posted by Adam S on Fri 5th Jun 2015 15:26 UTC

Part One: iOS Complaints, Android Style

I forced my major iOS issues into 10 categories. It seems fair to see how Android compares on the issues I highlighted.


iOS UI/UX inconsistencies

iOS 8 is, to some, beautiful. To my eyes, iOS 8 is more of the same. I simply don’t like the style Apple adopted with iOS 7. The move to "flat" for Apple doesn’t feel like a complete thought. I find Yosemite less sexy than even Tiger was over 10 years ago, and I feel that iOS has less of a visual identity than any pre-iOS 7 image.

When I wrote my original article, Android’s current release was KitKat and Google I/O had just given us a preview of Material Design. So… How does Material Design stack up? Subjectively, I find Material Design to be best-of-breed today. The "layer" concept, the animations (which I routinely speed up in developer mode), the bold colors, the fabs, the buttons… I’ve been eating it right up. Design is undoubtedly subjective, but in this area, I simply couldn’t be happier. I absolutely love Material Design and appreciate every bit of thought that went into it.

Jony Ive, a design genius if there ever was one, has a lot on his plate, and I have no idea what percentage of iOS, if any, is actually influenced by him as opposed to his team. But I see so many areas where I think Material Design surpasses Apple's design language, starting with confusing buttons/links and ending with a impossible to click widgets in the notification shade.

Verdict? For me personally, Android wins by a landslide


The Keyboard/Auto-Correct

Not much to say here. Third-party Android keyboards can be laggy and they’re inconsistent with their access to emoji, voice control, auto-prediction, and autocorrection. And every one of them is miles better than the default iOS 8 keyboard. Third party keyboards on iOS have gone through growing pains, but I know dozens of people who’ve had frustrations with rotation and lack thereof, and I’ve seen plenty of "keyboard won’t go away" issues. My co-worker, literally today, reported "every 2 to 3 days, I have a keyboard stuck in the wrong place, but I just quit my apps and it’s fine. But third party keyboards, forget it."

I also hear users complain that they don’t understand why the keyboard switches. This is, of course, because the iOS keyboard reverts to native on "secure input." This is a feature with noble aim that is unquestionably good protection, but several users just don’t understand it.

Verdict? For anyone objective, it’s hard to argue that Android isn’t the clear winner.


Siri

Siri has clearly been massively improved in the last few years, and it seems recently it’s gotten much, much better. It’s got some contextual awareness, and it has gotten far more accurate. I think Siri has impressively closed the gap in a big way.

But Google is the gold standard here, and Siri has a lot to live up to.

Verdict? Again, Google wins, but by much less of a margin than last year.


Integration Degradation

The AppleTV appears to continue to gain steam, and while Apple has evidently shelved the announcement of major AppleTV upgrades from WWDC 2015, I expect it’s coming. I fully expect AppleTV to be the center hub of Apple’s HomeKit-based vision of a smart home. But the AppleTV is such a garbage device for media. For Airplay? Amazing! But getting movies to the AppleTV is such an unnecessary pain in the butt. Like I said last year, my Roku is so much faster, with a better remote, supports Plex, supports Google Play, and has the ability to add over 1000 channels.

Sharing media from the iPhone is still a mess. AirDrop is still barely used by anyone I know, Handoff and Continuity are far from "it just works," and Instant Hotspot is problematic. It’s worth noting that many of these problems may be due to Apple’s relatively new discoveryd network management process, which, at least in recent OS X betas, Apple has mercifully reverted to mDNSResponder.

Instant HotspotGoogle’s first suggested result reveals issues with Instant Hotspot

On Android, I use Airdroid, a little app that starts a mini-web server on my phone that allows me to do a surprisingly large amount of things from my desktop browser. I also can use Google’s simple Android File Transfer for large media files and occasionally, Bluetooth. Truth be told, so much syncs effortlessly to the cloud at this point that much of the time, it’s just pulling something down on my desktop.

AirdroidThe Airdroid Interface (click for full size)

Android segregates pictures from apps into their own folders. I can choose not to backup photos downloaded from reddit, Facebook, and other third party apps with camera photos, cluttering my history with disposable garbage. Big win there.

Verdict? Not much has changed for my lifestyle here. Android is a clear winner again.


Lack of interactivity

iOS 8 is far more interconnected than iOS 7, but the home screen remains a woefully dead shell that does nothing save the "parallax" effect. I’m 100% certain that Apple has the technical prowess to allow for widgets or some form of interactivity. What I don’t know is whether those limits are technical (i.e. it eats up too much battery life) or philosophical (i.e. too confusing for the standard user). Apple has a long history of making compromises to make products simpler. Historically, they’ve been very measured in employing these limits, and for the better. But over the last few years, we’ve seen iMovie, Final Cut, and iWork, amongst others, reduce their interface and remove features. So I think it’s possible Apple just hasn’t come up with an implementation that isn’t scary or overwhelming.

On Android, you can wholesale replace your application launcher, which equates to iOS’ Springboard. Depending on which Launcher you use, the process of modifying the launcher is different. But noteworthy here is that even different phones come with different launchers, making this not so much an obscure power user ability as much as a differentiator from phone to phone. The Google Now launcher, Blinkfeed, TouchWiz, Sense… They all bring their own flavor of launcher and interactivity.

My launcher (which is Nova Launcher Prime) consists of 5 widget-heavy pages, none of which animate, but all of which provide some sort of information. I have a weather widget, an embedded calendar, Google Music controls, podcast controls, a widgets that shows recent texts, and a widget that shows recent Hangout chats. These are tremendously useful. Also, I occasionally change icon sets, just one more customization bonus of alternative launchers.

My Launcher My Launcher 2 of my 4 Android Launcher pages

As far as actionable notifications goes, I overestimated Android a bit. Notifications before Lolipop were limited to three actions, all of which simply did one thing. "Archive," "Like," "Delete," etc. The S6 has customized notifications which I’ll revisit later, but the default SMS client allows a reply from the notification itself, and Google’s "Messenger" does the same. A few other SMS apps support this as well, but very few other app notifications do anything besides offer a single verb of action. My experience with iOS suggests it’s mostly the same. So, we’re merely on par there.

Verdict? My Android launcher screens are far more useful and informational than my iOS home screens ever were. Notifications are a wash. Once again, point goes to Android.


Lack of system control

Last year, I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t set "Mailbox" as my default mail client, or "Google Maps" as my default maps client. This year, if anything, I’m overwhelmed with choice. I’ve cycled through several mail clients (most recently Nine, but finally settled on the S6’s default Mail app for Exchange and Mailbox for Gmail), several text apps (including chompSMS and qkSMS before settling on Samsung’s default SMS app), several reddit apps, several music apps, several photo apps, several camera apps, several calendar apps, several twitter apps, several dialers… Do you see a trend here? There’s no discussion on the iOS side: you use the apps you’re given or you accept inconvenience. There’s no middle ground, and I don’t see this changing anytime soon, although I’d love to be proven wrong.

My phone feels like my phone, because I use my chosen apps. I don’t need more words here: iOS not allowing you to change defaults hurts the app ecosystem, because sometimes, it’s just easier to submit to the defaults.

Verdict? Android continuing to dominate.


Inter-app communication

Credit goes to the iOS team, iOS 8’s extensibility is pretty awesome. I didn’t expect this at last year’s WWDC keynote, and I just love where it’s going. For as many developer’s on the Mac who have not embraced the app sharing concept, iOS apps really have, and I think we’ve really just scratched the surface of what’s possible. I suspect the APIs to blow this out of the water are still one or two major releases away. For now, while it appears that Android integration is much deeper, on a day to day basis, this is a pretty close call. I just don’t do things routinely that require much deeper integration than iOS offers.

There are a few areas that are great though: when an app saves its first photo, it creates a new folder, and immediately, the system asks me if I want it included in backups. I can register default apps for individual scheme names and/or URIs. So I can tell the system that URLs for reddit.com open in Baconreader, and apps from youtube.com open in the YouTube app, repeat for IMDB, Amazon, Instagram, etc.

Verdict? In the iOS 8 world, it’s probably safe to call this one a tie.


Privacy controls

Let’s not overcomplicate this: I prefer the Android way of classifying privacy controls, but there is no doubt I got this wrong and iOS, which allowed granular permissions from the get go got it right and Android with its "all or nothing" got it wrong. Thankfully, Android M (which I’m betting is "Marzipan") will fix this, and as far as I can tell, you’ll be able to access permissions by app as well as by permission.

Android M Permissions Android M Permissions, "Finally"

Verdict? iOS is on the board with its first point!


Central account registration

Nothing has changed here. This is still awesome. iOS supports this for a few chosen providers, but has no API for other services to store credentials in any sort of global keychain.

Verdict? Android, iOS doesn’t even compete.


Stability

I wish both operating systems were far better than they are. But both are a mess. On iOS 7, I experienced what, in retrospect, must’ve been a bum install: constant Springboard crashes, constant camera crashes. In iOS 8 on my wife’s iPhone 6 Plus, I see plenty of issues still exist: she still experiences Springboard crashes - apps that become unresponsive followed by the Apple logo and a drop to the lockscreen. As mentioned above, there are plenty of issues with the keyboard alignment and rotation. I see these problems frequently.

On Android, background services constantly crash and report their crashes via a modal alert dialog. The lockscreen doesn’t unlock or appears frozen with some frequency. The keyboard sometimes just refuses to come up until after some inexplicable delay.

Verdict? Both have a long way to go. Both are equally, but much differently frustrating. For me, personally, I’d prefer the Android method of alerting me, only because I can say "Hey, at least the system knows something is wrong!." But I’ll call it a tie, because I think this is more preference than evidence.


iTunes

One year later, Google Photos is now my authoritative storage for photos, because getting photos back into iPhoto, and now OS X Photos, has been difficult. Even with iOS, this would be confusing, because of the insane prices of iCloud storage. I won’t rehash the entire debate, but when you buy a 16GB iPhone, the smallest iPhone out there, you can eclipse your storage space, and you can’t really use iCloud Photo Library without buying more space unless you have a very small photographic history.

Google Music is amazing, beautiful, far easier to manage than iTunes, and available anywhere… For free. I never load music on my phone anymore, because I just use Google’s shuffle, which caches an ungodly amount of music into the free space on my phone. I have access to my entire library, and no, I don’t have to subscribe to Google Music Match to get that feature.

I load media via the methods I detailed above. In fact, I never really have to use iTunes for anything anymore. And I feel my Mac experience is better for it! This is a double win.

iTunes is a disaster. It’s just as bad and bloated as it was last year. I really wish Apple would break it up into multiple apps: a syncing daemon, a video manager that supports far more codecs than iTunes, and a music manager. Having iTunes live in the periphery of my life and my Mac experience rather than at the center of it has made my computing experience less frustrating. For everything good/great that iTunes is, it’s lived past its prime.

Verdict? Android wins. And so do I.


Part I Conclusion

So where does that leave me? One year later, almost all of my concerns are no longer concerns or, at least, I am happier than I was with iOS. 8 points to Android, 1 to iOS, 2 items too close to call. Seems like the move to Android was a good one for me.

Table of contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Part One: iOS Complaints, Android Style
  3. Part Two: The Android Scorecard
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