Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More Android Usability Issues

Second post in a series of problems and solutions for Android usability. I'm writing these because I love Android, and if these usability issues are fixed, it'll be even mo betta'. =)

1) No notification on receipt of SMS that needs to be downloaded.

WTF? I had a nice argument with the Android team when I was still at Google about something likely related to this. If you receive an MMS that your Android phone can't display, then there's no notification. None. You only notice the new message if you explicitly go into Messages to look for it (or more likely, receive a totally unrelated SMS that alerts you to check Messages). I was told by the Android team that no notification is better than a notification when you can't see a preview of the message. I got far too frustrated arguing with someone who actually believed this to be self-evident, and just gave up (one of many super detailed Android bug reports that never made it past the Android usability gatekeepers).

Analogy - you won the lottery, but they didn't alert you, since they couldn't send an envelope with the amount of the check visible through the envelope window. You only know that you won if you call up the lottery to ask.

Clearly the notification delivers useful information, and should be delivered regardless of whether the message can be previewed. If nothing can be previewed, at least the sender can be shown, which is very useful in and of itself.

Obvious fix here is to have a notification on receipt of any SMS/MMS, even if no preview can be shown.

2) Multitouch is ... suboptimal.

Multitouch works way better on iOS than Android, at least my Nexus One. I'm told it's because multitouch is "simulated" on Android but is "real" on iOS. One of the way this manifests for me at least is that when using the phone with one hand, if I'm holding the phone too tightly, then some skin touches the outer edge of the screen, disabling all other touch actions on the screen. Seems pretty easy to detect with software....

3) Phone numbers aren't localized.

In Korea and Japan, a mobile number looks like 333-4444-4444. That is, a group of three numbers, followed by two groups of four numbers each. In America, numbers look like 333-333-4444, or three, three, four. On the stock Android OS, Korean and Japanese numbers show up as 333-333-55555. Many locals think something's wrong with my phone if they see it.

Fix: Localize phone numbers.

That's it for today! Looking forward to Android continuing to get better in upcoming iterations. Go Android!

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