Android OS – The small things

Stock Android Mobile OS, AOSP or Vanilla as some may call it, is hands down one of the best mobile platforms out there, compared to iOS and Windows Mobile and what was the other ones? Oh yeah, Blackberry, Palm OS, WebOS, etc… Android has come a long way since version 1.0 days with the HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1). But there has always been a few small things that has never really been fixed or addressed for one reason or another. Maybe because it is such a small thing compared to larger features and/or bugs. So, I’d like to list out my gripes or small annoyances on the mobile OS here. With the release of Android Wear devices, I will be including this as well.

Android

Day/Night Mode
Scenario: You’re sitting in your living room with the lights dimmed or off. You’re watching TV and you pull out your phone or tablet. You open up YouTube with the intention of slinging a few videos to your Chromecast only to be met with a cornea burning bright white screen, mind you, your auto brightness is already on its lowest setting. Now what if you had night mode enabled, instead of being greeted by that white screen, you are now greeted by a subtle grey background that doesn’t burn a whole in your eyes. But how about watching those videos on your device. I’ll talk about that later.

Having a system level option for a day/night mode that can be manually toggled or automatically toggled via time preferences. All applications will have access to this API and the developers will be able to set up their apps to toggle independently on its own or with the system level settings. It could be as simple as inverting UI colors, or more advanced to where a developer will have full control of color options, which will be no different from setting up a normal UI.

YouTube In App Video Brightness and Volume controls
Scenario: You’re watching YouTube videos on your device, but you have your auto brightness on or it is set to the lowest setting, so your video is too dim to watch. So you have to pull down your notification, find your brightness toggle and turn it up (mind you, that is if you have the option on your notification drop down.). Why cant that option be built into YouTube?

Similar to 3rd party video players such as MX Player, while watching a video, swiping your finger on the far left and right sides of the screen will toggle brightness and volume. You never have to leave your video. Another option could be a toggle for when a video is being played, to automatically turn the brightness up.

Desktop Mode
We’ve seen several options in the past that never came to fruition. Android phone that plugs into a dock or to a monitor and your phone becomes a desktop with a mouse, keyboard, external drives, and a monitor attached. A few projects have come and gone. One of my favorites had to have been Ubuntu for Android.

Well, there was one option, but Google unfortunately decided to break Android away from a tablet/desktop friendly OS. After Android 4.0, Google did away with the taskbar that was prominent in Honey Comb and Jelly Bean. Since then, they have announce Chrome OS, which IMHO, is a pretty decent desktop OS. You see where I’m going with this? Same concept as Ubuntu for Android, but with Chrome OS. You can find Chrome OS running in both Chromebooks and Chromeboxes with the former being notebooks, the latter being desktops. With the spec sheets being similar to our mid to high range Android phones/tablets, why not? With Google tying the two OS together, I’d hope to see this in the near future.

Android Wear

Google Now Cards

[UPDATE: 22OCT2014] Android Wear software version 4.4W.2 has a new feature to grab the top of the notification and swipe down to temporarily hide the notification until next high priority notification. This resolves this below issue.

Scenario: On my phone, I have a habit of leaving a few cards active for days on end without swiping them away. One good example would be shipping notifications. I usually leave them open in Google Now until they have arrived, so I would have quick access to the tracking number. Same goes with my commute cards, Leave for Work and Leave for Home cards, I usually like to look at the travel time and traffic forecast when I’m ready to leave. But often times these cards pop up hours before I leave.

Now, as for the problem. With Android Wear, those cards will be placed as a card on your watch until you swipe them away. Otherwise they will sit there in view, blocking the clock and piling up the notification cards. So the only option, is to swipe them away to clear them. The problem with that, it also clears them from Google Now on your phone/tablet. So, now I have to manually open Google Wallet, find Orders from the list, click on it, and find the package tracking. As for my commutes, well those are gone now too, so now I have to manually open Maps and find the Traffic option and activate it. As you can see, the ease of use for Google Now is rendered useless at this point.

Solution: The ability to “lock” or prevent a card from clearing in Google Now on your phone/tablet when swiped away from an Android Wear device. On an Android Wear device, you have no choice but to swipe away notifications to clear your screen, otherwise they will always show. At the current moment, you are unable to hide any cards on Android Wear. If you don’t want the Google Now cards on your watch, the only way to disable the notification will be to disable Google Now on your phone.

Summary

Yes, I understand that a few of the above options can be done with a rooted phone like installing inverted GAPPS and what not, but that isn’t the point of this article. The point is to have it baked into the code for every device and not just band-aid fix the functionality on the side.

As time goes by, I will update this list as I see fit. Android Wear is only on version 1.0, Android Auto isn’t even released yet and Android L Lollipop is just around the corner.

Adam-Lee Smith

Adam-Lee Smith is just a normal guy with a normal life. Which means there is not much for excitement, but when there is, he'll be sure to share it.

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