Product Management Lessons from an Android User

Android vs. Alien

My views on why Samsung/Android sucks drew some fun reactions. Here I summarize my understanding of how to build products, based on the horrible experience I have had with my Samsung Galaxy S2. I will try to keep emotions out of the way here btw.

Spec is not the product

The map is not the territory and the spec is not the product. It is possible to manufacture an alluring product which sucks when used..whether in usability, reliability, utility and more. For example, the Galaxy S2 has a beautiful display, dual-core chip, extensible memory and Google’s Android..yet when its all put together we get a strange concoction instead of a smooth martini we were expecting. Engineers need supervision by artists. And please don’t get lawyers anywhere close.

Design for use not just for selling

A big factor in how customers buy products is by checking a bunch of features, it is human to maximize what we get for our cash. It is the same process an enterprise goes through when it tries to procure a product. But if your design is driven by specs that will get attention of customer then you are not doing something right. Attention is just the first step, engagement is next. Design for use. Design for day to day experience.

Take Samsung/Android’s claim of being a multi-tasking mobile OS, what did it lead to? Piss-poor battery life. Side effects? Well, the display has to be switched off to conserve battery. When reading a long text the UI goes off. Samsung fixed this in Galaxy S3(check Smart Stay), guess how? Well, they put an algorithm to figure out you are staring at the device by using the camera. So the problem(display going off to conserve battery) caused by a feature(multi-tasking), required a feature(camera based recognition if you are using device) that will aggravate problem(poor battery life/power management) further.

See how Microsoft pitches its Windows Phone by asking people to do common tasks, that shows attention to detail and not trying to sugarcoat junk. And btw, if I had not spent money on Galaxy S2, would have gladly bought the Nokia Lumia 800 or 900..I tried it out and its sheer joy to use. Windows Phone has original UI design and fantastic developer support.

Step back, dig in constantly

See the big picture of how a customer would perceive your product. Then get into details of how it is implemented and the implications. Do this constantly, for every thing you do. Good products are good through out because people who built it actually cared about details. It is not enough if the hardware is awesome, the apps are the ‘Smart’ in a ‘SmartPhone’. Your default apps are crucial. They need to be awesome. If awesome is not your style, then be fair and allow the customer to do what she wants with the device she paid for..allow to uninstall those apps without having to jailbreak.

Every customer touchpoint is the product

To a customer anything that carries your logo is you. Whether its an utility you provide(Samsung Kies 2.0), or associated help(online help from Samsung/Android), or any upgrade process(say the OS!), everything reflects on you. The attention to detail shown for how the device looks does not extend to software and every other aspect of Samsung/Android. It is as if Jekyll designed hardware and Hyde took over for software and all related services.

Don’t sell anything customers will buy

Not all customers are smart. As a product vendor you might only care about who can afford your product. But money is not everything over the long run. Vendors can choose to do the right thing and do what is best for the customer, even if the product or service is opinionated. Its easy to fool customers, especially the non-technical ones in the short-run. Do the right thing, it always pays off in the long run.

Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Compfight


  1. Sudhakar Subramanian says:

    Apple iPhone, Windows Phone (Samsung Omnia 7) – both have poor battery backup (read as one day). Atleast Android phones can be rooted, a custom kernel to overclock (to improve performance), underclock (improve battery), CPU governors (improve performance/battery) can be installed to get a better battery backup. I read your prev post “Samsung/Android sucks” where you have mentioned you are using a Task Killer. I used it too and found its of no use. The killed tasks spawn immediately. All you need to do is root the phone (which will void your warranty; but the rooting s/w “SuperOneClick |” itself gives a big button to unroot and erase any evidence of rooting). In my LG Optimus Hub (Android 2.3.6) I just rooted the phone installed “CPU Tuner” and I am getting 4 days battery backup with moderate use. With heavy use I get more than 2 days for sure.

    “Windows Phone has original UI design and fantastic developer support” – I won’t agree. My friend who bought an Omnia 7 is struggling without any apps. What is a smart phone without any smart apps? There is a big developer forum for Android devices than for iPhone. They are called XDA, Cyanogenmod, AOSP and AOKP.

    Nokia reported USD 3 billion loss last year despite releasing their flagship product Lumia. They killed an amazing platform called Meego (only one phone came out with Meego Nokia N9). It was told that Nokia sold their soul to Microsoft. It’s inevitable that Nokia will sink like Titanic and soon Microsoft will take it over.

    Specs do matter. They make your device future proof. Software is upgradable, Hardware is not.

    If a text msg is long you will be scrolling the display and it will not timeout. I am not sure how iPhone tackles this long text msg display timeout issue.

    • Mahesh CR says:

      You raise very valid points Sudhakar, thanks for laying out details so well. But you know what, its so very clear you are a technical person and are comfortable rooting your device. Am okay with rooting devices but wearing a consumer hat dont see why one has to jump hoops to make the device work sanely for a day!

      Valid point on Windows Phone, am willing to give MS time required to mature their platform..not easy to build an ecosystem when you have lost mindshare amongst your key audience. But I have hope that MS will turn around, just for the fact that their vision of what mobile OS can be is appealing to me. Besides they provide fantastic tool support for developers and they have am sure they will slug it out.

      Nokia is doomed on its own. Have heard good things about Meego too. Did you hear Nokia is sponsoring employees it is letting go to build startups? Am expecting good things out of that move.

      Specs do matter I agree, but the OS needs to be aware of the environment it is running on..being aware of constraints is a good product design practice.

      Thanks a lot, its good to have a thoughtful comment to respond to 🙂

    • Hi Sudhakar; I’m trying to contact you in order to know your settings of CPU Tuner on LG Optimus Hub.I saw your opinion on GSM Arena and by Facebook I can’t send you a message; ..please help me.

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