Friday, 15 November 2013

5 ridiculously tiny things about Android that I love

Don't forget the little guys! Image: Android Guys
When you talk about Android with any Android enthusiast, and ask what they love most about the platform, you'll probably get the usual geeky answers; excellent integration among Google services, almost complete freedom with regards to the design of the home screen, the ability to sideload apps, root access and custom ROMs, file explorers etc. But what about the little things that we barely even notice? The things that we see and use every day without even noticing them. The things that we will only really notice once they're gone. Things that even the most basic of Android users can understand and appreciate? That's what I want to share with you here. Android is extremely powerful and grants the user almost complete access to it's inner workings, but from time to time, we need to appreciate the little things.

Notification lights
Possibly one of the smallest, and most overlooked component of any Android smartphone. Coming from the iPhone 4, the hidden notification light in the speaker grill of my One X was just amazing. Notifications always light up the screen on the iPhone, and at times it can get a bit distracting. Especially in dark rooms or at night. Notification lights on the other hand are simply awesome. You don't notice them when their off, but once you get a notification, there they are, pulsing away silently in a very soothing rhythm. Since my One X only has a green and red LED, I'm extremely excited about getting the Nexus 5. I'll definitely enjoy customising the notification light for my most used apps.
Ain't that pretty? Image: Techno Buffalo
Navigation buttons
We can argue all we want over software, hardware or capacitive navigation keys, fact of the matter is they rock! Three buttons (damn you HTC One!) that are always present, each with their own unique function. That's much better than having one, and only one button. Navigating through your device is something that should be seamless and feel natural. Three distinct navigation buttons accomplishes that, regardless of physical nature, or layout. 
Software, hardware or capacitive, they all rock. 
Profile picture in the QS shade
We all want our devices to be our own. That's why we customise. We put cases and skins on them, we change wallpapers, we setup home screens and all that good stuff. But one thing which I feel is the most personal thing about your device, is your picture in the quick settings shade. Other devices can have similar home screens and the same cases, but your profile picture in the QS shade is unique to your device. It's sort of like your stamp on the software. I love it.
This is my phone. Ain't any other like it.
Remote app installation
I hate iTunes. I find it extremely annoying. It's one of the reasons why I left the iOS ecosystem. One of the things which bugged me was the way iOS handles app installations. You can surf iTunes to look for apps, and you can even download apps from within iTunes. But to get it on your device? You needed to sync your iDevice with iTunes. Annoying. Now the Play Store, that's a different story all together. You don't need to download any software to your computer, all you need is a browser. Go to the Play Store, look for an app you like, click install, and you're done. In a few moments, it's on your device. SO EASY!
Bad iTunes.
MicroUSB ports
No matter if it's a phone or a tablet, made by Sony, HTC, Samsung, LG or even ASUS, pretty much all Android devices utilise the microUSB port. What this means is that we can all share cables and chargers with each other, which is extremely useful in an office environment. I can't tell you how many times I've had friends borrow my charger in the office, which isn't a problem as long as they have an Android device (or even an old BlackBerry). Industry standards. Learn them Apple.
The beauty of industry standards. Image: GSM Arena
We can rave all we want about how Android is all about customisation, and rooting and flashing ROMs, and sideloading apps and whatever. But at the end of the day, it's the small things that make a huge difference. The user experience is affected by these tiny things just as much as the bigger things. Can you imagine using Android with only a single home button? Or if each OEM had a proprietary port for charging and data transfers? It would be a nightmare.

What are some of your favourite tiny things about Android?