October 31, 2014

Christmas in July: This power user's Android wishlist

Christmas-wishlist

Do you wish stock Android would do a little bit more? Tired of relying on third party developers or manufacturers to add the features you feel should be standard in Android? I could not agree more. As great as Android is, there are some shortcomings in the system. Do not take me the wrong way, I feel it is the greatest mobile operating system in the world, but I think Google should add some of these “no-brainer” features that many manufacturers or developers have added in some way or form into their Android ecosystem.

My first experience with Android was a Samsung Moment, migrating off of a HTC Touch Pro and Windows Mobile. Android 1.5 was rough, but still refreshing and new all at the same time compared to what I was used to. Since that moment four years ago Android has changed enormously. The 2.1/2.2/2.3 updates were the game changing upgrad needed in order to set the device up for world domination under the the 4.x versions of Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, and Kit Kat, which now make up an astonishing of 84% of all Android devices. So much for the fragmentation fears everybody was talking about in the early days of Android.

So here we are with the pending release of Android “L” and a slew of new looks and features coming out. As are most avid Android users, I am foaming at the mouth waiting for this new release. While appreciative of the new version coming out, I still hold a resentment with Google over holding out some key features that have not been baked into the Android stock operating system as of yet.

This list is a list of the top five items as compiled by myself and contributors here at AndroidGuys. I would like to think that having these items built into stock Android would give users of all levels a better Android experience.

  • Active Listening (Moto X style): It would be pretty nice to not have to turn the screen on to do a Google Search but to just skip right ahead and do it from the standby screen (meaning the screen is off). Is it that hard to turn the phone screen on? No it is not, but again, if we don’t have to do that extra step, why do it? Simplify the process and allow “Ok Google” at any point, even in standby.
  • Visual Voicemail: Can you believe that Android does not have it’s own Visual Voicemail app? If you own a Nexus device you know what i am talking about. Instead of having the messages download automatically to your phone so you can listen to whenever you want, you are stuck with that annoying voicemail logo in the notification bar. Yes, I’m pretty sure that Voicemail has to be done by every carrier and is unique for each user, but there has to be someway that it can be worked out. Optimally having this built into the Google Hangouts would be pretty nice. That way you can check your voicemail across systems, kind of how voicemail access works in Google Voice.
  • “Knock On” (as used by LG): This is a newer feature, but still it is pretty neat and a very useful feature. Simply by knocking on your cell phone you can shortcut right to your desktop screen. This again is one of those features that just make getting where you want easier instead of going through a couple of steps.
  • Extensions: Chrome and Gmail on the desktop have the awesome ability to add extensions to make the browser or your email more functional without having to open up another separate program. Here is a perfect example, I am an avid Yesware user with Gmail. I cannot send an email from my mobile device because it isn’t tracked, rendering my cell and tablet both useless at points and therefore making me run back to my desktop to send the email. This is just one example out of many. Here is another example: Instead of using a Google Analytics App, would it not be easier to just click on the extension in the Chrome Browser? Now yes, Chrome and Gmail are not Android operating system per se, but they are part of the core apps for the Android ecosystem. By allowing extensions Google would only be promoting productivity and making lives easier while using their devices. There would be much less switching apps and much more getting instant information saving users time, energy, and frustration.
  • True Multitasking (Samsung Multi Window; Phandroid like multitasking): The king of all features missing is multitasking. Yes, you can have multiple apps open at the same time, but typically, unless you have a rooted device or have a device by a manufacturer like Samsung, you are not going to be able to display two items on the screen at once. Not having this feature built in Android is mind-boggling to me. Yes, it may not make a lot of sense on smaller devices, but the Android game has changed over the past two years as devices are getting larger. 99 percent of all devices now have over four inch screen sizes to where even limited multitasking would be useful (like a calendar view and an email). Once you get into the phablet and tablet world, this feature is a must if you are going to use the tablet for either school or business. I find myself needing sometimes three or four screens to do my job and being locked with one single view on Android does not cut it for me. That is one of the reasons I purchased the Galaxy Note 12.2 because of the size of the screen and the Multi Window support. I can now almost fully replace my desktop computer, unless I need to send a tracked email.

All in all, as I stated, Android is the greatest operating system out there for mobile devices. This post is not set up as a rant against Google, but more to point out some shortcomings in areas that I think most of us will agree would make our mobile experience better.

So now that you have seen my top five wishlist, tell me, what’s yours?