Nov 12, 2012
The co-founder of Android, Rich Miner said something interesting recently that seems to jibe against Google’s seeming strategy with Android, which is less carrier modification. Miner thinks that Android needs more carrier customization.
Here’s the problem, though: that is exactly the opposite of what Android needs. One of the beautiful things about the iPhone is that no matter what carrier it’s on, the user gets the same experience. It’s a very good thing, and it helps people use the operating system better because they can expect a consistent experience no matter what.
But with Android, phones are dramatically changing from version to version, even between the Nexus devices! Android is very confusing to use because the user never really knows what to expect. That back button is still inconsistent and confusing, and probably always will be. Users need to get a consistent experience that they can learn to use, not something new every single time they get a new phone.
This is not to say that user interfaces shouldn’t change at all, but that maybe building a consistent user experience for Android is important. iOS may seem dated to tech observers and pundits, but what if users like that it looks familiar? There is a fine line to walk between stiflinf innovation and user comfort, though.
So, to say that the carriers should be doing more customization is asinine. It’s only good for one party: the carriers, who try to encourage people to stay by way of fear of change.
Much like speech, customization should be a right that users don’t have to necessarily take advantage of. The out-of-the-box experience should be consistent and comfortable, and users should not feel like they have to customize just to be happy with their device.
But this shows how different the perspective of Rich Miner must be from Google’s current team working on Android. Is it possible that he sees the OS as perhaps he once did: a platform that is extensively customizable, instead of how Google may see it: the biggest competition to iOS, and something that they can ‘use’ instead of something that exists. Of course, now that Miner is part of Google Ventures, maybe he’s looking at it from a purely business sense.
But then that’s why iOS devices are doing so well: because Apple does take care with user interfaces. Android should have a consistent user experience, and then allow customization for those that want it. That’s the best balance. Rich Miner may have once worked on Android, but heeding it would be a major step back for Android.