Quit lyin' to yourself: Android sucked prior to 2017

LG G2 (Image credit: Android Central)

I started using Android in 2008 with the T-Mobile G1, which was where it all began. Over the years I've used Android phones from just about every company that makes them, and it's pretty obvious that I'm a big fan of Google's operating system.

That's not always been easy. We all have an old phone we still love (for me it's the Nexus One) but you probably don't really want to use it again because of how bad Android was way back then. For all the great hardware features we miss — like headphone jacks, removable batteries, or even a kickstand — there is a list of things you probably hated.

There is nobody to really blame because Android is a huge undertaking and with a software project this big a lot of things are going to suck for a long time. All you need to do is look back at Windows Vista to see the similarities. But there was one extra bad thing thrown into the Android cauldron that has, thankfully, been tamed: carrier interference.

LG G4 leather

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

Verizon or AT&T aren't to blame for things like massive security holes or bootlooping or general laggy sh*t when all you wanted to do was use your phone. But they — and Google, who allowed this in the first place — are to blame for loading tons of crap you never used and didn't want onto your phone. Those apps would run in the background and there was even a cottage industry of people who would root your phone so you could do away with them for a fee.

Leather backs don't ease the pain of software bugs.

Companies who built the phones we used to love and hate don't get a free pass here, though. Heavy "skins" that were really bastardized versions of Android were the norm, and MotoBlue, TouchWiz, and HTC Sense made things worse as often as they made them better.

But really, we have to look at what Google has changed to see what was so bad. Restrictions on how apps and even bits of the operating system could run in the background can (and did) kill batteries, so Google has tightened the reins. Websites that trick you into installing malware used to love Android users, but clamping down on how apps are installed and providing a way to check the apps you did install happened. A lot of work was done to make Android itself run at 60 frames per second, too, so our phones didn't feel laggy as heck.

Galaxy S8 and S7

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

Right around 2017 though, an awesome thing happened. Carriers stopped (for the most part) flooding our phones with crapware, manufacturers started making their "skins" into useful additions to Android instead of a burden, and Android felt mature. We'll never know how the phone makers, the carriers, and Google got together or how much influence any of the three had on the outcome, but Android phones were starting to get really, really good.

The Galaxy S7 was the first great Android phone.

Compare a Galaxy S6 to a Galaxy S7 and you'll see a galaxy world of difference. The Galaxy S7 was the first phone that was just good all around. The battery life wasn't perfect and there were (and still are) duplicate apps from Samsung and Google, but the S7 and S7 edge were good phones. The first good Android phones, in my opinion, but not the only good Android phones.

The LG G6 was a good phone. The Moto G4 was a good phone. The first Pixel was a good phone. Every company in the Android ecosystem started making good Android phones. Fast forward to today, and we have ultra-high resolution screens, Gigabytes and Gigabytes of storage and memory, amazing cameras, and everything else that makes a phone a good piece of tech. Best of all we have an operating system that makes them great.

It's fun to look back and see all the old Android phones we used to have or the ones we wanted to have. But it's great to know that at the end of the day, we have a phone that doesn't suck because of the software and support.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I don't know. I guess if you're tech fanatic, this could be true. Personally for me I been using Android since the Motorola Blackflip / Nexus 1 and personally have always loved it. I never understood the uproar and complaints about skins etc like others on here, but I was never fully indulged in the technical side. I never was deep in needing a 120 screen or 1TB of storage. Android has always been great and always loved seing its growth.
  • Yep I'm with you 👍
  • I only swtched o the S7 from Windows phone so I guess I'm lucky so haha
  • I think Android got better in 2015 for me, as when I first got an Android, it was horrible, the software was really buggy and apps kept crashing and my phone at the time (Nexus 6) would reboot. Android Lollipop almost put me off Android for good and I couldn't wait to go back to iPhone back then as I'd come from a 5s at the time.
  • I thought Android became great around 2012 with the Note 10 tablet and Note 2 phone. Software on my Note 5 is almost identical to my S7, S6 may have sucked but the S6 Edge/Note 5 were noticeably better.
  • I guess I was just lucky because I've had an Android phone since the beginning and never had the problems that are listed here. But then again all the Android phones that I had was near or stock Android.
  • Those of us who stuck with Nexus/Pixel all these years didn't have the carrier issues you described.
  • Just returned a new Nokia 5.3 which for the price is great but after using it for about a week the back is creaky, the charging port is already feeling loose and there is no aod and the notification led only works when it feels like it. I've decided to replace the battery in my 2014 Moto X on marshmallow as it's literally never missed a beat in over 4 years and there's nothing I saw using android 10 that I'll miss till I finally have to really hang up my trusty Moto. Most things can be added with a decent app and if not no probs I can live without it. I really think the 801 chip was one of the best that Snapdragon have built and it's still plenty fast even today, definately as fast if not faster than the 665 in the Nokia 5.3 and up to now all my apps still work as they should so no desire to upgrade yet. So in response to your article Jerry actually I don't think android sucked up till 2017 but I respect that you work in the tech industry and get excited with bleeding edge technology maybe more than the average Joe like myself who is happy as long as everything works like it should. Peace ✌
  • Yes the first Pixel was good. It still is. Have been using it as daily driver since it was 2 months old. So Yes I'd go/stay with it
  • Magnificently stupid article again, Jerry. Congratulations Android Central.
  • Hahaha I wouldn't be so rude, but I kinda have to agree with the sentiment:P
  • Sooo... What pre-2017 software didn't suck when compared to the modern version?
  • Been using android since 2009. It didn't really stuck, as long as I could root. My phones were set up the way I wanted them(UI and performance). As long as I kept the mods in the phones performance envelope, I had little problems. Can't do that with Apple products, unless you jailbreak, and on Apple, that's truly risky, your Apple device will always be what it is, compromises.
  • How, what iDiot wrote this crap?
  • The guy who keeps finding more and more good things to say about iOS and macOS and fewer good things to say about Android and ChromeOS with each passing day ...
  • The guy that only writes crap. We clicked though, that's all that matters.
  • I miss the old AC when it was informed detailed and had good article. Now its all about ads, click bait, and crap article like how to turn on your phone.
  • Lol, that would be funny if it wasn't true! Following article:
    How to turn off your phone!!!
  • "Quit lyin' to yourself: Android sucked prior to 2017" I guess we will be making a similar statement after 2023 when Android develops another 3 years and so on.
  • I quite enjoyed my Nexus 5 and LG G4, but I wouldn't go back for anything.
  • Is there any form of technology that hasn't improved over the years? The really old things I still use are absolutely low tech. The old tech I loved to death not all that long ago is relegated to the curio cabinet, if not recycled and gone completely. The only part of my CPM based home-built I still have and use is the dual-ended screwdriver you needed to loosen the screws on the connectors and slots. Give it five years and this article will be rewritten to say Android sucked before 2021.
  • As someone who has bought tons of Android devices since the Motorola Xoom (I thoroughly enjoyed Honeycomb on that device) it is "fair" to say that Android was a mix of glaring negatives - that could be mostly mitigated by rooting, modding or skinning - but even more positives until 4.2. I suppose if you focus only on the negatives while ignoring the positives and the mitigations then a case could be made. But anyone who claims that ANDROID was bad - as opposed to certain companies or carriers who produced bad devices - after KitKat needs to just admit that they are an iOS fan and get it over with. Note: I am talking about mainline Android here, not Android TV, Android "Things" and especially Wear OS for which very legitimate complaints still remain.
  • Almost everything improves over time, there are occasional backward steps with anything new but they usually sorted pretty quick. Cars get faster, handle better, are more fuel efficient etc. Houses get warmer, more eco friendly etc. It's no different with tech. It doesn't mean things suck at the time it's simply progression. As much as I've enjoyed this site in the past the articles now are ever increasingly incessant ramblings about privileged first world problems or utterly annoying extremely loud ads or iPhone praising. Just because there isn't a new Samsung or pixel released every week how about more reviews on other more affordable handsets of which there are plenty. 20 articles on every step of a playstation game should be on game sites or change the name from ANDROID CENTRAL to technology central. It's at the point where this site has become trash sad to say and 90% of the articles are boring and pointless and smack of spoilt tech writers complaining about every little thing that don't affect most readers!
  • Is there a link somewhere for when I run into the Google AMP version of these articles, I can just clink the link that redirects to the real page?? AMP is really starting to irritate the crap out of me.
  • I've been with Android since 2013 and no, it most certainly didn't suck before 2017. I completely disagree.
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus was the best phone of all time.
  • It didn't suck, problem was, back then phones lacked ram and was packed with bloatware that was consuming the little ram the phone used.... So the wise people rooted their phones and got the most of it..... In other words phone manufacturers were just learning the business..... Android actually feels like a modernized Symbian operating system... but just with an ecosystem of devoted devotees.
  • So every phone that Android Central recommended to us prior to 2017 as the greatest phone ever was a lie? Are you going to return all the ad revenue you got for promoting those phones? If you were lying to us then are you lying to us now?
  • You know things do get better over time that's true, Though for the time Android did things iOS could only dream of. It was the nature of the system to go ahead let's try it attitude. Did that cause problems? Heck yes. Did it push people to do better? Very much so. I go back with Android to the HTC Evo. For it's time it gave so much. Did the battery suck, of course it did. Did that matter, not so much as we had removable batteries then. HTC's skin wasn't perfect but it did more than stock android at the time and wasn't as bad of a resource hog as Touchwiz was. Do I want to go back NO. The biggest problem with android is how the carriers still abuse it. Take for instance the native VVM in the pixel dialer. In and of itself it's a very competent feature of the app. Many carriers though will disable this function on their end to prop up some half arsed VVM app that half the time doesn't work right. Until Google gets serious with them in not allowing them to mess with things like this, Android for all it's good is always a step behind.
  • Ice Cream Sandwich with the Galaxy Nexus was when Android became the best mobile OS for me. Lollipop was when it leaped the competition in my opinion. Right now, Apple with iOS is just playing catchup. Android is on cruise control but I want to see a seamless merger between Chrome OS and Android. That's where the future lies for Google.
  • Even though I didn't use Android phones fully until my Galaxy S7 I've thought they were great since the Nexus 4. And that was back in 2012 if memory serves right! Yeah, I mostly avoided them because of a terrible experience I had with a budget phone but the original Moto X, the Nexus 5, and Galaxy Note 4 all impressed me.
  • Not lying but I enjoyed Android way prior than 2017. Moto X and Nexus devices were awesome. When Samsung moved to glass hardware in 2015 was also pretty awesome. I wouldnt go-to iOS during those times and now.
  • I started out with WindowsCE and then Windows Phone before switching to Android. The keys for me were customizability and control. (So, clearly, Apple was right out.) I wouldn't want to go back to any of those, but each of them was in turn pretty good for their time. You can't judge the tech and UI from a decade ago by the current stuff. It wasn't possible at that time.
  • Improvements don't necessarily mean the former versions sucked.
    Our 2013 Jetta has more features and is safer than our 1970 Karmann Ghia, but the Ghia is still a blast to drive, either flying down the freeway or shifting at 6K in a tunnel.
    And the S7 Edge was not a good phone. I still have mine in the bottom drawer. It was laggy before we even left the store, the false touches and reflections were an issue, headphone quality was inferior, the front and back shattered, and to this day replacement parts are more than the cost of just buying another phone.
  • I may not long for the good old days of Android...but I do long for the good old days when phones didn't all look the same. Curved screens are the absolute worst change ever made on a phone. I wonder why our TV's and Laptop/PC screens don't have a useless curve along the sides???
    You used to be able to distinguish a phone's maker just by looking at it...hardly at all anymore. Yes, there are still a few OEM's that manage to create a piece of hardware that looks a little different than all the others, but for the most part all we ever see anymore is glass curved backs with a bazillion camera lenses that 99% of the population has no clue (or even cares) what they do! Who cares what color is under the stupid curved glass on the back when you're going to slap it in a BLACK plastic case anyway? And why can't they make things symmetrical? One moron decides to put the cameras on the side,and then they all do! Too many stupid, ugly. useless decisions. I am having a hard time finding any new phone that interests me at all. Sad.
  • What an utter nonsense article. Such a hipster attitude trying to be cool. Everybody likes improvements and no one would like to lose them now, but in no way does that mean they it sucked before. Well maybe early iPhones did because apart from the touch implementation pretty much everything was poor compared to other devices of that era. Crappy plastic shell, potato for a camera, bunch of clearly visible leds for pixels, poor copy of PalmOS with no multitasking or even copy-Paste. If you got devices that were considered good at the time and not just consisted of markting fluf, then in no way did they suck. I loved my Sharp organizers, Palm Vx, Windows CE, Windows Mobile and Android devices. They all did not suck They did what they were supposed to do. Hell I loved my ZX Spectrum. In many ways things were better back then. There were different form factors instead of everybody going for exactly the same phone like now. For instance The Palm Vx with it's lucious titanium housing instead of the boring grey plastic. Or Windows Mobile devices with keyboards. Or the HTC Advantage with a 5" 640x480 screen and a clip on keyboard. That was in 2007!!! And people pretend phones had tiny screens before Samsung started going big. If you didn't like those, also fine because there were plenty completely different devices catering to completely different sets of needs. That was when the US was still pretty much without mobile internet and a broad acceptance of Mobile computing devices. So I guess not many "Americans" remember those glory days, but even then it was great..
  • If Android completely sucked prior to 2017, it wouldn't be the dominant mobile OS today. Sure, many people would still use it because it was offered by carriers for "free", but most people using Android today wouldn't still be using it if it completely sucked all those years.
  • It is the dominant OS because it is free and you don't have to be stuck in apple's ecosystem. Android OS has little updates since 5.1 because google cares more about making money out from users using its crappy OS from its search business.
  • In case you forgot, there have been other mobile OS besides Android and iOS, all of which ultimately failed because none gained enough traction to make a dent in Android (or even iOS) marketshare. That didn't happen because Android was a complete dumpsterfire. If that was the case, OEMs would have ditched Android for Windows Mobile, or Blackberry, or Symbian, or some other OS that is now a footnote in history. And I don't know what Android phones you've been using, but every Android phone I've owned has had at least one major firmware update, and usually two before EOL. But I always stick with the major OEMs. Yes, Apple has a much better record of supporting older devices. But I rarely keep the same phone for more than a year, so long-term support isn't a top priority for me. Obviously that is not true for everyone. People who keep the same phone for years will do better with an iPhone, or an Android phone supported by LineageOS.
  • Not true. I just had a rerun of those pre-2017 years and I still wouldn't use iOS or any other mobile OS except for Android. Android sure had it's problems, but the other OS's problems were worse in my opinion. I disagree. Android did NOT suck pre-2017.
  • I disagree. The OG Moto X was a great phone, which I was completely happy with. The Droid Incredible was almost as good. I don't remember ever thinking they sucked.