Five wildly popular yet super-clunky/ugly apps on Android.

jbean_srgbThere are over 700,000 apps in the Google PlayStore but only a privileged few get to levels of insane popularity. These apps have tens of millions of daily users and are an ever-present part of our daily lives, Yet, some of these super-popular apps happen to be some of the clunkiest and/or the ugliest. Why? Well, ask the developers!

Here are the five worst offenders in my humble opinion.

  1. WhatsApp

    This has to be the clunkiest AND the ugliest one on the list. For a service that handles a mind-boggling ten billion messages per day, its a crying shame! It has been stuck on the Froyo UI for years and is one of the finest examples of a super lazy developer that cares as much about UI/UX as I care about Lady Gaga! It works, sure, but everytime I open this app up, my brain screams – eyesore!

  2. Facebook

    The ugly giant. Yes, its used by a billion people over the globe and is one of the biggest and most powerful internet companies and its mobile daily active users just surpassed its desktop daily active users. Yet, somehow, as baffling as it sounds, it is utterly incapable of building a decent mobile app. The Android app (and to a large extent, the iOS app too) just plain SUCKS. Its slow, its clunky, its riddled with bugs and its a usability nightmare. Everything about “how not to build a mobile app” seems to have been followed religiously while building this app. And those symptoms have started to extend to its secondary apps like Messenger, which keeps getting slower with each update and despite handling text messages now, has no sign (yet) of supporting Jellybean’s rich notifications or something like an option for different ringtones for chat/messages and text messages.

  3. Twitter

    Granted, its not ugly. But that doesn’t let it off the hook. Its just as clunky and fail-looking as the Facebook app. Its bug-free for the most part and works fairly well, but still looks like a lazy iOS port and has no signs of anything to do with Android’s Holo UI. Bad design and an adamant attitude towards it – recipe for fail.
    But hey, it at least supports multiple accounts and the push notifications actually work, unlike that blue mess called Facebook.

    They could both learn a thing or two from the likes of Foursquare, Path or the countless other brilliantly done apps. Hell, their biggest competitor, Google+, is one of the finest examples in itself. It looks great and works beautifully on both Android and iOS.

  4. WordPress

    Another one of those apps that could be awesome but is stuck at mediocre and borderline useless. Yes, this very blog resides on this platform. And I might have used the mobile app all of 5 times in over a year! Editing options are a joke, the UI looks like some sort of a flowchart and it couldn’t be any more alien to the Holo UI. It has zero notifications and reading on it is probably worse than just visiting the mobile website on your device’s browser. In short, it does no blasted good to a WordPress user on mobile.

  5. Instagram

    Alright, its not really ugly or too clunky, but, its still one lazy developer who ported the iOS app over to Android and refuses to have to do anything with Android’s native Holo UI.
    (That developer is now, Facebook, btw. I can sort of see where this app is going..)
    It takes a bunch of unnecessary taps to get things done and it does not support Android’s natural, side-to-side, swipe gestures. The 3-dot menu button takes you to another page instead of popping up a nice overlay menu like every other decent app does. For a service with over 50 million Android users (could be much higher, I’m not sure) that’s one lame app!

If you have more popular apps in mind that look/work terribly, chime in with a comment below.

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The Nexus program by Google is getting serious.

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Microsoft.  Remember them?  Of course you do.  They’re everywhere.  You couldn’t care less about their phones.  Windows 8 makes you yawn (for the most part).  Surface sounds vaguely cool, but you just can’t see the point.  It doesn’t matter: you still use their stuff.  Of course you do.  Even if you actively avoid them.  In fact if you work or go to school almost anywhere, you’re probably using Microsoft all the time.

Microsoft’s rivals covet the deep roots they’ve grown in business, education, and government and wish to uproot them and replace them.  No one is trying harder to do that than Google.  Google Apps for Business, Education, Nonprofits, and Government grew up on the web, sneaking in the back door so to speak.  Its primary appeal was being good enough, and at a better cost (if not free).

For all of their success in this area, Google has never owned the stack.  Even the many businesses, schools, and government agencies who chose Google over Microsoft generally still use Windows devices and Microsoft software.  Microsoft, on the other hand, can offer nose-to-toes solutions with nothing Googley involved.  This puts Google at a potential disadvantage if Microsoft closes the gap, and the back door.

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3 annoying things online that you want to hate but somehow can’t.

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Yes, its #caturday and those annoying cat photos are back in droves. We all have some things online that annoy the hell out of us. They make us swear silently every time they appear on the screen. But, there are a few things that, despite being god-awfully annoying, are difficult to hate.

Here are the three that enjoy this strange reaction from me:

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The (massive) problem with OEM Android skins.

First off, the bootloaders. This is going to be nasty – What in the heck is it with MOTOROLA, HTC etc. still locking the bootloader? What blasted good is it doing? It’s not like it’s helping them sell shiploads of devices! Look at Samsung and learn! Get your heads straight! (HTC offers an online unlocking process that almost voids your warranty & still doesn’t provide a fully unlocked bootloader. Why? Why lock it in the first place?)

Why can’t I flash stock Android without having to compromise my warranty? I can install any OS on my Windows machine without affecting warranty at all. Why then do I have to be forced to use some skinned, bloated, clowned up version of Android when I paid premium money for an ANDROID device? I didn’t buy a Sense or Touchwiz phone, I bought an Android phone!

At least, let users choose between stock and customised Android. Your skins are not really the star attractions you like to believe they are. They’re either slow, ugly, clumsy, buggy, cartoonish or all of the above.

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HTC Sense 4.0, MOTO UI whatever, Samsung Touchwiz 4.0

All those skins above are awful when compared to the understated, brilliantly functional and elegant stock look & experience.

Android 4.0.x (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Android 4.1.x (Jelly Bean)

Leave stock Android alone, or put that option in place, at least. Stop being thick-headed door knobs! ICS and JB do not need any “prettifying” or “fixing”, so save it! All that skinning seems to be achieving is delayed updates & frustrated power users like me. If I wanted a restrictive OEM skin that could not be switched off/changed, I’d go to the fruit phone!

I don’t even want to get into all the framework changes and awful code screw ups that happen in order to get these skins working. Why invest that amount of time and resources to “fix” something that ain’t broken?

Sense 4 on the HTC One X, why it’s so horrendous.

I just went back to stock Sense after having tried CM9 on the One X for a couple weeks. Camera & battery life being the main issues on CM9 at the moment. I will most certainly go back to CM9/AOSP/AOKP after those issues have been worked out.

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So, after having spent 2 days on Sense 4.0 this time around as opposed to 2 minutes when I got the device, here are some of the most outrageous things about it (imo) :

1 – Multitasking is so broken that it’s almost a joke.
Example – Almost every Web Page reloads once you switch to and fro between the browser and something else. No, doesn’t matter if it’s Chrome, and stock HTC browser or anything else.

2 – GPU acceleration works when it feels like, especially on graphic-intensive games like Temple Run. Chrome wholly uses GPU rendering and shows the bugs in the current nvidia drivers. Sometimes, webpages load but nothing is displayed until you go out and come back to Chrome or check/uncheck 2D gpu rendering under Developer options.

3 – Contacts/People app is all about gaudy transition animations and poor functionality. Someone should’ve shown HTC what the AOSP People app looks and works like! Contact pictures will scale down to horrible, disfigured, low res crap no matter what you do and what you sync with. Even if you manually add a high res photo to a contact, “Sense” will think that that the crappy low res photo from one of the synced accounts is better! Very smart HTC, very smart!

4 – And what do I say about that massively annoying 3 dot menu bar for legacy apps!! It just makes me wanna gaffer tape that part of the display whenever it appears!
It’s right here under the keyboard while I’m typing this on the WordPress app..

Otherwise, most of Sense 4.0 is just about tolerable. I’d still take AOSP in a heartbeat once the builds are complete with camera and battery enhancements.

And Google, for the love of God, upgrade the resolution of Google contact photos from the laughable 64×64 to something like 300×300 at the very least. Looking at those pictures on a HD display is like watching the first lunar landing tape on a 50″ HDTV!!

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The terribly broken & disgustingly misused patent system:

Must read. I couldn’t say it much better!

blog maverick

Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I hate patent laws. I think 99pct of the time they are anti-competitive, corruptive,  impede creativity and innovation and can kill small businesses. I think the ratio of patent law doing a good job protecting company IP vs it being used purely to negatively impact competitors or to troll for un-earned revenue is probably 1000 to 1, or worse.

When I read that Yahoo was suing Facebook my immediate reaction was disdain. As I thought more about it, I came to realize that this case could be the water shed moment that causes enough people to recognize just how horrific  our patent law is.

I am not saying that there is zero value to patents. There are plenty of examples out of the however many patents that have been issued where the patent was put to legitimate use to protect…

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Steve Jobs | 1955 – 2011 | The eccentric business leader of our times.

By now, almost everyone on the planet has heard of the passing away of, admittedly, the greatest business leader of our times, Steven Paul Jobs.

I woke up to the news this morning and could not believe my eyes. Everybody knew of his pancreatic cancer, the surgeries and treatment he’d been through in the past few years and his numerous medical leaves, but, no one was expecting him to leave this early. I could not help but feel sad about it.

I’m writing this to present my view of the man, the things he did to help the tech industry and the things he did to hurt it. It’s difficult to understand how I disliked the man and his ways but still feel his absence is a great loss to the industry.

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