This is why Apple wins on mobile devices

I recently switched to an Android phone because my non-evil carrier's data plan is not compatible with the iPhone. I like the MyTouch 4G fine--it's fast, and not hobbled by the same arbitrary restrictions Apple phones are. I like being able to install any email program I want and pick the best. But it's not as polished or slick as the iPhone, in terms of integration and general usability, and if the iPhone were available on non-evil carriers I'd seriously consider switching back.

This gauntlet of installation steps for the Amazon app store application is emblematic of the state of Android on mobile devices:

Download the Amazon Appstore app immediately by clicking [link] from your Android device, or follow the click-by-click guide below.

Click-by-Click Guide

You need to do this only once for each device. The clicks below should take less than 30 seconds.

Click 1

Open your device Settings and click "Applications".

Click 2

If unchecked, click "Unknown sources". If "Unknown sources" is already checked, skip to Click 4.

Note: AT&T Wireless does not support the Amazon Appstore for Android. See Help for more details.

Click 3

Click "OK" on the "Attention" dialog. "Unknown sources" will now have a green check.

Click 4

Open your notifications and click the e-mail message from Amazon Appstore.

Click 5

Click the link: [link]. The Amazon Appstore app will download to your device.

Click 6

Open your notifications and click "Amazon_Appstore.apk".

Click 7

Click "Install".

Click 8

Click "Open".

That's it! Sign in with your Amazon.com account and start enjoying thousands of apps for Android. You need to do this only once for each device.
"That's it"? Seriously?

Most of this is the price of freedom (in the free-software sense) and the all-purpose nature of Android, which is an "open-source software stack for mobile devices" (as opposed to a UI and operating system designed for exactly two devices, the iPhone and iPad): generic software is inevitably less integrated and smooth because it's meant to function in a wide variety of heterogeneous environments (think off-the-rack v. bespoke suits). What's sad is that most attempts at improving the native Android UI and integration seem to be driven more by silly branding and business deals than by a genuine concern for user experience.

Many of the most successful computing products have benefited from a (more-or-less) benevolent dictator making the hard choices about what is or isn't going into the final product: Apple, of course, but also Linux, MySQL and Python come to mind. Compare that to the confusing, inconsistent array of products (even open source) churned out by headless democratic nerd posses like the Mozilla Foundation with its multitude of browsers (Firefox, Camino, SeaMonkey), calendars (Sunbird, Lightning), extensions ("add-ons", "extensions", "plug-ins") and skinning engines (personas v. themes, which are "add-ons" themselves); or the Linux UI community, with Gnome and KDE and so many other options.

Maybe it's time for a strong leader to emerge and make the Android people focus on one optimal, uncluttered, integrated experience. Fat chance.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't read most of this but I did notice one bit that invalidates most of your upset.

    "Note: AT&T Wireless does not support the Amazon Appstore for Android. See Help for more details." #attfail

    @sprint, I was able to procure the Amazon app in three steps:
    1. open android market
    2. search 'amazon'
    3. tap 'install'