While Hollywood drools over Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, the real Avengers lie almost forgotten. The Thunderbirds. A group of puppets with rockets, submarines and satellites that save the world time and time again. Their (literally) chiselled features captivated the world with weekly action epics.
Living on their private, tropical island, these loaded string-fellows naturally have equally loaded friends. Lady Penelope, for example, lives in a mansion in England and owns a pimped-out pink Rolls Royce, driven by her chauffeur, Parker.
Parker is the perfect assistant. Does whatever he’s told, is a multi-talented, creative and smart man/puppet who could anticipate your needs. He takes a load off your mind and makes life simple – the basic dream in a personal assistant; making life that little bit easier and stress-free.
Big shoes to fill, then, for any company that claims to produce a pocket butler. Enter Samsung, whose blockbuster Galaxy S line of phones welcomed the new S4 during a Broadway extravaganza that was as terrible as it was sexist.
Packed with a billion features and running Google’s mobile operating system, Android, Samsung made clear that this new phone was the PA you’d carry with you wherever you go. A ‘Life companion’ designed to make your life ‘richer, simpler and more fun’, surely this superphone is what we’ve all been waiting for?
The phone is one of the quickest on the market, has an insanely sharp screen packing in a whopping 441 pixels per inch, has a shockingly good, quick camera and is preposterously light. Too light. The plastic feel, the feather-light weight and a design so utilitarian and kitsch it might as well be a late-90s TV remote.
With the ability to do so much – to have so many different camera options, sensors and a myriad of other features – Samsung really does aim for this phone to be everything you ever need. Yet you’re so blinded by choices that the phone goes from a Parker-style butler to a New York deli when all you want is pancakes. “What fruit do you want? Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or cherries? You want sauce? Toffee, maple, milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate or honey?” After the tenth choice list you end up pleading for ‘just pancakes.’
Clearly, the idea is that what people want is the ability to do more and more things, but in reality it’s not necessarily more choice we want, but a phone that can do many things through very simple means. The Galaxy S4 is convoluted with a blinding array of choice. In fact, it’s so complicated it has a ‘dumb’ mode that lets you ease your way in.
It’s easy just to slam Samsung for this, but the problem’s much, much bigger. The problem, dear reader, is Android.
Let’s be clear, aside from being a deli mobile platform, Android as a brand represents something else – ‘not Apple’. I’m willing to wager that the bulk of Android users don’t know the platform they’re using, don’t care about it and wouldn’t be hard-pressed to jump ship if a better option came along.
Android made it big because it was like Apple, but not. Apple’s shadow. The truth? It still is. Now, we can quote market share all we want (which Android has in spades) but in reality Android seems more like a choice of handset than platform – a choice of happenstance.
That, along with a feature-bloated platform that skimps on how you actually use those functions, is a creaking bridge. When you add to the mix poor attention to detail, those creaks become loud cracks.
Android feels budget. Just scrolling on an iPhone or Windows Phone feels smooth like a hot knife through butter, but on Android it’s so unpolished and mechanical you might as well be changing gears on a Ford Model-T, while the icons have the air of Fisher Price.
With the smartphone race as competitive as it is, people have choices. One of those choices is between a phone offering a streamlined, simple life and a phone that offers you the world in a series of exhaustive lists. As more and more technology becomes burried beneath simplicity, you do have to wonder; do we really want the hard life?