As someone who has used Android since the original Motorola Droid from 2009, I've seen plenty of operating system iterations over the years — even going so far as the treacherous process of rooting and installing ROMs to get as much as I could from my phones. But Android has come a long way since the OG Droid, and for the vast majority of people — it's great. However, even with its improvements throughout the years, I still have to fix an Android phone or help someone execute seemingly simple tasks on their device. These daily occurrences showcase both the wonderful openness of Android and its downfalls.
Google has worked hard to find ways to make its operating system more accessible and safer. Sure there was a time when Android wasn't as secure as it should have been, but that was a long time ago, and some folks still like to bring it up today as if it was still a major issue — it's not. But that doesn't mean it's impossible for someone to unknowingly mess up their device by downloading something they think is OK.
Some issues are still present even with regular security updates and excellent features like Google Play Protect. I don't fully understand why there are more than 250 apps on the Play Store when searching casino or slot games; there are even more — but that's beside the point. Nearly every person who asks me if I can figure out why their phone is "so slow" has at least one of these apps installed, and it's almost always the culprit.
Upon digging into the phone to see what might be causing the problem, I will generally look at the allocation of resources. Once I find the problem app, like my grandfather's gambling app, I clear the cache to see if that helps. Nearly every time, the phone starts responding better, and that's because the misbehaving app was eating up almost a gigabyte of storage. This is something that shouldn't be allowed to happen. The issue is Google's to fix by holding developers accountable for building their apps properly to avoid problems like these.
Of course, not only do the apps eat up valuable phone resources, so do intrusive ads. Using a casino game as the example again, to be clear, these aren't the only apps guilty of these practices, but many are packed with ads of all sorts. These ads frequently take users out of the game to download something else or even automatically download software that inevitably causes more problems. On multiple occasions, when I show someone the apps that seem to be suspicious, they often don't know how the apps got on their phones.
Poorly built apps or ones created to do nefarious things intentionally can wreak havoc on even the best Android phones. This is why I go back to Google, which needs to do better at setting firm guidelines for developers and holding them to those rules. If a phone can play some of the most intense games and come out on the other side unscathed, then a simple slot machine game should be able to manage just fine — but too often, it ruins phones and the experience for users.
It's about more than apps
Android needs help in areas other than just more stringent app policies. It could also use some help in the area for ease of use. Don't get me wrong; I think Android is far easier to use than it used to be. Before, it kind of felt like you had to be a power user to do things on the phone, which part of me loved; now, the OS is much more user-friendly. But, that isn't the case for every user.
My mom, bless her heart, tries and really wants to use a phone for all it can do. But as reflected on numerous occasions, I have gotten a phone call or a visit to see if I can figure out what she did to get her phone confused. There's only so much that Google can do to help protect users of its devices from themselves, but when the phrase "if you want a phone that's easy to use, get an Apple" is still utter far too frequently — there's still more work to do.
Murkiness around how to complete a seemingly simple task, to some, is something that I deal with nearly daily with some co-workers in my other job. Many of these people use iPhones as their personal devices, but when my company ported its required applications from computer apps to mobile apps, it was Android to the rescue. To the company's credit, while it could have gone with any number of great cheap Android phones when the switch happened two years ago, we got Samsung Galaxy S10's — now we're getting Galaxy S21's.
So even with high-quality modern smartphones with a UI that is about as good as it gets, sometimes even sharing a file is confusing. I understood the confusion initially, as using Android when you're used to iOS may seem daunting. But it's been over two years, and there are still plenty of questions on how to do something on the phone. Questions ranging from sharing an image, where a setting is at, how to print, and many other inquires say that Google still has some work to do with Android.
To "teach a man to fish," I try and let people figure it out after I show them a time or two. But in the end, I still end up fixing a problem caused by "figuring it out," showing them how to execute a task another time or point to Android Central's excellent how-to section. It seems clear to me that through all of the UI changes through the years that some of Android still feels like a power user's phone and makes it seem not as "easy as Apple."
While I'm still happy with my OS of choice, I think that there is work to be done in simplicity for use. When basic tasks seem daunting to a wide age range, perhaps they should be addressed. Doing so could make using Android phones more approachable to more people. Changes like this and more structured guidelines that are better upheld can go a long way in helping the average user from inadvertently ruining their phone.
Sign up for Black Friday email alerts!
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the Android Central team.