About phones and tabs reviews’ faults

I was watching the web yesterday crunching Samsung Tab and I thought it’s good to remember several things regarding reviews and first impressions:

First and most important – all evolved OS devices are behaving increasingly worse in time. Mainly because of user intervention and second because of lots of apps that tend to clutter and kill the system.

I have never seen a review of a device having 50 apps installed and being benchmarked after 8 heavy usage hours from boot.

Second – all internet enabled mobile devices are suffering a lot while switching radio cells or getting radio shaded. There is no video review while the device on the move. All the videos are shot with the mobile standing on editor’s table, in close to optimum radio conditions.

And that’s not the real truth; if you’re a commuter, you switch some 20-100 cells and get a lot of radio noise on your way to the office or back home. Thus, your phone’s radio chip and modem are going crazy, eating up battery ten times faster. And this “ten times” tends to multiply with an X factor when the coverage is poor and you’re desperate to load a webpage.

Third – huge libraries and apps RAM resident are an absolute nightmare for mobile OSes. They prevent other libraries from being loaded, thus making the system unresponsive. Most (all?) OSes don’t know where the user focus is; they just see bytes, threads, processes and duration. As long as an OS cannot decide by itself when and to which extent to unload the RAM / swap file, your mobile device becomes a mere good looking brick.

Even more evolved OSes, like iOS (using fast app switching instead of multitasking) are struggling in pain while downloading /installing huge apps or keep a sniffer app working in background (voice notes, navigation apps etc).

Fourth – browsing user experience is always dependent on the content you’re loading at instance. I’m not talking about so obvious flash enabled websites, but about normal resources a page loads: from ads and counters to simple cookies, weighing from several bytes to several megs and coming from several domains and machines.

Any resolution, user agent signature, date, cookie, ad campaign etc may translate two identical devices into totally different browsing experience.

All these issues are converging: you’ll rarely see them separate. Their effect cumulates into a horrendous user experience that’s so far away from an aseptic review made in the comfort of your office / home.

I agree Gizmodo may be a bit biased when talking so much about iPad in their Tab review (but hey, iPad IS the only challenger!), but the user experience will be worse than Gizmodo forecasted.

Of course, one can say “Nevermind those common issues, they’re normal and foreseeable on any mobile device” and that’s exactly what we’ve been saying for two decades about MS Windows!

For two decades we’ve been degrading our expectations more and more; it became obvious that a desktop OS cannot offer a clean and pleasant user experience and we kept buying Windows hoping for better, while it actually was the only desktop OS in the market!

All the OSes I’ve been using, till iOS, were “need oriented”: you expected to buy a tool that you needed way before it appeared, so that tool should have copped with your needs. Or not.

Android is no exception to that, but it bears one more attribute: it was already anachronic. Today’s mobile need is mostly for speed and entertainment, which translates in low friction GUI, games and high definition media. It’s only the last one that Android can natively offer, period.

I agree Android is an excellent product that’s extraordinarily marketed, the best offer for mass mobile consumption. I also see it as the future market share leader, no doubt, being kinda open source, well integrated Google APIs an so on.

But don’t compare Android with iOS in terms of user experience! They are totally different beasts, designed from totally different reasons and objectives.

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