It’s a tough time to be an American consumer.
It’s a tough time to be an American.
I always knew it would come to this, but being the Pollyanna that I am, I was hoping that it wouldn’t.
Two and a half years ago, I bought my first Android device, an HTC EVO, and even though it was a battery-draining, unstable mess … I sung its praises.
Because I saw great potential. A true multi-tasking kernel on a Linux core, open source code, a generous development platform, the ability to run non-pre-approved apps … the possibilities were infinite, and as a wireless handheld user since the late 90′s, I was ready to jump on the Android fanwagon.
I bought a few more devices over the next year, became an official Android developer, began writing apps, and became an advocate for the platform.
Unfortunately, as has happened every other time, I would soon be let down magnificently by that which I was touting. Every time I’ve ever promoted something or sung its praises, that person or thing immediately goes to shit. Android has been no exception.
I presently own three Android devices, two of which I carry with me at any one time. I have to carry two.
Redundancy. Rare is the occasion that at least one of the devices isn’t locked up or lagging horribly, so it helps to have one device to use while the other is rebooting.
As time goes on, however – as each new release introduces 2 new bugs for every new feature, not even two is enough. Take for instance, my daughter’s singing audition in November …
Moments before being called into the audition room, I decided to take a photo with the new Android phone that I purchased in October … one month prior.
I pulled the device out of my pocket, pressed the camera button, waited for the camera app to load, pressed the shutter, and … nothing. No matter how many times I pressed the shutter to take a picture, the camera would not respond. I tried to exit the camera app and start over, but nothing doing. The screen was completely unresponsive. Finally, after another minute or so, I got the “this app is not responding” dialog.
I didn’t want to pull my large tablet out, so at this point, I rebooted the phone, and with a freshly booted device … tried again. No dice. One month after purchasing the phone, the camera app was hosed. Completely.
I have no idea. I’ve installed a few apps on the phone, but not many, and absolutely zero games or sketchy apps. Nonetheless, I needed to do a wipe-re-install. Thank goodness I had brought backup, though.
I unzipped my bag, took out my tablet, pressed the camera button and … crash.
No surprises here.
After two or three minutes, the tablet booted.
“Finally”, I thought.
I held it up, pointed it toward my daughter, pressed the camera launcher, and …
Fuck my life.
“You cannot launch the camera while your SD card is being scanned”, said the message at the bottom of the screen.
I had forgotten all about the media scanner.
You see, every time you boot an Android device, it scans your SD card for new files, and during this time, it prevents you from using any app that uses the SD card. You cannot abort the media scanner. I’ve seen it take anywhere from 1 minute to 15 minutes, and today, well, today was anyone’s guess.
Finally, about 7 minutes after I had first attempted to take her picture, the media scan was complete … just in time for her name to be called.
There would be no photo.
In the end, I fully blamed myself. I knew better than to trust Android for anything even remotely important, and leaving my dedicated camera behind was a dumb risk. After all, this was probably the 50th time this year that Android had left me in the lurch.
Somehow, someway, in the last 2 1/2 years, Android has gone from being unstable, to become almost completely unstable. The camera app has always been flaky, but so too is the web browser, Evernote, text messaging, and, well, everything else. I generally have to reboot my devices at least once per day, more often if I multi-task a great deal.
I’ll concede that I demand a good deal from my touch-screen devices, but if I wanted a single-tasking game machine, I’d buy a Gameboy.
Now, I can hear the responses. “Those things never happen to me, Rex, so it must be you! Either that, or you should taken your device back and gotten it replaced since it’s clearly defective!”
Yeah, sure. I’m on my seventh Android now … I usually pass my current one down when something shiny and new is released … and they’ve all been quite unstable. Even if your devices did crash as much as mine do, for whatever reason, I doubt you’d admit it.
At the beginning of last year, I wrote an article about OS X Snow Leopard’s horrible swapping problem. The responses I received almost overwhelmingly denied the problem. “I don’t know what you’re talking about”, “I’ve never seen that”, “it must be you”, “you don’t have enough RAM”, “you’re trying to put 20 gallons in a 10 gallon bucket”, “you just hate Apple”, “your mother is a whore”, I received the typical Internet reply stuff. Not one, single, solitary person came to my defense on the issue.
This year, after Mountain Lion was released, Apple fixed the swappiness issue. I was very happy when I realized that it had been rectified, but my joy turned to disgust when I spotted users in Apple forums championing the change. “Yay, I can finally use my Mac without looking at the spinning beach ball all day!”, “My Mac is finally usable”, “Thank god they finally fixed it!” … some users were ecstatic. The same users who declared that the problem didn’t exist. According to them, it was all in my hate-filled head … until Apple fixed it … at which point, it had existed, but was no longer a problem.
Such is the state of the Internet.
I tried to love Android, I truly did, but the instability was only part of the problem.
Device manufacturers compounded the problem by tailoring the OS to suit themselves, and only themselves. It became increasingly difficult to find an Android device that wasn’t preloaded with spyware, malware, shitware, etc. Imagine getting a new Windows computer from Gateway, then not being allowed to uninstall the crapware. Imagine losing 10%-20% of advertised storage space to a manufacturer’s advertising schemes. Imagine being awakened in the middle of the night by your phone, and picking it up to find Sprint begging you to try their brand new NASCAR app. Imagine four ads in your status bar, because that “free” game you installed was really nothing more than a trojan, designed to get you to buy other apps.
Such is a typical Android experience. It’s a never-ending battle for control and ownership of a device that you supposedly own. It’s corporate greed run amok. It’s a Terms of Service nightmare buried in a contract of adhesion that wouldn’t hold up in any industrialized court system outside of the USA.
“By using the device you paid for, you agree that you can’t sue us or think bad thoughts about us, and that we can change the contract and do whatever we want, whenever we want, because the Supreme Court says we’re people but you’re just a steaming pile of shit.”
Seriously, that’s pretty much what a wireless contract says.
Sure, you can root most Android devices and install custom firmware, but even Cyanogen 7, a fine OS roll, still can’t overcome the stability issues. In fact, custom ROMs are the only reason I stuck with Android for as long as I have.
Alas, today, I must finally wave the white flag. Today, I must concede defeat, try to make use of the current Android devices that I have, and move on when it’s time to replace them.
Today, the battle has ended, and I was defeated.
About an hour ago, I pulled up the Google Marketplace, which is now Google Play. When I saw that I had failed to rate an app that I had downloaded last week, I decided to go ahead and add my two cents.
I clicked the appropriate tag, prepared to type up my review, and …
Oh dear God.
Google Play has now been rolled into Google’s social media platform. A platform that they routinely threaten to kick me off of because they don’t like my name, and I refuse to send them a copy of my driver’s license so that they’ll like it better.
Even though I made a very conscious and willful decision to never again post to Google+, because I did not agree to the terms of that service, I am now being relieved of my choice in the matter if I want to use the primary Android Market going further.
Now, in order to rate an app or provide feedback, I have no choice but to join a wholly unrelated social media platform. My guess is that this will soon be a requirement should I want to develop apps as well … or even download them.
Alas, my answer is as it was. It’s still “no”. Despite all of Google’s efforts to take the decision out of my hands, I still do not agree to the Google+ terms … which means that Android will probably become more and more closed to me as a consumer.
This being the case, it’s better to get out now before I become further entrenched. Before saying “no” actually hurts. After all, that is the goal. To make saying “no” so inconvenient, that I’ll say “yes” to anything.
So much for open-ness.
So much for choice.
So much for Android.