You can have my Android phone

I reviewed the HTC Incredible S the other day and to my disappointment, didn't fully rate it. As I wrote in the review, though the phone is good by any standard, the problem is it isn't good enough. Yes, it's intended as an incremental evolution to the US-only Droid Incredible that launched last year - but for the average user, it also doesn't offer that much more than the far older HTC Desire.

I'm not picking on HTC - in fact, HTC's Sense interface pretties up vanilla Android with the same charm and ease of use we're used to from the manufacturer's smartphones. My issue was with the phone's Android 2.2 Froyo OS, which despite adding speed and better power/app management into the mix, still features the same holes as 2009's Android 1.6 Donut.

1. You can't shut down programs
It's great that Android phones can truly multitask - they can run multiple programs at the same time while the iPhone OS can only keep multiple programs open (proceedings are paused when you switch to another app). But three years on, there is still no native ability to shut a program down. Crazy but true. You can switch between apps, but the only way to shut them down is by digging into far too many settings menus. There's a fix of course - downloading a task manager app from the Android Market - but why can't you, in the immortal words of the Nike marketing team, just do it?

2. Gmail versus the world
For some unknown reason, the Gmail account you link to the phone feeds its email to its own app, while all other email accounts - including corporate Microsoft Exchange ones - feed into a separate Mail app. Why do there need to be two mail apps? If Apple owned its own webmail and did the same, there'd be a lot more complaining about closed ecosystems and Jobsian separatism.
Yes, you could set up a new Gmail account purely to activate the phone and feed your 'real' one into the other Mail app, but guess what - push email delivery (ie the instant sort) is only supported on that main Gmail account. Also, the Mail app checks for mail at a maximum rate of every five minutes, whilst Windows Phone 7 and iOS both support true push email on Gmail, Yahoo! and Hotmail. For this privilege on Android, you'll have work a small amount of tech wizardry to set up your webmail as a Microsoft Exchange account. No, it's not hard, but it's not obvious either.

3. Video calling still a no
Everyone complained about the iPhone 3GS and iPad not being able to make video calls - but in fact, the Android software only very recently began to support video calls (from version 2.2 Froyo). Even so, you can't actually make video calls anyway. Once again, there's no native feature on any Android phone yet, while the most popular video calling app - Skype - doesn't support it on Android devices. ETA: The Samsung Galaxy S is the one phone that can natively make video calls.

I still love Android as an operating system and fully believe it'll continue to storm the smartphone and tablet markets. It may be in a constant state of beta with no updated version staying fresh longer than the average sandwich - but it is also a constantly evolving platform, regularly receiving a new lick of paint and techie features to make your inner geek all googly-eyed.

It's just that right now, I can't think of the Android handset with the new tech and slick software that would make me stick around for an entire phone contract. And if you're not a spec-obsessed techie, you probably can't either.

Written by Mobile Choice
Mobile Choice

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