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Android rebellion: How to tame your stupid smartphone

99 problems but... oh wait, 103 problems

By Bill Ray, 8 Oct 2010

Many Android users are finding their shiny new handsets almost impossible to use due to a plethora of issues needing ridiculous workarounds, from creating and deleting multiple cloud accounts to repeatedly hard resetting.

The problems aren't with Android itself, though the platform still suffers glaring omissions such as its inability to support a Bluetooth keyboard or proxy internet access. But it's the integration with the Marketplace that's causing so many problems, and it is vital for a platform that aims to compete with Apple.

First up is the hanging download issue. Select an application and the phone claims to be starting a download, but never progresses. This problem hits people at random, sometimes after a firmware update, but once it arrives then nothing can be downloaded. Not so smart.

The hanging download can sometimes be fixed by the simple expedient of going into Manage Applications, setting the Filter to "ALL" and clearing both Cache and Data within "Checkin Service", "Google Apps","Marketplace" and (obviously) "Google Talk".

The problem might have manifested itself because you made the mistake of configuring it with an old "Googlemail.co.uk" account, which would be foolish indeed. Once you've done that you're in real trouble, as the account can't be removed without resetting the phone; and the phone won't let you reset it until the account has been removed.

Assuming you manage to find the key combination for resetting your handset (volume down during power-on on the Galaxy S), and you've configured your phone with an up-to-date Gmail account or similar, then you might decide to pay for an application or two - for which you'll need a Google Checkout account.

Don't be fooled into trying to set up one of those on the handset - it may ask you for all your details, including credit card and billing address, but it will (probably) fall at the last fence and claim network problems. That's a lie, obviously, but you'll be used to the handset lying to you by now and best get on with setting up Google Checkout on your desktop.

Be sure to have a long-enough password on your account, though - if it's too short you won't get an actual error message, the account will just never work. Once you've got that sorted, then you can buy an application, assuming you don't get stuck into an infinite loop of entering the same log-on details repeatedly without error - requiring yet another hard reset to clear.

Get past all that and you've got a working system that's directly comparable to the iPhone experience - assuming that you didn't kill yourself by smashing your head repeatedly into the desk before getting this far.

Not that everyone has these problems - some lucky Android users just buy phones that work. But an awful lot of people are suffering from some, or all, of the above problems, and Google isn't going out of its way to help.

Getting an Android handset working is a nostalgic experience: breaking open a beer as the first (paid) application downloads, one is reminded of seeing the first website loading on a Windows box - you've made it, and things will (probably) be OK from hereon in. But phones aren't supposed to be like that - they're supposed to just work, something Apple has achieved with the iPhone.

Perhaps you don't mind putting in some time to get your phone working, just like you didn't mind fiddling with Linux or installing Ka9Q back in the days before those technologies matured.

Put in the time and your Android handset will be just as good as the competition, and it's worth remembering that it was DOS that triumphed last time, despite its complexity. However, when someone else asks you what phone they should buy, you might find yourself recommending an iPhone - unless you want to be helping them configure the thing on your evening off. ®