User Profiles for Android; Why & How to Implement It

Hello All Android Users,

I just wanted to post this thread and explain my one gripe with Android and get your ideas and comments.

Android devices have always been great for personalization;

and I love it that way. Unfortunately, not all devices are personal. Yes, a smartphone is almost always solely used by the person carrying it, but Android tablets have been rolling out by the dozens since this week (read: CES). These tablets are often mostly media consuming devices for multiple people, often with widely differing age-ranges.

The iPad is currently the king of the tablet throne, but if this weeks parade of Android tablets says anything at all, its that Android tablets will be seeing a major push in 2012. And the possibilities are very exciting if Google manages to unify the Android ecosystem for cellphones, tablets and TVs in a comprehensive way.

Currently Android on tablets differentiates itself from the iPad in much the same manner as Android on cellphones does from iPhones. Which is fine... But I feel that Google can do more to make Android tablets more compelling (considering the vast amount of Android tablets out there, Android has a waaay to low markets share compared to iPads).

I have lots of ideas and opinions about this, but one that I am convinced will be unanimously welcomed is the implementation of User Profiles.

Wait, Wait, Wait, don't dismiss the idea just yet. Please read along.

Consider an average family of four; Dad, Mom and their two Kids age 14 and 9. The iPad is currently the go-to tablet for such a family. Dad works in IT and would use it to check his work email, keep track of sports and reads The Verge. Mom reads her personal emails, keeps recipes organized and reads eBooks. The teenager watches a LOT of Youtube and the 9 year old play Cut the Rope and Angry Birds.

There just a few of their interests... after two month their 16GB tablet is full of apps. Dad is annoyed his widgets and apps he has on the homescreen keep being deleted by his 9 year old. Mom is mad because she can't find the apps she likes to use in a long list of icons and the teenager is mad because his mom keeps reading his email.

How can all this be resolved... User Profiles!!

When looking at User Profiles we can take some hints from MS and other Legacy OSes, but it would have to be integrated much more elegantly and effortlessly. Yes, Android currently supports multiple user accounts, but it does not remedy the problems described above.

This brings us to implementation.

Unlike MS, I don't think Android should run multiple accounts at the same time, bogging down performance. Every profile would have personalized backgrounds, homescreens, widgets etc. Every profile would share the same filesystem and the same apps. Every user would be able to select which of the apps show up in their app tray. Switching profiles would automatically associate all apps with the correct user account saved on the tablet, so that Dad does not keep getting notifications when Mom receives an email and vice versa (and when opening Youtube the teenager only sees HIS followed users and updates).

I believe one unjustly maligned and wrongly applied feature that currently differentiates the latest iteration of Android is face unlock. Its a two-sided argument. No, face unlock does not completely protect your phone, just enough to protect from strangers who don't have your picture. Then again, why is it advertised as a security feature when its not secure!

Face unlock could be perfectly applied to User Profile login. It would be the perfect seamless way to log into user profiles. Nothing to type. So easy a 4 year old could do it!

Which is exactly the point, if you have a young child you would love to have them play fun educational games on your tablet, but you would be afraid they would possible delete some apps or buy 5 news ones without you noticing. Just set up a new User Profile for your child, tied to their face, and hide all the apps you do not want them to mess with. They pick the thing up, it logs them in to their profile and they can start playing games!

Well those are some of my ideas on the topic. What do you think? Do you see any potential problems? Please let me know, would love to talk about it. Below are some link on the subject if you would like to do some more light reading:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=888644

http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=15030

http://ltrconsulting.com/howto/android/encrypteduserprofile/

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/4934305/android-user-log-in

Problems: Just wanted to add a problem that I do see with my idea. Most likely you would buy/have bough most apps under one user account. How would you buy new apps and load previously paid apps from one user account in a User Profile associated with a different user account. Makes sense?