Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie should arrive at Google I/O next month with a collection of new features for Android smartphones. In addition to big changes and features that make users say, “wow!”, Google need to take the time to fix small things in Android.
The Android experience is vastly better than when the Motorola Droid ushered the iOS competitor from T-Mobile obscurity, but there are still small holes in the user experience. Many users live with these small frustrations, but users switching from iPhone can be quickly turned off by small problems that combine to frustrate Android users.
As Samsung and HTC battle to deliver better experiences with Samsung TouchWiz and HTC Sense 5, even switching from one Android phone to the other can result in vastly different experiences.
All of these skins will eventually apply to Android 5.0 as companies look to incorporate new features into the Android operating system, which means if Google is able to fix these small problems in a Key Lime Pie update, current smartphones will likely benefit. Several other changes may require a tighter control over manufactures, but the move would benefit users.
Standard Headphone Controls for Android
WIth the iPhone, users can plug-in almost any pair of headphones with a built-in volume control and gain full control over an iPhone in a pocket.
Plugging in the same pair of headphones to Android devices delivers mixed results. At least once the headphones controlled the volume of the device, but on a second try it did not. On each additional Android device we tried the volume control does not work.
The push button center also offers varying controls. On the Galaxy S3 and the Nexus 4 a double tap skips to the next track. On the HTC One it dials the last call made. A single tap will pause the track on any Android device we tried and a long press launches Google Now.
For a fully functioning headset, users are left to find a specific pair or to modify existing headphones with resistors. There are apps like JAYS Headset control which offer additional customization, but Google needs to deliver OS level support for headphone controls and provide direction to manufactures with Android 5.0.
Fix the Soft Menu Button
Google cut the need for a menu button with HoneyComb and brought that to phones with Android 4.0. This leaves manufacturers open to cutting a menu button from the phone. With the Nexus 4 this works out fine. The on-screen buttons simply add in a menu button to the right of the other buttons when an app requires it.
On other devices like the HTC One, which uses capacitive keys, the menu button arrives on-screen, and takes over the entire bottom of a screen. In the Kindle app this means it’s easy to hit the menu button and it takes away from reading.
If Google can’t force manufacturers to deliver on-screen buttons, they should at the very least come up with a better option for displaying an on-screen menu button in apps when Android 5.0 arrives. There’s no reason a tap on the screen couldn’t reveal menu options in the Kindle app. Other action based apps may prove more troublesome, but there must be a better solution.
Support for App Enabled Accessories
The best Android smartphones no longer suffer from a lack of accessories, but compared to the iPhone we see fewer app enabled accessories for Android. When we do see an accessory like the Fitbit or the Automatic Link, the announcement is undoubtedly restricted to a handful of phones.
Manufacturers are often quiet about the specific reasons the app enabled accessories don’t work with every Android device, so it’s tough to say exactly what Google needs to fix here. If Google needs to add to the base of Android to make this happen, get that into Android 5.0. If Manufacturers need to standardize a feature, the new head of Android should step up at Google I/O and tell them what needs to happen.
Until this takes place, the Nike Fuelband Android connectivity is off the table and other app enabled accessories will only work with a few Android smartphones.
Turn On When Plugged In
When an Android smartphone is out of power, plugging it in will not turn the device on. This is an annoying decision that is compounded by the sluggish start-up on some devices. After plugging a device in, sometimes a single press of the power button will show charging status, and other times it takes a full push or enough of a press to turn the device on.
A simpler solution would be to turn the device on when it is plugged in. Most users want to use their Android smartphone quickly when reconnected to power, especially if it died in the middle of the day, so why make them fiddle with more buttons.
In the spirit of open-ness, Google could add a toggle in the battery settings to make this something users could choose from in case there are users who would rather charge with the device off.
Standardize Sharing Options
In the latest version of Android users are treated to a plethora of sharing options, even when inside Google products. Unlike iPhone there is no standardized share screen with options. In some cases Android users need to scroll to see more apps,in others a tap is required and the most recent app is at the top. Sometimes users get lists and sometimes they end up with icons.
Above is an example of three sharing menus in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. All of these are within Google’s environment; Gallery, Chrome and Youtube.
Google is expected to announce Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie at Google I/O in May. Gotta Be Mobile will be at the event to share the new features and follow up with coverage on which Android phones will get Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie.