I have been keeping a close eye on Android since its inception. A few years ago I played around with a few different devices — even dedicating an entire month with them as my sole phone. I never switched devices. I thought that not only was the UI/UX lacking cohesiveness, but the app ecosystem did not have the same number of quality ones found on iOS. Sure, the App Store has plenty of crappy apps as well, but there were far more excellent ones to be found that were exquisitely designed.
Android in its current iteration is definitely a different beast. As of 4.2.2, I can now say that the stock operating system has a much more consistent look and feel — not only consistent, but pleasing and modern. It’s gained many new features since Ice Cream Sandwich as well as received much elbow grease to certain aspects like notifications and multi-tasking, which I find superior to iOS’ implementation. It’s not just the OS that has come leaps and bounds since Gingerbread. Many popular apps that I use on a day-to-day basis have been ported over. By now, they’ve been on the platform long enough that the developers have gain more experience and thus have further pushed themselves to adhere closer to Google’s generally stricter UI guidelines. There is now a decent amount of well designed apps to be found in the Google Play store, and if I indeed wanted to switch today, I would for the most part have an enjoyable experience.
Unfortunately there are still some things that leaving me wanting, which bring my interest down a notch. These detractors certainly can be fixed with software, but I’m surprised they haven’t been tackled yet. For example: why isn’t there an equivalent to iMessage? How about a baked in find my Android service (I can’t tell how much many times that’s saved my iOS devices)? As for the hardware itself, the Nexus 4 is finally a solid piece of well made hardware that Google can be proud of. The only gripe I have, and I imagine others echo my sentiment, is dealing with service and customer support. Without a shadow of a doubt, Apple’s reputation for service and support at their retail stores is unparalleled. If something goes wrong with a Nexus 4, it’s not like I can walk into a local Google store and have it exchanged for a new one. When things work, you’re as happy as can be. When your device that you rely on doesn’t, you become frustrated and just want that issue resolved as expediently as possible.
If Google wants to continue to sell hardware, they need to do something about how they deal with service issues. I don’t know if retail stores are the answer (or viable for them), but at the very least, mall kiosks where customers can go and get help. Perhaps they could look at partnering with local businesses to train staff and provide the equipment and space they need to service customers. I’m not saying that a retail chain of Google stores wouldn’t be profitable for the company, as it is for Apple, but I’m more skeptical that it would be. Apple on one hand offers a good sized hardware portfolio, from Macs, iPhones, iPads, to iPods and their respective accessories. Google on the other hand offers a smartphone and tablet, and that’s about it. I do admit to seeing the clear benefits of an official Android device. Brand names are strong and it’s something the company could capitalize on if they wanted to put the effort into it.