10 things Google should change for Android 2.2
10th May 2010 | 14:04
Froyo is coming - what should it do to improve Android?
Android's greatest strength is also its biggest problem.
The constant, lightning-fast pace of development has left many users out in the cold when it comes to getting the latest OS updates - just ask anyone who owns an HTC Hero how they feel about being stuck with Android 1.5 in this day and age.
But the mobile OS marches on regardless, with the latest update, Android 2.2 - known as Frozen Yogurt or "Froyo" for short - rumoured to be due any day.
So what should Android 2.2 do? How can it improve on an OS that's already stormed the world during 2010?
These are our suggestions, should anyone from Google be reading and have a bit of spare time this afternoon.
1. An 'Update All' or 'Auto Update' option for apps
Yes, we understand Google needs to cover its arse in getting us all to click 'OK' on the privacy options when installing an app the first time, but must we go through this rigmarole again when installing simple version updates of our apps?
When you've got 30 apps on your phone and eight of them all coincidentally want updating at once one morning, the update process becomes a bit of a chore. Just let everything auto-update. We won't complain about privacy violations, promise.
2. Android Market syncing with PC
Isn't it just a bit bizarre that Google, King of the Internet, offers no way of letting users browse the Android Market from a PC?
Is that done on purpose, as a way to illustrate a future in which we're free from desktop computers? Or is it simply too big a job? Either way we don't care - we want it and Google has enough people and computers to make it happen.
Also, can the Android Market be a bit more user friendly while you're at it? Finding what you're looking for is tough, especially if you're looking for something generic-sounding, like a Twitter app. The ability to sort apps by user ranking would be a good start.
3. The death of fragmentation
The big speculation about Froyo is that it'll somehow magically end fragmentation of the Android OS. Would it be technically possible for Google to push out firmware updates via the Android Market in future? Probably not for older handsets - they're doomed! - but if every phone that launches from the Froyo era onwards could have its OS updated free from network delays and interference it'd be a great move.
Imagine a future in which everyone can install Android updates from the Market, or a Google web site, free from the chains of their local network operator, the day they come out. That's a future we would embrace.
4. Advanced power options
Battery life is terrible on all Android phones. Big screens, multitasking and data-syncing all eat lithium-ion constantly, so wouldn't it be great if Froyo let us select ultra-low-power modes for when we're not Tweeting or downloading? It'd also be a cool eco-friendly bullet-point on the Android 2.2 feature list.
We're sure Android is already as power efficient as possible, but we'd like to try getting our battery life up from six hours to maybe six and a half. Also, can the alarm clock work when the phone's turned off, please? It's crazy that decade-old Nokias can wake you up when they're switched off, yet Android phones can't. Put that in the hardware spec from now on, please.
5. More app payment options
It's odd that Android isn't particularly well integrated with the networks. Buying apps requires use of a credit card - why can't we have purchases added direct to our network bill?
Sure, it'd be a logistical nightmare, but Google has made a living out of sorting out logistical nightmares for the betterment of mankind, so we expect more. Some apps are starting to support PayPal outside of the Market loop, but there's a long way to go before Android offers a simple, seamless payment system.
6. Jazzier default music player
The default Android music player is a pretty bland, generic affair. It works, it's fine, but it's not the prettiest of things and could do with some developer attention and a 2010 makeover.
A better organised file browsing system along with the option to switch the phone to a music player mode, enabling people to scan through songs with the trackball or by pressing some other buttons, would be great - if only to help sell Android to the mainstream crowd. And an official Google file-syncing service would be handy, too, for listening to our favourite MP3s while out and about.
7. Install apps to SD card
A bit of a boring one, but this is the number one request from the power users. Android apps are mostly rather small affairs and don't consume that much memory, but some of the fancier games do consume a large chunk of memory - and being able to hide these away on the SD card would be very useful. People just want the choice, that's all.
8. Advanced Notifications tab
We tend to use the Notifications area as a phone maintenance 'To Do List', putting off tiresome app updates until we're bored enough. So it'd be great if we would dismiss individual Notifications one at a time rather than only being able to clear the whole list, leaving only the few important-sounding Notifications we need to 'action' later. We do occasionally have other things to do than fuss over our phones, making sure everything's up-to date, you know, Google.
9. USB/Bluetooth keyboard support
A USB keyboard would presumably be a little tricky to implement what with its power needs, but the new Bluetooth HID (Human Interface Device) Profile would let Android easily connect to a Bluetooth keyboard. iPhone already supports this feature, so enabling it on Android 2.2 would carry on annoying Steve Jobs - which is the most important thing of all.
10. Offline Maps caching
The mobile networks seem to be taking a hardline approach to data transfer at the moment, rendering use of our always-on smartphones something of a minefield of excess fees and charges.
So if we could cache up all our map data via Wi-Fi before setting off into the world it'd be lovely. The networks would be happier - and we wouldn't have to worry about getting monstrous data bills at the end of the month for daring to use our phone's features. A 'Favourite Maps' option, something like that. That's all we're asking for.
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