Hi @Matthew_White, @LN,
Thank you very much for your analysis. These helped me a lot in understanding central.
Let me try to explain my side of understanding. This is primarily addressing @LN's queries.
In Aggregate, we have a dashboard which, in a minimal format, is absolutely workable. It shows all data, it shows all images, it show location maps, and many other things right from the aggregate interface. So, from a client point of view, as a consultant, if I install aggregate for them, it is enough for them to view all their data, in tabular and map format at minimum (let's exclude visualizations for now). In other words, they submit the data from the phones, and view the data, images and location right there from one single aggregate interface, and they are excited about it. This, in itself, is a complete end-to-end ecosystem of data collection that I always intend to introduce to them, and gain their attention and excitement. Later on, I always offer them more, by building custom dashboards on top of aggregate data and give them additional value added features. But this stage comes quite later, when they have already become an expert of handling the basic system, and start feeling the real need for custom features. So, in other words, with a data table, image viewer, and map view, Aggregate dashboard has everything (in a minimal, although non-optimal way) that excites a new client to go for ODK "without adding/installing any external tool or dashboard".
Now, I started using Central about a week ago. I was happy to see some of the features which were on my wishlist (great!). BUT (and it's a big one!), I am really surprised to see the basic features of aggregate missing from central; things like viewing the whole submission, viewing images, and location pins too. The problem that I see now, is that I cannot pass on this installation of Central to the client as a whole end-to-end system, without installing an additional dashboard/tool on the next hop! Excel, PowerBI, Google Data Studio are always workable but only at the second layer. The first layer (i.e. ODK Central) should have a complete set of tools to view all parts of data on its web-based dashboard. Without these tools, Central seriously looks handicapped as a dashboard, and it is not a complete solution until I pair it with yet another dashboard or external tool!
Please note that I am not negating the great work done on central already. It has great features, even better than how I imagined in the last 8+ years of using Aggregate. However I feel that the small things which are excluded from Central as part of optimization, include some of the very key features of data viewing, which are way too essential for Central to be part of its packaging, instead of passing it onto external, 2nd hop tools and dashboards. Third party systems can always do anything, but we should not exclude basic features from Central totally, since it seems to undermine the power of ODK as a complete set of data collection eco-system.
I hope my point of view is much clearer now. Happy to discuss more if needed.