Google didn’t announce the latest version of Android at I/O, their annual developer conference, leaving our devices feeling sad and unloved. Android 4.3 may still be on the way soon, but for now, here’s what we wish they announced—and how you can get many of these features right now.
A Smarter Lock Screen
Android’s lock screen has evolved in many ways to include widgets and a Google Now shortcut, but it could use a bit more. We’ve wanted more shortcuts to our most-used apps, notifications, and extensions to add even more. Fortunately, a few apps can give you those features right now.
Dashclock (Free) supercharges your lock screen, and we’ve got a great guide to help you set it up. Not only does it look great, but it’ll provide notification via icons and/or text, useful information like weather and appointments, provide audio controls, and a lot more. Most importantly, you can extend Dashclock to do a number of things to make your lock screen incredibly useful.
For those who prefer a more iOS-like interface, try LockerPro ($ 4). Due to its higher price and fewer useful features it comes hard to recommend in comparison to Dashclock, but some may prefer its interface if they like the way iOS handles its lock screen.
If you want quick settings to your favorite apps, you can grab something like WidgetLocker or flash a ROM like CyanogenMod, which give you a more dynamic lock screen. Not only will you get your favorite widgets, but you can add buttons to your most used apps for quick access—no swipe-to-unlock required.
Profiles for Settings
Android does a great job of taking care of things for you so you don’t have to waste your time doing them yourself. One great example that just got a little bit greater? Google Now. But Android doesn’t manage your settings based on your location or needs right out of the box. When our sister site Gizmodo went through the 15 features they want from Android, this was one they mentioned, and we agree: the ability to create setting profiles and switch between them easily. Custom ROM Cyanogenmod adds this feature, but if it doesn’t support your phone you’ll want to check out Setting Profiles ($ 4, Lite).
Setting Profiles allows you to automatically activate different settings on your phone based on your location, battery condition, and other rules. For example, when your battery gets low you could have a profile that automatically disables power-hungry features like LTE, GPS, and high screen brightness.
A Unified Messaging System
Google Voice provides anyone with the ability to send/receive text messages and receive calls from their Android phone or computer. It’s a really great service, but it has yet to see a significant update in quite a long time. Meanwhile, Apple’s iOS offers a nice unified messaging system in the form of iMessage. While both have their faults, it would be nice to see Android take Google Voice a step further and support picture messaging and group messaging (MMS)—at the very least.
If you want an alternative to Google Voice that offers these additional features, try MightyText. It provides access to your text messages on any computer, via a web interface, and on tablets as well. This way you can not only keep all your messages in sync, but also receive MMS on every device. Future versions of MightyText will include photo sync, too, so you’ll get new features as development progresses.
Simpler App Management
Installing apps through Google Play works great, and organizing your home screen doesn’t take much effort either. When you want to remove an app, however, you can uninstall it from your home screen—you can only remove it. We’d like to see simpler app management with options. Custom launchers, such as NOVA Launcher, allow you to press and hold apps and decide whether you want to remove them from your home screen or uninstall them from your phone. You also get quick access to app info pages so you can clear their caches and manage their other settings with ease.
Alternative launchers provide a number of other great features that enhance your home screen’s abilities and its interface, so we highly recommend installing an alternative to the default if you haven’t already.
Also, check out Andmade Share if all of this isn’t enough. It’ll allow you to reorganize Android’s share menu and prioritize the apps you use most.
Other Features Google Needs to Improve
Unfortunately we can’t add every feature and fix we’d like to see in the next version of Android. Here are the major items on our wish list:
- A consistent back button: Android’s back button doesn’t always work quite the same way in every app, so it takes a little trial and error before you know where you’re going. We’d like to see Google set some guidelines for how the back button should be used so users always know what to expect.
- Clean up the notifications drawer: While we’ve always loved Android’s notification drawer, we’d like to see a little more organization. Even something as minor as notification categories or organization by app would make a big difference.
- More resizable widgets: We like the ability to resize widgets, but some can’t be resized at all. Custom launchers help a little bit in some cases, but not in all. Additionally, sometimes certain sizes of widgets leaves them feeling unevenly spaced on your home screen. We’d like to see a few updates to make everything fit better and look nicer.
- Social media integration in the notifications drawer: iOS offers the ability to tweet and post to Facebook from its Notification Center, so why shouldn’t Android? Also, if Google made notification drawer widgets an option we could do much more (like check weather or search the web).
All of this said, Google made Android pretty amazing since 4.1 and a lot of the features we want we can wait for. But part of what makes new versions of Android great is that we get a bunch of cool features we couldn’t have thought of ourselves. With Android 4.3 rumored for June 10th, we may see a decent update. Hopefully it’ll bring some excitement many felt was missing from this year’s I/O keynote.