Android Wishlist: 5 Basic Features That Should be Improved or Added

Smartphone OSes have evolved to the point that they deliver experiences more akin to traditional computer OSes (OS X, Windows) than to anything that once ran on mobile phones (I’m thinking almost anything pre-iPhone, but especially BlackBerry and Symbian). iOS 7’s huge leap ahead into a paradigm dominated by high GPU requirements and by first-party options for audio/video calls (FaceTime, which now supports audio), messages (iMessage), and bulk file transfer (AirDrop) severs many of its ties with the carrier-dominated devices of years past. iOS once used obvious textures to invite input from users more used to hard-button carrier decks with plane-jane software, and so its revitalization as a more translucent, slightly flatter OS encapsulates its maturity.

Android was never as plush and textured as iOS, perhaps because it had originally been designed for BlackBerry-like phones with hardware keys and then proceeded thru a series of hurried changes that culminated with the apparent maturity of Jellybean. But there are still many vestiges of old-school “this is a phone, not a smartphone” thinking in its design. Here are five that really could use a facelift

Visual Voicemail by Default

Google hasn’t done much with Google Voice, which it purchased from GrandCentral over four years ago. It isn’t a system app and it performs poorly as an SMS solution, too. Android has no default support for visual voicemail, so Voice and various paid solutions like YouMail. Perhaps this issue shall be fixed once Google folds Voice into Hangouts. This voicemail setup may be a carrier issue, though, and as such hard to implement except on stock devices.

Keyboard and Dictionary Improvements

The Google Keyboard is decent, but its accuracy and comfort still don’t match third-party alternatives like Swype. One of its most annoying features is its save-to-dictionary function, as seen here:

Saving to Dictionary Android.

Android’s confusing “touch again to save” instruction in Google Keyboard.

Am I supposed to tap the word that the arrow is pointing to, or the text to the right of the arrow? Basic usability improvements here could make the default keyboard friendlier and easier to use.

Quick Text/Rich Notifications for SMS

Gmail supports rich expandable notifications that permit immediate replies or archiving. By contrast, the SMS app is barebones, with none of that. I can understand the design decision, perhaps: Google wants users to use Hangouts or Talk over the carrier-dependent SMS. But with Google wanting to get into every niche, why shouldn’t it try to cop some features from the excellent Sliding Messaging Pro (seen in above shot), which permits a persistent Quick Text notification/widget and an expandable reply/read/delete notification.

A better Camera app

Android stock camera app

The stock Android (4.2.2) camera app – a relic from another era.

The Android camera app, with its inscrutable radial menu and logos, has “this is a cameraphone, not a camera” written all over it. It’s 2013; every smartphone is a cameraphone by definition. Hiding all of the options in deference to a “clean” radial menu only makes things more complex, not more simple. They should also just fold the stock Gallery app’s filters/editing features into the Camera. Currently, they’re buried deep in the Gallery app. The apparent Android 4.3 redesign is small step forward, but it still seem part of the same backward mindset as its predecessor.

A Native Podcast App

The iPhone’s stock Podcasts app is no great shakes, but Android doesn’t even have one. For the niche geeky audience that Nexus/stock devices cater to, a stock podcasting client seems like a no-brainer.

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