I have contemplated this blog post for a couple weeks now (and worked on it for longer), since I first started using my new Evo 4G. The title may read that of a new convert going fanboy over a new toy but trust me…I’ve seriously spent time considering both sides of this coin and I’m thoroughly convinced: Android blows away iOS. Don’t believe me? You don’t have to but I’ll still explain my points. Keep in mind, while reading, this is my opinion and is 100% based on an iPhone 3G vs the Evo 4G.
What? Apple doesn’t win the usability battle? Nope! They lose, terribly. I forgot how usable a phone could be until I started using my Evo. Let’s cover a few points here. Note I mean this in two different ways: 1) usability in terms of how user friendly it is, 2) how usable/feasible it is. They are similar but not the same. Keep in mind I’m a web dev’ so usability is different.
One Button vs Many
I thought, as did many, the 1 button of the iDevice(s) was revolutionary and “wow, I don’t miss the other buttons” but Apple could use a few more buttons. The Evo has a Home button (equivalent to iDevices one button), Menu, Back, and Search. Home not only takes me to my home screen but it also shows me an Expose’esque (from OS X) view showing me all 7 of my screens. It is a really smooth animation and makes it very easy to get between my screens. If you hold the Home button you get a view of the recently run applications to easily switch between apps. This one button is already proving more useful than the one button of the iOS. Granted, iOS 4 will have multitasking and the “magic” button will show you your running apps but I still find it more useful on Android. Oh…wait…don’t like how your Android device handles switching between apps? Use the QuickDesk app.
Who needs more than one button? Me. The menu button is highly useful. It is a context menu, changes depending on the screen and app you’re in, so you always know, from app to app, how to get to your settings. You can see the menu button on the Home Screen, in the Browser, in Photoshop mobile, and in the Market. No matter what app, I know where my settings are and how to quickly get to them. That’s usable.
In contrast, on the iOS you have to sort of guess how to get to your settings. Most of the apps implement a general approach of an (i) icon in a bottom corner of the app or some other form of on-screen button to edit settings or you go into the main iOS Settings to tweak an apps settings, which is multiple clicks away from your app. It seemed fine when I was on the iPhone but since I’ve been on my Evo it is a huge usability FAIL.
The Back button is very useful too. I use it often to go from one app to another or from an app back Home. As a developer I can also override this button to have it do other things like undo my last task, etc. Nothing major is needed to be said here. It simply works and is a simple, excellent way of in-app back tracking or for going from app to app.
Search is huge. I’ve never searched this much on a phone. Just like the Menu button, search is available in almost every app and how do you use it? Hit the same button, in the same place every time. That’s usable. I tried to use the search on iOS 3 but it never really worked too well and was a bit slow, outside of web searching in Safari. Granted I was on a slower device (3G, not 3Gs) but it doesn’t really work well for me, even when I tried to search for an old text message tonight. We’ll talk about search a bit more later.
That’s it for the buttons. I thought they were too much when my wife started using the myTouch 3G but I never used it for real, just playing with apps and stuff. Now that I’m using my Evo daily I remember…buttons work.
Wait…one more thing. iPhone wins with the mute rocker. I miss that beyond it being usable it was an OCD habit of mine to flip it on and off mindlessly. Evo 2…give me a rocker, PLEASE!! I’ve replaced my OCD habit with flipping the Evo kickstand, which I never use, up and down. :-/ Go figure.
I forgot what it meant for my phone to be personal. Would you want to change your background wallpaper? Pfft…nah. Apple convinced me it was ok to use a phone designed by them and visually controlled by them in every single way. Android allows me to set themes (literally, I can theme my phone to Street Fighter if that floats my boat), wallpapers, add widgets and shortcuts (to folders or apps), and completely control my screen layouts (try having an empty app spot on your home screen or an empty screen on an iDevice). My phone is mine again. Wow…how liberating.
Oh yeah…it isn’t just all eye candy. Many people say it is because the Android keyboard sucks but the sheer fact that I can download a new keyboard and replace the default one is amazing. You then see innovations around new types of keyboards like Swype. I don’t like Swype, prefer the default keyboard, but it is really cool to play with. David Pogue doesn’t care for it either but some folks prefer it.
I mentioned them but widgets are amazing. I can take an app I’d normally have to run to use/see and just drop it anywhere on my “desktop” to get a widget view, if enabled. Most apps have multiple widget styles too (typically three different sizes).
Take a picture of a barcode then pass that information to any number of apps “registered” to handle the data. Done looking at the data? Hit the Back button. Yep…right back to your app in the same state. That’s integration and that’s usable.I went to Best Buy the day I got my phone to grab a case for it. While there the rep was telling me about an app after having scanned a bar code. The bar code took him to the Market to download an app. He told me about apps having barcodes, etc and within 3 clicks (including click after scanning barcode) he had a new app installed on my phone and I was off and running. It was sick!
Another great feature is how an app can be “registered” to handle certain tasks, it shows up right inside of the available options for the specific task you’re attempting to accomplish. The Evo comes with Sharing options for Facebook, Twitter, and a couple others (I think). I can’t recall the defaults because my phone is customized with other sharing options. So obviously Google (or HTC) decided these were important. But…what about if I wanted share, say a picture, with MySpace or Evernote, or Bump? Simple. Install the app. Done. Now every app I enter allowing me to share something allows me to share with all of these apps. That’s great for users but amazing for developers. No longer does every app dev’ have build their own integration for all of the social networks. Very sweet.
This level of integration immerses me into my phone experience as a whole vs having one sweet app separate from everything else. Imagine me using Feathers to write tweets in Tweetie directly vs using copy/paste and having to click the “magic” button twice to switch apps. Yes, iOS4 will bring easier app switching but my apps still aren’t integrated on the Android level.
Nuff said. Apple blows it terribly with the iOS implementation of notifications. It simply stinks.
iOS has multitasking, now, so this one isn’t as big of a bullet as the heading indicates but it is implemented different from Android AND, here’s the kicker, it is only for 3Gs and up. GASP! Fragmentation at its best, right? I really don’t care about the “fragmentation” argument but those looking down at Android obviously hasn’t done much product development. There comes a time in a product when older systems get nixed. In this case it sucks, since I’m an iPhone 3G owner, but I understand it as a developer.
Mainly I still give Android the win here because of customization. Not only can I leave all of my multitasking decisions to Android but I can choose from a myriad of apps to explicitly control my multitasking scheme (when to kill apps, which one’s to keep alive, etc). Some look at it as “oh, you have to install another app to manage it” but I look at it as “oh, I can install another app and manage it my way.” I get the argument and it being baked into Android would be sweet but who cares as long as it works. I don’t.
Again, nuff said. I never have to sync with my laptop. In fact, I have YET to do so. All of my contacts, etc are all handled in the cloud. Yes, MobileMe is great but Google is free.
Froyo has more cloud integration, which I am itching to get, but at this moment I am thoroughly pleased with my cloud experience on the Evo.
Whoa! This puppy is search centric. I mentioned a few search points earlier but let me clarify a bit. Not only does the same button always pull up a search box, in every app with search abilities (ex – games probably wouldn’t use search), but I can also talk to my phone and it will search for me. It is ridiculously accurate for me as well.
Just the other day I was riding with my nephews and one kept telling me LeBron signed with Chicago. I was in disbelief but he was adamant so I said “Let’s find out.” I unlocked my phone, hit the search button, then hit the talk button. Once the “Speak Now” window showed up I said “LeBron James signed with Chicago” and after a couple seconds of processing…BOOM! (to borrow a line from John Madden) Up came my browser with a Google search for those exact words. This was while I was driving and it kept me from typing a lot of letters on a virtual keyboard. What a great experience!!
There are numerous apps with search specific features you can integrate with as well. It simply is a first class citizen and the iOS comes in miles upon miles behind Android in this area, as expected.
I’ve stated my position before and am completely making a 180. Evo’s come with an HTC implementation of Flash Lite, I believe. I went to CNN.com and opened the live video player and to be able to see something I worked on running so well on a mobile device simply astonished me. The video was really smooth and I was able to drive down the road with my Evo plugged into my radio and listen to the live BP grilling by the senate. I’ve played with Flash Lite before and have a few mobile apps under my belt but to see a full Flash app perform beautifully was just WOW. I can’t wait to get Froyo to be able to use Flash Player 10.1. Froyo, oh Froyo, oh where are youuuuuuu!?!?!?
Say what you want about Flash on mobile but until you experience it…you really shouldn’t comment. Jerry Hildenbrand of Android Central had the same exact revelation but his came after playing with Froyo. Trust me…you really need to use it before commenting on it.
What’s not great?
Numerous portions of my Evo experience pale in comparison to my iDevice experience. They are far from enough to annoy me though so these are purely points I miss…not reasons I’d choose iOS over Android.
I have 30 or so apps I’ve downloaded and a good chunk of them were purchased. All of those apps are gone. I can’t take them to Android and multi-OS apps could care less about previous purchases. All of that dough is gone, basically, except for the one’s my son will use (ie – games).
You really can’t beat adding a contact in Address Book, leaving your computer, and dialing that exact contact on your iPhone. It syncs uber-fast!! I found out I can sync Address Book to Google Contacts (which I started using today) but it isn’t instant. Supposedly it is only every hour and Apple doesn’t let you contract the sync intervals.
The same goes for iCal. My calendars are all jacked up right now trying to use calDav with iCal and Google Calendar. I had no idea it was possible until last week and only spent a short spell trying to get it right. I’ll fool with it more l8r.
If I can get those two worked out, I’d be good on this point. Until then…the point goes to Apple here.
Android apps more than not don’t have the polish iOS apps have. Granted, I have numerous great apps but you find crappy apps in the Android Market more often than the App Store. Now, that isn’t to say the App Store is immune because I found some truly horrible apps in the App Store regularly. The difference is the App Store has pictures for every app. The Android Market? Nope. I welcome curation to the App Store’s submissions in the sense of providing a clean, concise structure for all applications.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of really solid Android apps so no platform is better than the other in this case but the “openness” is definitely yielding some weird app submissions. It is simple enough to just avoid these terrible apps like I did in the App Store so no real worries here.
Of course Android is not perfect. It fails in several areas but it is still a better phone, for me. The key word here is “phone” and that’s what the Evo does…it puts a phone back in my hands. The iOS ecosystem is a great one but in no way does iOS compete with Android on the phone level. Everything else is up to your needs. Each OS has wins and losses in different categories.
My main reason for leaving iOS is due to Apple’s lack of customer focus. Their hardware is getting better and better. I mean the retina display pics I’ve seen look AMAZING! The camera pics I saw look stunning. The lack of expected software updates and integration (namely notifications, Flash, etc) bother me. Apple seemingly sits on a high horse and looks down upon everyone else as if they don’t make mistakes. This annoys me. Being #1 in smartphones has made them lazy and/or safe.
Find out what works for you and choose one. I did.