Android Needs Its Own Walled Garden

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Android is a fractured mess. The openness that is constantly being lauded by Android proponents actually hurts the platform more than it helps. From the carriers not updating their phones to the DroidDream disaster earlier this year, Google needs to tighten its grip on Android for the OS to become truly great.

1. Make Things More Uniform

Having used Android across a plethora of devices, I can tell you that the experience is never the same twice. Various carrier overlays and tweaks can slow down phones, or even remove or charge for capabilities that are free with standard Android.

Among the annoying carrier and manufacturer add-ons are propriety apps and overlays. I'm sick of phones that come with a handful of game demos pre-installed that cannot be removed without rooting the phone. I can understand adding them in to show what kinds of interesting apps there are available for Android, but let us uninstall them if we don't want them or need the space.

Overlays can be jarring and confusing, even for people familiar with Android. Some of us don't like TouchWiz or Sense and could do without the constant notifications in Motoblur. Instead of forcing these overlays down our throat, why not just offer them on the Android Market (for a price, of course)? That way if people want the overlay, they can buy it, and get rid of it once they want to go back to stock Android.

Google needs to crack down on manufacturers and carriers to make sure what changes they are making don't detract from their OS.

2. Update, Update, Update

Alright Google, enough is enough. No more relying on carriers to push over-the-air (OTA) updates to phones. From now on, it is up to you to distribute the latest version of Android when it releases. I understand that some older phones may not have the power to run 2.3 (Gingerbread) or even 2.0 (Éclair), but all of us are sick of playing the waiting game when it comes to finding out whether or not our newly bought phone is getting updated. Carriers and manufacturers are not very reliable when it comes to these things (remember how long it took for the Epic 4G to receive 2.2?).

If you want to silence the cries of a million Android critics, push OTA updates yourself so that the fragmentation issue they keep complaining about disappears.

3. Clean Up The Android Market

If the DroidDream fiasco taught us anything, it's that people will download and install just about anything. Culling the Android Market regularly would remove a large part of these undesirable apps and still leave room for those smaller developers just looking to make a buck. I'm not saying the process has to be as extreme as Apple's approach, but Google may want to consider limiting the number of hentai porn apps that show up when doing a casual search through the "Games" section of the Market. Google should also hold developers responsible for what they put up, and pull apps that seem suspicious. Users should be aware of what they are downloading, but someone new to apps (or smartphones in general) may not know that mobile malware exists. While mobile antivirus exists, it is also up to Google to make sure that its Market isn't selling any rotten fruit.

I'm not advocating a complete lockdown of the Android platform, far from it. I love the ability to sideload apps without jailbreaking my device, and I love having access to the to build my own software. What I am asking is that Google regain control of its mobile OS and trim the fat that is holding it back. Android can take over the world, but the divide-and-conquer tactic is not the right way to do it.

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