One of Android’s great strengths is its openness. The source code is (mostly) there for anyone to see. If you’re a hardware manufacturer, you can use Android on your devices with just a few mouse clicks.
But there’s a problem in Android-land, one which has been growing for several years.
Open Software has many advantages – one is the maxim “Many eyes make all bugs shallow”. If you have thousands of developers looking at your code, it becomes easy to spot and fix bugs.
When you have millions of users, it becomes easy for you to collate bug reports and understand if they’re a real problem.
That is exactly what Google has been doing. It has a website where anyone can submit a bug or suggestion. If you see that someone has reported your bug first, you can add your name to the list of people who want to see it fixed.
Google gets a free army of bug testers and an easy way to see which issues they should prioritise.
So why are Google ignoring it?
Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Have you ever been frustrated that your top of the line Android phone can’t connect to hotel or conference WiFi? Most likely it’s because Android won’t connect to “AdHoc Networks”. This was reported to Google in January 2008. For nearly five years, Google have ignored this bug – despite over 5,000 users flagging the issue.
Does your Android device ever have difficulty accepting meeting invitations? This is due to the buggy nature of Android’s .ics handling. This was first raised to Google in November 2008 and has had nearly 3,000 people say it’s a high priority issue for them.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to zoom in when reading email? Google haven’t even bothered to respond to the thousands of customers who have requested this enhancement.
Google do occasionally take notice of bug reports. But it takes a long time to get through to them.
Support for Arabic was one of the most popular enhancement requests for Android. One of the most popular requests on the Android issue tracker and it took two-and-a-half years for Google to get round to implementing it.
Even when there is a serious data loss bug, Google can take over a year to respond – let alone fix.
Android suffers from a severe bug which causes it to delete SMS from your inbox without notifying you.
Google were told of this bug in November 2009 – they fixed the issue in February 2011.
These are just half a dozen examples plucked out of the 23,000 issues.
I love my Android phone. I just wonder whether Google loves Android too…