Android OEMs: What changes to make in 2020

Jack Wallen shares his wish list for what changes Android OEMs need to consider in the new year.

Woman using smartphone with icon graphic cyber security network of connected devices and personal data information

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The new year is upon us, and I've made my predictions for Android and mobility. All in all, I believe it's going to be a remarkable year for Google's mobile platform; however, I am fairly certain that part of that success is in the hands of the OEMs producing Android devices. Here's my advice to those manufacturers on how to help Android continue to be an amazing platform.

SEE: Top Android security tips (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Android OEMs, just say "no" to bloatware

You really need to get rid of bloatware; pundits have been shouting this to what seems like nothing more than a void. This bloatware includes your UI skins--the vanilla Android interface is nice enough without your help.

In most cases, users never bother with your apps because there are built-in solutions that perform better and are more integrated into Android. Gmail, Drive, Calendar--you can't add much to what these default apps offer, and because of this, your apps are only taking up space, slowing down the devices, and/or causing security vulnerabilities. Worse, these apps tend to slow down the Android upgrade process. Trust me when I say users want the latest version of Android more than they want your apps.

Focus on ensuring the latest upgrade works on your hardware, release vanilla Android, and help improve the experience for consumers.

SEE: 10 biggest Android flops of the decade (TechRepublic)

2. Android OEMs, help Google migrate to the Linux mainline kernel

Google is looking to adopt the Linux mainline kernel, and this should be at the top of your to-do list. This change could bring serious improvement to the Android release process and the platform's security. If you plan to help Google with Android, let it be the migration to the mainline Linux kernel. 

If you fight this change, everyone loses; if you help make it happen, everyone wins. Do you see how that works? This is going to take a huge effort to pull off, and the last thing Google needs is pushback from OEMs, so don't. Play along, collaborate, and make this happen.

SEE: More tech predictions for 2020 (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

3. Android OEMs, resuscitate the microSD

We get it; there are numerous reasons why you're dropping the microSD card from devices. One reason is, you want to strong-arm consumers into the ol' upsale. Since external storage isn't supported, why not buy the 128 GB model instead of the 64 GB? 

Here's a better idea: Bring back external storage so users won't have to make that decision, and while we're at it, you know 64 GB is barely enough storage. For some consumers, the smartphone is their only computer, so they need more storage. Why not make 128 GB the standard and offer 256 GB and larger? Or just reinstate the microSD card so users can dictate the top end of their device storage.

SEE: Android gift guide: The best gifts in 2019 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

4. Android OEMs, make better quality control a high priority

Over the last two years, I've had to return four devices due to manufacturing issues, and if you google enough, you'll find thousands of consumers complaining about the lack of quality control. No manufacturer is safe from this.

Instead of eating the cost of quality control--because it's cheaper than properly vetting device builds--remember that blatant disregard for consumers is doing you no good. When devices fail because of manufacturing issues, it makes consumers consider moving to another brand. Don't pass over this issue because every OEM has quality control issues. Every one of you must do better. Consumer satisfaction should be your number one goal. Period.

5. Android OEMs, enough with the gimmicks

Here's the deal: Consumers want phones that work fast and reliably. We don't want modules, folds, multiple cameras, squeezable devices, and other gimmicks that are unused or overlooked. We want crisp, bezel-less displays, plenty of RAM and storage, stock Android, quality phone calls, batteries that last, and reliable network connectivity. Check off all those boxes, and your device will be a hit, but neglect them in favor of gimmicks, and your device will fail. Enough with the gimmicks already.

SEE: The best Android phones of the past decade (TechRepublic)

6. Android OEMs, choose one biometric standard and stick with it

Facial recognition is the future of smartphones--at least until we start using DNA or some other fiction-forward biometric. In my experience, facial recognition is superior to fingerprint sensors because it's more consistent and convenient.

Whatever biometrics you want to use, make it a standard because app developers need to know which way to go. On my Pixel 4, some apps use facial recognition and others do not. Choose a biometric standard, and stick with it. Just make the right choice: Facial recognition.

7. Honorable mentions

A few other bits of advice for Android OEMs:

  • Don't create a device unless you can support it for at least two years.

  • It's okay if you drop the headphone jack; just don't go completely portless.

  • Make hands-free truly hands-free.

  • Don't skimp on phone call quality. Remember, these are phones.

  • Make support a priority.

  • If your device fails, learn from your mistakes--and the mistakes of others.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but it's a good place to start. Android device manufacturers, are you listening?

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