Why I find it hard to recommend an Android handset nowadays

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Why I find it hard to recommend an Android handset nowadays

As someone whose job involves being surrounded by mobile gadgets on a daily basis, it only makes sense that friends and acquaintances will often ask me for a recommendation before purchasing a new smartphone. Most of these people will be casual users who barely follow new trends and developments and only have a minimum amount of experience with flagship devices. Others will be a bit more tech-savvy, having spent some time researching current trends, and just wanting a second opinion.

Both groups of people respond the same when they are asked what they want out of their phone. “I just want it to be fast and to not turn into this after a couple of months” (person waves their old smartphone in the air). Further questioning will also flesh out requirements such as longer battery life, better camera, pleasing aesthetics.

With competition reaching an all-time high this year, most manufacturers have released some truly stunning devices, indeed. One would think that recommending a single one of them would be a hard task. And, indeed, if I am to pick one new device to use as a daily driver for myself, I'd have a really, really hard time. I love what Samsung did with the Galaxy S6 / edge; I like the uniqueness of the LG G4; I'm really impressed by the crisp sound of the HTC One M9's stereo speakers... I could go on and on without even mentioning the up-and-comers from the East – Xiaomi and Meizu.

So, yes, I like and would enjoy owning all of these devices. But when it comes to recommending one of them, it's a different deal. See, thing is that when a person tells me “I want my phone to be powerful, fast, and responsive”, I figure they want it to continue being so for at least two years – pretty much the standard cycle for mobile tech refresh. In this scenario, I can't bring myself to recommend them any Android handset, without mentioning the iPhone 6 as a first choice.

The thing is that, while all of these devices are great now, there's no telling what will happen with their software after some months of usage and when their internal storage gets filled up. Also, considering that the customer pays premium price, I believe it fair that they should get the newest and best in terms of software for the duration of at least two years. No matter how awesome the newest Android flagships are, history tells us that this may not happen.

Updates


Let's look back for a second. Android 5 Lollipop was released around the end of October, 2014. Sony's most current (at the time) flagship – the Xperia Z3 – received the update in March. That's around 5 months after Nexus owners already had it and 2 months before the next version – Android M – was announced. Of course, Sony is not the only one who was behind, it's just one of the more extreme cases. Thing is that, with each manufacturer having its own skin and software features on top of Android, it just takes time to code and test everything. Add to that the different carrier models and you've got a cluster of confusion and mini issues that could take forever to be discovered and ironed out.

In contrast, iOS devices worldwide usually get their software updates minutes after Tim Cook announces them on-stage. You are confident that you are always given the newest features, and Apple supports iPhones and iPads well beyond their second year. Yes, the iOS 8.0.1 release was a flop, with numerous issues that shouldn't have been there, making iPhones nigh unusable, but a fix was released in a day – this pretty much sums up the importance of fast update roll-outs.

And sure, iOS 8 may not run exceptionally well on the iPhone 4s and iPad 2, but the fact remains that both are 4-year old devices, and both are still kept current by Apple. They will even receive an update to iOS 9 — which is a support period longer than any Android handset can boast about having — and which will hopefully improve performance.

Bottom line is – I see a lot of iPhone 4s units still in the wild. I rarely see any Galaxy S2 or S3 phones. This begs the question – if one had bought a flagship in 2011 or early 2012, which phone would've been the best investment?

Erratic inconsistencies and unpleasant surprises


As previously mentioned, each Android model out there has a ton of variants – there's the worldwide unlocked version, there's a different version for each major carrier, and, in cases where the manufacturer is feeling particularly trollish, some models may have different SoC variants (looking at you, Samsung). In this case, it's only natural that there will be discrepancies and inconsistencies from one phone's software to the other, even if they bear the same name. Some will have buttons and options where the others have blank spaces, some will get updates faster, and some may just perform worse. How to figure out which the best variant is, you ask? A crystal ball is usually the best option.

Why I find it hard to recommend an Android handset nowadays
The random surprises that I have personally experienced in recent time include the auto-brightness feature not working; Google Play Music auto-closing during background playback; random slowdowns, despite the fact that the phone has top-of-the-line hardware; the phone warming up and draining 10% of battery for unknown reasons (I assume location tracking) while sitting in my bag during a short car ride; and the all-time favorite “Unfortunately, Google Play Store has stopped” – what?

This is all considering that I keep the phones I use relatively clean, with Greenify regularly used to put unused apps to sleep. As a techie, I can live with those issues, pick at them, and work towards eliminating them – I don't mind. But if I were to recommend a phone to anyone, and that person came back to me with similar complaints, I'd feel pretty silly and guilty.

As for the iPhone – the worst issue I would say comes up is the occasional force-closing of an app while it's in use. However, I can not remember when the last time I actually witnessed one such thing happening. For each iPhone that Apple launches there is just one variant – not one for each carrier, not one for market “x” and another for market “y” – there is one iPhone, period. Therefore, if I am to recommend it to an acquaintance – I'd know exactly what they are getting, no matter where they buy it from.

Apps


The issue with differences between phones bleeds into app quality of experience. It's not uncommon for me to think “Will this app run as intended?” whenever I download something new from the Play Store. It has become a sort of a reflex throughout time and experience, if you will.

The Cleaner is one of the many tools made to keep rampant apps in check. Usefulness of cleaners is another discussion, but their popularity proves that users feel the need to have one

The Cleaner is one of the many tools made to keep rampant apps in check. Usefulness of cleaners is another discussion, but their popularity proves that users feel the need to have one



The best example I could give is the HTC Re camera app. Remember HTC's Re? It's a small action cam without a viewfinder that can connect to your phone via Bluetooth and allow you to view its photo stream, change modes, and, of course, see what the camera is seeing. Unfortunately, I could not get the Re to connect to the Galaxy Note Edge that I use as a daily driver, no matter what I tried. So, after hours of attempts, I just downloaded the Re app to an iPhone 6 and it worked from the first attempt. To be fair – the connection process was a bit more complicated on Apple's device, requiring me to swap between Settings and the app, but it didn't halt at any moment.

Another great example would be Google's own Fit, which, earlier this year, caused Samsung Galaxy handsets to keep their heart rate sensors always on (issue now fixed). Or social media apps, such as Vine and Periscope, which have also given me a hard time at certain points – not being able to view my Vines unless I manually clear the phone's cache, not being able to leave comments on Periscope streams for whatever reason... you get the gist.

Sure, if an app doesn't run well on your Android handset, you can blame the developer. But really, how many developers have the resources and time to test their apps on each and every smartphone that's out there? To be fair, Google has announced that it will open up a Cloud Test Lab, allowing developers to run benchmarks on 20 of the most popular Android handsets. The plan is to help app makers provide a more consistent experience throughout all current flagships. This is great news, indeed, but it's not yet come to be.

iPhone apps that run bad or don't run at all are not uncommon, too. I've had plenty crash on me each week, while I hunt for some solid titles for the “Best apps of the week” column. However, in these cases, it's usually much more evident that the developer is to blame. Apps that lack enough work and discipline behind them commonly show it in their icons, descriptions, and screenshots. If one of these areas is lacking, I usually expect something might go awry while I am testing the software. However, when developers and companies provide a pristine page on the App Store, I am pretty confident in my download.

There is also the fact that most apps and games still make it to the App Store months before they hit the Play Store – even Google's Hangouts 4.0 update went live for iOS first.

Again, based on those experiences – when I recommend an iPhone, I know exactly what I am pointing the querier towards. If I suggest any Android handset, it's usually with a “... but” addendum.

Final thoughts


There is a running theme across this article – the fact that so many Android handsets run on different hardware, and have a variable amount of mods installed on them, which causes some issues. “Well, just recommend a Nexus!” you might say. Fact is, I'd love to. Unfortunately, the Nexus 6 is a shovel of a phone, huge and hard to handle. Sure, it runs snappily with the vanilla Android on it, but its physical properties already locked it in the niche phablet group. In reality, each time I want to grab a vanilla Android handset, I reach for the good ol' Nexus 5. Unfortunately, Google discontinued that one, so, to put it in the words of fellow author Victor - “Android needs its iPhone”, and it needs it for the launch of Android M.

If you own a current Android flagship – awesome! I am not trying to challenge your purchase decision

If you own a current Android flagship – awesome! I am not trying to challenge your purchase decision


Believe it or not, however, it's a hard task to say everything I've said so far. I realise that I may be challenging a certain amount of readers on their purchase decisions, but remember that this is all written in the context of having to recommend a phone to someone who is ambivalent in theirs. Many of this year's flagships – such as the Galaxy S6 / S6 edge, LG G4, Xiaomi Mi Note Pro – are stunningly looking devices that have their own unique thing to bring to the table. I sincerely hope that at least some of the manufacturers prove me wrong and provide solid support for their 2015 top-shelf handset, turning it into one of the best phones to have for the following two years. And, if this turns out to be the case, I'd love to sit down and write an article on “Why I love recommending Android handsets nowadays” in 2017.

First GIF taken from: The Cleaner app

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231 Comments

3. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

It all comes down to preferences, I do recommend my friends buying Android phones although I am still using my old 4S and I prefer iOS. Today Android is much more polished than years ago and same goes for other platforms, choosing phone today is rather a matter of size, battery and other specs as even if you buy mid ranger Android today it will work just good.

15. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

I would have to recommend Android as well simply because I find it very intuitive and user friendly. Though that could be because I have conditioned myself and my expectations on how a mobile device should function as I've used the platform almost exclusively over the course of the past several years. I find a lot of double standards with this article. Yes, there is only one to two models of iPhones released each year and you would think that it would make the software more stable as it would have to account for far fewer variables with hardware configurations, but over the past year I've had to deal with supporting several people who were incapable of connecting to wi-fi because of an update issue, then the latest update seems to have crippled GPS for many handsets. Then there's all the incredibly high profile security breaches with Apple services over the past year that either locked users out of their Apple accounts or gave scrupulous people access to highly personal and sensitive files. the 1,500+ apps in the app store that acted as backdoors to the OS, then the recent revelation that Apple apps can pull secure data from other apps including user names and passwords. I could also argue that the past few years, Apple's "new" features introduced in their iOS updates have been in large a long list of items available on competing platforms for years before they adopted them into their OS. They're just now starting to work on a street view which is something Google's had for maybe half a decade already, the same can be said about NFC tech, expandable & inexpensive storage through micro USB thumb drives, touchless controls, wireless charging, notification light or active display.

20. Nicko97

Posts: 49; Member since: May 25, 2015

Android is far from user friendly Updates suck constantly lagging and running out of ram meanwhile all my Apple devices run as smooth as butter iOS may not include all the latest Android features but when they do they do it better than the competition. Apples view on things isn't to be the first but to be the best learn from mistakes made from rivals. I would choose ios 9 over android any day and trust me the gap is closing between the two platforms

37. Awalker

Posts: 1962; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

What's not user friendly about Android? And when you say "better than" that's just your opinion. Others may come to a different opinion.

42. bucky

Posts: 3774; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

i think if you are using a stock android phone its definitely pretty easy. The issue mainly comes from Touchwiz.

53. ph00ny

Posts: 2002; Member since: May 26, 2011

Stock android layout is pretty similar to TW. Not sure why TW is the only OEM overlay getting mentioned no one in the comment thread said Samsung

55. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Well, with my personal use of the Galaxy S4, the changes I hate were made the the settings screens. There was just so many unnecessary changes made for reasons I just couldn't figure out. Samsung complicated a very straight forward and clean settings window for no reason other than to set their interface apart. I cannot comment on LG's and HTC's GUI as I have no experience with them.

50. ph00ny

Posts: 2002; Member since: May 26, 2011

Explain to me how it's far from user friendly. Also you're not understanding how Android manages memory Also doing it better is subjective. I'm daily driving android and iOS and i like Android better personally. I think the way settings are laid out is more logical on Android than iOS. I'm also not a huge fan of Nexus devices either. Not enough choices on hardware and stock android always seem to lack the finesse (Nexus5 and Nexus10 owner)

242. Niva.

Posts: 440; Member since: Jan 05, 2015

Wow, where do you people get off? Stock android lacks finesse like having a restart button when you hold the power key and some other little features of cuteness, that is true. But at the cost of more timely updates it's worth it. The above article is retarded. You "find it hard" to recommend Android, yet at the same time it's easy to recommend an overpriced device like the iPhone 6? OK, moving on now.

51. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Every update for Android over the past several years has had an emphasis on making the OS more efficient, with RAM, processor, power consumption. You are very right, the gap is closing. And to say that Apple does things better than the competition... you have clearly blocked Apple Maps from your memory, also, I don't know a single person who feels that iTunes is the best way to manage files on your mobile device, so no, Apple does not have the user's ease of use in mind, they simply are obsessed with restricting people to their platform and services. Updates suck on iOS, yes, everyone gets them, but they also bring with them severe issues like the ones I mentioned in my first post. If you think crippling your wi-fi or GPS functionality are features in a quality product then you have your priorities really screwed up. Also, your lag comment is irrelevant, the difference in speed between last year's iPhone and last year's Android devices can only be measured in milliseconds, if that near immeasurable difference in time is too much for you to wait for your Angry Birds to load up then I think you might have other issues that need addressing. Also I think it was the Galaxy S6 that beat the iPhone in a real world speed test but come this time next year you'll say that it's too slow and unacceptable. And believe it or not, Android is incredibly easy to use. Saying otherwise would only imply you're too simpleminded to figure it out.

92. Jake63

Posts: 2; Member since: Jul 12, 2015

I actually bought an iphone 4S last week and spent a weekend trying to make it work - it wouldn't (at least Wifi wouldn't) I went and did everything everybody advised, but it would not work. The vendor told e I should not have upgraded to IOS 8.4 when the phone told me to. So much for getting working upgrades .... I traded it for a Galaxy A5 and I couldn't be happier. Everything works out of the box, it's fast, it has a better battery life than any iphone could every hope to have. I'm staying on Samsung. I have the proof I need after 3 days on an iphone.

101. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

From what co-workers have told me, the WiFi issue on the iPhones is hit and miss affair, they said it would work for them one day, but not the next. It was very inconstant according to the people I've talked to on the matter.

104. Mxyzptlk unregistered

+1 for the truth. Android isn't always user friendly.

111. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Oh, there you are Kanye.

120. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Oh hi Kat Jennings

127. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Did you mean "kat dennings"? I don't know who that person is either, but Google suggested it over Kat Jennings. If you did mean Dennings then I couldn't possibly be her cause I would be too busy in the shower... umm... washing myself ... to be talking to a retard like you.

151. darkkjedii

Posts: 30836; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I agree with the gap is closing, cause Apple is implementing more and more android/touchwiz features, but some of your post I disagree with. My iPhone's, iPads, and iPods all had have had hit and miss days. With iOS 8, it's been far more miss than hit. I also somewhat agree with Apple doing it better once they do it. I prefer notifications and control center in iOS, as well as picture in picture vs popup video. Overall, iOS is still a few miles behind at least the touchwiz version of android. I haven't had experience with vanilla android, since 2009 on my OG Droid that debuted android 2.0. There's some validity to your post, but Apple has some catching up to do.

202. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

What Paul K did is just highlight the good thing of iOS and bad things on Android? Having used both platform we know each has their own hit and misses. Since most of the time I would argue for Android I would like to highlight the advantage of iOS and why Apple deserve the money they are making. Samsung has always miss out of the holy grail because of their short sightedness. They let their greed for advertisement money cloud their judgment for what is a great end user experience. Apple has never lose sight on that, buggy implement of iOS 8 not withstanding. They always make sure their phone are clean and sleek free from performance degrading bloatware. Samsung promise that their S6 would be different and we all know how that turn out to be. So how much is a great end user experience worth? 100 billons per annual is about right.

247. darkkjedii

Posts: 30836; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Very good post. I think Samsung is finally learning to showcase practical uses, and not just the power. I do think they need to stop mentioning Apple in their ads, and focus on what makes their devices so good. Advertising is Apples gem, they can't be beat at it.

207. cheetah2k

Posts: 2190; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

Apple is smooth as butter - because 750P screens... lol

210. cheetah2k

Posts: 2190; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

I phonearena has become the BIGGEST apple troll fan site on the planet.. Apple cash for comments must be pouring in the doors in wads of $10k bundles

58. sgodsell

Posts: 6895; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Knowning what is already here and coming up on all the platforms. Things like VR, Smart watches, Camera's for example. Clearly Paul K. you like the iPhone 6 and even have the nerve to call that device a flagship. Just like Apple also has the nerve and the gall to call their current iPhone 6 a flagship device. Especially when the iPhone 6 has mid to low end display with a resolution of only 1334x750, All the Android flagships are in the QHD display range or some are still FHD, even last year all flagship devices were QHD or FHD. But NONE of the Android flagship devices have been using HD displays for a few years now. Apple even at their WWDC had nothing to show for on the VR front, because they already know their hardware is crap when it comes to VR. As far as Camera hardware this year most of the Android flagships hardware beats Apple's offering. Apple only introduced OIS on the 6+. When it comes to smart watches. Apples offering is always restricted and too closed. Even 3rd party apps run slow on Apples current smart watch. They are introducing native app support in the fall, however developers still cannot create their own watch faces, and people will have to wait for Apples next version of their smart watch to offer a more useful and properly working WiFi on the watch. At least with Android Wear I can now connect to iPhones, iPads, and iPods to get notifications, just like the Pebbles. But just like the Pebble Time I cannot use voice on my Android Wear with iOS devices because of Apples restrictions. To sum it up I would never call an iPhone 6 with a display barely over HD, with 1 GB of ram, dual core 64 bit 1.3 GHz CPU a flagship in todays world. The specs I just listed for the iPhone in the Android world people would look at that, and clearly put it in the mid range category. Until then I will wait for Apple and the iPhone to get on board with VR and see what they come up with.

64. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

I'm going to have to disagree with you actually, if you were to compare the iPhone 6 with 2014's Moto G, you'll see that from a strictly hardware basis, they're very close to one another. The base model for the iPhone does have double the storage of the Moto G, but it also has expandable memory which can be added MUCH cheaper than what an upgrade to the iPhone would cost, the Moto G also has a larger battery, the same amount of RAM, stereo speakers, and only cost $180 compared to the iPhone's $849 price tag. Oddly enough, the Moto G has a higher user rating than the iPhone 6. Now, take into account that the Moto G is not a mid range phone, but a low end budget phone and you have to ask yourself where Apple gets off charging over $600 more for essentially the same quality hardware, that offers its user a less than comparable experience. FYI, all my data was pulled from the comparison tool here on Phone Arena, compare and contrast for yourself if you like.

230. cezarepc

Posts: 718; Member since: Nov 23, 2012

I prefer Android over iOS, but saying Moto G delivers comparable experience to an iPhone 6... nope, not even close. You need at least 2 GB RAM on an Android device before we can talk about comparable experience to an IP6. Doesn't make the IP6 worth worth than $800 IMO though.

234. amar55inn

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 13, 2015

Seriously comparing with Moto G?? Its Camera is s**t! poor still camera and 720p video recording in 2015 :P ... haha... Build quality plastic vs metal?

240. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Damn straight, it has the same amount of RAM, a larger capacity battery, a more stable OS, a larger display, a smaller bezel. Who gives a crap if the iPhone is made out of metal, 90% of iPhone owners have their iPhones covered with an ugly bejeweled case anyway.

105. Mxyzptlk unregistered

It is a flagship. You don't know the definition of flagship so you're clearly wrong.

141. sgodsell

Posts: 6895; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Please point out where, and what points were wrong, and please give us your details as to why I was wrong in your eyes. Just telling someone they are wrong without going into any details, just makes you look nothing more then a fanboy.

228. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Go look at the definition for flagship and get educated instead of talking out of your @$$.

199. StanleyG88

Posts: 240; Member since: Mar 15, 2012

Well, when Apple only puts out two phones every two years or so, does "Flagship" really mean anything to them?

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