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We currently have this line under the off-topic things in the FAQ:

  • Android-independent phone questions, such as "Does Carrier X have prepaid plans?"

I think that specific example is definitely out of our scope; how you pay for your service isn't a core part of your device or of using it.

On the other hand, we (myself included) have been somewhat inconsistent with hardware questions that aren't limited to Android devices. How your battery capacity affects battery life and similar concerns apply to lots of electronics, but nonetheless can be very important to Android users.

Again I think carrier-related questions and that sort of thing should be continue to be off-topic, we've had that discussion. But what should we do about these hardware-centric questions? I think we have the expertise to answer them and, due to their relevance, they should be on-topic. Other thoughts?

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This has been a hazy line for about as long as I can remember, and it something I briefly touched on in another Meta post, so this is a discussion for which I think we're long overdue.

I lean in the other direction, and think many (most?) of these are not Android questions. If a compelling argument can be made that a hardware question is in some way truly unique to the Android operating system or if it's a question of how Android interfaces with said hardware (such as settings that may affect it in some way), then I think it's fine. If it's more along the lines of "How does an accelerometer work?" then I personally feel that it should be off-topic.

Having said that, if everyone else disagrees with me then I have no serious issues with accepting hardware questions. I just think that it makes the site that much less focused on Android.

  • I understand this take on it. I would differentiate a "How does this work?" from a "How does this affect me?", though; I think the question I linked is of the latter type, or at least could be rewritten to be that way. – Matthew Read Apr 16 '12 at 21:40
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    @MatthewRead: I think that's an important and completely valid distinction. The one you linked, in fact, probably wouldn't irk me at all if it was written as more of a "How does this affect me?" style of question. Currently it feels kind of icky (to me) because it's worded more like "How does an LCD display work?", though there's certainly a subtext of "...and how does that affect me as an Android user?" (or possibly "...and how can I configure Android to maximize my battery life?"). – eldarerathis Apr 16 '12 at 21:43
  • @eldarerathis where would you draw the line, we have questions on things like USB charging vs wall charging, there's nothing unique to Android or even smartphones in those, and they're open questions with upvoted answers. – GAThrawn Apr 17 '12 at 12:05
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    @GAThrawn: I would consider those to be questions presented more as "How does this affect me as an Android user?" which I think are okay. Had they been "What's the maximum amount of power provided by a USB port?" or something of that nature (which would have garnered essentially the same answers) then I would consider it more of an electrical/hardware question. That's how I've been trying to judge appropriateness. – eldarerathis Apr 17 '12 at 13:29

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