I changed jobs in December 2011 and since I was going to be working on mobile development mainly I wanted to be able to really experience the difference between the Android platform and the iOS platform. Being a Mac-addict for some time and since I was going to develop multi-platform (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) I knew it wasn’t going to be enough to hold an Android in my handpalm for 1 hour a week. I bought me an Samsung Galaxy Nexus with Android Icecream Sandwich as my workphone and updated my personal device to the latest iPhone 4s with iOS (updated to 5.1 since it was officially released). I wanted to share my experiences on using Android with you in a short post.
When you’re coding for iOS you are bound to see even more how and why certain things are build the way they are in iOS. You get to know both the limitations and possibilities that the OS offers which gives an extra dimension when using an OS (in which appreciation for the OS gets bigger).
That being said, I knew that my vision on te Android OS wouldn’t be entirely objective nor could it ever be so I keeped this story as a draft until I had some developer experience for the Google Android SDK as well. Now, half a year further, i am ready to compare the giants…
One of the things that is compelling in the Android Icecream Sandwich software are the widgets that can be dropped on the dashboards. Small-sized implementations that show you the core facts (your next appointment) or give you the power to fix things fast (bluetooth switch for instance). This gives the user one hard-to-beat customization advantage that I think will make Android users smile.
I have to note though, that when you give someone an iPhone the person receiving it will get the idea of how to operate it within a few minutes because of the lack of such customization. The widgets make your phone a handy and fastpaced machine for yourself but if you’d hand out your Android phone the other person is likely to encounter a steeper learning curve before they can get busy with it.
This resonates through the OS when you look at all the handy – for more tech-minded people – settings and options one can get too in any application that is opened; iOS keeps them at one place (which will undisputedly takes more time and taps most of the time) which is easier to comprehend than the option menu here and the context menu there. Both work fine though, once you get the hang of it.
iOS looks a little bit like Duplo where Android looks more like LEGO when you come to think of it: iOS is easier to comprehend and is easier and more commonly to comprehend, just like the bigger blocks of Duplo are easier to click into one and eachother.
The Android OS just feels a little more suitable for experienced smartphone users and might just get someone coming around the corner confused and disorientated.
From the developer side i’ve come to respect Android developers since they have to do so much more work to get a similar result like iOS developers get on their platform. From buttons to lists to animations; the Android platform is well documented but it takes much more work to design, create and code interfaces on this baby that it sometimes made my hand cramp after a hard day of work. It just made clear to me that the iOS tools and the platform itself bring lots of luxury and goodies so one can focus on developing the core of the applications functionality, instead of the alignment of elements, or the creation of a standard button one wants to show on-screen.
“So whats your verdict after working for both platforms”, you might ask? Having developed for both iOS and Android now and using both phones in my life (Android as a work phone, iPhone 4S as my private phone) made me a richer man. I can see the differences and the powers – being diversity and customizability on Android and easy and elegance on iOS – of both platforms.
I can only truly say that both platforms exist because they service a different kind of person just like a Mac and a PC did for desktops and later on laptops.
If you like fiddling and customizing your phone and making it an “all you” extension then Android will bring the tools. If you prefer beauty, ease and adaptability for whatever the platform may bring you, iOS is the choice to make. It’s the choice you are bound to make (unless you’ll buy them both and can experience the beauty and shortcomings of both platforms on the same day) whenever your money goes into buying the next best mobile powerbrick…
In the meantime i’ll learn what i can from and with both platforms and tend to make something that will make people smile.