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My Affair With iOS: Thoughts and Musings
I recently posted this as a reply on one of the news stories, but wanted to post this here for anyone thinking about a jump to iOS.
I have been an Android user for a long time, having owned about 8 different Android devices since the OG Droid. I recently acquired the iPhone 4S and new iPad, but I also have a Galaxy Nexus and Acer Iconia Tab A500.
While Apple makes some nice products, I typically still find myself turning to my Android devices over the iOS ones. Android has several distinct advantages over iOS that are sometimes mentioned, but that frequently dont get compared in detail. So why would you want a hot new Android phone/tablet over Apple's latest offerings?
Here are a few of my musings:
For years, many have trumpeted iOS design as being more user friendly, easier to use, and better for the "Average User". Google's plan was to change that perception of superiority with a major UX overhaul in ICS. The Holo design in ICS was intended to make Android "beautiful", and easier to use, while still retaining the customization ability that Android is known for.
Folders are no longer a static icon, they are bubbles with previews of a few app icons, which allows you to customize the look of your home screens with widgets and still keep easy categorization and accessibility to your frequent apps with just a few taps. Folder implementation on Android has a very clean look, much better than the square folders with mini app icons on iOS, which in my opinion is a rather clunky look. Finding a specific app on ICS is easy with the App Drawer, which I found easier than paging through all my home screens on iOS to find the one app I may be looking for.
When people use a smartphone, one of the most frequent uses is for information. Search on iOS takes up a whole screen, and searches the phone first and web results second. Even then, it doesn't give you instant results like Google's search engine, there is no prediction for web results, and if it isnt something on your phone, like an app or contact, it directs you to launch Safari for a web search.
Siri tries to solve this, but if the answer she gives doesn't have all the information you need, she may (or may not) direct you to do a web search. Relying on Siri is frustrating if you need an answer quickly, and if Siri doesn't have it you end up doing a web search anyway. She does have some useful functions, like giving the weather or setting a reminder quickly, but Ive found that it is just as easy and in some cases more useful to use the Calendar widgets on Android. Voice Commands on Android, while not having the spoken replies that Siri has, is far more useful in gathering information. If you tell it to Navigate, it will immediately Navigate you there, with turn by turn directions. I recently needed the number for a local pizza place while visiting my mom for Mothers Day, but didn't want to call from my phone. I asked Siri for the number, and she replied asking if I wanted to call rather than giving me the number. I repeated the same inquiry on Android, and it launched Chrome with not only the number, but directions, a "call" button, a map of the location, and the link to their web page with coupons for specials. Overall, I have found Siri to be more of a novelty than a useful way to get information. If I want information, I can Search, and Google is the king of Search.
So as I noted, folders and the app drawer gives you a lot more screen real estate to play with on Android, and even the iPad with its larger screen seems to waste this extra space. So what is the use of this extra space? Widgets - a clear advantage over iOS. Widgets on Android provide quick, glanceable info that iOS lacks. I can check my Facebook, G+, and Twitter feeds, the weather, my calendar/agenda, and even news, texts, or my photo gallery, all without launching an app. iOS is very app centric, and you have to launch an app to do nearly anything. This is probably the one thing I miss the most when using iOS. I feel much more productive and can get things done faster using Android.
If I want to toggle Wifi, GPS, Bluetooth, or anything else, widgets let me do so immediately, it's buried in the Settings app on iOS. 3rd party launchers let me access frequent apps in the dock faster than paging through screens on iOS. People say settings are buried in menus on Android, but it seems worse on iOS because app settings are typically in the Settings menu rather than the App itself, meaning I have to leave the app, go to the home screen, and try to find the setting I want to change, which seems a bit cumbersome.
Web browsing and Media is a much nicer experience on my Nexus, due to the higher resolution and larger screen real estate. Browsing on the iPad is a good experience save for the lack of Flash, and while Flash may be on the way out, there are still plenty of sites that use it. Plus, my tabs are synced with Chrome, so if I'm visiting a site on my computer or laptop and want to continue with my phone or tablet, all I have to do is open Chrome and it's there for me to use.
A lot of this has been me pointing out the flaws of iOS, but there are some things i like better. The iPad has lots of apps, many of them tablet optimized, and there are many apps and games available for iOS that havent made their way onto Android. That tide seems to be changing, however. Previous exclusives like Instagram and Flipboard are now available, and on the whole there are very few major apps on iOS that I cant find on Android. In its favor, iOS apps typically are better designed and nicer looking than apps on Android, likely due to the larger revenue stream and developer base that iOS offers. Android could use some catching up in this area, and recent releases and more powerful hardware on Android seem to indicate that the Android developer base may start to go in this direction. Being able to develop for one screen size and hardware set gives Apple an advantage here.
One item that isn't mentioned as much as it should be is sharing content on Android. iOS has Twitter integration, but sharing content with Intents is much easier on Android. Instead of launching an app to upload a photo to Facebook or a file to Dropbox, Android gives you the option of immediately sending the content to the app of your choice. As an example, sharing a photo from the Gallery on iOS gives you the option to email, send in a message, send to Twitter, assign to a contact, or use as a wallpaper. On Android, I can send it to pretty much any app that supports photos, including the options above, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Dropbox, Google Drive, a PDF creator app (Handy Scanner), Picasa, Evernote, or to send via Bluetooth. The sharing option is only limited by the apps you have, and how the developer has integrated sharing with the file of your choice.
Navigation and Maps on Android is a much nicer experience, turn by turn voice nav on iOS is only achieved with third party apps (the best of which i have found to be Mapquest), but which do not have the same detailed level of info about the location that Android does. Siri can give me a list of directions, but a voice command will instantly launch Maps/Navigation with Voice turn by turn. It will be interesting to see what Apple brings when it drops Google Maps. They used Open Street Maps in iPhoto, but Google has been in the mapping/location business for a long time, and Apple will have to bring something seriously compelling to compete. OSM doesn't have street view, terrain, or satellite data, so using it in lieu of Google Maps would be a step in the wrong direction.
In conclusion, this has been an enlightening experience. Being able to use and compare both directly has given me a renewed appreciation for Android all the more. BICS is truly a game changer, and I can respond better to comparisons of iOS and to Android by iOS with much better insight after having more experience with Apple's high end products.
If iOS is your cup of tea, then by all means, keep using it. I'm OK with that, and I'm not trying to convert anyone - users should have choice and the presence of both platforms in the market spurs competition and innovation, but I can definitively say that Android has grown up with ICS, and I would urge fans of iOS to give Android a second look before drawing conclusions about it, or for Android fans to try iOS out. It's easy to over generalize when reading comments on tech blogs, and an informed opinion is always better than fanboy rage.
Please feel free to leave me a comment. If there's anything I'm missing about iOS or shortcuts I may have missed, please share. I definitely have more experience with Android, and I'm still learning the ins and outs of iOS, but I wanted to give my general impressions after two months of use.
However, if you're just looking to flame me, then please save it. I enjoy rational discussion and would appreciate that in turn.