The first thing that struck me powering up the Vega for the first time is how indescribably crappy the displays is. A flash back to the days of DSTN displays – remember those first generation flat screens? I’ll agree to cut the Vega a little slack, after all you’re still getting a fair bit of tablet without having to sacrifice your credit card on an Apple altar. Although it makes me wonder just how drunk their testers must’ve been (seriously, this screen is *bad*).
The second issue was a bit of a surprise. Now, anyone who knows me probably thinks I’m a die-hard i-device fan. If it has an Apple logo on it Sheru will love it. This isn’t fair. What I’m a fan of is ease of use, the ‘tactile’ user experience when using mobile devices. The default (and official) version of Android installed on the Vega is truly awful. Think a bastardised and magnified Android phone screen with almost everything that makes using a tablet sexy well and truly nixed. Don’t even compare with an iOS based device. Clunky, ugly (okay, perhaps that one is in the eye of the beholder), unresponsive, hard to navigate and lacking basic features that I wouldn’t even think about. It’s not all doom and gloom though. Thanks to the dedication of a brave collegue, I soon had the Vega up and running on VegaComb, a custom repackaging of the latest version of Android. Happily I can report that it’s a night-and-day difference when it comes to the Vega. The device rocks along on its dual core Tegra chip, slick and smooth.
That’s not the end of the story though. Being a UI fan-boy, I was then able to have a good play with the latest Android offering and, frankly I’m disappointed. Isn’t Android supposed to be the flagship of the Open Source mobile world, standing tall against the Evil Apple? Android misses a few tricks, while at the same time managing to raise some interesting questions of Apple’s IOS too.
Back in the early days of iOS, one of the biggest points of criticism seemed to centred around the lack of any real multitasking. Apple fixed this in later versions with the double-tap task bar to access the switching and closing of apps. Perhaps this is a matter of taste (or possibly the retraining of my own muscle memory), but Androids equivalent via an on-screen task button feels clunky.
I really don’t understand this continued desktop metaphor on Android devices. We’re talking mobile devices here. Screen space is an issue, people. So why is so much space wasted with window chromes and ‘desktops’. Apps soon crowd the tiny screens with their widgets, desktop style icons and Androids own UI elements. It makes little sense to me. I really believe full-screen is the way to go – or tiling. I actually like (don’t shoot me) Microsofts proposed solution to this in the Windows 8 prototypes recently on show. Tiles work well, letting you see ‘into’ functionality without wasted screen space. This is definitely one up from iOS where screen after screen of tiny icons can be frustrating.
When I’m mobile, ease of use is a must. Imagine cold hands that are all thumbs. Some stuff I want to see quickly and clearly, at a glance. If I’m actively interacting with something, I want an uncluttered interface. I want that interface to work the same and look the same across all apps, because then I don’t have to think about the app itself. My focus should be on the task in hand, not trying to find my way around a seldom used app. Reading instructions is for people with too much time on their hands (take up golf, man!), not web sites to maintain and novels to finish writing.
I reckon there’s a sweet-spot in the middle. This can easily be demonstrated with Apple’s OSX Lion. Imagine full-screen apps for those primary tasks, and throw in screens of tiled widgets between.
Got an Avent Vega? Upgrade to Android 3.2 here.