Seems strange to be talking about Android lagging in any sensible conversation about mobile devices given that it accounts for so much of the market. Yet in key areas Google and OEMs have either failed to keep pace with its competition or managed to remove functionality to pursue agendas other than those of providing the best phone experience. In doing so Android has become a platform of contradictions and less appealing for a subset of users.
First of all, the elephant in the room: Android updates. The truly shocking performance of Android when compared to other platforms takes some believing.
The latest figures show that Android marshmallow has now reached 10% of the Android population, which represents a significant slowdown in the rate of adoption compared to one month ago. Worse still it also means that Marshmallow’s rate of adoption is lower than Lollipop’s at the same point last year.
Google is actually getting worse at this.
Then there is the tablet market. High-end Android tablet announcements have all but dried up. In fact Android’s biggest OEM announced its flagship tablet a couple of months back and it’s running Windows 10. The Galaxy Tabpro S is so much better for that decision that its hard to see why Samsung would want to make the effort to bring another premium Android tablet to market. Google has failed to really create a high-value market for Android tablet apps and as a result customer will either go for an iPad, for the buoyant app market, or a Windows 10 tablet for the greater capability.
Google’s voice assistant is an embarrassment when compared to Siri and Cortana. Whereas the latter two are capable and intelligent tools supporting advanced hands free usage, Google Now is a glorified search tool with decent use of intelligence to pull information from email, but very limited support for hands and eye free usage.
Memory expansion has been something that Google has been trying to kill for a while and having failed has added new adoptable storage capabilities. In the process tools like USB MSC – the mass storage connectivity that allowed your phone to appear as a memory stick to any device – has been lost. MHL has also disappeared from many Android devices as Google pushes Chromecast, and even USB OTG is under threat.
Whilst iOS and Windows 10 Mobile continue to improve features, usability and all round user experience; Android continues to offer an ownership experience which varies between brilliant and woeful depending on which device you own, how supportive its OEM is and how restrictive your carrier decides to be. And in the long run you don’t actually know at which end of the spectrum the Android device you’re planning on buying today will be.
Right now I would certainly hesitate to purchase an Android device for myself and would seriously qualify any buying recommendations I made to friends or colleagues.