Android, the anti-productivity OS

After 7 months of torture I have abandoned Android and my LG G3 and returned to my Lumia 1020 Windows Phone.  The 1020 now feels thick, even clunky, and after the G3’s 5.5″ screen the 1020’s 4.5″ screen feels tiny.  But the “ahhhh” feeling when I started using Windows Phone 8.1 again, that is priceless.  And the first time I took a picture, well again some real satisfaction compared to Android.  I really want a new flagship Windows Phone, but apparently that will have to wait for a few months.  But the real story here is why I switched back.

Android just never worked for me.  Want me to say something good about it?  It has the apps.  If they actually work on your device.  I admit I’m sorry I went for the LG G3 over a Samsung Galaxy S5 for three reasons.  One is that the S5 has fewer app compatibility issues owing to its popularity (aka, the G3 suffers from Android’s fragmentation problem).  Another is that the G3 has been unreliable, requiring pulling the battery about every other week to deal with a system hang.  But mostly because if used with a non-LG charger the G3 will beep every minute once it is 100% charged.  This is not good for sleep.  There is no reliable way to eliminate this beeping, except perhaps by rooting the device.  That is BS.

My biggest issue with Android itself is how poorly it supports the Microsoft ecosystems, both the business (i.e., Exchange) and consumer (i.e., outlook.com) based ecosystems.  Want 1 of 100 examples: I get a text from someone and want to save their mobile number in my outlook.com contacts, which is where my personal contacts go, and I’m out of luck.  I ran into things like this repeatedly over the last 7 months.  If you are primarily, preferably exclusively, wed to the Google ecosystem then Android is fine.  Otherwise, caveat emptor.

It was clear from the beginning that Android was not designed for productivity use.  For example, you can’t get your next calendar appointment to display on your lock screen without using a 3rd party app.  When I tried such apps I ran into the fragmentation problem, with the most popular unable to install on my G3.  I gave up.  Even after I unlocked the phone, display of appointment alerts was somewhat flakey.  Sometimes the alert pop-up would display but it would be unpopulated so I couldn’t see my appointment.  Android Lollipop was supposed to address this, but….

The last straw was the Android 5.0 Lollipop update.  One day I get a pop-up on my G3 saying there is an update available, but no details about the update.  I’ve gotten these periodically and I accepted the update expecting it was no more than a bug fix.  Nothing happened that day.  Or the next.  But then I needed to check my calendar for my next meeting in the middle of the day and found the phone rebooting.  It was out of commission for several minutes and it turned out that Lollipop had been installed.  Perfect (NOT!) timing.  And then figuring out what had changed, how it interacts with my installed apps, etc. became an issue.

Ever since the update my phone has been less reliable, requiring me to pop out the battery every couple of days.  And the new features I was waiting for?  Not really usable.  Notifications can be displayed on the lock screen, for example, but unless you want them pretty much all to be readable they pretty much all display as private with the phone needing to be unlocked to see the actual notification.  So you know you have a text message, but you don’t know anything about it.  I’d at least like to be able to know who it is from.  You might as well turn them off completely.  And if you want it to display the text message?  Well, expect all manner of personal or corporate information from various apps to be displayed on your lock screen as well.  Basically Google decided to skip providing sufficient granularity for what is displayed on your lock screen.

The absolute killer for me though is that Android Lollipop has made the alarms on my phone unreliable.  Like many other people I now rely on my phone as my alarm clock.  That started while traveling, and eventually I just decided I didn’t need an alarm clock as the phone was easier to set up and did a better job of waking me.  This was true of my iPhone, my Windows Phones, and (after a bunch of tweaking) my G3.  But after the Lollipop update I can no longer use my G3 as an alarm clock.  Sometimes it plays a couple of notes then auto-snoozes.  Sometimes the alarm fails to break through Do Not Disturb mode (even though I set it to do so).  Sometimes it just doesn’t go off at all.  Indeed last week I missed an airplane flight when the alarm didn’t go off.  When I looked at the clock app indeed the alarm was set properly, so I can’t tell you what happened there.  All I can say is that when I got home again I moved the SIM card to my Lumia 1020 and won’t look back.

Even finding settings on Android is a productivity killer of the highest order.  I am sure I could solve 90% of my complaints with Android by putting in a man-week of effort playing with settings, researching and trying out numerous third-party apps, perhaps even rooting the device.  In fact I probably made errors in this blog entry simply because life is too short to waste trying to figure out how to get Android to work.

I’ve focused on a lot of things here that could be specific to the G3, or to my G3, and certainly to my lack of time for tweaking the heck out of Android.  But to be fair I need to say that I just don’t like the Android experience.  If I’d gotten Android to address my needs I would have tolerated the user experience, much as many Windows PC users have for decades loved what it does for them while disliking the actual user experience.  But I never got there.

When I went back to full-time employment what I needed was a productivity device, not a hacker toy.  Android is the best hacker toy, but both the iPhone and Windows Phone are an order of magnitude beyond it on providing the right experience out of the box as productivity tools.  Windows Phone has the edge here, but of course the iPhone has the edge on apps.  If you can’t live with the restricted app library on Windows Phone, get an iPhone.  Just don’t waste your time on Android.

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14 Responses to Android, the anti-productivity OS

  1. I’m so happy to see an article like this! I’ve been thinking of getting rid of my 1020 as now even my banks mobile website doesn’t display properly on a windows phone! So now I have to go back to telephone banking when I am not at home!

    The one thing I will say about the 1020 with the update I have (Canada so not the one USA has) is that it locks up once every few days and because of that the alarm hasn’t gone off.

    I was so close to getting rid of my1020 and buying android but now maybe I’ll suffer through it until the new windows phones come out!

  2. realdarrencohen says:

    We are in very similar positions. I bought the S5 (for the reasons you mentioned), and it did not have the compatibility issues you had. Samsung also does a better job with out of the box exchange support compared to other providers. For example, your Outlook tasks show up in the Samsung version of your calendar (unlike the Google Cal).

    That said about a week ago I switched back to my 1520. There are some apps I will miss, but I have to remind myself that my first use of this phone is a work productivity device. Out of the box e-mai/cal/contacts support in Windows Phone is so far superior to Android. Office Lens is one of the best scanner apps as well.

    I went with the S5 over the iPhone because as a Windows user I thought I would rather be on an OS that lets me customize and tweak everything. I have come to realize that the phone is a device I need to work all the time, and I can’t worry about the stability of it. The 1520 is still great hardware, and I am looking forward to getting Windows 10 on it.

  3. avro105 says:

    I have always thought that Android was for people who like to tinker, rather than get work done. You have confirmed it.

  4. Bob - Former DECie says:

    If Windows 10 drops support for POP email, the lack of apps may force me to leave Windows Phone. Or not. I waited several years for there to be a San Antonio Spurs app for Windows Phone. When it finally came out, I eagerly went to the store to download it, only to find out it requires giving it access to my contacts. Nope, not going to happen. A good Spurs app probably would have pushed me off the fence into season ticket holder status, but I’ll never know because of the potential privacy issue. This makes me wonder about popular apps for other platforms. Do I have to give up my privacy to use them? I really like Windows Phone, but I’d hate to leave the platform only to discover that most of the apps I’m interested in have privacy issues on other platforms.

    • halberenson says:

      That is a platform independent “feature”.

      • xankazo says:

        This is an issue in Android too. I can even say that Android apps respect privacy far less than Windows Phone or iOS. BTW, I’m also switching back to Windows Phone coming from Android. I agree with every point in this article. Thank you.

    • xankazo says:

      This happens on Android too. And I could even say that Android apps respect privacy far less than Windows Phone. BTW, I’m also switching back to Windows Phone coming from Android. I agree with every point in this well written post. Thank you.

  5. Roger says:

    I’ve found Android to be about as reliable as Windows 3.1 was. Spontaneous reboots, hangs, not responding to input etc. This is all on a Nexus phone and tablet, so there is no vendor (other than Google) responsible! The battle for market share has led both Google and Apple to some degree to focus on features, and even then ones that “market” well, instead of being usable and useful.

    The underlying component model in Android (Intents, ContentProviders etc) is fantastic, and it is possible for a developer to easily add Microsoft/Outlook as contact sources. However neither Microsoft nor Google has done that. The lack of this is most likely for non-technical reasons. Sadly using a phone these days also means being a pawn in the tech giants agendas.

  6. unstrungone says:

    Welcome back fellow Lumia 1020 user.

    Now let’s hope MSFT has some new flagship worthy devices and a 1020 upgrade announcement to make at MWC.

  7. All of the major mobile OSes work best with their own companies’ ecosystems. As you point out, Android works well for people who primarily use Google apps, as I do. (My phone is a Sony Xperia Z Ultra, still running KitKat 4.4.4 – Lollipop is not yet available. I haven’t had any of the problems you describe.) iOS works best for people who are tied to Apple; it also has acceptable support of Microsoft’s ecosystem because Microsoft has developed that support. (Until recently Microsoft did little for Android, though they just released a version of Office for it.) Windows phones work wonderfully with Microsoft’s own applications, and not so well if you are tied to Apple or Google.

    As you point out, the Android model makes it possible to add Microsoft as a contact source, but it has not happened. That’s a political thing. Google doesn’t want to spend its resources developing that support because they want people to abandon Microsoft and switch to Google Apps. Microsoft hasn’t made the effort because they want people to abandon Android and switch to Windows Phone.

    The worst case scenario is for people who are tied to the Apple ecosystem. There is no support whatsoever to using any non-Apple device with that, aside from the begrudged existence of iTunes for Windows. It has always been a poor relation of the Mac version; it works just well enough to get you frustrated with Windows. Apple hopes that you will leave Windows and buy a Mac, rather than abandoning iTunes and your iDevice.

    • halberenson says:

      The iPhone has worked with the Exchange and Hotmail/outlook.com ecosystems since long before Microsoft started writing software for it. Microsoft and Apple did cooperate around Apple’s use of EAS. Google uses EAS as well, but doesn’t want to go for the same level of commitment as Apple.

    • Actually, beyond Office, Microsoft creates a large number of Android apps. A very nice lock screen, stuff like that…

  8. Martin Kirk says:

    I had 4 iPhones (3, 3Gs (stolen), 3Gs, 4) before i wanted to tryout Android. I basically became tied of the hardware : small screen, bad speakers, bad antenna and also the boring OS.

    I got the HTC One (M7) and was badly disappointed by the battery performance and heat problems, but screen, speakers and antenna was outstanding. Android 4.0 with Sense5 was also pretty awesome and i loved the ability to put widgets on the ‘desktop’. They make it possible to glance at the phone to get all updates and weather report… Whenever the App was well written!
    the power and heat issues killed the phone on a vacation though.

    My choices was then to get the iPhone 5, 5C or a new Android. Windows Phone is just goddamn horrible and 4+ years behind in every aspect. My choice was a Sony Z1 Compact – a no compromize flagship phone in a medium (4.3″) size package. Man this phone is awesome… and watertight too !!, never thought that such a feature would be so useful !!.

    But not all was perfect, battery drain was high!,. I spent 3 months tinkering, rooting and uptimizing wake-locks (Single worst problem with Android), hibernate schedules and what not. So finally i have a phone that actually last 3 days without a problem !!! (Sony has the biggest batteries in the Android world). note: The Z3 series are much better at preserving battery than the Z1 was.

    all in all – Android is definitly for tinkeres.. but when you are done tinkering, you have a tailored phone that does EXACTLY what you want it to do. The issues you mention with Exchange and contacts, i cant recognize. Calendar seems to be a vendor issue, considering that all vendors have custom calendars…

    My advice if you want a new Android would be to look for the differences between vendors and see what benefits each will give you – then be ready to purchase 10+$ apps that suit your needs – remember that your Android is 400+$ cheaper than iPhone, so you have some $ to upgrade it with 😀

  9. Joseph Williams says:

    Just got to reading this, Hal. Great post!

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