Who will build Android for Dummies?
I like my new Android phone. It has power, it lets me have more control over the experience than my iPhone ever did and for a lot of people, it delivers in exactly the areas that iOS is increasingly frustrating and/or boring them. But this is not a phone I’d recommend to my Mum. Or most of my friends. Or, in all probability, you.
My Nexus 4 is a great, complete, mobile experience. The word that comes to mind again and again is “unrestrained’. Where iOS cajoles you into certain behaviours and typically ‘we know best’ UX, Android will play on your terms. Want to use Face unlock? Fine. Want to rinse your battery telling Evernote to update 60 times a day in the background? Fine. Want to sideload ROMs, new firmwares etc? Fine. On your head be it!
I’d say I’m a technological grownup. I understand how to tamper with technology and make it do what I want — but I’m old enough to deal with pretty much any consequences if it goes wrong. Most people aren’t like this. Most people don’t want this.
So when you consider the Nexus 4's reputation as a great stock Android phone, I think it’s true within this light. And suddenly, the efforts at Facebook, with Home, and across the variety of custom UIs created by phone manufacturers to simplify the experience makes way more sense to me. Android provides a mobile environment rich with fertiliser to those who will be interested in cultivating it. But to most people, it’ll just feel like a pile of shit.
The race is on to demonstrate that you can play up the biggest strengths of Android without the result being OTT for the everyday user. Facebook Home is really not a bad example, if only they’d (and this is going to sound stupid), not been so Facebook-centric. People like Facebook but building a brick wall in front of proper Google Search is only ever going to create frustration.
Jonny Ive’s constant ranting about ‘simplicity’ is a strong manifesto but it’s not iOS that needs it. I think it’s a matter of time before someone steps up and demonstrates what the word could mean, and the kind of mainstream mobile OS you could build, if you applied it to the world of Android.