Why Android Hardware-Buttons Are “Broken”

Early Android prototype hardware

Early Android prototype hardware

In his recent post, Christoffer Du Rietz makes a great point on why hardware-buttons (as a part of the user-interface) in Android smartphones are fundamentally “broken”. The conclusion is mostly right:

The sad thing is about all this is that having made the decision to use these buttons from the start, Google has locked itself in a mess of a UI-model. All Android apps would have to be redesigned should they want to change it around and fix this. In short, they’re stuck with a UI that sucks and they can’t fix it because they didn’t think it through thoroughly before the first launch.

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Google’s control over Android

When discussing problems with Android devices, you can often find people who claim, that most (if not all) problems with Android devices are caused by the manufacturers of said devices and Google isn’t to blame. Geeks like to justify this by saying that Google has no control over Android and devices that are made with it, i.e. manufacturers have the freedom to do anything with it. While this does sound plausible with all the “open” bullshit that’s coming from Google, the reality is very different.
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Android update problems

The problem with updates in Android isn’t news, but usually geeks (or should I say “google fanboys”?) will try to defend Google by shifting the responsibility onto hardware manufacturers. They also like to make a point that if you really want to buy an Android smartphone that has zero problems with updates, than you should buy a “Nexus” device. Well, today is the day, when this Nexus crap is officially bullshit. As mentioned in a recent TechCrunch post by Jordan Crook:

Unfortunately for owners of the original Google phone, Google has confirmed that the Nexus One is just “too old” for the new software.

Now, consider that the Nexus One was first released in US on January 5, 2010 — less than two years ago, other countries got in even later. This situation is typical for Google’s products — they have no support what so ever, either it’s software, hardware or web-services. And while this may be suitable for free web-services or software, it’s absolutely unacceptable for consumer products. What’s worse, by doing this Google sets an example for other manufacturers, saying that they should not care about updates either (not that they particularly care now).

Meanwhile, the iPhone 3GS, that was released more than two years ago, is still alive and kicking getting updated to the newest version of iOS.

Siri’s iPhone 4S exclusivity

The talk about Siri’s iPhone 4S exclusivity being nothing more that marketing started right after the announcement of Apple’s new flagship smartphone. And while this is a very “convenient” explanation for various random tech blogs, in reality important products decisions are rarely made with such simple reasoning, especially at Apple or any other company, that is focused on quality of their products and the user-experience that they create.
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When people don’t know what they’re talking about

It’s not uncommon for the general public to have vague knowledge or experience in various technical matters, that lie outside of their core competence — almost nobody is surprised by this, nor considers it a problem. The biggest exception are tech nerds, which are notorious for their disregard of “normal” people. And while it’s funny when some people think that they are better than others only because of their above average, lets say, computer skills, it’s even funnier, when the same people don’t know shit about something else, but still confidently talk about it. A good example of this can be observed in a recent post on techPowerUp from qubit. And while techPowerUp usually is known for their high quality reviews of hardware and accessories for PC enthusiasts, the author of this particular post shows his “deep knowledge” from the get-go.
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“iPad mini” in early 2012

Recently, some news sites ran a story about a possible new entry-level “iPad mini” tablet, that Apple allegedly plans to launch in early 2012 to counter the new low-priced Kindle Fire tablet from Amazon. While most of the rumors concerning Apple turn out to be complete non-sense, this story indeed has some sense.

As with the iPhone (and previously the iPod), it’s not a question of “will Apple do it”, but rather when Apple will considers it necessary to expand the product line, creating a more affordable option. Another question is what will this more affordable option be. The problem with this story lies in semantics and timing:

  • - the whole “mini” part is too reminiscent of the device’s smaller size (which is indeed unlikely), even when the story has a remark, that the “mini” moniker not necessarily refers to a smaller screen size of the tablet, but it’s lower price;
  • - the “countering Amazon” part also sounds bullshit too far-fetched, because releasing the “iPad mini” in early 2012 would require Apple to start it’s development a good year or more early, when there was no sign of Kindle Fire or any other viable competition;

Still, even considering all this, Apple could release a new entry-level iPad device. But, as shown us by the iPhone 4S announcement, Apple most probably would just lower the price of iPad 2 and keep producing it side by side with a new iPad 3, if it’s possible to differentiate the two product enough (e.g. iPad 3 will have a quad-core Apple A6 SoC and the new 2048 x 1536 “Retina” display).

The problem with a card-based UI

If you’ll read reviews of the the recent HP/Palm smartphones, RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook or the HP TouchPad, it’s very likely that you will find praise for their “card-based” user interfaces, as one of the best features of those products. The card-based UI has been widely referred as one of the most convenient ways to use a touch-screen device and the best way to switch between multiple applications running on the device. With all of this I still think that a card-based UI has serious problems, that are rarely covered, if covered at all.
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The sense of making an iPad Pro

I guess by now almost everybody heard the rumors about an iPad Pro (or iPad HD), which could be released by Apple this fall and among other things would feature a “high-resolution” (presumably 2048 x 1536 pixels) display. Recently there was another spike of articles concerning this device, like an article at Display Blog from Jin Kim. Quoting the mentioned article, John Gruber from Daring Fireball makes a very good remark, which has the part about the sense of making this iPad Pro from the perspective of Apple. John sums up that “So even if Apple could do a retina-display iPad this year, I’m not sure there’s any reason they should.”, but I disagree with this statement.
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Is RIM really done?

In a recent article at MobileCrunch John Biggs stated that RIM is done for and it will become a takeover target in a couple of years. Not denying the obvious problems that RIM faces and will face, I think that John exaggerates. Sure, the management call always fail and kill the company, but the company has the chances of surviving for a few obvious reasons.
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Why some news are just flamebait

A few days ago, precisely after the Apple’s recent WWDC announcements, one particular “news story” quickly spread across numerous websites and blogs. This “story” can be used as a good example of how sad the current situation in the media (especially web media) is. I’m talking about the story of how Apple “riped off student’s rejected iPhone app”, which frankly isn’t a story at all. Why? It’s easy to explain.
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Thoughts on tech