want to buy a HTC Media Link that’ll work with your One X but not with your Nexus 7 or Galaxy Note 10.1? It’s a beautiful dream, but it’ll never happen without a push from Google.

The recent introduction of Lightning on the iPhone 5 has also highlighted the problem with physical connectors. Going with something wireless, and preferably open, should hopefully ensure compatibility across a wide range of devices and for a long time into the future.

Sync settings

Android has always worked better with Google services. On powering up an Android device the first screen you see is a login for your Google account. It’s great how all your mail, contacts, calendar, books, movies, apps, feeds, bookmarks, photos… all sync up to your device automatically.

But it could be even better. How about your Android system settings, homescreen shortcuts and widgets, logins for apps, game data and high scores. There’s so much potential here and I’d love to see Google innovate more in this area. I want to sign in to my next Nexus and start using it without setting up anything. 

Twitter/Facebook Integration

Pretty much a direct copy of iOS. The ability sign in once to Twitter (and now Facebook) and never have to then authenticate other clients is both convenient and most likely more secure. Not so much an essential addition but definitely a nice to have. Given Google’s status with most other tech giants though, I won’t hold my breath.

Updates

Actually. I’m not even gonna go there! 

Fingers crossed

Now that the performance issues seem to have been resolved with Project Butter, I really hope Google get back to adding more functionality. I really do love Android, but having also used other platforms I’m also well aware of its shortcomings. While it’s a great fantastic OS, it’s by no means perfect.

  • Anonymous

    A lot of what you wrote are things I have wanted for a long time as well.

    While android gets so much right, it still gets plenty wrong.

    • Anonymous

      Definitely. I just want to see it get even better.

  • Yav Zare

    A very fair and well worded article!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks :-)

  • glen

    I would love to see a lot of what you wrote, but havent we already got “air play ” with DLNA I use this daily to play music from my desire HD to a Sony stereo

    • Anonymous

      Maybe music is better than video. The idea for DLNA is great but in practice devices and codecs aren’t that interoperable.

      Have a look at this review from Engadget for an example.

      http://www.engadget.com/2010/12/30/htc-media-link-dlna-streamer-review/

      • glen

        I have found video a bit disappointing as u can stream to an Xbox using the double twist app, but it wont play all videos, photos r fine though. But at least I can do most things and its a damn site cheaper than having a house full of apples!

  • Neil Deadman

    I’m pretty sure my contact photos sync in hi-quality between devices. Just not if I set them in the contacts web page

    • Anonymous

      I’d like to see that Neil. Prove it!!!

  • Anonymous

    100% agree with most of the above.

    Sync:- Installing apps & all game scores when getting a new phone would be very useful.

  • Anonymous

    By the way. I’ve been alerted to another article of even more problems which I also agree with.

    http://www.androidpolice.com/2012/09/18/ux-things-i-hate-about-android/

  • Harvey

    errr. Chrome DOES auto wrap on zoom.

    • Anonymous

      “An issue that often pops up for mobile browsers is that text on the website may be too small to read properly. Where the Android Browser employs a text reflow algorithm to clarify the situation, Chrome for Android features a technique which we’ve called Font Boosting. It uses an algorithm to increase font sizes when necessary, aiming to make the text readable regardless of the zoom level.”

      http://peter.sh/2012/02/bringing-google-chrome-to-android/