Goodbye Android OS and Good Riddance

Back in September 2010 I gave Android a try, I discovered many strengths and weaknesses to the Android OS. Now, a year and change later I have reached a level of frustration that shows no promise of reversing. Google’s approach to Android has been a huge disappointment. Android and its inherent instability has forced me to abandon it as a communication platform.

Despite all the hype about openness and upgradable hardware, the fact of the matter is that it hasn’t happened. With Google’s odd open-yet-not control, Android isn’t really open in the “Open” movement sense. Compounding the not open “Open” problem is that both device manufacturers and phone network providers don’t want you to update your phone — they want you to replace it. Why? Revenue and contracts. As a result, there’s not a mainstream way of keeping up-to-date with the latest version of the operating system and the fixes it brings. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this research done by Michael Degusta on the sad history of Android support. The Android ecosystem is a mess and it is getting worse.

I find it unfathomable that in just a few short years, Android has become like vintage versions of Internet Explorer and resembles the bounded chaos that is the Windows platform — an incomprehensible array of versions in various states of update and renewal with little promise of convergence without significant effort from the platform owner. To Microsoft’s credit, it is working hard to solve this problem; Google, on the other hand, is demonstrating that it doesn’t know how to be a consumer-focused platform provider. Let a thousand flowers bloom and never tend the garden.

Normally, I don’t really care about such things but when a platform I depend on starts demonstrating erratic behavior without reason to the point of becoming unusable, I can’t help but think twice about it. I’ve kept my little EVO up-to-date and limited apps to those that aid with business productivity — proven products with proven track records. Then, one day and for no apparent reason the phone got into a perpetual reboot loop. I scoured the support sites and found things that said an update to Microsoft Exchange triggers the problem to a low battery. The saddest part was that there was no answer — everyone was speculating, but no official channel was solving the problem that appears to be fairly common across HTC EVOs. In the process of my research, I uncovered strange issues on other handsets too. My research points to something greater than a specific device — to me it points to a flawed approach in integrating the OS with the hardware.

I tried every “fix” to no avail pressing forward until reaching the point of a boot loader-based approach to reset the device. The phone worked for about two days and then started randomly rebooting again at the worst possible time: it crashed in the middle of a call with a client. When a smartphone — no an operating system — can’t maintain its stability for its primary service, that’s it for me. I can no longer depend on a platform that expects me to be its beta-tester. And, for what it’s worth, rooting the phone to compile a custom version of Android isn’t a solution. I went through that with Silicon Graphics and IRIX in a closed research ecosystem; I’m not prepared to do that in my day-to-day work.

I can no longer trust my HTC phone. I can no longer trust Android OS. I am no longer an Android user.