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Android update woes

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by John C. Dvorak, 18 Dec 2012Blog
Android update woes

Every time I update my Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone, things get weird. Let's start with the current version of the Android OS, Jelly Bean 4.2.1. This version rolled out to apparently fix some bugs, add some vague features, and generally confound the people who try to keep up with these changes.

It changes the look and feel of the opening screen, adding vertical lines here and there. I cannot open the camera before starting the OS anymore and the Google Now feature activates out of the blue. Weird screens with all sorts of combined functionality appear because of some accidental swipe that I cannot duplicate because I am unsure how I did it in the first place. Alas, I'll never see that particular screen ever again.

I also think there have been some changes in the way the navigation works. For one, it doesn't seem to route around traffic jams anymore. The voice recognition seems to be getting worse and the camera can no longer do indoor white balancing; everything is either totally blue or totally orange. Oh, and it now seems content taking blurry pictures over and over.

Don't get me wrong, I like the fact that Google is keeping Android moving ahead. It's also nice to know that, as a writer commenting on these products, owning the Google-branded products will keep me ahead of the curve. I've run into people operating on an Android 2.x. It's embarrassing. But my point is that Google is out of control with the changes it is making to the interface and the functionality of its phones.

I still wonder why the new clock on the opening screen changed so that the hour is depicted in a huge Franklin Gothic Bold sort of font, and the minutes in a skinny little waif font. What is the point of that? Is it supposed to be arty?

My biggest complaint, though, is that Google has no visible user pages that clearly outline the little changes in each release. Sometimes you can find a video, sometimes you can see a demonstration, and sometimes a friend will show you.

What's galling is that there are indeed very cool features that you could employ if you just knew about them. By the time you find out, the operating system is on version 5.1 and the feature is gone.

The closest documentation you can find is the Android developers' section where everything is described in great detail. Unfortunately, this is all written for developers in the form of a sales pitch to get them to like the OS.

You'll see this sort of writing:

Android 4.2 builds on the performance improvements already included in Jelly Bean – vsync timing, triple buffering, reduced touch latency, and CPU input boost – and adds new optimisations that make Android even faster.

This is useless to someone wanting to find an easy way to turn on tethering.

While I prefer the Android OS over iOS and Windows Phone for a number of reasons, I'm finding that it is not getting any better with these constant changes. But then again, maybe if the changes were explained more clearly, I would not be complaining.

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