“Mayonnaise? yeah, we got that. 20 kinds….Android journey for an iOS user”

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“Mayonnaise? yeah, we got that. 20 kinds”

Walk to Café iOS and order a sandwich it comes on nicely made up for you with all the condiments and presented to you nicely on the plate. The next day you go to Café android and you order a sandwich.  The server comes back and says “You like mayonnaise on that? We got 20 types”,  and, “What kind of bread would you like? 30 different kinds of bread”, also, “oh, what about cheese?  25 different kinds. And if you prefer we will order a sandwich from the restaurant next to ours and get it for you…but no guarantees on quality”. You get the idea. This is the image that kept popping in my head as I experimented with Android after being an iOS user for a long time.

I had been an iPhone user for a long time, in fact since the very first iPhone came out. I was not unhappy with the iPhone but the 6 didn’t make me exactly want to jump out and get it. So I decided o give another platform a try. I looked up the specs for the new android phones and the best one of them was (from mostly a design viewpoint) was the HTC One M9, which is what I got from AT&T

This is a writeup of my notes and observations. For android the hardware comes from a different company (HTC in my case) and obviously android the opening system comes from Google, so I’m going to try and split my feedback accordingly.

Die, app die – Killing an app on Android is too hard. You might wonder why does that matter? There are many times that you get into a state within a app where it stuck or just becomes unresponsive.  The easiest thing to do on iOS is to double tap the home button to show your list of running apps and did you swipe to delete. On android it was just too many key clicks away. Of course, you can install an app to delete or stop running apps ..another configurable choice that should be a basic feature. 

Where is this app? There was not an easy way to search local content including apps (and surprising given that it’s Google OS). The iOS spotlight bar searches for local apps and content. I am sure that is a option somewhere in Android to display on search result content but it wasn’t obvious to me.

UX quirks – Android doesn’t delete an empty home screen when I’ve moved all the app icons off of the home screen. Not really a big deal but to me seemed like really odd UX – why does a ghost frame of the home screen hang around when all the icons are gone? This may be an instance where the homepage manager expects the opening system to do cleanup while the OS is clueless about the home pages.

Name that folder – On combining app icons into a folder, iOS tries to intelligently judge a category and name the folder. I was surprised that I missed this simple functionality. Very often simple things are what you remember from an user experience

App, don’t tell me about your problems – On my android phone at least half a dozen times the day I got a pop-up notification “Unfortunately XYZ app has stopped” why?The operating system and the app between them should be able to figure out a way to suppress this message, restart the app in the background and keep going. I know from experience that iOS apps also crash, but  that is only apparent if I go look at the crash logs. As a developer I can see what happened to my app, but as an user I never ever get a failure message. For Android this may be a case where the boundary between the operating system and the apps doesn’t add up so well for the end-users

Security – I am usually a super early adopter and trying out all kinds of new apps and features. On Android I became worried about random apps accessing my personal info either on the device or from within other apps. The OS does not silo information as tightly. I really liked a home screen manager from a Chinese company, but then realized that the app had access to all my phone call, contacts, photos, maps, geo co-ordinates and more. The same company I also read is hiring hundreds of data scientists to analyze tons of data. Hmmm…. I am not a conspiracy theory kind of person, but really made me think.

HTC/AT&T peeves

Incomplete packaging – I got a brand-new phone and it came with no headset or USB charger! So with the fancy new HTC phone, I had to use my old iPhone headset.  I tweeted @htcusa who promptly responded saying that it’s up to the carrier to send you a headset. HTC USA did send me a welcome package with a headset and USB charger, but the out-of-the-box experience wasn’t as complete.

Where is the mute button? I have gotten used to a simple slider switch on the iPhone to put the phone in silent mode. On Android this was a good four or five keystrokes away. A simpler hardware control works so much better. I don’t even have to take the phone out of my pocket to put it in silent mode.

Sleepmode or volume? HTC, putting the sleep mode button right next to the volume buttons is a really really really really really really bad idea. The texture on the buttons is different but hard to figure out

So, those are the observations. It is not meant to convince you one way or the other on which one platform is better. You are smart enough to figure out what works for you.  To me this feels very similar to the journey we went through with PC’s.  Android is the de facto windows of mobile and Apple is Apple. How this plays out over the next few years will be interesting to see.

Update: I switched back to Apple iPhone 6 recently when I moved from AT&T to T-Mobile

Copyright 2015, Manish Vaidya. Okay to repost, just ask. Don’t plagiarize

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