Epic’s Mark Rein Says Google “Still Has a Long Way to go” With Android
Earlier in the week, vice president of Epic Games Mark Rein said Google “still has a long way to go” with its Android mobile OS. Talking to Develop, Rein commented on the state of the Android platform.
“I’m [...] worried that every Android phone vendor seems to have a different user interface than the other. It is unclear whether Google will step in and straighten it out or continue to let it grow out of control,” said Rein. “Another problem with Android is the carriers run wild with the OS and are adding all kinds of bloatware and not-so-great custom user interfaces.”
The fragmented experience of Android often makes similar phones look and feel almost completely different, despite them being based on the same OS. A HTC device compared to a Samsung device is almost unrecognisable, making a single unified experience impossible. The iDevices, for all their flaws, do have a high degree of unification: they all work in the same way be it an iPod, iPhone or iPad.
This problem also extends to hardware. Differing screen sizes and processing power mean that users, as well as developers, find they can’t do certain things because of the phone they bought.
Phil Symonds runs Psym Mobile, the company behind the Android game Abduction and spoke to Nukezilla about the subject. It’s his experience that the biggest problem with Android is fragmentation. “Not in terms of Android versions, but across handsets. Having to deal with dozens of devices all with different processing capabilities, screen sizes and button configurations can be a real pain. Emulation can only take you so far, and it’s impractical for small developers to have access to all the different devices.”
Phil’s sentiments are mirrored by others, with Tommy Forslund of Polarbit Games telling Nukezilla that version fragmentation (1.6 to 2.1 etc.) isn’t as much of an issues when compared to the hardware: “The only real challenge in this regard is the varying performance between different devices. Some are amazingly fast at rendering 3D, others – not so much.” He notes that this emerging on the iPhone too, with the first generation iPhone “nowhere near as fast as the iPhone 4.”
The question will be whether Google can reign in the “openness” of Android, which is both its strongest feature and its biggest detriment. Epic’s Rein notes that Apple wouldn’t let “any carrier hijack the customer experience to that sort of extreme. Apple is out there fighting the good fight on behalf of its end users and delivering a pretty consistent, and great, user experience around the world.”
For developers too the iPhone has its problems: Until fairly recently Apple’s refusal to allow certain apps on its store for seemingly bizarre reasons has meant that caution is needed from devs. The recent clarifications and relaxing of the rules have made things slightly clearer, but there’s still some feelings of unease.
Both Android and iOS have their merits and failures. Rein points to Windows Phone 7 (a stupid, stupid name) as a possible middle ground where the openness of Android and the unified quality of the iPhone can come together: “They’ll be making serious investments in high-quality exclusive games for their platform like they’ve done with the Xbox consoles, and they’re bridging the social gaming aspects of the 360 and mobile platform through Xbox Live”.