Android versus iOS

My cell phone contract is (finally) up in a month or two, so it’s time to decide: Android or iPhone? Both are miles ahead of my current crappy phone (inbox full at 130 texts? really?), but which is the better fit for me?

About a year ago, I was pretty confident that my next phone would be an Android. In addition to being a Google product (they do alot of things pretty well), Android provided a lot of different choices for phone hardware, so I could pretty much choose the features I wanted (hard keyboard!). Stir in the ultra-customizable Android OS, its rapidly growing app selection,  and a few choices of wireless carrier, and Android is sitting pretty in my book.

Then, a challenger appeared!

I must have been good this past year, because Santa brought his A game; spearheaded by a brand new iPod Touch 4G. Playing with my new toy has given me a new appreciation for apps, from email, to calorie trackers, to social media. Of course many apps are available for both Android and iOS, but something about my iPod Touch started to sway me.

I remember being impressed with the iPod’s packaging; a small, efficiently packed, hard plastic case. No big cardboard box, no set of manuals. That’s just one-time stuff though, so what about the daily experience? Apple publishes a pretty all-encompassing set of iOS Human Interface Guidelines that app developers (are supposed to) follow. The idea is to nudge developers towards creating a rich user experience that is consistent between apps.

While Apple does let some corner-cutting slide (if they didn’t, there would hardly be any apps), their guidelines do a pretty good job of creating a user experience where all of the apps seem to work in about the same fashion, even though they all have different developers. In short, I feel comfy in Apple-land.

So where does that leave me with Android? Android answers Apple with its own pretty strong list of User Interface Guidelines, but the Android marketplace doesn’t impose the same sort of approval process as Apple’s app store, so there are a lot more low quality apps floating around, raising the noise floor. Of course, none of this matters once you’ve found the apps you are going to use, and most of them probably come from quality developers who care about user experience.

All this time spent using my iPod has also caused me to change my tune when it comes to the plethora of hardware choices for Android; I’ve developed a taste for high quality hardware. This one isn’t quite as big a deal, but in general (i.e. also with laptops and other electronics) it drives me nuts how many awful devices are released between the few good devices. I really like what Apple does, providing relatively few, but high quality, choices of hardware.

Still, my only experiences with Android have come from briefly stealing friends’ phones to play around, and my feeling of comfort with iOS is something that has come with time. Most likely, the same thing would happen with Android. Also, any complaints that I’ve had about Android breaking from the interface guidelines are echoed with jailbroken iOS devices.

My final decision will likely come down to how awesome the iPhone 5 sounds versus what’s available for Android hardware, and how desperate I am for hardware for testing my Android app(s). Or maybe my employer will make this decision for me :).

6 thoughts on “Android versus iOS”

  1. Great post. There are an increasing number of Android phones with crazy specs coming out, (quad core processors!! more than 1GB of ram!! 13 mp cameras!!) but I think that what you want in an Android phone is more of that clean polish with power behind it. I would recommend comparing the iPhones to the pure Google phones like the Nexus One, S, and S 4G as they are really the best judge of where the Android platform is at any moment. Deciding between the iPhone 5 and the next Nexus phone with Ice Cream Sandwich will be hard, but either way you will get a kick-ass phone!

  2. Nice post. With the limited experience you have had with android phones have you noticed any performance differences when compared with your iPod. Although it’s not a completely fair comparison. People I have talked to have said that their android device seems sluggish sometimes and since I only have experience with the emulator I have no idea. When they have seen my phone they mentioned the transitions and animations seem smoother. I know you mentioned interface guidelinesbut I’m wondering if the performance is noticeably different.

  3. Android is definitely ahead in the don’t-make-me-buy-a-new-computer-to-develop-apps category.

    Yeah I lean towards the pure Google phones, but if I recall correctly, the Nexus One had some problems, particularly battery life. We’ll have to see how the Nexus S turns out.

    Also, Ice Cream Sandwich doesn’t sound anywhere near as cool as Froyo, haha.

    That’s a really good point, I definitely love how smooth the user interface is with iOS. Android doesn’t have a glaring (or really quantifiable) difference, but the iOS interface just feels more responsive, in a very hand-wavy way. Any shortcomings Android has are not for a lack of power; there are definitely Android phones with faster processors. I wonder what kind of slick algorithm Apple is running to create that effect.

  4. @anrope:

    I know this is probably just the most obvious answer but do you think that the responsiveness might have something to do with the different languages used for the apps in both cases? As someone that dislikes hates Java, I try to find every reason to hate it more.

  5. I just got the Htc Incredible 2 that came out a couple weeks ago and it’s pretty sick. It’s very responsive and powerful, but the battery life blows. It’s has a larger capacity battery than the original Incredible but I can’t imagine how it could be much worse. I like it better than the iTouch I had, although the simplistic interface is appealing.and useful.

    The features seem more or less comparable with either a jailbroken iphone or rooted android device, so it’ll probably just come down to preference.

  6. @Rob

    Haha interesting idea. I don’t know enough about how the Java VM affects stuff, but that would be pretty nuts. I semi-buy it.


    Yeah it seems like a lot of the Android hardware manufacturers are pushing super-powerful-does-everything-ever type handsets with more concern about multi-tasking and running intense games (sidenote: I noticed today that NBA Jam is a really popular download in the Apple app store… who wants to play a basketball game on a touchscreen?), rather than focusing on actual nice usability (e.g. sleek, good form factor (better fit comfortably in my jeans pocket), good battery life). This is where I think Apple excels.

    I guess the real lesson is that chemists need to stop slacking and actually improve battery technology. Then we can really put some killer processing power in our pockets.

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