Three flaws Google needs to fix to make stock Android even better

Our favorite little green robot has made a lot of progress over the last four years. From humble (and ugly) beginnings with Android 1.0 to the smooth and sleek styles of Jelly Bean 4.2, we have seen some tremendous growth and progress of our favorite mobile operating system. Google has worked hard at ironing out the kinks and improving the user interface with some exciting new features. The result has been a much smoother, better, faster, prettier operating system, but it has surprisingly left some simple yet important features out in the cold. Here are three features (or lack thereof) that I believe are major oversights in Google’s current OS.

T9 Dialer

Nowadays a smartphone is used for many different things, but one of its most basic functions is and always will be a phone. To make phone calls as simple and intuitive as possible should be a top priority for Google. The ability to dial a loved one by typing the letters of their name into the dialpad (instead of trying to remember their phone number) is one of the easiest ways to make a phone call. In Google’s current system you have to open the dialer, tap the search icon, and then peck out your loved one’s name on a keyboard. That is three steps! Two steps too many! Many manufacturers have added the T9 dialer to their custom skins and there are many good apps in the market that fill this void (like: Go Contacts EX, or exDialer), but we purchased a stock Android phone so we could have a pure Google experience and not junk up our phones with extra apps. It is a shame that we have to download an additional app to do what our stock dialer should already be doing. Google, you would be wise to include a T9 Dialer into your next update.

CM10′s T9 Dialer                                                       Stock Android’s Dialer

Group Messaging/Emailing

Another feature that Google really seemed to miss the mark on is how “Groups” works on your Android phone. At the time of this writing, it seems that having a “Group” of contacts does nothing but isolate them into a separate tab within the People app. That’s it. There is no other functionality or benefit to creating a group. You can’t send a group email, a group text, or really do anything with that group except to stare at it. In the Gmail desktop application I can type the name of one of my groups into the “To:” box and it automatically populates the email with all of my friend’s email addresses that are in that particular group. It is such a useful feature! What a shame that we are not allowed to do the same with the Android Gmail app. Google needs to allow us to send group emails and group text messages using groups from our Google Contacts. (One workaround I have found for this problem is the ever-aging, and seemingly forsaken app called “Contacts GroupU”, but again, I’d rather not have to install extra apps to give me the basic functionality that my phone should already have.  I hope a better integration of groups is a feature that Google is actively working on and will include in a future update.

Google’s Groups just lock people into a tab with no functionality

 

Quick Settings

The final major flaw with stock Android is the lack of “quick settings” within the notification panel. Quick settings act as shortcuts that allow you to quickly toggle on and off important and often accessed settings such as WiFi, bluetooth, gps, silent mode, etc. Currently the stock Android experience offers no easy way to quickly toggle these settings on or off. Instead you have to navigate to the settings app and dig through the many menus therein to find the toggle you are looking for. It is a slow and cumbersome process. Custom ROM developers like MIUI and CyanogenMod have alleviated this issue by adding Quick Setting toggles as a basic feature to their ROMS. Even Samsung’s awful TouchWiz UI (no offense to TW fans) puts quick toggles in the notification panel. It is such a helpful and intuitive feature that it’s surprising Google has overlooked it all these years. To its credit, the Android team has recently made some progress in this area by adding a settings panel within Android 4.2’s notification bar, but even then they don’t act as toggles, rather shortcuts that when clicked open up the settings app. Google needs to take a clue from other manufacturers and custom rom developers and make accessing often used settings a quick one step process.

Stock Android                                            CM10 adds quick settings

 

I love stock Android. I use it every day on my Galaxy Nexus, but if Google will tackle these three major flaws, I believe they will satisfy a large portion of their already happy users! Well, at least this user!

What features would you like to see added to Android? Is there anything else you think Google left out? Leave us a comment!

» See more articles by Alexon Enfiedjian


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  • http://twitter.com/msobhy90 Mohamed Sobhy

    Well I agree with the first and second but the third is already done in Android 4.2, why mention it?

  • http://pixelsw.im/ Steve Heinrich

    I agree that the quick settings were poorly implemented in 4.2. The CM10 toggles are perfect in my opinion.

    I also think that the 4.2 lockscreen widgets and the lockscreen in general is user unfriendly.

    • RTWright

      Never had a issue with the Lockscreen, it’s pretty straight forward and easy to use. How is it unfriendly? I have a GSIII, the additions that Samsung put in the Notification area isn’t part of TW. It’s separate actually and I love what they did with it. I also love how the contacts work on the GSIII ( I’m sure it’s like this on all Samsung devices, at least the newer ones ). But yes, I agree these need to be part of the Stock Android.

      Problem is, they can make it part of the Stock Android but the OEM’s will still not use it, they don’t use the Stock UI to begin with. They’re too busy making overly bloated custom UI’s that are not even a tenth as good as Nova or Apex. Either of those are downright awesome launchers and give you so much more in the way of customization. TouchWiz is a screen hog too, it is geared towards 3.5″ to 4″ Screens still. Look at just the spacing of the icons alone on the screen. With today’s technology like it is with screens going 4.8″, 5″ and bigger? They need to adapt or use Stock, Nova or Apex as their UI so people can make use of the massive space they’re given.

      The only way this article means anything is with a Nexus device that comes pure stock. Then I will agree it’s dead on and he’s right on all 3. But with any other? Like HTC, Sony, Samsung, etc….. Not so much as they put a lot of that functionality into their devices.

      As for having to download an app for something? Isn’t that WHY we chose Android? So we COULD have the option to customize even if it is through an App? That there is a personal issue and not something to be targeted in an article in my opinion as it is one of the biggest things on Android and even the iOS. So no, just because it comes stock, doesn’t mean it’s going to be all that great either. Sometimes that is just what is needed, a better version built by someone for you to download their app to get what you desire.

  • Curt

    OOPS – You missed something in ICS, Jelly Bean Stock.
    There is a widget called “Power Control” that is on Stock Android ICS. It contains toggles for Wifi – Bluetooth – GPS – Sync – Brightness
    I use this widget all the time. I always switch from 4g to WiFi, turn bluetooth and GPS on/off with this widget. I never touch the brightness or sync.
    Silent and Airplane mode are easily accessed through a long press of the power button, even at the lock screen. I use these all the time too when I go into our out of meetings at work. Just a quick press to bring up the lock screen, then long press to access the popup and boom, quick, easy and efficent.

    • Alex Enfiedjian

      I almost mentioned this, but I don’t like to clutter up my homescreen with the power control widget when there is a much more elegant solution: hide them in the notification panel.

      • phor11

        So in this case you laud an extra step (pulling down notifications) as positive, yet in every other example you lambaste any extra steps…
        That’s not exactly easy logic to follow.

        • http://www.facebook.com/carlos.goncalves.568 Carlos Gonçalves

          now imagine you are in the browser or some other app, the notification pane is always accessible and you don’t need to leave the app. If you want to use the widget you have to leave the app and then comeback. how’s that for logic.

          • Guest

            You can already two finger swipe directly to data/wifi/bluetooth/brightness toggles. Is there anything else that would be useful while inside an app?

      • phor11

        So in this case you laud an extra step (pulling down notifications) as positive, yet in every other example you lambaste any extra steps…
        That’s not exactly easy logic to follow.

  • Robert Sydbrink

    No1. Use favourites
    No3. Already is in android

    • http://www.dsaif.tk/ Saif

      No. 3 is there but it takes too many steps

    • Martin Hites

      thats not the point..

  • http://www.bible-tech.com/ Justin A

    CM10 is awesome!!

  • Todd Martineau

    Oh….my….goodness….whoever wrote this article is right on the money! Google – pay attention to this!!! T9 dialing, group features and toggles in the notification area are a must at this point! The people have voted and they want this stuff! For a while it was up in the air if people wanted toggles in the notification area. Hey! Not any more! Get this stuff added into Android pronto!

  • banjoonmyknee

    I hate to say it but even Samsung’s Touchwiz and the many Touchwiz variant ROMs do a better job on some of these than CM10 does.

    The dialer/contacts app on Sammy is pretty nice, providing T9 plus an option, provides Send a Message/Email to groups and my personal favorite, “Add to reject list”. Further, while viewing a text or recent phone call you can automatically dial the text sender/caller, the moment you put the phone up to your ear.

    My Quick Settings, admittedly a little souped up via the ‘Jellywiz’ ROM, has nice big buttons across the top for Wifi, Mobile Data, Bluetooth, GPS, Flashlight, Mobile Hotspot,k Brightness, Airplane, Sound & Vibrate, Auto Rotate, Auto Sync, Screen Timeout, Lockscreen, Restart, and Power…plus a handy slider underneath for brightness setting. Maybe the one nod I would give CM10 here is the ability to switch to non-LTE settings. My gripe with CM10 is that I always have to fiddle with it to get all the settings I want. The default is kind of thin, whereas the TW one I’m using had it all there to begin with.

    You also didn’t talk about the camera. While all the new options are nice, the default camera for Android is ugly and a bit of a nuisance to navigate. Again, the Touchwiz version wins here, making it, for instance, much easier to switch modes and cameras.

    I’ve had CM10 on my S3 but ditched it in favor of Jellywiz, based on the Jellybean leak of the VZW S3 ROM. While I like CM10 for its closer to AOSP feel, I actually appreciate the time that Samsung took to make its core app User Experience much more pleasing.

    • Alex Enfiedjian

      Samsung has some great features, I just hate how their touchwiz UI looks.

      • banjoonmyknee

        I agree with you on their Launcher, I use Nova instead. But I do like the thought they put into the rest of the UI. Google desperately needs to hire some User Experience people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=27002636 Brian Azar

    In Google’s defense about your third feature… Tablet mode for 10″ devices on 4.1.x, we do have true quick settings… actually we’ve had them since Honeycomb. But I agree, true quick settings (and not just short cuts) should be added in AOSP.

    I’ve been rooted for way too long, I thought the T9 dialer in CM10 was stock lmao

  • Zach Freshman

    Widgetsoid lets you put toggles in the notification bar. Seems to me Google likes to keep stock super plain and let you customize with apps. When they try and change that people complain that it isn’t exactly what they want.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jim2&hl=en

  • zack

    Thanks to CM we go T9 and quick setting

  • zack

    Thanks to CM we go T9 and quick setting

  • GarnetRuggedVanterpool

    I think Google should introduce a way to hide the on screen, home, back, and recent so persons can have more screen real estate. Especially when playing games. I want full screen mode.. I guess its just me.

  • pinkfloydhomer

    Mark sms unread! Basic feature from Nokia 3310 days…

  • Anushka

    Cloud backup and restore in a def must!