Our Biggest Android Annoyances And How To Fix Them

We asked, and boy do our readers have some issues with their Android phones. Here’s a few of the biggest sticking points, how to fix them, and a few tiny-but-aggravating issues you can deal with.

Phone Occasionally Lags or Freezes

Our own Whitson Gordon has essentially written a novella on the alternative home screen launchers available to aggravated Android owners. Right now, he’s digging on Zeam, a fast alternative launcher that also offers multi-finger gestures and a few customisation tools. Otherwise, you can speed up your sluggish Android with LauncherPro, which is both highly customisable and fairly snappy.[imgclear]

Can’t Remove Annoying Apps That Waste Space

We hear you — believe me, as a Nexus One owner, I very sympathetically hear you in terms of minimal install space. There are a few options, both sanctioned and slightly hack-y. We’ve run them down before, but for a recap:

First up, if you’re running Android 2.2 or later, head into your Settings, choose Applications, then pick the All column. Press your phone’s Menu button, and click the “Sort by size” option that pops up. Click on one of the most space-hogging apps at the top. In the next screen, you might see a button providing a “Move to SD Card” option. Hit that button, and nothing inside your app changes, but its storage space (or at least most of it) moves to your phone’s SD card. Obviously, you can’t operate that app when you’ve got your SD card mounted as a storage device, but that’s less annoying than having to uninstall certain apps to allow others.

You can also check in that same application management page to see if an app is using an overly huge amount of storage, and clear that storage space out. That is, at best, a temporary fix, as the app will eventually take back the space, and you’ll probably have to log in or reset your preferences. Still, if you just need a smidge more space to install an app, it’s a quick fix.

Finally, if you’re annoyed to the point of breaking your warranty, you can root your phone and install a firmware that allows for removing apps you can’t otherwise remove, such as the carrier-specific games and music/video “stores” that you’ll never use. It’s what reader LARPkitten did, and they’re loving it.

Getting Access to the SD Card is Annoying

Agreed. On “stock” Android phones, the USB mounting process is multi-step (plug, pull-down, click, click, wait, wait more, go). On customised phones, you’ve either installed special Windows/Mac software to recognise your phone, or it’s the same kind of annoyance.

You’ve got a few options if manually mounting and un-mounting your SD card, Linux-style, isn’t how you’d like to get at your Android files:

  • doubleTwist, which offers continually improving desktop software for Windows and Mac that syncs your music, videos, podcasts and pictures back and forth from your phone. There’s even wireless syncing, which you can make totally automated, so you might just throw that USB cable into storage.
  • For quickly dropping a few files onto your phone, there is Awesome Drop, and it is, in fact, awesome. For snagging a few files off the card, we’ve previously enjoyed WiFi File Explorer.
  • If you’re regularly shuttling files back and forth between your system, you might want to invest in setting up your laptops, desktops and phone with (wait for it) Dropbox. The Android client can both download and upload files to and from the SD card.
  • If you’re good with an FTP setup, you, along with reader Bradley Shaner, might dig SwiFTP, a free app that turns your phone’s SD card into an FTP server that works over your local Wi-Fi connection or across the internet.
  • To simply ease the process of hooking up your phone for USB access, try an app named Auto Mount Your SD Card that doesn’t need much further explanation. You can also click an option in the doubleTwist Android app’s settings to do the same auto-mounting on USB connection.

The Market

It can only be searched from the phone, and even then it’s an unwieldy thing — finding the official Google Reader app, even, requires quite a bit of thumb-scrolling.

Until recently, our favourite solution was the AppBrain web market and its own Android apps that allowed for some neat direct-to-phone installation on Android 2.2. That ability, sadly, has been knocked down by a recent Market change pushed out to many phones. AppBrain is still the better search tool and offers manual sync-and-install/uninstall, along with a pick-and-push wallpaper browsing tool that still works. Official Android over-the-air installing is apparently on the way, but until then, AppBrain and recommendations from friends (and, er, blogs) are our imperfect curation tools.

Poor Battery Life

The solution to a battery that can’t get you through the day, we’re afraid, is all about detailed tweaking of when and how your phone connects to the net, turns on its screen and runs its GPS and Bluetooth modules. If it’s any consolation, the answer is generally the same on an iPhone.

The How-To Geek has a good, step-by-step, illustrated guide to maximising Android battery life, moving through the settings you can change. Otherwise, there are apps that automate your phone’s functions in ways that can save you juice: JuiceDefender, Locale and Tasker, to name a few.

What’s your biggest Android annoyance not covered here or anywhere? Tell us what still bugs you about your open-source phone in the comments.

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