Android smartphones come in all shapes and sizes, with different hardware configurations and connectivity options. And yet, they share a common attribute: they suck. And not necessarily when compared to iPhones. Most of them are objectively bad, due to the chaos that is Android and the lack of regulation when it comes to app development. I have managed to survive years of Android torture, and over time, I understood the true purpose of the open-source operating system: it’s meant to annoy you into buying an iPhone. Here are twelve reasons why even the latest smartphones, with Android 12, suck:
Android is an open-source operating system, and, like all things open-source, it benefits from a huge community of developers and programmers ready to innovate and create awesome content. It also “benefits” from a complete lack of regulation and a disregard for best practices. This leads to a fragmented mess, with each smartphone manufacturer personalizing their smartphone software to death. First, let’s make things clear:
One of the main reasons why Android phones suck is that there are no Android phones. With the sole exception of the OG Google Pixel phones, virtually every “Android” smartphone has a slightly different build, version, and implementation of the vanilla Android operating system. Most of them come with heavily modified user interfaces and terribly uninspired names (One UI? MIUI? ColorOS?).
These customizations are often dumb, buggy, and useless, since the vanilla Android 12 interface is very well thought out. One of the effects of this operating system fragmentation between phone manufacturers is the next reason why Android smartphones suck:
Google conscientiously releases an Android version each year, with tremendous improvements over the previous one. But while the Google Pixel smartphones get their updates from day one, all other Android smartphones receive the update months or even years after the original release.
This has to do with two things: one, the sheer amount of different hardware configurations means that every new Android version needs to be thoroughly tested by each manufacturer before being pushed to their respective devices. Two, manufacturers need time to ruin the Android experience by placing the aforementioned user interface customizations on top of a perfectly fine operating system. The best you can hope for (if you don’t own a Pixel smartphone) is a few months before the latest Android version is available for download on your device, but even then, you might have a bad time.
Don’t worry, though, the painful wait for a new Android version for your smartphone won’t become a habit. And that’s because most Android smartphones don’t get too many major updates. While iPhone users benefit from 5 to 6 years of updates (my iPhone SE from 2017 started out with iOS 9.3 and was just updated to the latest iOS, 15.3), Android phones go through at most three (and usually two) major operating system updates before becoming unsupported (with some notable exceptions). Basically, your Android smartphone’s software support expires faster than your hamster. And while the smartphone might be perfectly fine in terms of hardware in two years’ time, you will be stuck with an outdated interface and maybe even some security issues.
TIP: If you’re unfortunate enough to have an Android smartphone, here’s how to tell which Android version you have.
Yes, the Google Play Store has roughly 3 million apps (at the end of 2021), but how many of them work specifically with your device? And out of those, how many work without crashing every few minutes? Android apps are notoriously bad compared to their iOS counterparts, and that’s partly because Apple has stricter regulations when it comes to app functionality and quality.
To be honest, though, developing an app for Android devices is a nightmare, since both the hardware and the operating system the app should run on can vary wildly. Designing an app that works with both a Samsung J3 (2017) running Android 5 and a Pixel 6 that runs on Android 12 is a monumental task, so it’s no wonder that many apps don’t support a wide range of devices and operating systems. To make things worse, the loose regulation of apps in the Google Play Store means that, more often than not, you will find a few apps in there that are outright malware. Did I mention that each smartphone manufacturer also has its own store, with even more shady content? And don’t even get me started on the risks of sideloading (installing apps from other sources).
It’s no surprise, then, that many applications developed for Android don’t have reliable means to be backed up. Some Android smartphones back up their content on Google Drive, some use their own cloud-based service, but they don’t make complete backups.
If you’re an avid gamer, and you want to upgrade to another smartphone, prepare for disappointment, as for many of your games, the saves, achievements, and settings won’t be transferred to your new device.
I know what you’re gonna say. “Google Play Store has a huge number of free apps!” Yeah, I heard that argument before. But nothing is really, truly free, is it? What you save upfront will cost you frustration, time, and many taps in order to get rid of annoying ads that plague many free apps available in the Google Play Store.
While their software is a definite mess, hardware-wise, Android smartphones are nothing short of a lottery. They are like a box of chocolates, so you never know what you’re going to get when you purchase a new device.
Innovation is great! It leads to amazing concepts, and it’s what makes us excited about new releases. However, innovation at the expense of the consumer is not innovation, it’s experimentation. Take the foldable screen for example. It’s really an amazing feat of engineering and an excellent solution to having a small portable device with an even smaller screen.
Samsung boldly went where no one had gone before and launched the first mainstream smartphone with a foldable screen, the Galaxy Fold. A cool design, a smartphone that could wow your coworkers and friends… for about a day or two, until the screen stopped functioning properly. And yes, this was covered by warranty, but what was not covered by warranty was your disappointment, your time, and your frustration.
Just like my bald spot, Android phones have only gotten larger in the past decade. And while Apple doesn’t discriminate against people with small hands, virtually all Android smartphone manufacturers have been ignoring this (consistent) market segment for more than five years now. The last truly compact Android flagship was the OnePlus X, and it was released back in 2015!
Although not a flagship by any stretch of the imagination, the Palm Phone is one of only a handful of small Android smartphones released in the last few years, but it goes to the other extreme: with just 3.80 x 1.99 x 0.29 inches or 96.6 x 50.6 x 7.4 mm, it’s so tiny that I’d probably need fingers on my fingers to operate it.
Sometimes, buying an Android smartphone is confusing. Not only because there are hundreds of models launched each year, but you can even find the same smartphone, with the same name, from the same manufacturer, but with several different hardware configurations. And I’m not talking about storage size. I’m talking about chipset, RAM size, and the presence or absence of vital features, like NFC. Theoretically, each region gets the same variant, but with globalization being a thing, you might end up with a phone with different specs than the ones you wanted. For example, the Huawei P20 Pro had either 8GB of RAM (in China) or 6GB RAM (everywhere else).
Samsung has a long history of placing different chipsets on their smartphones, depending on the region where they are sold. And while they tried to lock the devices to their respective regions, the lock is more a nuisance than a feature.
When compared to the iPhones, Android smartphones have lower efficiency, both in terms of resource management and energy consumption. iPhones have tiny batteries, but their real-life usage proves they can last just as long as the average Android smartphone on a single charge. Apple has much more control over the hardware and the software, so they know how much energy each app consumes. Thus, they are able to tweak the battery life and the operating system accordingly. With the chaos that is Android, you can’t replicate this level of control.
It’s 2022, and Android smartphones with facial authentication still suck at it. For many of them, the face recognition system can easily be fooled by showing the device a picture of the user. Modern smartphones use a more complicated system, employing infrared imaging, but the feature is still slow to unlock the device and far from accurate.
The issue becomes even more obvious when you compare it to an iPhone’s Face ID. Using Face ID to unlock an iPhone is blazing fast, secure, and soon it will be able to detect you even with your mask on. Not only that, but Face ID can be used to secure purchases and for access to private information.
Apple fans are just special. They absolutely love their iPhones, with all their flaws. And I can relate, honestly. Back in the day, I used to love HTC. They manufactured stylish, powerful smartphones that would simply outclass any other Android on the market. And then they disappeared. They still manufacture smartphones, but they never really recovered from failing to deliver a good smartphone for a few years and after Google acquired part of their business.
The same with Huawei. I still own and use a Huawei P30, which is a brilliant smartphone, but after being banned from using Google services, Huawei took a massive hit which directly affected their products. And although I absolutely love my P30, I’m afraid that I won’t be buying another Huawei device to replace it. And that’s the thing: unlike Apple, many excellent brands in the Android smartphone market can fade out, be bought, or simply disappear, leaving fans like me with a bad case of nostalgia.
If having flaws is human, Android devices are as human as it gets. But they are also amazing devices that deliver to us the combined knowledge of all humankind. So while I pointed out some of the issues they have, I think that they do have a positive impact on our lives. What about you? Do you enjoy using Android smartphones or are you just as bitter as I am? Are there any features that you like or dislike in particular? Let me know in the comments, I’m curious about your experience with smartphones in general (including iPhones).