Can Hardware Keep Up With Android?

AndroidsBeatingUphardwareSince the G1 rolled out a year ago, there’s one question that continues to burn the cilia of my ear.

“Does the phone lag?”

Why does this bother me so much? It seems like a fair question, doesn’t it? Does it lag? Well, why should it? I mean, a phone should be made to run the way the software intended, should it not?

Of course it should!

If I have a phone that comes with Tetris pre-loaded, I darn well expect Tetris to run without glitching and lagging. I think that’s a reasonable expectation, don’t you? The same thing should hold true for any pre-loaded software. A phone should operate, for the most part, without a hiccup. Obviously no phone is perfect, but still, it should operate within a certain window of performance.

So here’s the question I pose to all y’all… Is Android growing too fast for hardware manufacturers?

Can companies, such as Qualcomm, keep up with the demanding growth that Android expects? Can HTC build phones that accommodate the ever-expanding amount of storage that users require for their apps and documents? Google’s not going to hit the brakes on Android anytime soon. The OS will keep growing more and more powerful, requiring faster, more efficient, and less power hungry hardware to run on.

Right now, we’re at an interesting point in Android’s development. Current hardware is starting to show signs of weakness. Up until now, we really weren’t seeing much need to pass the 500 to 600 MHz speed barrier. Yet, due to major headway in the realm of mobile software development, hardware seems to be playing catch up. With advancements in multi-tasking, video streaming, social networking, and richer web content (among many other things), we are seeing amazing software pushed to the market on half-baked hardware.

Thankfully, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Phone manufactures are set to turn the tides. Over the next few months, powerful phones will be released. Sony Ericsson and Samsung are confirmed to be pushing out phones in the 800 MHz to 1 GHz range. It’s an exciting time for Android.

Now it’s Google’s turn to play catch up, so to speak. The hardware is coming. Now the software has to learn to utilize the extra power it will be granted. Which brings me back to my main point.

Is Android growing too fast for phone makers to keep up? Sure, with Sapdragon based phones, Android will have some wiggle room. But, will that wiggle room last? If so, for how long? As Android becomes more and more popular we will begin to see a mass influx of powerful applications meant to run on it. This will force Android to become even more robust in a very short time frame, ultimately driving it to require more hardware power. The cycle is never ending.

I’m not saying that Google doesn’t have their work cut out for them. It’s the software’s job to efficiently utilize the hardware. Android needs to learn to adapt to the hardware it’s given. It needs to sip less juice, take up less space, and scale accordingly.

Yes, I firmly believe that Android is growing too quickly for hardware manufacturers to keep up. But is that the hardware manufacturer’s problem? Does Android need to learn a lesson in efficiency? I really just don’t know at this point. All I know is that Android adoption is beginning to explode. Is the industry ready for it?

  • The hardware should be made such that it will be viable for the current android os for about 3 years(2 year contracts, plus late adopters). And google needs to make android such that these devices can take updates(with the latest greatest) for the same amount of time. Why should I buy a new phone every year, when the old one is still on contract. That is the state of the cell phone market, and google needs to realize this.

  • root your phone, install cyanogen, and stop cryin' 😛

    • lol ^^ co-sign that! i really can't think of ANY downside to rooting your phone

  • Cody Banks

    You can only install Cyanogen if you have a G1 or MyTouch. you can't put Cyanogen on a Droid. nice thought though…. Noob!

  • bryan

    Hardware manufacturers have not been inovating untilled recently. The processor in all of the android hardware except the droid has been available for at least 2 years. Android is forcing manufacturers to produce modern hardware. If manufacturers were producing modern hardware snapdragon or equivalent (cortex A8) processors would have been available last year. The professors have been available (both the iPhone and Palm Pre use cortex A8 processors). The handset manufacturers are being forced to keep up with More’s law, just like pc makers. That way programmers can predict the capabilities of the hardware that will be available when they finish a project rather than writing for the hardware that is available when starting a project.

  • some1

    Basically as an Android consumer you’re going to want to always have a phone as powerful as the latest Android Developer Phone. So long as developers stick to testing everything on an ADP and don’t just go and start developing on a powerful phone (like the Droid) then apps should run fine. Consumers are responsible for staying up-to-date with their hardware (just as they are in the PC world). Keeping up with the most powerful Android Dev Phone is all they should have to do.

    Generally, all the issues we have in the PC world with hardware, we’re going to have the same issues with Android hardware.

  • Michael

    The upgradeability and platform for open apps aspects are exciting, and I hope that the phone I buy in the next couple of months will be able to be upgraded through its lifecycle, but …

    The 120mhz LCD TV I bought last year can't be upgraded to a 3d, 240mhz LED backlit model this Christmas. With consumer electronics, the best we can do is to be happy with what we purchase when we purchase it.

    In fact, the TMobile Even More Plus plan lays bare the truth of the two year contract. Those low prices can only be achieved because the phone is subsidized. If you don't stick around long enough to payoff the subsidy then you must somehow pay for the discount.

    If you think your phone really costs $149 then you are fooling yourself. It really costs $149 plus about $20 per month of your monthly fee. If you want to upgrade phones every year, just pay full price ($399 or more) and you can upgrade phones any time you wish.

    Then there is the other choice. We tell the software companies that they are only allowed to upgrade every two years. I'd rather see continuous upgrades. It might put me a bit out of date, but it insures that whenever I buy I will get the latest features for the time.

    The biggest issue as I see it, is that many of the phones currently being released are behind the current state of the art (Android 2.0). And there are questions about when 2.0 will be available and whether their will be lag. As I see it, Google and the Phone manufacturers have a lot to learn about coordination.

    Take Win 7 as an example. We all knew when it would be available and even a month ahead of time, if you bought a computer, you would be 'guaranteed' to get a Win7 upgrade the instant it was available. Almost all new computers released after the upgrade date come with Win 7.

    In the Android world, it appears that the manufacturers are playing catchup with the new release. And some of the custom software (blur, sense, cliq) that make the handsets great may also mean that they will take even longer to upgrade.

    Of course, the one fly in this ointment is the rate of Android upgrades. It's easy to synch with Windows changes when they come every three to five years. Not so much with a change every couple months in Android. However, the bottom line is that there needs to be better coordination between handset manufacturers and Google regarding upcoming release plans.

  • justlgi

    I think what is being lost is that no one owes you a software upgrade. If people buy the phone and like the pastry it's currently running that is going to be all they care about (for 90% of the population). Upgrading the software of a phone is a fairly new proposition anyway. Most people realize if they want new features they will have to get a new phone.

  • tallbruva

    Hardware could be more robust. But that’s not the real problem. Install TasKiller and you’ll see why your Android phone runs slow. There are a bunch of apps that feel the need to start even when you didn’t open it – such as T-Mobile’s My Account. All those unnecessary apps starting sucks up resources. TasKiller let’s you exclude apps u don’t want killed while dumping everything else. Your phone will fly after this.

    Have to agree with installing Cyanogen tho. But even with his rom you need TasKiller.

  • SiI

    800-1000 MHz processors are all well and good… but surely what we really need is more RAM!!!

    I reckon at least 512 MB, then all those apps hogging memory won't cause slow down problems and web pages can render at a reasonable rates!

    • Thomas

      More ram will need more battery life.

  • I'm a little late finding this article, but I loved it.