Comparing Android and Apple iOS

I’ve had an Android phone for nearly three years now. A few days ago, I bought an iPad. I can’t help but compare them when I use them. So I thought I’d write an article on the differences I see. I’m also going to mention the differences I expected but don’t see.

I’m going to try and avoid things that are better on the iPad because of the larger screen. For example, surfing on the iPad is much more pleasant but that is mostly because of the much larger screen.

Also, my Android phone is a T-Mobile G2 phone running Android 2.2. This phone is vanilla Android; it does not include any of the crappy interfaces pushed by some of the phone manufacturers.

General Interface Stuff

I’ve heard that iOS is more polished than Android but didn’t really believe it. Yes, Android has some inconsistencies and some annoying behavior but overall it was pretty good. Now that I’ve used my iPad for a few days, I believe it. The polish shows throughout the whole product:

  • The interface is more consistent app to app (considering the bundled app’s)
  • The interface for settings is consistent setting to setting
I think this makes iOS devices easier to learn than Android devices.

Winner – Apple

Touch Screen

Just like the refinement, I’d heard that the Apple touch screens were superior but didn’t really believe it. My Android touch screens are responsive and easy to use. But after using the iPad, I definitely agree that the Apple touch screen is better.

I don’t know if the improvements are because of the hardware, software or both but the iPad is definitely a more responsive screen.

Winner – Apple

MobileMe

The MobileMe app included with the iPad is really nice. It lets you see where your iPad is (assuming it is on and connected), let’s you remotely wipe your iPad or iPhone, and is integrated right into the device. Android does not include anything comparable.

Winner – Apple

Keyboards

I have big fingers and find typing on touch keyboards tough. From what I can judge, Apple’s keyboard is better than the default Android keyboard. I think this has more to do with design and the better touch screen than with the form factor.

However, Android allows third-party keyboard app’s. And that means, you can get an Android device with the fantastic Swype keyboard (which is on my G2). Swype is the best touch keyboard I have ever used. It is easy and fast to type on. I never use the physical keyboard on my phone because the Swype keyboard is better. And it is easier to use than the iPad keyboard.

If you ever have the opportunity to try a Swype keyboard, take it. You will be surprised how easy it is to use.

Winner – Android

The Hardware Back Button

Most Android devices include a back button implemented in the hardware. This button returns you to where you were previously.  For example, if you opened the browser by clicking on a link in an email, the back button returns you to the email. A much better description of the hardware back button functionality can be found on the Bump Developer Blog.

I find myself looking for that button on the iPad. The iPad lets me do the same thing via the task bar but it just isn’t the same.

Winner – Android

Email Accounts

I’m a big Gmail fan. The Priority Inbox functionality added about a year ago is a big leap forward  in helping me manage my email and I use it regularly. That leads me to my dilemma.

Android incorporates Priority Inbox into it’s Gmail client. I don’t like the iPad email client because it doesn’t integrate Priority Inbox. But, for other email accounts, the email clients are similar and both are capable. Both include solid Exchange support and good support for regular email accounts.

The one other difference between the two is how they manage contacts. With Android, Gmail contacts automatically show up as contacts in the phone. If I make a change to a contact, the change will automatically sync with Gmail. With my iPad, I have to sync contacts through iTunes.

Winner – Android 

iTunes

I’m not an iTunes fan. I installed it on my computer for the first time in a long time because I had to for my iPad. Why can’t Apple make this a better product?

Android, on the other hand, doesn’t force you to install any software. That also means Android doesn’t provide a way to sync content nor does it provide a way to backup your device.

Winner – Apple (barely)

Android Store vs. Apple Store

I had heard a lot about the Apple Store and how much better it was than than the Android store. So far, I don’t agree with that. I feel that the experience in the stores is about the same. And both stores need to improve.

Winner – Draw

Installing App’s from the Store

Installing applications from both stores are simple processes. Both devices have some quirks though:

  1. Apple forces you to reenter your Apple ID password every session you install applications from the store even if the app is free. I think this is a pain. And it’s enough of a pain that I’m thinking of changing my password to something simpler.
  2. When you install an app from the Android store, the second step is a page that informs you what resources the app will use. Sounds like a good idea but the execution stinks. I  believe these pages display but are never read.
  3. When you purchase app’s (as opposed to free app’s) from the Android store, the flow is different. The Apple approach is identical (which, I realize, is probably the reason for reentering your Apple ID password) regardless of whether you are paying for the app or not. The Apple approach is much better.

Winner – Apple

Conclusion

There are a few things I didn’t cover. First, I didn’t talk about the browsers because the iPad is better to surf on because it is bigger. And I felt that would prevent me from any type of objective comparison.

Second, I didn’t talk about Flash support because I don’t think it matters. My G2 includes Flash support but I haven’t installed it. And I don’t think it is a very big deal.

Overall, I am happy with my Android phone and my iPad. Each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses and both work great. It will also be interesting to see if Apple can hold it’s lead in the phone and tablet arena.

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