No real full Android experience yet

Google’s If you were expecting a major Android update that fixes deep-seated problems, at least based on the details shared so far, you’ll be disappointed. The company hasn’t spent much time talking about Android 13, and most of the announced updates are known, minor, or both. They are mainly defined by media and privacy controls.unless you are . While we may not have seen all of Android 13’s features, there are already some really useful improvements (such as The status quo will remain largely unchanged.

This is unfortunate. While Android is a very powerful platform with some great hardware to match, no single device delivers all experiences consistently. Buy a powerful phone and you might be saddled with wacky software; get your dream version of Android and you might have to live with a mediocre camera or chip. It’s time Google and manufacturers partnered to make devices that can be recommended to others more easily.

Software: too much or not enough?

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

To be fair, Google is only partially responsible for the current state of affairs. The beauty of Android is that vendors can add their own features – a unified experience made by Google would break that.

Still, the company has an important role to play, and it’s increasingly clear that it can do more.use one or another phone with the word “pure” You’ll find that the existing OS, while visually cohesive and free of fluff, is still relatively barebones. You don’t get a premium camera app, extensive media integration, special browser features, or other neat tricks you often get in a customized Android experience.The polish isn’t always there either – just . Apple has also had some dodgy updates over the past few years, but it seems to have ironed out the occasional glitch that Google has left behind.

You can install apps, launchers, and other utilities to flesh out the content, but this isn’t realistic for some users. I wouldn’t hand the Pixel over to a novice or anyone who wants powerful out-of-the-box features. Google could improve its features and quality to compete more directly with partners, rather than the usual handful of (often) temporary Pixel exclusives. Even though the company has recently moved more towards regular feature drops than massive OS revisions, we know Android 13 is still a little disappointing in this regard.

It’s not about getting those partners off the hook. While phone makers aren’t as over-customized as they’ve been in years past, some non-stock Android experiences still include their share of tweaks at will. Samsung is a typical example.While One UI is cleaner and friendlier than third parties , it still tends to duplicate Google features or push services that you probably won’t use. Do you really need two browsers, or buy apps from the Galaxy Store? You’ll also see some top-of-the-line Android implementations from Chinese brands, although we’ve noticed Xiaomi has been taking control of MIUI.

In some cases, things seem to get worse. OnePlus initially attracted enthusiasts precisely because of its limited and often very useful customization capabilities, but there is evidence that parent company Oppo’s top-heavy software design has . For example, the OnePlus Shelf pop-up menu got in the way during our review. Update policies also sometimes go backwards, as Motorola still can’t guarantee that some phones will get more than one major OS upgrade. It’s great to see OnePlus and other vendors strike a more delicate balance of adding a thoughtful touch without overdoing or limiting software updates.

Hardware: fly in the ointment

Motorola Edge (2021)

Igor Bonifacic/Engadget

If the equipment were more comprehensive, software glitches would be less of a problem. It’s all too common to find an Android phone that excels in most ways but has at least one weakness that compromises the experience or even proves to be a deal breaker.

A quick survey of major Android phones illustrates this well.regular The Series is one of the best all-rounders on the market today, but it has modest, non-expandable storage, a 1080p screen (nice, but not the 1440p that some crave), and less power in its smallest version. Pixel 6? Great value for money, but the notorious fingerprint reader and limited storage can kill interest quickly. The OnePlus 10 Pro is only a slight improvement over its predecessor, but the camera quality is still poor.You can do this with something like or Sony’s but you could spend over $1,000 for this privilege.

For more affordable models, it becomes more challenging.Motorola is gaining popularity among budget users, but its And missing features like NFC create serious problems for shoppers.Samsung’s mid-range phones can be sluggish or lackluster, while It even felt like a step backwards. Poco F4 GT and upcoming phones Offers high-end processing power at a low price, but you can safely assume you’re making compromises in areas like camera technology. And don’t get us started with companies that offer huge but low-resolution screens that can prove to be dizzying.

To be clear, every phone has its compromises. It is unrealistic to expect perfect products from any brand, including brands other than Android. Apple is generally conservative in its iPhone design and has been slow to embrace common Android features —120 Hz and USB-C, anyone? Often, however, you’ll choose an Android device based on the major flaws you’re willing to tolerate, not because it’s clearly the best value for your money. Combine that with the aforementioned software woes, and it’s hard to find a truly well-rounded Android phone.

glimmer of hope

Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro

Google

That’s not to say the Android phone industry is in a dire state. The central question of this post underscores how far the platform has come. Android 12 (and soon 13) is clearly more refined than previous iterations. A once-nasty brand like Samsung has shown some restraint, and even with its obvious shortcomings, it’s a lot easier to buy a cheap phone that will make you really happy.

You can also point to some devices that are pointing the way. While Sony’s recent Xperia phones have become increasingly pricier and aimed at a niche audience, they tend to offer strong performance, great cameras, top-of-the-line displays, and modestly customized software.if Addressing some of the problems of its predecessor, it might just be the Android phone to beat in the second half of the year.

Instead, the worry is that there is more room for growth. Companies should take a more holistic approach to phone design, with few obvious sacrifices in the name of price, bragging rights, storage upsells, or touting services. Google could do more to lead by example, such as matching the more advanced software features of its vendor allies. It’s entirely possible to make a great phone by lacking obvious weaknesses — it’s just a matter of finding the resolve to make it happen.

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