Posted by Dan Delaney | 19th Nov 2012
Multiple users on the Android 4.2 release were the brand new Android feature that I looked forward to most. That multiple users are not supported on mobile phones is a sensible move and Google should be given credit for accepting that tablets are seen more and more as a shared, or family, device rather than personal. After going through the process of installing the updated release on the Nexus 7, multiple user support was the first thing I wanted to try out.
I was looking forward to multiple accounts not least because my wife could finally add her own Facebook and ebay accounts to our Nexus 7 instead of using mine, and would be able to install her own games seperately from my account. Whilst this seems like a great idea, in practice it is incredibly frustrating. The process of logging in is great. Choose the correct icon for the account you want to use, and unlock the device.
Unfortunately, that's where the ease of use finished.
Firstly, there is no way to transfer app data between accounts. My wife has used my account regularly over the last few months to play a game (Jewels Star). On presenting her with a new account on the Nexus 7, it starts up with new data and therefore she's lost her save state. Whilst there may be 3rd party tools to solve this, it would be helpful if the device owner were able to share their apps to the other users. After all, those apps are installed already. Better yet, the ability to choose which apps are installed (and choose whether you want to copy app data) to a newly created account would be a welcome addition.
Secondly, there is a noticeable performance hit. Since Android accounts are 'live' whether you're logged in or not, my wife started complaining that the tablet was running slow. A quick look at my account on the device showed that Google Play was updating several (large) apps but there was no way for my wife to know this was happening without switching accounts and checking the notifications. Whilst that's fine for us, this could be incredibly confusing for someone who doesn't really understand how their tablet works. Unfortunately, without any visual clues to confirm why the tablet is running slow, it didn't take long before our patience was stretched too far.
Thirdly, adding users is clunky! When you create a new user, it is shown as 'New User'. And that's that. Even as the device owner, you are not able to add either a user picture or even the nickname. Whilst this is perhaps nitpicking, I expected to see a more polished approach from Google.
Fortunately, the process for removing additional users is pain free. We've gone back to a single user Nexus 7 until Google iron out the problems, particularly the performance issues.