I had been using the iPhone 4 since it’s original launch, circa June 2010. Around 2012 it started feeling sluggish. Knowing that the iPhone 5 was surely to launch in the coming year, I was determined to stick it out. Then I won a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to put the Android phone to the test, thus began my three month foray.
What I’d like to share here are the pros and cons I found in each ecosystem. But first, I’d like to mention that each phone, iPhone and Android, are both great phones, they both simply excel in some areas and fall behind in others.
Lets begin with my biggest issue with the Android phone, it’s form factor. It’s really very simple: the Galaxy Nexus, and it’s sister phones, were designed to have a larger screen than the iPhone. Makes sense, bigger screen = better? Maybe not. The problem is that screen is too big, physically, for our hands. I constantly had to either fumble with my phone, or revert to holding the phone two-handed. Size is not everything. One of the latest commercials from Apple really sums it up better than I can:
Simply said: the app quality on the Apple App Store, is better than the quality of the apps on the Google Play store. At this point, the Google store has had enough time and install base to mature, so in my opinoin it has no excuse. Here’s a sampling of apps I use(d) on iOS.
For the most part there were couterparts on the Android, but I all but stopped using them anymore when presented with an inferior experience. Please note that this technically is the fault of the app builder, but it’s up to Google to foster their own app store.
- “Messages” or SMS: Android treats photos like weird email attachments that you have to click to download. It’s quite cumbersome compared to the iOS experience that treats them as just part of the conversation. Additionally, the Android phone doesn’t appear to handle SMSes over 140 characters nicely like iOS does. It was difficult to stitch the multiple messages back together in my head.
- “Mail”: iOS does a really good job of keeping you accounts separate, but making it all one seamless experience. On the Android, if you have multiple email accounts, you’ll need to get used to jumping through a bunch of clicks to check everything.
- Twitter: “Tweetbot” on iOS is just awesome. The best alternative I found on Android was the official Twitter app. It really sucked in comparison
- Google Reader: I use “Reeder” on iOS, it really is just superb. Best alternative on Android was the official Google Reader app. This app was difficult to use, often had sync issues, and had poor UI.
- Facebook: Same experience on iOS and Android. Good job Facebook.
- Instragram: Same here, great job IG team.
- Stocks: Native stock app on iOS, it’s decent, but I wish it did more. The Android app sync’ed with my Google Finance, which was awesome, but the app looked like a mobile web page from 2003.
- Foursquare: Great app all around. Yay Foursquare!
- Reddit: There is an insanely awesome all for Reddit on iOS: Alien Blue. The Andorid alternative is really just sad in comparison. Lots of features there, like Alien Blue, but it’s as if no thought is put into usability and ui. For example: it often takes me 5+ tries to drill down into a link posted into a comment. Very frustrating.
- Alarm Clock: Native on both iOS and Android. Android shines here, it’s got the big clock on the dashboard, and then when you turn on an alarm it tells you how many hours:minutes until it’s going to wake you up, great feature.
- Sigalert, Keepass, Native Calendar, Camera, Maps: All of these apps are significantly better on iOS
- iCloud: Or the lack thereof. The ability to back up my entire phone to the cloud is awesome. The other features are a wash (ie. Music streaming), but the backup options are killer with iCloud.
I’ll leave it there. Some diamonds in the rough on Android, but you’re largely going to find a better experience on iOS.
OS UI / Usability
Using an Android phone feels like you’re walking around with a really extendable and powerful mini computer in your pocket. It really can do about anything you want, but the experience may be clunky. One particular item of note is the complete lack of uniformity with the native “back” button. There are three native buttons on Android that are shown on the touch screen 90% of the time, the left-most is a sort of “back” button. The issue here is that the app developers do not implement this back button uniformly across all apps. You never know what you’re going to get. To make it works, some apps implement their own iOS-like back button (ui piece, typically in the top-left of the screen). It can be frustrating to when hitting that back button and it quits the app to Dashboard, and sometimes even the last app you were using.
Using an iPhone feels like one tight knit experience. The phone hardware melds with the phone software in a way that makes you forget you’re using a mini computer. Apps generally all have a similar look and feel. There aren’t any “gotcha” ui interactions, like on Android.
Where Android Excels
- Google Authentication: The Android OS has some kind of tokenized authentication, where you sign into a Google account once, and it’s authentication can be shared across all apps that use that same account. It really is awesome. It’s not quite killer, but it’s definitely really convenient.
- Key Vibrations / Tactileness: When you have the phone silent, and interact with the touch screen (like typing), the phone will slightly vibrate. It gives a sense of tactile response that, until now, touching a screen to interact, has lacked.
- Dashboard Widgets: A percentage of apps also give you the ability to drop an informational widget onto your dashboard. For example: you can have your calendar show upcoming appointments, or the twitter app show recent tweets. It’s nifty, and I kinda enjoy it.
The Android phone is a great phone and much of what I’ve talked about can be boiled down to personal preference. I do have over five years of iOS indoctrination under my belt. But knowing what looks and feels good is also part of my job. My objective here isn’t to convert new koolaid drinkers, it’s more to educate the differences and express my opinion. And my opinion is that the iPhone is slightly superior to the Android phone.
What do you think of iPhone vs Android?