This is unfortunate. While Android is a very capable platform with some exceptional hardware to match, there isn’t a single device that holds up every experience consistently well. buy a powerful phone and you are likely to be burdened with strange software; Get the Android version of your dreams and you may have to use mediocre cameras or chipsets. It’s time for Google and manufacturers to work together to produce devices they can more easily recommend to others.
Software: Too Much or Not Enough?
To be fair, Google is only partially responsible for the current situation. The beauty of Android is that vendors can add their own – an experience that Google makes uniformly will defeat that point.
The company continues to play an important role, and it is increasingly clear that there is more it can do. Use a phone or other phone with “Pure” and you’ll realize that the stock OS, while visually cohesive and fuzz-free, is still relatively barebones. You won’t get an advanced camera app, extensive media integration, special browser features, or other smart tricks that you often get with personalized Android experiences. No paint is always there either – only. Apple has had its share of scam updates in the past years, but it seems to have ironed out the loopholes Google sometimes leaves.
You can install apps, launchers, and other utilities to render stuff, but that’s not realistic for some users. I wouldn’t hand the Pixel over to a newcomer or anyone who wants powerful out-of-the-box capabilities. Google can improve its functionality and quality to compete directly with its partners beyond a few (usually) exclusive temporary Pixel stakes. While the company has recently shifted towards more regular feature drops from giant OS reviews, Android 13 as we know it is still somewhat disappointing on this front.
This does not allow these partners to get out of the predicament. While phone makers aren’t as over-customizing as in years past, some off-the-shelf Android experiences still include their share of arbitrary tweaks. Samsung is the classic example. Even though One UI is cleaner and friendlier to third parties, it still tends to duplicate Google features or push services that you probably won’t use. Do you really need two browsers or to buy apps from the Galaxy Store? You’ll also see some super Android apps from Chinese brands, although we did note that Xiaomi had control of MIUI.
In some cases, the situation appears to be getting worse. OnePlus originally attracted enthusiasts precisely because its customizations were limited and usually very useful, but there was evidence of the creeping effect of parent company Oppo’s software-heavy design on devices like. The OnePlus Shelf popup got in the way during our review, for example. Likewise, update policies have sometimes taken steps back, with Motorola still not guaranteeing more than a major OS upgrade for some phones. It would be great to see OnePlus and other vendors strike a finer balance that adds thoughtful touches without deviating from or limiting excessive software updates.
Equipment: flies in the ointment
Software hiccups wouldn’t be much of an issue if the hardware were more rounded. It’s quite common to find an Android phone that performs great in most respects, but has at least one weak spot that distorts the experience or even proves to be a problem to handle.
A quick scan of major Android phones illustrates this well. The Regular Series is one of the best all-rounders on the market today, but it boasts modest, non-expandable storage, a 1080p screen (good, but not the 1440p you’re somewhat coveted) and reduced features in its smallest version. Pixel 6? Great value, but an annoying fingerprint reader and limited storage can quickly kill interest. The OnePlus 10 Pro is just a slight improvement over its predecessor, and it still has poor camera quality. You can get around some of these limitations with no-obligation prime programs like Sony or Sony, but then you’ll likely spend over $1,000 to get the franchise.
It becomes more difficult with more affordable models. Motorola is increasingly popular among budget users, but its features and missing features (such as NFC) create serious problems for shoppers. Mid-range Samsung phones can be slow or otherwise unexciting, and even seem like a step back. Devices like the Poco F4 GT and upcoming devices offer high-quality processing power at a low price, but you can safely assume that you’re making compromises in areas like camera technology. And don’t get us started on companies that offer huge but low-resolution screens that can be fatal to the eye.
To be clear, every phone has its compromises. It wouldn’t be realistic to expect a perfect product from any brand, including those that go beyond Android. Apple often keeps the iPhone design, and has been slow to adopt popular Android features—120Hz and USB-C, anyone? Oftentimes, though, you choose an Android device based on the major flaws you’re willing to put up with, not because it’s clearly the best you can get for the money. Combine that with the previously mentioned software dilemmas and it can be very difficult to find a well rounded Android phone.
A glimmer of hope
This does not mean that the Android phone industry is in tatters. The grip of the heart of this piece emphasizes how far the platform has gone. Android 12 (and soon 13) is definitely more polished than its previous iterations. Once obnoxious brands like Samsung have shown some restraint, and it’s much easier to buy a budget phone that makes you really happy, even if there are obvious shortcomings.
You can also point out some devices that show the way forward. While Sony’s recent Xperia phones are increasingly expensive and geared toward niche audiences, they tend to offer solid performance, good cameras, top-notch displays, and moderately customized software. And if the device can tackle some of the problems of its predecessors, it may be the only Android phone to beat it in the second half of the year.
Instead, the concern is that there is plenty of room for growth. Companies should take a more holistic approach to phone design where there are few, if any, obvious sacrifices in the name of price, bragging rights, retail operations, or roving services. Google can do more to lead by example, such as matching more advanced software features to its vendor allies. It’s entirely possible to make a phone that excels simply by lacking glaring weaknesses – it’s just a matter of finding the resolve to make it happen.
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