Why I Like Android Despite its Flaws

The chaotic operating system has won me over

Android Rooting
Google

I don't just write about Android, I use Android every day, and have since it was launched in 2008. I was a late adopter when it came to smartphones; I never had a BlackBerry, and the first iPhone was so expensive I didn't even consider it. So I upgraded directly from an LG slider phone to the original Motorola Droid. Remember that one? If you didn't immediately disable that "droid" start-up sound, you may have lost some friends and driven yourself mad.

But I liked it, partly because it had a slide-out keyboard. Remember those? Fast forward eight years later, and I've played around with all sorts of Android devices from Samsung, Motorola, and LG, in addition to the Nexus devices. I've also used a couple of iPhones, but I never quite got what all the fuss was about. That's not to say the iPhone is bad, it's just not for me. Here's why I like Android, warts and all.

Loving the Chaos, Mostly

Let me start by saying: Android is not without its flaws. To say the operating system is fragmented would be a great understatement. Between the different hardware manufacturers, each of which offers a slightly different Android experience to the fact that it takes FOREVER to get an update, this OS is messy. By the time I upgraded to Marshmallow, the next version, Android N was in developer mode and already creating buzz. Recently, I had a moment of confusion when, over the course of one day, Facebook friend after Facebook friend announced they were upgrading their iPhones to iOS 10 (and to wish them luck).

What sort of strange coincidence is this? Oh right, Apple's got that locked down. Everyone gets the new OS at the same time. What kind of sorcery is this? There's no denying that having control over the hardware and software is a huge advantage. Android really needs to get its act together here; the wireless carriers currently have too much power over when operating system updates get pushed out.

 

This fragmentation complicates many things, such as when you need support, though Google's help articles are generally well-organized by OS version. But if you don't have stock Android, it may take a few tries to find the right setting. In general, though, I've been able to find what I need—eventually. Easy, it's not. 

On the other hand, this chaos, the opposite of Apple's buttoned-down approach, means that I can tweak the heck out of my phone and use it the way I want, not the way Google or Samsung or others tells me I should. This includes setting my own default apps, installing an Android launcher, adding widgets to my home screen, and customizing my lock screen. There are very few limitations when it comes to what you can tweak and customize on an Android device, and if you run into one, you can always root, which opens up more possibilities, including the ability to upgrade your OS as soon as you want.

The range of manufacturers also has an upside: choice. I can opt for Google's take with the Nexus line and the upcoming Pixel devices, or opt for a third party such as HTC, LG, Motorola or Samsung, to name a few. While Apple recently started offering multiple smartphones with different features and screen sizes, for awhile it was either the new iPhone or the old one.

And they all sport the same interface and the same restrictions. Not to mention that the newest iPhone no longer has a headphone jack; if you want one, you're out of luck. (Yes, I know many people use Bluetooth headphones, but some of us prefer the superior sound quality you get with wired headphones.) If an Android manufacturer decides to remove the headphone jack from one of their smartphones, which they have, you can just choose another model.

On the app front, it's increasingly rare that a software company launches only an iPhone app. I'll admit, though, I don't envy developers who are designing apps for Android since there's no one universal user to reach.

How do you cater to Nougat, Marshmallow, Lollipop, and KitKat users all at the same time? Again, this harkens back to OS updates; there does not need to be four versions of the same operating system floating around.

Security Needs to Improve

It's not all sunshine and rainbows, though. Android security still needs some work. While I receive regular security updates on my smartphone, that's available only with newer OS versions and was only implemented somewhat recently. And those updates won't protect you from malware in the Google Play store, which isn't vetted as heavily as Apple's App Store. Compared to the closed system that is iOS, Android is significantly more susceptible to security threats. As an Android user, your best bet is to install mobile security software and keep your OS as up-to-date as you're able. Take a look at my security tips to make sure you're doing all you can do.

Sticking With Android

I know Android isn't perfect; it's not even near perfect. But I'm not switching over to Apple anytime soon, and not just because I write about Android for a living. Maybe I just like being different; nearly everyone I know uses an iPhone. I've been mocked and chided for using Android. Am I simply stubborn? Maybe. Android asks a lot of its users; it expects a lot of users. You have to meet Android halfway, or even three-quarters of the way. It doesn't just work; you have to tinker with it. And I love to tinker.