Android

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Android logo.

Android is an operating system developed by Google primarily for mobile devices, but has also been incorporated into a wide array of general electronic devices. It was first released on 2008-09-23 and, in only two years, became the most popular mobile OS on the market, and currently retains that title by a huge margin. The OS is built on a modified Linux kernel written in C and C++ with its user interface layer written in Java.

Personal

I didn't get an Android device until around 2015. I had great expectations for the OS since it was made by Google, whose Web apps I loved, but I quickly found Android to be very constrictive and incapable of some of the most basic computer functions. Although not as bad as Apple's iOS, Google takes a similar approach where they try to force all users into using Android the same way, requiring everyone who finds the default way cumbersome or annoying to spend hours trying to find ways to bypass the restrictions of OS, if they can at all.

Review

Good

  • The OS is written generically enough that it can be used on thousands of different platforms.
  • The swipe-able icon-driven interface is very easy to use, and looks great.
  • By default, the user has a fair amount of control over the many settings on each device (although much of this control is usually revoked by the OEM).
  • The Google Play store offers a huge variety of additional software to load. Many of which are free (with ads).
  • The source code for much of Android is and remains open-source.
  • I like how programs must inform the user which aspects of your device they require access to before installing.

Bad

  • There are a lot of annoying nag messages that, as far as I know, cannot be turned off. For example, plugging an Android device into a USB capable device results in a dialog asking if I want to allow the connection (this can finally be shut off in the latest version). Extremely common file types like images, audio, video, and text files are not associated with the default Android app out-of-the-box, so you have to set them all up one time with every new device. Another one pops when I plug a device into my car saying it can't read MTP (even though I have MTP access revoked).
  • The headphone jack starts too quiet, doesn't remember your previous volume level, and has another annoying nag message that can't be bypassed when you try to raise the volume to a usable level. To make matters worse, it even overrides your volume level at regular intervals with a nag message forcing you to have to manually readjust the volume. From what I've read, some of this isn't Android's fault, but rather government interference because people are too stupid to know that loud music can damage their hearing.
  • Following in Apple's misguided footsteps, a lot of Android device designers have eliminated the extremely useful face buttons. When they aren't present, Android replaces them with an on-screen popup button menu that auto-hides and always requires an additional swipe to view. There is an unlabeled and poorly displayed soft lock button which alters the screen size for apps, which is annoying to code around. However, even when locked, programs can still hide it.
  • Google Assistant often picks up ambient sounds as your voice and interrupts up over whatever you're doing. If you're playing music, this stops your music, and you have to close it before you can listen to music again, only to have it pop back up a few seconds later. To stop this, you have to disable Google Assistant, which is a very convoluted process.
  • The default call blocking list only allows you to block 100 numbers, which is both stupidly arbitrary, and too small to put a dent in telemarketers.
  • Calendar has a lot of problems:
    • By default, it doesn't even show you a calendar, and you can't set it to do so. Instead it displays an hour-by-hour daily display, which is only useful to people who follow very strict schedules.
    • By default, it parses your emails and attempts to create useful events based on their contents; these are hit-or-miss, and often result in a lot of unwanted events being added.
    • Reminders confusingly change days if you don't manually dismiss them. If you set a reminder for the 1st, but don't dismiss it on the 1st, it will show up, not that you missed it on the 1st, but as a reminder for the 2nd implying that you are supposed to do it on the 2nd! The reminder continues to change dates to the current day forever until you manually dismiss it. If you create a reminder for each day of the week, but don't manually dismiss them, by Sunday you'll have seven reminders, all saying they're happening on Sunday!
    • Many people have complained that, despite having a secure Google account, scores of spam notifications are added to their calendar every day. This happened to me once with a spam notification covering every day in an entire month. This shouldn't be possible in any secure app.
  • Gallery, the default photo viewer, doesn't allow nested photo albums. A typical way to categorize, say, vacation photos is to group each vacation into its own album, then put all of those albums into a single album called "vacations," so they don't clutter the album view. This simple and desirable layout is impossible despite years of people requesting it; instead, only the lowest level of nested albums are displayed, and all of them are always displayed in a single long alphabetical list. The best you can do it mark albums as "favorites" which just sorts them, alphabetically, above all others. Google's other default photo viewer, Photos, is even worse. It tries to organize your photos with a primitive AI and fails miserably. Worse still, it limits your view to only displaying two and a half albums at once, and you can't see them until after you look past their unwanted and un-removable un-editable built-in albums.
  • When volume buttons are pressed, Android guesses at which volume you want to adjust based on the app that currently has focus. This is frequently the wrong app. For example, if you have a music app open, you would presume the volume control would affect the music's (media gauge) volume, but, this only occurs when music is actively playing through the speaker or headphone jack. If the music is paused, buffering, or for some other reason not playing, you will instead affect the ringer volume. I frequently inadvertently change the volume of my ringer because of this behavior. I would also like to lock my ringer volume to vibrate, but this is not possible without installing a third party app.
  • Chrome doesn't display a loading bar for media files. You just have to guess if an image, video, or audio file has finished loading based on the status of the indicator for the network type you're using.
  • Google isn't as quick at identifying and stopping malicious software on their Play store as they could be.

Ugly

  • Google allows OEMs to easily and irrevocably alter the OS at the expense of the user's experience. Most devices are sold with loads of useless, dangerous, or unwanted software which wastes space, drains the battery, and often spies on the user. This software cannot be removed or even prevented from running without seriously overhauling your device.
  • A lot of the default Google apps are crippleware. For example, if you use YouTube in a browser, you can play a video in the background and listen to the audio. However, if you use the Android app, you cannot, and are instead expected to buy a premium account to get the same service you get elsewhere for free.
  • Android makes mandatory many of their own Google apps, even if they're are not necessary for the operation of the OS. For example, GMail and YouTube are not necessary for an OS, but you cannot remove them.
  • The Google+ app adds to your contacts list an entry for every person you've ever emailed through GMail. When I setup my first Android phone it added over 500 contacts without even prompting me, most of whom I didn't recognize because I had only ever had a single email exchange with them years ago!
  • By default, Android can't even perform a function as basic as editing and saving a text file! Instead, there is a Memo app whose files cannot be managed by any other program or even the user. Local HTML files can't even be opened by Chrome, the apps specifically designed to open them!

Tips

Viewing Files With Chrome

By default, Android does not associate HTML files with Chrome or even include Chrome as an app that can open them, or even have the ability to do so (why the hell not?). The same is true for TXT files, and the various other formats Chrome natively supports. However, you can still use Chrome to view your file system, through a rather convoluted way. Not all Android devices have all forms of storage, some don't have any, but your device will usually have one of the following:

  1. Open Chrome.
  2. Click in the address bar and type the following based on which storage locations your device supports:
  3. file:///sdcard to see the contents of your SD card.
  4. file:///storage to see the contents of your devices local storage.
  5. file:/// to see the contents of all forms of storage.

Turning Off Google Assistant

Google Assistant often picks up ambient sounds or even music from the device as instructions. Doing so opens Google Assistant and pauses your music. You can close Assistant, but it will just pop up again a few seconds later. To disable it, do the following:

  1. Open the Google app.
  2. Click the ... More button.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. Click Google Assistant.
  5. Click the Assistant tab.
  6. Scroll down to Assistant devices and click on the device you're using.
  7. Uncheck Google Assistant.

Links

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