Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 28th Jun 2016 21:53 UTC
Android

Speaking of software sucks, take a look at this screenshot of Chrome for Android. Do you notice something out of the ordinary? While you look, let me give you a little history.

Way back when Android Lollipop was released, Google introduced a feature called "merge tabs and apps" and enabled it by default for all Lollipop users. Basically, what it did was turn individual Chrome tabs into application windows in Android's application switcher. If you have an understanding of how Android works, this makes perfect sense; this turns tabs into full citizens of the Android application and intents workflow.

Starting with - I think? - Android Marshmallow, Google turned the feature off, but kept it as an option in Google Chrome, so that those of us that liked it could turn it back on. Obviously, this was the first thing I always turned on when setting up any new Android device; it just makes sense from an Android perspective. It smooths out the workflow, and makes sure that tab management becomes a thing of the past; they are discarded just like other Android applications.

Sadly, starting with Chrome 51, released a few weeks ago, the Android or Chrome or whatever team decided to remove the option altogether. The release notes stated:

When Android Lollipop was released last year, we moved Chrome tabs to live alongside apps in Android’s Overview app switcher. Our goal was to make it easier for you to switch between your open apps and websites. However, we heard from many of you that you could not find the tabs you created. This was especially difficult on phones that do not have a dedicated Overview button. While considering how to make Chrome work better for everyone, we brought the tab switcher back into Chrome so you can find your Chrome tabs in a single place. Look for a new way to manage your open tabs in coming releases.

This single change has thoroughly ruined the way I use my phone. I now have upwards of 60 - and growing - "open" tabs, because the Chrome team wants me to manually keep track of and close every individual tab that gets opened while using Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and other applications. I now have to keep track of not only running applications in the switcher, but also open tabs in the tab switcher, the latter of which can only be opened with a button in Chrome all the way at the top of my ginormous Nexus 6P display. The tab switcher itself, meanwhile, is a finicky clusterfuck of imprecise swipes and physics nonsense, making it all incredibly frustrating to use.

Update: this paragraph was added later as clarification. In addition, if you tapped on a link in, say, Fenix (Twitter) and read the website in the tab and then pressed back, said tab was automatically closed. This automatic closing of tabs with the back button does not happen with the inferior new method, hence the asinine clutter build-up.

Trying to switch to a specific tab I may have opened earlier in the day is an exercise in frustration now, since instead of just opening the application switcher and finding it a few swipes up (I don't use many applications), I now have to first find Chrome or launch it from my homescreen, find the tab switcher button all the way at the top, count to ten as I try to use the asinine tab switcher, and then hope I can find it somewhere among the more than 60 - and growing - "open" tabs and UI input lag caused by having to render all these tabs in that weird 3D space.

As someone who keeps track of world news, things like UEFA Euro 2016, technology news, and so on, all throughout the day, I end up with countless interesting tabs that get opened on Twitter, other social media, instant messenger, and so on. The Chrome team has actively decided to break my workflow, and there's no way for me to get it back - probably just because instead of looking at the how or why, they just looked at their precious, precious user data, and called it a day.

Looking to the future, with (freeform) windowing coming to Android, the change makes even less sense. Having tabs as part of the regular application switcher surely makes sense from a multitasking and multiwindow perspective, automatically giving Android users the ability to have multiple tabs side-by-side, in a way that is consistent with using other applications side-by-side. How are they going to implement this now? Will Android users have to deal with multiple Chrome windows, each with their own tab switcher? Where do tabs of closed windows go? What madness is this?

I find solace in that I'm not alone. Countless friends have expressed their hatred for the removal of merge tabs and apps (I've seen some of my programmer friends with well north of 100 "open" tabs), and the Chrome for Android reviews in the Play Store are riddled with angry one-star reviews. Google's forums, too, are filled with angry users. I'm hoping the angry comments and one-star reviews will make the Chrome team reconsider and bring back the option to merge tabs and apps, the Only True Android Way™ to manage tabs.

I'm sure tons of people here will consider this whining, but imagine if you're a programmer, and someone randomly took away your ability to insert tabs, forcing you to use spaces instead (or vice versa). That twitch you feel? That's us right now, every time we use Android.

For the first time in my life, I actually rated an application on an application store. Guess how many "stars" (why is it always stars?) I gave to Chrome for Android.

Permalink for comment 631079
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
updates good at all?
by -Carsten- on Wed 29th Jun 2016 12:55 UTC
-Carsten-
Member since:
2016-06-29

while I have read here for many years and I am often thankfull for Thoms oppinion, the one topic on which I have always diagreed is the call for updates that gets voiced here, especially by Thom, again and again. especially in regard to Android.

this is a prime example of why I absolutely do not want a vendor to constantly, intransparently and unrequestedly update any of the software on any of my devices.

other prominent examples might be:
- removal of my dedicted SMS-app in favor of something unwanted named "hangup"
- removal of my deicated mail-app in favor of gmail
- worsening of Google Maps by several magnitudes in every possible regard during the last 10 years
the list goes on.

yes, I would like the vendors to provide security or bug-fix-related patches to his software on my devices. preferably more often and more consequent than they do today. but this has to be strictly separated from the functional delta there might be between major versions of an application, let alone an operating system. buying a device with Android 4 and getting this device updated to 5.x over night is like going to sleep owning a VW Beetle and waking up to a new VW Golf in my garage. yes, it might be more modern. it might be a technical superior car in nearly every regard. but I still prefere a Bettle to a Golf. I bought a Beetle on purpose.

I really really hate this always-update mentality. especially on mobile operating systems where I use the device more as an everyday utility and am not that interested in customizing every aspect like on the desktop. I won't get into whether I like meterial design or not. changing even UI stuff like that - including introducing completely new control types and visualizations - is like exchanging the complete instruments in my car with a different layout upon an inspection appointment.

I understand that is not in the best interest of the responsible vendors to separate functional upgrades from security updates. but if I cannot have one without the others I'd rather stay with my old Beetle, shortcomings and defects and all, than to get a Golf.

I guess we all agree that nowadays the software is as much a functional and aesthetic part of many devices we buy today as the hardware. why should I accept that any other party than me has control about this functonality and design? if I have bought a toaster I would like the toaster to look the same tomorrow. if I have bought an Android 2.3 handheld I want to look and function the same tomorrow as it was when I bought it.

the OS vendors are changing - and taking away - features all the time. I cannot comment on the Windows 10 issues that seem to be similar because I lack experience with that, but why do you judge Android different? every other week I see some complaints about market share among Android versions being too segmented and 'too much devices still on obsolate versions'. why do the same people complain about this that criticise Microsoft for pushing updates on Windows users?

* disclaimer: I use a Android 6.x device today (Moto X Play) and have used Nexus devices before. still, I rather liked the UI paradigm in Android 2.3 more. I am all for choice for the people that want to update, but I don't agree to the assumption everybody should upgrade just because there is something new.

** and don't get me started on devices that again and again try to make me update them although the device gets broken in the process (I own a Nexus 7 (2012)).

*** and I am really uncomfortable defending Microsoft here. I left MSDN in 1995 when Win 95 came out and have been on OS/2, Solaris and Linux ever since.

Reply Score: 1