What does Android really need?

Published: May 18, 2013

There are many reasons to oppose Google's Android mobile operating system, but one of them is not stagnation. Since inception six years ago, Android has been on a fast-track towards eclipsing all other mobile interfaces on many levels. It's been a sort of epiphany to watch it grow into my preferred OS, which was a title previously held by Apple's iOS. 

But is there any true differentiation required of a future iteration, or has it peaked?

That's a question I've been asking myself for quite a while, but Google I/O recently reminded me of the topic. As we know, I/O didn't show us any new version of Android. Though somewhat of a disappointment, Google's Android is looking much more complete after a refresh to some of its services, with the largest being Google Maps set to roll out in the next month. 

Just a minute ago, I wrote of a Ubuntu for Phones OS as what I longed for seeing that it incorporated a unique feature set currently absent from the mobile arena. I mentioned Android's Jelly Bean edged closer to a familiarity that I have inadvertently deemed displeasing for no honest reason, and thus I was floored by Canonical's efforts with Ubuntu.

And as the one time of the year where Google has traditionally unveiled an update to their mobile OS, I would be lying if I said I wasn't resolutely disappointed in the lack of an update to my favorite OS simply for the sake of change. I shouldn't have expected it, but I did, and as a result, I'm trying to be appreciative of what Android already offers compared to competitors: a file manager, complete control of the source code with access to root, and a UI design that has shown a drastic change over the years.

So, if Android wasn't updated this past week, has Android has stalled? 

I partly wish for Android to adopt an entirely new interface for the sake of change. A new color scheme, updated icons, and a revamp of the notification curtain are my primary desires of the next version, among other things. With these differences, I'd feel like I'm using an entirely new OS that epitomizes what I have suggested is the world's most advanced mobile operating system time and time again.

Yet on the other hand, I feel a sense of surprise when using Windows Phone 8 or BlackBerry's latest OS that I can't attribute to Android, which has led me to a point where I don't know what direction I'd recommend Google go in for the next version of Android. It's probably a case of absence that surprises me with these alternatives, but I still can't ignore what I like about the competition, nor is it easy for me to suggest what Android is lacking as compared to the alternatives.

I've owned many devices over the years, and I've learned to appreciate the imperfections and differences as qualities that make each alternative favorites among consumers. It would be easy to suggest each legitimately requires updates to keep it a unique alternative in mobile, but I am not sure that's the case with Android. 

So, does Android need to retain or regain a certain feature to keep it the world's most popular mobile operating system?

It's a question that's been on my mind since Google surpassed all other operating systems as the most widely used in the world. So, does that mean it needs to continue its trend towards customizability with widgets, toggles, and control? Probably. Does Google need to continue luring consumers into their ecosystem with more apps, subscription services, and predictive search functionality? Definitely.

But as we've recently seen with the minimal amount of updates to existing apps like Google Talk transforming into Google Hangouts, and Google Maps and Google Play Music, I'm beginning to see that Android's vision as a mobile OS may have matured to a point where it requires minimal updates in order for Google to get the most out of its mobile strategy.

Of course, that is until a disruptive innovation comes along and demands mobile operating systems adapt to a new set of features.

What do you think Android needs? Does it require anything at all? Sound off in the comments below!

Image via Droid-Life and Tech Radar.

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