Android Letdowns

After another week or so with Android, I wanted to compile all my gripes in one place.  All in all, I’m happy with my Epic 4G.  It’s a powerful piece of mobile tech with a ton of incredible features.

Caveat: some of these issues may be specific to the Epic 4G and/or Android version 2.1.  I certainly hope some of these are resolved in the supposedly upcoming Froyo build.

The built-in mail client

The built-in client on the Epic 4G is weak.  It uses gigantic fonts for the body of plaintext messages.  You can zoom the text out while reading a given message, but that zoom level doesn’t persist as you read other messages.  Next message, you’re right back to the huge text.  This client also is not very customizable — you can’t choose what text to display in message lists, for example.  K-9 looks much more interesting, but I can’t get it to talk to my corporate Exchange server.

Another issue I’ve got with the mail client is its folder support.  I have probably 50 or more mail folders.  In Android’s mail client, my folder hierarchy is collapsed to a flat list that I have to scroll through horizontally.  It’s so bad that I’ll probably never use folders on the phone.  Thankfully, I never did that much on the iphone, either.  E-mail on a phone is mainly about the inbox.

Self-signed certs 

We use a lot of self-signed certs for various web-based administration tools.  It’s annoying as hell to have to accept those certs all the time.  My iphone drove me nuts on that point for years, and I had really expected that Android would allow me to easily accept a self-signed cert.  I was wrong.  I still haven’t figured this one out, after putting a couple of hours on it.


Android notifications are very complex.  This could be considered a good thing — you have a great deal of control over what apps and events make what sounds.  But this makes things a bit complicated and confusing for new users.  The notification bar is a bit too subtle sometimes.  For example, if a calendar reminder happens, you can get a sound, but the only on-screen indicator is a little calendar icon in the top bar.  I think that iOS wins this one with its popup dialogs.  I get that this is a philosophical issue, and I can see the advantages of the well-organized notification bar instead of a myriad of popups.
Another little gripe on notifications — I can’t selectively clear notifications when there are more than one.  I can click each one in turn to enter its respective application, thereby clearing individual notifications, but that’s way too unwieldy.  I can also opt to clear all notifications, but a lot of times, that’s not what I want to do. 


Contacts are fine for the most part.  But there’s a notion of “Contact Groups”, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to control what groups a given contact goes into.  It doesn’t seem to be tied to categories on the Exchange server.


I sure wish I could set a default calendar to use when I’m creating events.  The calendar app defaults to “My Calendar”, which is the calendar that lives on the phone only.  99% of the time, if I create an event, I want it in my Exchange calendar, so it will be available on my workstation as well.  I have to remember to change the calendar manually on each event I create. 

Screenshots (or lack thereof)

For all practical purposes, there’s no way for the average user to create screenshots on Android.  OK, you can do it, but you’ve got to REALLY want to do it.  I wanted to send a couple of screenshots of the account setup screens to our IT team.  After I read countless forum postings on how to pull it off, I scrapped the idea. 

USB file access

It’s supposed to be really easy to access the SD card via USB.  I can’t make it work on my MacBook Pro.  I usually end up popping the SD card out and putting it directly into the laptop.  That’s a bit more tedious than I’d like, but I guess it’s not terrible.  At least the phone has removable storage!

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