Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 24th Mar 2014 10:57 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Fantastic article about design on Android by Cennydd Bowles, design lead at Twitter.

Android design is indeed more difficult than iOS design in that it offers fewer constraints. But any skilled designer can handle that with a bit of effort. My uncharitable interpretation for this class of responses is simple laziness, and if Android forces designers to drop a pixel-perfect mentality and adopt approaches that suit a diverse world, then that’s no bad thing.

The evidence is out there for all to see. Android developers - developers who are Android-focused instead of iOS-focused - come up with absolutely beautiful Android applications all the time. I have no doubt that it's harder to do so on Android than it is on iOS, but the cold and harsh truth is that there are also a hell of a lot more Android users and devices out there. If your iOS application requires two full-time developers, is it really fair to expect your Android application to require the same, even though the user base is four to five times as large?

A translation consisting of 3000 words takes me about a work day. A translation of 12000 words takes me four work days. None of my clients expects me to translate 12000 words in the same amount of time as 3000 words without a serious degradation in quality.

Bowles also dives into the argument that Android users are less willing to pay than iOS users.

Socially, excluding Android users seems almost prejudicial. Unlike Android is difficult, this isn't about about mere convenience; it's a value judgment on who is worth designing for. Put uncharitably, the root issue is "Android users are poor".

If you are an iOS developer, and you port your Android application over as a side-project, is it really so surprising that Android users aren't buying your application? Could it simply be that your potentially poor iOS-to-Android port simply isn't even worth paying for? If you do not develop and design with Android's strengths in mind, Android users won't be as willing to pay as your iOS users, the platform whose strengths you do develop and design for.

I translate English into Dutch, and since this is my speciality, I'm pretty good at it and my clients are willing to pay good money for my services. I could also translate German into Dutch, but since my German isn't nearly as good as my English, my clients aren't going to pay for it. I can translate German into Dutch just fine, but the quality will be far less than my English-to-Dutch translations.

Even then, Android's userbase is far larger than iOS', so even if only 50% of your Android users pay, and 100% of your iOS users (unlikely figures), Android still provides a more worthwhile revenue stream.

Still, the core issue is that Android is a different platform and ecosystem than iOS, with different strengths and weaknesses, and as such, requires different talents and mindsets. Translating English is different than translating German. I realise that. Developers should realise the same, and understand that being a good iOS developer does not make you a good Android developer - or vice versa.

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I don't know about the disposable income part, as I am an Android user and have plenty of it

No offense was intended. I'm speaking about published statistical averages, not you personally.

On the other hand, Android is steadily making Apple a niche player in the mobile market, so in the next few years, the number of iOS users left may be too small to make a real difference anymore.

What matters is who spends money. Apple still sells about 21% of the smartphones in the U.S. and they hold a massive lead over Android among those with high incomes and/or advanced degrees.

Someone with a low-end, free-after-activation Android phone probably just wanted a free phone on which he can check e-mail, take pictures, and do light web browsing. He's unlikely to spend a lot of money on applications.

Unless Google finds a way to reign in Android development and support costs, many developers will stick with Apple. Android vendors often let non-current phones languish with horribly outdated versions of the OS. Many phones that meet all of the hardware requirements for later versions of the Android OS cannot get those upgrades because the manufacturer has shelved all development and support efforts for the non-current phones.

Apple is much better about that, with iOS 7.x being backwards compatible to all phones back to the almost four year old iPhone 4. It was released in September of last year and, already, iOS 7.x is on well over 80% of iOS devices. By contrast, Android 4.x, first released in 2011, is on a smaller percentage of applicable devices than the half-year-old iOS 7.x.

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