I got to play with an HTC Desire running Froyo (Android 2.2) over a couple of days now. At first, I was all “Angry birds”! Then I was all “Paper toss!” and whatever other apps that people tend to fancy from the market.
However, after a few days’ worth of use, I’ve uncovered a few annoying quirks that plague Froyo. I’ll admit that I’m not really sure whether the bugs are to due to Froyo or whether they affect that particular device. It’s not nice to have to fork out a truck of money and then reading forums to see people saying “turn down battery”, “turn off Wifi” etc… in an effort to save battery. If you bought a smartphone and can’t use it fully, what’s the point?
For testing, I also flashed a Gingerbread-based ROM (Redux ROM). This should help in determining if issues were fixed.
Anyway, here’s a rundown of 10 of them, and possible fixes, where I’ve found them.Let’s see.
1. Default Messaging App:
It’s possibly the worst designed message app in a long time! It decides it wants to order my message according to whatnot criteria and I cannot differentiate between which messages I sent, which I received. It is WEIRD, worse than message apps on 90’s phones. Hell, Nokia 3310 had a better messaging app than Android 2.2. Maybe.
Fix 2: Fixed in Gingerbread: Messaging app works. Can be improved, but the annoyances are fixed.
Update: Was an HTC Sense issue. Still not fixed in Sense 3.0 (as far as I know), but works on stock Android.
2. Default Messaging App!!:
Am not finished with it! It has this weird quirk where it thinks phone numbers must be 8 characters long. Turns out, phone numbers here in Mauritius, and other places are only 7 digits long. The end result? Received messages show the contact number and not name. How am I supposed to know who sent what? Message ID was working fine in every phone I used. Good old 3310 too! Now something that simple doesn’t work? In 2010? In a smartphone?
Try that, Mauritians: add a zero in front of your number in the “People” app and the contact names magically appear in the default app. There must be a way to set Phone Length setting somewhere, or do it like iPhone does – apparently it keeps a database of prefixes.
Fix: As above, use a third-party messaging app.
Fix 2: Fixed in Gingerbread: Messaging app works fine – shows contact numbers correctly.
Update: Was an HTC Sense issue. Still not fixed in Sense 3.0 (as far as I know), but works on stock Android.
3. Everything wants to steal my data!!
Why does that app want to read my phone contacts? What does that other one want my Fine GPS location?
Ok fine, I’m exaggerating, but I want to have full control over my permissions, as those 2 Google Code Issues say. Even old Nokia’s based on Symbian allowed you to grant/deny specific permissions to applications. If you denied a permission and an app needed that to work, they’d say “App Whatever needs Permission to do something, otherwise you cannot access this functionality” or something along those lines.
Android doesn’t want that, says apps will crash, users will find it more complex and what not!
Well then, just enable an “Advanced” permissions, where users can check off permissions if they wish. Normal users will use the app as they are doing now, power/paranoid users will uncheck whatever they want and bear crash risks?
Or as another user suggested, when you checked off some permission, feed dummy data to the application?
It’s my phone, my private data and I should have the right and necessary means to protect it. No “Battery Saver App” whatever, I don’t want you getting access to my Fine GPS coordinates!
4. Power Button to Unlock Phone
Worst is that this can’t be remapped, unless you install a custom ROM. It’s awkward to use the power button to unlock the device. Better would have been to press the trackpad, or a user-customizable button if there is no trackpad.
I particularly don’t like using the power button because this puts stress on that critical button. What happens if wear-and-tear breaks that power button? How will I be able to switch on my damn-expensive device then?
Fix: Install a custom ROM, but this will void your warranty. You can then use the trackpad or some other button.
5. No software back button
Apple got this one right. Using a hardware back button is not bad as such – some people even like it! I don’t like hardware buttons. I always fear that they will break. Give me capacitive buttons and I’ll happily go without a software back button.
But no, the original HTC Desire lacks those buttons, and there is no software back button. It creates an awkward situation where you have to fully curl your thumb, or even change hands to press a button. Not every time, but it happens. At that moment, the phone is probably resting very lightly on your palm, and prone to falls.
Fix: Custom launchers, such as the very lightweight Zeam Launcher include a “Home” button when using their app drawer. That can help a bit, but it’s no substitute for a real software back button. That’s my opinion. I know there are hardware-button lovers out there too.
6. Answering Calls require you to horizontally slide the Call button
I understand the reason for this: when the phone is in your pocket/bag, you don’t accidentally accept calls by a button press, nor when removing it vertically out of your pocket / bag. Ingenious!
Except that this action often requires 2 hands for wide-ish phones, like the HTC Desire.
A button won’t be good. The slider can’t be vertical. Hardware button? Nahhh. So what can we do? No idea. Frankly I haven’t found an acceptable fix. I have a ok-ish one though.
Fix: Easy Answer Button Free app. Replaces those sliders with buttons. You can make small buttons, or have the buttons respond only after you hold them down. There are some comments about the buttons taking time to appear, so you may want to consider that fact too. That, and you may accidentally answer calls while taking out your phone.
7. All my homescreens look the same
You can’t have different wallpapers for different homescreens.
Not a big issue, but it becomes tough to know which homescreen you are on, using a tiny indicator bar at the bottom.
If different homescreens could have different wallpapers, you’d know instantly where you are, and at the same time, giving changing looks to your phone quite easily.
Fix: Yet another 3rd party app: Multipicture Live Wallpaper
8. Damn battery!
The HTC Desire EATS battery! I was only playing with settings, checking out a few apps and generally browsing around the device when I saw that my actions have eaten through 40% of the battery!
I know that the large screen consumes a lot of power, but that is insane! After further tests, I can say that if you will listen to music, use WiFi extensively on an HTC Desire, it might not make it through the day without a charge!
Fix: Turn off widgets you don’t use, turn off Wifi / Bluetooth / Mobile network etc when you don’t use and use 3rd party apps: JuiceDefender
Fix 2: Install a custom ROM that allows better power management e.g. via SetCPU. Gingerbread-based ROM gave me good battery for one-and-a-half days use.
Fix 3: Battery life gets better after 5-6 charge-discharge cycles. Just don’t discarge it fully – lithium batteries don’t like that. Also, calibrate your battery – WARNING: It might damage your battery, so use at your own risk.
Why can’t I scroll to the top using a double-tap at the right edge of the screen? Go figure.
Some apps implement a scrollbar which allows you to drag the handle to the top, like the People app, but not all apps do this. I send a shoulder tap to all those Devs out there who implement that grab-handle approach.
Fix: None yet… But if you want access to the URL bar, press the Menu button and it’ll show, wherever you are on the page.
10. Positioning cursor using touch is a chore!
Don’t try. It’s hard. It’s annoying. You’ll end up smashing the phone with your finger.
Fix: Use the optical trackpad if you have one. Position the cursor approximately where you want, then swipe your finger over the trackpad to move the cursor to the appropriate location.
Fix 2: Gingerbread’s positioning cursor (and copy-paste range-selector arrows) make this task much easier.
11. Sub-par default apps have serious usability issues!
HTC Sense dialer offers T9 capabilities – it searches your contacts by name when you’re typing a number. Not vanilla Android dialer.
HTC Sense Music Player allows you to trim MP3s before setting as ringtone. Not vanilla Android Music Player.
HTC Sense Calendar looks much prettier and events are more visible. Vanilla Android calendar makes the date bold.
Vanilla Gallery shows my albumart covers together with my other pictures. I can’t “exclude” folders without having to use a File Manager.
Music Player lacks various settings such as a decent equalizer, presets etc…
And the list goes on… Android UI developers, please make your UI better? Thanks!
Fix: Get HTC Sense. Enable it, by all means!
Fix 2: Third-party apps to the rescue! Dialer: aContact. Music player with equalizer (Gingerbread only): MortPlayer / Mixzing / PowerAMP (paid). But I wished the in-built apps were that good… Too demanding?
12. Turning off Airplane Mode asks for PIN
Turning on Airplane Mode then turning it off will ask you to enter your PIN code. Why? Because Airplane Mode turns off the SIM card, then turns it back on when you disable the mode.
Not an issue as such, except when you’re using scheduling apps like Profile Valet or Timerrific to turn on Airplane Mode at night to save battery. When your app turns off Airplane Mode in the morning, your phone is awaiting your PIN code, and nothing works until you have that entered. Yes, your phone remains offline until you enter the PIN. Which can be hours away. Which can result in your boss calling you and hitting against a “phone off” message!
Fix: Turn off “Lock SIM card” under Settings → Security → Set Up Simcard Lock. You’re basically turning off your PIN security, so know what you’re doing.
13. Apps-buying is country-restricted for now
You found an app you want to buy? You’re out of the US? Too bad. You probably won’t be able to buy it (a few exceptions exist). The Android Market only shows free apps.
Fix: Try to see if you can buy it from the developer’s own site. They’ll also provide instructions on how to install the app manually. Or sometimes, you just need to buy a serial code to unlock the app. It all depends on the app and its developer.
14. Can’t organize apps in “All Apps” or Main Menu, whatever
All my apps and the apps the phone came with are all lumped in one looong menu, called the “All Apps” menu, or what I call the Main Menu. The apps themselves are ordered alphabetically, so finding them is usually not a problem. Scrolling a lot is the problem.
It’d be more intuitive to allow some kind of folder creation or maybe Sections to organize my apps. I could have a “Game” section or folder and find all my games section from that. As default, the sections could be named as the category the apps come from?
Not really to be blamed on Android itself, but on the manufacturers that make use of it! Why do they try to make everything so damn tough for the community. You have to go through complex and dangerous paths to get customization.
For custom ROMs? You need a custom recovery, usually ClockWorkMod. Installing it is risky and you will definitely land up with a void warranty.
Sometimes bootloaders are locked and you have to S-OFF your device for example, and may have a bricked / dead phone on your hands.
Why so much troubles, manufacturers?! Ship unlocked bootloaders, install something as great as ClockWorkMod by default! Make root-access easier – like MeeGo does! Give us clear, easy and guided steps to load custom ROMs if we so wish, while gently telling us that what we are about to do may possibly kill our phone and that you won’t be responsible for our mess.
But no, they make everything tougher so you can’t tinker with your device, which you paid with your own cash. Your own device! You can’t tinker with your OWN device! That’s just bad, manufacturers! But ah, corporates and their greed of money… They want you to buy their next device, not upgrade your current one to make tea for you using voice-commands… “sudo make-tea” anyone?
Fix: None, unless you live on the risky side, then check XDA-Developers Forum for TONS of instructions and customizations that’s turn your smartphone into a superphone, or so.
It’s done! My rant about Android is over! Those 15 points are what annoyed me most while using the HTC Desire. This list is not exhaustive though. There may be more annoyances that I haven’t come across yet, but I’ll update the list if I find any significant ones. Where possible, I’ve tried to provide fixes and I hope you’ll find them useful.
If you have your own annoyances or your own fixes, please, do share by using the comments section below.
I have to say, Android itself is very promising. There are tons of things that can be done on an Android-powered phone/device, tons of things to tweak and adjust to your liking. It’s like a rough diamond: with some polishing, it will become really nice and glittery, and make ladies go stary-eyed. Hopefully…
(P.s.: A big thanks to all the icon creators, whoever they are. They are GPL/Public Domain ones as far as I know. If credit is required, please let me know!)