First off, I love android. I really do. And probably the number one reason I love it is because I feel like I own, and am in control of, my mobile life. No app store lock in. No vendor deciding what apps I am allowed to install. No restrictions on replacing my battery or upgrading my storage. Smartphones and tablets are nothing more than computers, and virtually no one would buy a computer where every application had to be approved by the manufacturer. It astounds me how many people are fine with this when it comes to mobile devices. I love my freedom and this leads me to point #1:
1. Android devices should advertise freedom and functionality.
So many discussions are taking place on social networks that begin something like, "Time for a new phone. Should I get an iphone or a droid?"
The use of the term "droid" aside, this is a very straightforward question that many people have. Let's take a look at some of the advertisements these folks see when trying to make a decision. Imagine a woman in her 50's trying to decide between an Apple product, or an Android device. For Apple products, she will likely see an advertisement like this:
Now, Android users will immediately know that they have had similar capabilities on their devices way before Apple ever added it. But do people see this advertised on TV? Nope. Do the Android ads talk about the things that make their devices different or better? Nope. Any discussion of how Apple limits your freedom with their devices? Never. Instead, that same 50 year old woman will probably see an advertisement like this:
Jeez. I don't even know what else to say. You have elements that make your products better than Apple's!!!! Why is no one advertising them????
What should an Android device advertisement look like? Some should be showing off new features that Apple doesn't have like the new face unlock feature in Android 4.0. Others should highlight their restrictive model: picture the old Mac vs. PC ads, but with the iPhone checking with Apple before denying the user's request to install an app of their choice. Then denying their request to upgrade their storage. Then denying their request to change their battery. Then denying their request to visit a flash-based website. Then the tagline: "[some Android device]: Freedom included."
2. Android devices should include a darn infrared emitter/sensor.
With the many millions of smartphones being bought and used every day, for the life of me, I can't understand how we STILL don't have an infrared emitter on our phones. I'm sitting with a computer in my lap, and it can do all these amazing things, but it can't turn my TV on and off? Especially when the hardware needed to do this is a few cents and requires basically zero power (think about how long the batteries last in your TV remote).
Well, I suppose if I wanted to control my TV, I could get my TV on my home network, and then connect my phone to WiFi, and then have an app to talk to my TV. Now, imagine telling all that to the same 50 year old woman above. Or, I could start the IR remote app on my phone and hit the power button.
If Android devices had an infrared emitter (and possibly a sensor as well), think about the huge range of applications that could be made to use them. Low power wireless communication, robotics, temperature measurement, blood oxygen level and heart-rate sensors, light detectors, direct phone to phone communication for games, transfer, etc. (everyone remembers palm-pilots doing this YEARS ago). And those are just the immediate things I think of.
Appliance and electronics manufacturers for fans, air-conditioners, lights, radios, dvd players, tv's, and many more, all either include infrared control on their products, or would consider doing so if everyone's smartphone was potentially a controller. Once a device's config file shows up in the open database for IR control, then the app could auto-configure and control it! C'mon manufacturers: the reach of the smartphone could be much further than WiFi networks!!!!
3. Get a standardized dock/interface connector.
Most phone chargers have finally become standardized, which is a huge win. The next step is to standardize an interface connector so that manufacturers can build a plethora of Android accessories. Not Motorola Droid Bionic accessories. Not even Motorola accessories. Android accessories. This would open up a huge market to let people buy all sorts of add-ons for their devices. A person need only look at the aisle in their electronics store for iphone/ipod accessories. Now imagine a global market much bigger than that for Android accessories. But the main reason I want this interface connector is for the docks that could be made. These could be docks that know what type of dock they are, and have the phone respond appropriately. Docks for the nightstand, or the car, or the kitchen, or - most importantly - the computer desk. Which brings me to my next feature that Android devices should have...
4. Still be a smart device when docked to my computer.
Why is it, this computer with all these sensors, connectivity to multiple networks, cameras, microphones, FM radio, bluetooth, etc... just shows up as a dumb disk drive when I plug it into my computer?
To get on google+ and join a hangout, or to video chat with someone on skype, I need a webcam and a microphone hooked up to my computer. I don't know about you, but most of the desktop PC's I see don't have both just sitting on their desk. Especially at work. What's even more ironic is that the smartphone in your pocket has both of these things, but your computer can't use them. Why can't I use the camera on my phone as my webcam and the microphone on my phone as my microphone? I know there are some apps that can try to create this experience, but they are far from any experience I'd like to see. When I sit at my computer, I'd like to dock my phone next to my monitor. I'd like a nice "computer dock" screen to pop up on the phone, maybe that lets me enable the webcam and microphone for the computer (as opposed to the nightstand dock, which would likely look more like an alarm clock). I'd like to easily be able to sync items, or manually transfer items. Perhaps my task list and mail notifications should be shown nice and big. My phone and network connected apps should also be able to see my computer network and interact with devices and let other devices interact with it.
This means the phone would be an accessory to the desktop computer. But these docks could really work both ways. Along with using the devices on the phone as accessories to my computer, these docks could let me use the computer peripherals for the phone. For example, maybe the dock would allow me to run phone apps and have the display show up nice and big on my computer screen. Let me use my full-size keyboard and mouse. Let me use my computer speakers to listen to Pandora.
5. Let users earn revenue from data collection.
This one seems obvious to me, but I don't see it happening. More and more, people are realizing that data is a currency. Everyone wants your data. They can use it to make decisions, look at trends, detect traffic congestion, supply ads, test products, and make money.
So, if that is the case, why is a device with all these sensors not able to make me money? Google maps already uses GPS data to detect traffic flow... that seems valuable!! Why not pay these users the same way we pay them to place ads on their website? I've got ads right here on this blog. Why? Because google pays me to put them here. Not much, but enough for me to place them here.
If I'm driving in my car, and my phone is charging so there isn't a power concern, would I allow Google to gather traffic data from me? Maybe. Would I allow them if they paid me? Probably. What if meteorologists could tap into a vast network of smartphones in an area and look at barometric pressure readings? Would that be valuable? I bet it would. What if the mobile phone companies could get detailed logging of cell tower signal strength? I'd think they might pay for something like that. What about WiFi access point logging? Or FM signal strength? Or temperature data logging? Or pictures of public places? Or...
Now granted, this would have to be opt in, and would likely only be viable when devices are plugged in and charging, but I still think there is potential for a data collection network like the world has never seen before. And, like web ads, users are more likely to participate if they are able to make some money. Even if it is a small amount, if this could be credited on their phone bill, I think it would be a win for the consumer.
Those are my top 5. My next 5 would be things like:
- better car integration
- fingerprint unlock
- embracing the linux community (possibly by partnering with someone like Canonical or Red Hat)
- an effort to reuse old devices on your computer network (perhaps for data collection, home automation, etc.)
- wireless charging to enable the first completely sealed phones that can survive submerged underwater
- better phone-to-phone wifi support to play games across multiple android phone models.
Ok, sorry, that's 6. Let's get going Android device manufacturers!!! I want to see this stuff before Apple gets to it. Please leave a comment with your ideas on how Android devices could be better.