Wake up, Android device manufacturers

Apple’s Q4 results were its best ever. They even managed to claw back some marketshare from Android. This should be a loud wakeup call for Android device manufacturers. I’ve been an Android user for a couple of years now, but let me say that there are some areas where Apple wins hands down.

Choice

Too much choice is a bad thing. I like that Android has phones with and without keyboards, phones in a variety of sizes, and so on. Unfortunately, HTC, Motorola and Samsung seem to crap out a new phone every couple of months, most of them indistinguishable from each other.

HTC Amaze, Wildfire S, Sensation, MyTouch 4G, Evo 3D, Evo Design? They’re all keyboardless. Apart from one of them being 3G, I’d be hard pressed to decide between them, or even tell them apart in the store.

And yet, the amount of real choice is less than ever. The phone I want is nowhere to be found (see end of posting).

Support

If you get an iPhone, you know there will be OS updates for a couple of years. In contrast, Android handset vendors have screwed over customers so many times that I won’t buy a phone unless I know for sure it’s supported by CyanogenMod. People who don’t care about freedom so much will just take the easy option and buy an iPhone. Trust matters deeply when you’re not technically minded.

I want to buy a tablet. Right now, I’m waiting, because I don’t trust any of the vendors to actually ship Android 4 for their tablets in a timely fashion, even if they’ve promised that it’ll be here in weeks. (I learned that lesson from HTC with my phone.) Again, people who don’t care about freedom so much will buy an iPad, because at least they can trust that Apple will ship OS updates for a year or two.

Experience

Part of the reason why manufacturers say they have trouble shipping OS updates, is that they all insist on layering extra crap on top of Android. But that’s not the only reason to dislike the value-subtract which handset makers keep applying.

My phone used to have HTC Sense. Installing CyanogenMod was the best thing I ever did to it. Suddenly the address book worked properly and I could star favorite contacts. The launcher lost the horrible bubbles around the icons. The useless social stream app and the voice search that never worked were gone, and the phone search button did something useful again.

I went to T-Mobile to look at phones. The HTC ones still have Sense UI crap all over them, and it’s still ugly. I don’t want it. And if you’re one of the people who does want it, there’s nothing to stop HTC from offering it as an optional add-on exclusive to their phones, without forcing it on people.

Motorola have claimed that the carriers are forcing them to layer UI crap on top of Android, because otherwise they’d end up with a half dozen identical Android phones on their shelves. Well, yes, see “Choice” above. Screwing up the UI so your multiple identical phones will look different is solving the wrong problem.

My perfect phone

OK, so support and experience suck, but at least we have choices, right? Well, it doesn’t seem that way to me. Here’s what I want from a phone:

  • A good camera.
  • A microSD slot for music, so I can replace my aging iPod.
  • A hardware keyboard.
  • Stock Android 4.x.
  • GSM compatible with T-Mobile.

So many Android phones out there, and yet precisely zero of them seem to meet my fairly mundane requirements, even if you relax the demand for Android 4. In fact, right now T-Mobile has no stock Android phones at all. Yet it wasn’t too long ago that they were selling the HTC G2, a stock Android phone with keyboard.

Something is very wrong here, and unless Google and the phone manufacturers can do something about it, the iPhone might get back the position of #1 smartphone platform.

Quote

Compare and contrast

“‎I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.”

— Mitt Romney.

“I think all right-thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary, decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired. I’m certainly not! And I’m sick and tired of being told that I am.”

— Graham Chapman, Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Dodging issues the Ron Paul way

I’ve come to realize that Ron Paul’s rhetorical positioning is extremely clever, in that it allows him to appeal to both sides of many issues. To put it another way, he is able to take a theoretical stand against bad things while advocating policies that would lead directly to them.

Consider racism, for example. Ron Paul believes that the Civil Rights Act should never have been passed. He thinks that companies and individuals should be free to be as racist as they like. Want to post a “No blacks need apply” sign? He thinks you should have the freedom to do that. And yet, at the same time, Ron Paul states clearly that he personally thinks that racism is a bad thing. It’s very unfair, no doubt about it. It’s just that he feels that we should wait until everyone voluntarily decides to stop being racist, rather than passing laws. It’s regrettable that giving people the freedom to be racist would result in a lot of racism, but what are you going to do, eh? It’s just human nature.

So his liberal supporters get to point at his statements against racism; and his neo-Nazi supporters at Stormfront get to point at his statements against the Civil Rights Act and his desire to repeal laws against discrimination. And he gets to shrug, grin, and dodge the issue.

Well, I think this is an ingenious position. Why don’t we try it with some other laws?

Sure, theft is bad. But we shouldn’t have big government forcing people to stop thieving. Instead, we should patiently wait until everyone voluntarily decides to stop. In fact, it’s the statists who cause theft with their legislation, dividing people into “have” and “have not”, “owner” and “not owner”, and leading to people’s obsession with property, right? But you know, theft is really really bad. Making it legal shouldn’t in any way be seen as condoning it, OK?

LA Noire review

It was just another treacherous night in the big city when I opened the “LA Noire” case. You doubtless saw the headlines—big name publisher picks up well reviewed game from independent studio. There was another story I was interested in, though. According to the police files, there had been accusations of appalling working conditions, and the whole shebang had been deep sixed a few months later in mysterious circumstances. That left me with a few loose ends to tie up.

I sat back and pondered the cocktail I had been handed. A fifth of hidden object puzzle, a generous dash of choose-your-own-adventure, a touch of cover-based shootout, and I could definitely detect a hint of sandbox. It added up to something, but what? There was only one way to find out. I slipped the disc into my PS3.

The graphics hit me first, a one-two combo punch of lush environments mixed with uncanny valley facial animation. The story moved like molasses on a winter’s morning. Yet it wasn’t long before I was hooked, as hooked as the morphine addicts who were turning up dead on the streets of the city of angels. I wandered the lovingly rendered streets from crime scene to crime scene, chasing down perps who were seedier than a parakeet’s breakfast.

It takes a strong stomach to be a detective. When there’s a serial killer beating and slashing his female victims, someone has to kneel over the desecrated corpse and turn it over for clues. I won’t even go into my time working the arson desk; suffice it to say I’ll never look at a rack of ribs the same way again.

Maybe that was the hook, the unflinching attempt at realism. Maybe we all want to be heroes, or maybe I was won over by the delight of there being something different in the world of console adventures. Whatever it was, I’m glad I was there. The story may be more of an interactive movie than is good for it, but entertainment is entertainment as long as your expectations aren’t out of whack.

Would I recommend that you follow in my footsteps? Well, if you’ve got patience and determination, and pay attention to detail, you could do worse. Sure, the path’s as linear as the proverbial straight and narrow, and if you wander off track the illusion of freedom in a living city falls apart faster than a shanty town being hit by a tornado. But hey, those are the breaks. Me, I think it’s worth it for the chance to take part in a car chase in a Tucker Torpedo and a shoot out around the Spruce Goose.