Google has improved Android a lot in the last few years, but it's still too easy to ruin a phone

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Android Error Lifestyle
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Android Error Lifestyle (Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

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.

Phones bogged down because an app is accessing more than it should is a problem on modern flagships as much as it is on underpowered devices.

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.

Google Play Store Casino Games Screenshot

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

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.

If a AAA gaming title can manage not to wreck a phone, there's no reason a slot machine game should. But it can.

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

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Play Store Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

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.

There are still many people who don't think that Android is easy to use — and maybe they're right.

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.

Made by Google sign at CES 2018

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

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.

Chris Wedel
Smart Home Writer
Chris Wedel is a fan of all things tech and gadgets. Living in rural Kansas with his wife and two young boys makes finding ways to get and stay online tricky. By utilizing his years of experience with the tech and mobile communications industries — success is assured. When not conquering connectivity challenges and testing new gadgets, he enjoys cruising a gravel road in his UTV with some good tunes.
  • I just wish Android had the tools/data to easily identify problem apps for users. I shouldn't need to root my phone or anything to tell which apps at a glance are using the most battery, memory, cpu, or waking the phone up a bunch, or consistently running in the background. Like if my phone is currently hot (and not charging), I know the CPU is running hot. Where do I look in the Settings to see what app is currently abusing the CPU? As it stands, I can't see that information. And I still can't sandbox apps that I don't want running background processes unless I open the app myself. Even if you put the app in "Restricted" mode, it has the ability to run background tasks.
  • Yeah.
    The Good Guardians and Good Lock apps are partly why I stick to Samsung these days.
    They really take what Google provides in the OS and take it to the next level.
  • Gotta be honest, my phone never runs hot, it's never been bricked and generally the few times an app doesn't work you wipe the cache and it works again. Now if you open the hood and start messing around underneath and you break it that's on you
  • I think Android needs to simplify how notifications are handled/turned on???
    I have found on nearly every phone that there are conflicting settings for notifications.
    I am able to get it working but many are not. The reason is that in the Android settings are the so-called "default" notifications and then there's the per app notification settings. I may be wrong here but I think ALL notifications should be set in the APP not in the Android settings. This way you know for sure if a particular notification is turned on or not for each app in question! If an app doesn't have the ability built in to set a notification then it simply does not get one! I also would like to see us GO BACK to the days when the ring tone and the notification tone had separate volume controls!!!!
  • Settings/apps/apps (yes apps 2x) / scroll down the app list and find app you want to "fix"/ press on it / and in top notification... 10 android btw. Might be bit different with different phones... And apps usually have some notification settings inside, not all though.
  • Just keep the trash away and your phone runs smooth!;D
    I charge my phone twice/week, and just reboot for sys updates!
  • "There are still many people who don't think that Android is easy to use — and maybe they're right." This is why the iPhone SE exists. Cheap and simple. Me? I find IOS to dumbed down it irritates me too much, but I get why people like it. Just get an iPhone. Incidentally, I disagree with the premise Android is complicated. My family all use Androids and are fine with them.
  • If only Android were only Apple - My summary of your article. I get it most users are not savvy but android is not hard to understand and use. Casino apps are the equivalent of added task bars in Internet explorer. People simply don't get it
  • I know for a fact I'm guilty of running too many apps on my Android and it does tend to slow down and I always end up going back and doing a mass delete but one thing I can say is that you definitely have to be careful of which apps you use and over the years I've obtained a good sense of that at least LOL and for the record you will very seldom ever find any games on my Android LOL I am a definite power user
  • I really can't believe you guys are still online. What does the name mean... android central?
  • I think things are so stale that we might see a merge of iMore, AC and Windows Central. AC has definitely changed for the worse. Constant, annoying ads and tons of click bait articles. ☹
  • At least Android is easier to use than iOS. I'm completely lost where anything is when I pick up an Apple product! Having camera settings in with the main OS settings is crazy for one example. I try to provide tech support to my family and friends but I struggle with the janky Apple stuff.
  • There are plenty of horror stories about how impossible it is to find basic setting in Apple's bizarre settings menus. So, the problem goes both ways on that.
    That said, don't ever teach a person how to find a specific setting by tapping through a bunch of sub menus. Teach them to use the search function in the settings menu.
  • A thinly veiled "iOS is great" just-buy-an-iPhone article what exactly is going on with all these Android sites?
    Nothing is hard about using Android, it's more logical in every way than Apple's nonsense.
    You can't legislate against stupid, if people want to fill their own devices with trash games that spout ads that's up to them - Google is only responsible for ensuring there is nothing outright nefarious going on.
  • Don't install crappy casino apps. It's pretty simple.
  • I'm not convinced people even want to learn how to use their devices. I've helped many people with phones, PCs, websites, etc, and one common theme is that people can read, but would rather not read the instructions in front of them. A lot of what I know about computers is taking the time to read through what settings do. It doesn't seem like a lot of people want to do that. I don't know if it's fear of breaking the device, or laziness, or simply not caring about their device enough to warrant learning how it operates. I don't even think there is such a thing as a "simple" or "easy" OS anymore. Saying, "I want something easy to use," can just as easily be translated into, "I want something that someone else has already learned so they can show me how to use it." ...unless we're talking about managing your Google Account settings. Now that's a hot mess. :p