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.
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
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
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!