My Take on Android vs. iOs
I’ve been an Android user for 2+ years, and I’ve avoided iOs for a number of reasons (which I’ll detail later). However, I now own an iPad2. I won it in a Twittering contest at a professional conference I attended 2 weeks ago. Since I wasn’t present at the end of the conference when the winner was announced (Damn American Airlines for changing my flight!), I’ve only had it 6 days now since it showed up FedEx where I work this past Monday. What follows is my personal take :
But first, a mild disclaimer: Some of what I’m about to say might be biased by the fact that I’m comparing Android to iOs in 2 radically different form factors! My Android experience has been on smart phones, with the largest display belonging to my current phone, the Droid 3, while my iOs experience is with the vastly larger iPad2. With that being said, here we go:
Short take: iOs seems to me to be a great, at times almost Insanely Great, os for devices used by non-techies, but many of the decisions that lie behind its design are incredibly frustrating to techies. While a non-techie may love it, and it is certainly highly intuitive (I haven’t had to RTFM or Google a question yet), there are a few essential things lacking for techies, such as myself, who’ve grown accustomed to the Android way.
I see three glaring differences between them – all of which cause me to prefer the Android:
- Lack of Flash on iOs.
- The Android dedicated “Back” button
- Integration between apps
I’ll take them in order:
Quite simply: Android supports it, iOs doesn’t. This decision by the late Steve Jobs (if we are to believe the media) has got to be one of the few bad decisions (that I’m aware of) that he ever made. I understand his desire to control the user experience, and Flash opens up a lot of things that Apple can’t control. But understanding does NOT mean agreement! This one decision causes major portions of the web to be unavailable to the iOs user.
Yes, HTML5 will likely obviate any need to develop for Flash – eventually. And Steve’s decision to design for this eventual world – and ONLY for this eventual world – may indeed prove prescient. But I doubt that, once HTLM5 browsers are widely deployed, that EXISTING Flash content will go away quickly. So it will be a long time before the lack of Flash no longer significantly degrades the web experience of the iOs user.
The Android Back Button
I use Twitter these days as my primary source of news. So the Twitter client on my smartphone or iPad is my most used app. And I follow a LOT of links from tweets. Following the link takes me to a web page – on Android, I use the DolphinHD browser – on iOs, it’s Safari (but I don’t have a choice here – again – more on that later!). The problem arises when I’m done with my browsing and want to return to my Twitter app. It’s incredibly easy on Android – just hit the back button until I’m back where I started! When I’m at the first page I viewed in DolphinHD and hit the back button, Presto! I’m right where I left off in my Twitter app.
Not so with iOs. Once I’m done browsing, I have to push the home button, then reactivate my Twitter app, or double push the home button, then select my Twitter app from the list of recent apps it shows.
I doubt this would bother me if I’d never been exposed to Android, but I’ve become so accustomed to this behavior that I grimace every time I want to do it in iOs, but can’t.
Integration Between Apps
Quite simply, this is fully fleshed out in Android and is almost completely absent in iOs. Yes, in any other iOs app, clicking a link opens a web browser. Actually, it opens Safari – and you can’t change that behavior! (And because of the lack of a back button noted above, some app developers include a built in web browser, that is far less capable than even the Flash deprived Safari.)
Contrast this with Android, where I can have my Twitter app designated to handle any other app’s call for a Twitter url. And I can have my Podcast App handle any other app’s call for a url that looks like an RSS feed. When I click on an image link – in ANY Android app – I’m given the choice of opening it in a browser, or a number of other apps I have for viewing/editing pictures. And when I choose, Android let’s me decide which app I want to use now – and gives me the option of designating this app for ANY time I would otherwise (in the future) be asked the same question. For Twitter urls, I’ve nailed it to my Twitter app, but I’ve left it open for images. Why? Sometimes I just want a larger view, other times I want to edit. And my viewing app loads far faster than my editing app.
Finally, if Android doesn’t recognize a url as capable of being handled by another app, there is still the option of a long press, then “Sharing” the link – and well written Android apps appear on the resulting link of ways to share!
In summary, Android allows the user to control the experience, while iOs presents the user with no choices. Once exposed to the joys of Android, there’s no going back!
Why I tried to avoid iOs
When the first iPad came out, I had 3 fundamental objections to it:
- ATTQuite simply, I want to have as little to do with ATT as possible. Even before their severe network problems were reported, I didn’t want to have anything to do with them. I believe them to be one of the nastiest of the large corporations whose tentacles I want to keep out of my life!This is no longer an issue as iPhones and iPads are now available on other networks. And in this case it’s moot because my iPad is WiFi only!
- Lack of a replaceable batteryMost days, a single battery is less than 1/2 discharged by my routine use. But some days – particularly weekends and travel days, my use of a smart phone or tablet for media consumption skyrockets. And I NEED more than 1 battery available!
- Closed EcosystemThis one is the big one for me. Apple’s sole control of it’s Apps store, along with the design decisions that prevent almost all app integration are the killer for that will keep me from purchasing any iOs device (remember, I won my iPad in a contest, I didn’t buy it!) What right (other than my right NOT to purchase) does Apple have to decide how I customize my user experience.
Some (possibly) good things about iOs
Here’s where my not having similar sized devices has likely contributed to an unavoidable bias in this post!
Within any SINGLE App, in most cases, I find myself turning to iOs. Absent the Flash problem, I prefer browsing on my iPad. Typing is far easier anywhere. Reading my non A/V RSS feeds is a joy, as is editing pictures (getting the pictures OFF the iPad is a different story!). And the smart cover I bought (yes, I DID give Apple my money for accessories – smart cover, dock, and lots of extra power supplies/cords) is genius.
An highly digressive Tangent into Atheism
Initially, when I first mentioned Steve Jobs, it read “… Steve Jobs (RIP)…”, but on proofreading, I changed it simply to “… the late Steve Jobs”. This edit was part of my less than 1 week old “coming out” as an Atheist.
Had I left in the “RIP”, or used something like “Steve, we’ll miss you”, or even “May God rest his soul”, I would have implied that I believe in an afterlife. Morever, that I can send a message to someone IN an afterlife. I don’t and I can’t. Believing that you can communicate with the dead is, IMHO, insane. Steve Jobs no longer exists. I’m glad he did, and I’m sorry he’s not around anymore, but he hasn’t “moved on to a better life.”
As far as “coming out” as an atheist goes, I’ve always been an atheist. And my close family and closest friends know it. Until recently, it was not a large part of my life. However, I’ve recently stumbled on to a lot of atheist writings, and I’ve become convinced that atheists are a longstanding persecuted group in US culture. And that’s not right.
I’m not going to detail how atheists are persecuted – that’s another very long post. But part of my coming out is a personal decision the be more open about my atheism, and caused the aforementioned edit. And caused me to want to explain it here!
I’ve written enough for now, and I have things to do and promises to keep for the rest of the day. All of it away from home, and a lot of it while travelling. So I’ll be bringing my Droid, but not my iPad (see battery, lack of).
I look forward to your comments. I’m especially interested in any of the following:
- Have you used both? If so, how do my thoughts coincide with yours?
- If you have only iOs experience, have I convinced you to at least TRY Android?
- If you are, like me, a long time, but reticent atheist, let me know in a comment. In this case please ALSO let me know if it’s OK to post! I do moderate comments, and if you don’t mind my knowing, but don’t want the world to know, say so! I’ll communicate privately and NOT approve your comment!