Is the Android OS too complicated?

by Chris on July 4, 2013

Serious question. I am not an Android user although I generally love Google products and I’m also a (happy) shareholder. Here goes:

Last night I was at a pub with friends. One of them, who we will call Paul (only because that’s his name) had a Samsung Galaxy S3. He used to be a BlackBerry user but he switched to Android at least a year ago. I know because I remember when he first showed me the “so cool” facial recognition feature for unlocking the phone. He’d hold the phone out, facing himself, and it would take a selfie, analyze the result, and unlock. Hilariously slow. Total novelty. Useless.

Anyway, Paul wanted to download some podcasts I had recommended. So I used his phone to install a Podcast app and add the podcast feed for him. I started playing one of the episodes and gave him the phone back. It had taken me a while to figure out exactly how to do all of this, but I assumed he’d know what to do from this point onwards since it was … well … HIS phone.

But he couldn’t figure out how to: A) Get back into the app from the home screen; B) Turn off the podcast episode that was playing in the background.

Here’s the thing: Paul is an intelligent guy. He’s not a tech geek though. He’s an average consumer who just wants to be able to use the features on his phone. The screen system on Android seemed so convoluted and confusing that even a guy using it for a year couldn’t quickly get back to the app.

Like I said up front – I don’t know Android. I know the basics of swiping through screens. That’s it. Compared to BlackBerry 10 it seems horribly confusing.

So the question: Is Android seriously confusing to the average Joe? For those of you who have spent time on Android and BlackBerry 10 and iOS what are your thoughts?

silvana July 4, 2013 at 8:34 am

I agree with you. I used a couple of Android phones and tablets and found them a pain to use. There is no ‘flow’ and it’s clunky in operation. There are too many steps to accomplish anything. I’ve used IOS as well and though smoother in operation still too many steps. I found both frustrating. I use a BlackBerry Z10 now which has spoiled me. When I pick up an android or IOS unit I find myself swiping to no avail.

Edgardo Negrón July 4, 2013 at 9:25 am

While working at BBY I had the opportunity to use and sell all platforms and yes by far the most labor intensive devices are the Androids. You could hand a customer an Apple give them a demo and within minutes they got it. Do the same thing with Android and you can see “Overload” written on be their face and in some cases frustration. But people bought them because they are “Android”. Being a BB10 user now and BlackBerry user for years all things considered this is where BlackBerry shines, BB10 foundation is very solid and it’s what most consumers are out there looking for, they just don’t know about it. But like I mentioned its not “Android” or “Apple” and many just don’t see beyond that.

Dave July 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Chris,

I think you could criticise every OS for having things that are unintuitive or badly thought through from a user experience perspective or that are just a bit temperamental.

But my point is that arguments about phone OS are redundant. The only thing that matters about OS are some cool integration or app points so the salesperson can sell/explain the device with a some difference over another….presumably addressing some need (even if that’s their comp plan)

At the end of the day people buy the brand or the design (tin) and maybe the hardware spec (for fear or early obselescence). The OS is about as relevant to the consumer as the engine management system of a car purchase.

Chris July 5, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Hey Dave – I think I get where you’re going with the argument … but the OS is key to the user experience, so maybe I should clarify that I mean the UI, not so much the OS. Given that they are so closely tied together, I see them as the same thing. So I mean the controls of the car, not the engine control system.

AMG July 5, 2013 at 11:14 am

When I tried to download apps and adjust phone settings for my mother in-law’s S3 a few months back I had the same poor experience. The S3 is not intuitive AT ALL to use like the iPhone or BB and that is why I believe BB has the best shot of gaining/regaining converts from current Android/Samsung users than from iPhone users. Now if BB has an app that can easily sideload the newest and bestest Android apps onto a BB10 device then it would be more of a slamdunk to market BB10 because the phone is no longer handicapped by its eco-system. Correct me if I’m wrong here but isn’t the only reasonable argument that anyone trash talk a BB10 device is its eco-system (or lack of one), correct? Well, and maybe the image quality of the camera…but this is an easy fix.
BB needs to do whatever necessary to blunt the growth of Android and Windows devices and forget about Apple (for now) as it may more difficult to convert the iPhone user than users from other platforms.

Mike P July 22, 2013 at 10:28 pm

I work as a professional in the enterprise mobility software industry and literally talk about this topic all day.

My personal experience: Android is incredibly flakey and users run into constant problems with it. It’s definitely the sexy beast right now, but iOS offers a more rock-solid business tool.

To your point Chris, a big part of this is the UI.

What I see is Android beginning to do the MSFT: pump in a bunch of “features” that users don’t really care about and only make the user experience more complicated, since volume hides what you’re looking for. Most Windows users just use email and a browser, yet we get all these add-ons.

My opinion: simple is better, and Apple still gets this (iOS 7, please hurry up!)

John Hanks August 23, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I am constantly faced with trying to compare the different platforms and make it easy to explain to people.

I’ve come up with the following:
iOS is Simple, but limiting
BB10 is Easy to use, but not as easy to learn – after that, it’s great
Android is Hard to learn and use, but great for people that like to mess around with their device for hours on end
I don’t have much experience with WP, so don’t have a simple description.

Alexander Ewering August 24, 2013 at 9:18 am

Confusing and slow is an understatement, even in the middle of 2013. I am an UI/UX architect and App developer for both Android and iOS, and I’m still appalled each time I have to use an Android phone. Yes, they may by now have managed to get half-decent smooth scrolling, but still, there’s strange, unpredictable delays everywhere, the address bar simply doesn’t respond to touch even with multiple attempts, and having to touch INVISIBLE BUTTONS outside the screen for the most basic navigational tasks is, well, hilarious — ESPECIALLY for novice users whom you have to explain: “Yeah, you have to touch the invisible-but-sometimes-lit Back button beneith your S3′s display”…

My almost 3 years old iPhone 4 still feels much more productive than those “cool-featured” Android toys.

Albert Lam September 13, 2013 at 9:27 am

Having first-hand experience switching from OS/2 to Windows and later from WebOS to Android, I’ve had the same experience and similar reaction. I can only offer one suggestion: time to move on. Being proficient in something irrelevant does not make the new thing complicated; it just means your comfort zone is retro. There is only one complicated part of Android: lots of choice. But that’s like saying shopping for a car in America is complicated compared to Cuba. That may be so…

Hunain @ HowToSaveMoney.ca September 16, 2013 at 6:03 pm

I am an android lover myself. I really like the android os because it’s easy to use and more user friendly when compared to other OS. If we compare it with ios, I think ios is much more complex and more diffult to use. That’s just my opinion though, and some people may disagree.

Chad February 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm

I am 40 year old computer engineer but last 10 years I am in management. i am normally technical guy but when you have a kid, wife, dog , busy job and weekend hobbies. My spare time is like a gold, very valuable and I dont want to spend hours with my telephone to make it work. last year I purchased an Iphone 5 then due to small screen on iphone, I switched to samsung Note 2. unfortunately, I noticed recently that my phone was rooted. It is getting very complicated. I unrooted my phone then system says my phone is not official (or similar messages, kies doesnt upgrade my pgone). I unrooted it then super su doesnt work, then ROM manager. Every body says install this and do that… by the way you can Brick your phone and that will be another bigger issue. I spend very valuable 1 on 1 time with my phone and internet, you tube. I noticed now it is becoming extreme sport for my age and my life style. I just purchased an iphone 5s. UX (user experience) is much better. Faster and something to rely on.

Arin February 22, 2014 at 2:16 am

My first smart phone was windows 6.5 and resistive screen. It was a mess.

Then I got samsung S. UI was OK but android was sluggish. Wasn’t a best experience. On my iPod, I loved how every thing was so fluid. Their were few problems with iPod.
1. 3.5 inch screen was too small.
2. No multi taskkng, no back button and no menu button.
3. I liked the setting options in android compared to iOS, but not a huge deal.

Then I got Nexus Galaxy. Still some hints of sluggishness but experience was great.

I still have iPod, but user experience is nightmare. If someone don’t know now to check notification in android or now to switch app in nexus, they should use smart phone.

Currently using nexus 4 and could be any happier. Is android perfect?no.. Is it confusing, absolute not.

IOS have one button. Android have 3. Back, home and recent app. How confusing can it get?

Arin February 22, 2014 at 2:20 am

My first smart phone was windows 6.5 and resistive screen. It was a mess.

Then I got samsung S. UI was OK but android was sluggish. Wasn’t a best experience. On my iPod, I loved how every thing was fluid. Their were few problems with iPod.
1. 3.5 inch screen was too small.
2. No multi tasking, no back button and no menu button.
3. I liked the setting options in android compared to iOS, but not a huge deal.

Then I got Nexus Galaxy. Still some hints of sluggishness but experience was great.

I still have iPod, but user experience is nightmare. If someone don’t know how to check notification in android or how to switch app in nexus, they should use smart phone.

Currently using nexus 4 and could be any happier. Is android perfect?no.. Is it confusing, absolute not.

IOS have one button. Android have 3. Back, home and recent app. How confusing can it get?

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