Fear, uncertainty and doubt, or FUD, is a common tactic in marketing and there’s a fair bit of evidence that negative advertising works. Competitive companies are backed up by legions of fans invested in their wares and everyone feeds their thoughts into the biggest rumor mill ever devised – the Internet. It is fantastic at perpetuating myths and spreading lies, whether it’s the latest fake celebrity death, or the idea that PC gaming is dead. Once you put an idea out there, even if it’s an outright lie that you later retract, it takes on a life of its own.
There are some big, persistent myths about the Android platform that simply will not die. Here are our top five.
Android is complicated
According to the latest figures from IDC Android pushed past 80% worldwide market share for the first time last quarter. Surely we can put the idea that it’s complex, hard to get to grips with, or only for hardcore techies to bed now? It was only a couple of years ago that Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer said “You don’t need to be a computer scientist to use a Windows phone, but I think you do to use an Android phone.”
Right from day one the idea that Android was not intuitive, or that there’s a really steep learning curve before you can master it, was pure nonsense. Most people came to Android from feature phones. The platforms we used before were filling up with perplexing icons and layers of hidden menu options. Android was extremely intuitive by comparison, and the user experience has been streamlined further with each new version.
The idea that the Android platform is too hard for the average user to figure out is seriously insulting to the average user. There is no significant difference in usability between any of the major mobile platforms.
Android needs a task killer
If I ate a donut every time I saw a forum argument about whether you need a task killer on Android then I’d be a bed-ridden whale by now. In the early days we all bought into this, the top task killer app is closing in on half a million downloads and there are many, many others that do essentially the same thing. Then a few people started questioning whether those task killers were really saving us battery life or improving our smartphone’s performance. Could the opposite be true?
There are some compelling arguments against using task killers, like this one at Lifehacker, but ultimately the proof is in the pudding. When I stopped using a task killer there was a noticeable improvement in both battery life and stability, so I’ve never used one since and I’ve never missed it. The appeal is obviously the idea that you can be proactively improving your smartphone, but unless you’re dealing with a dodgy app it’s probably not making the difference you think it is.
It could be the placebo effect that’s convincing you a task killer is helping. Try life without it and see if you can feel the difference.
Android malware will infect your phone
It was admittedly a little hyperbolic when I wrote Android malware will eat your children, but the point was to poke fun at all these reports about how the Android platform is riddled with dangerous malware. There’s no doubt that malware exists and there are plenty of people trying to infect your smartphone, but for the average user Android is secure enough. It’s not difficult or complicated to protect yourself from threats. Every app that is installed on Android has to ask for permissions and you can review them before you decide whether to install.
If you feel like that’s too much hassle then there’s a very simple alternative. Start by installing a security app, the independent security institute, AV Test, does a regularly updated report on the best options and most of them are free. Don’t go outside of Google Play for apps, most malware comes from third-party stores or other sources. Since it takes time to identify malware you can drastically reduce your risks by not downloading the newest apps, stick to things with plenty of reviews and download numbers. Apply the same common sense you would browsing the web on your computer – don’t click on suspicious links or open suspicious email attachments. Don’t root your phone.
Eric Schmidt got laughed at when he said Android is more secure than the iPhone, but the real point is that the user is the weak link. If you choose to bypass the layers of security built in to Android then be aware that you’re choosing to take a risk.
Android is the same on every phone
We’ve all seen those arguments where someone jumps on a forum thread or comment section to complain about how awful Android is and it transpires that they’ve been using an HTC Wildfire, a Samsung Moment, or some other budget release. Google has been working on improving the Android experience and optimizing its services so that you don’t need cutting edge hardware to enjoy the platform, but there are limits. If a manufacturer puts together a shoddy phone, slaps its own user interface over the top, and then the carrier fills it with bloatware then it’s not really representative of Android.
You wouldn’t buy an iPhone 3GS and expect it to perform like an iPhone 5S would you? The lack of restrictions on Android is a generally a good thing because you get loads of different devices at different price points. The inevitable downside to that is that there will be some duds. Even a small amount of homework and a cursory glance at review scores will guide you towards a decent Android phone and you don’t have to spend big (check out the Moto G).
Android lag and crashes are worse than the competition
In the early days of Android there was a lot of talk about the platform being laggy and it’s never really gone away. There have also been claims that Android apps crash more often than the apps on other platforms. All the mobile platforms suffer from lag and crashes from time to time. Problems tend to be worse just after a major platform update because it takes time for the app developers to catch up and optimize.
Various studies, like this one at Forbes based on Crittercism data have shown that iOS apps crash more often than Android apps. A year later and Forbes reported that apps on iOS 6 crash less than apps on Jelly Bean. It’s very difficult to get reliable independent data on this topic and it’s tough to properly compare platforms.
Anecdotally, lots of people on every platform encounter crashes. Complaints about it being a particular issue on Android could be related to our last point about cheap hardware. Underpowered hardware, manufacturer UIs, and carrier bloatware could all have an impact, but they don’t point to any instability or performance issue inherent in Android. Good Android smartphones or tablets do not suffer from significantly more lag or crashes than devices on any other platform. It’s also worth pointing out that “good” doesn’t necessarily mean the best specs.
More Android myths
There are plenty of other myths out there about Android and mobile devices in general. We could have talked about battery calibration, or the idea that fragmentation is a problem that’s unique to Android. What are the Android myths that annoy you?