Apple is (or was) king of UI and hardware design and that means there are many designers who use their products. As a designer I get all sorts of surprised looks when people find out I’m an Android user.
When the iPhone first launched in 2006 I was in the first wave of people that bought one—even getting the $100 gift card from Apple as a “Sorry we overcharged the early supporters”. I was never that interested in mobile phones but this was a huge revolution in the way it unified all of your information between apps and put a web browser, phone, and music player in your pocket. It also likely wounded the watch and alarm clock industries. It was the whole experience and a massive leap forward. I think I was using the Blackberry Pearl at the time—it was like going from a Little Tikes piano to a real one.
But, my love affair with the iPhone started to falter after 7 years: 2006-2013. Things weren’t really keeping up with the rapidly advancing Windows and Android OSes, and I started getting frustrated with little things here and there. Seeing the UI refinements and unification in KitKat I made the big jump.
Here are some of the frustrations I had with the iPhone in 2013 that pushed me over the Android:
- Voice to text: this was incredibly inconsistent and it was near impossible to “type” a text or email with your voice. Google’s voice to speech was superior.
- Inability to set a non-Apple default app: Apple designs for the 80% so their Apps work for most people. As a design professional, and a Google ecosystem user, I wanted more. I wanted to use Chrome and Gmail.
- Non-global sharing: Sharing from Apple or 3rd party apps was non-existent or inconsistent. If you wanted to share a link to an article you would have to copy the URL, then switch to Mail or SMS to send.
- iOS 7: This was probably the biggest reason along with the “default app” decision. While I’m not a huge skeuomorphism fan, iOS 7 reduced readability and “state” communication much worse than the leather decorations in iOS 6.
That being said, there are some things I miss about the iPhone:
- Easy backup: iTunes is overloaded as software but there doesn’t exist anything as elegant on Android of a single click backup to a local machine. This is getting better with cloud backup but it’s fairly convoluted.
- Higher quality / first-focus apps: Apple’s walled garden caught lots of flack when the App Store was launched but having to comb through the copy cat apps on the Play Store makes you wish there were at least a few walls. iOS apps also tend to look much nicer with better attention paid to design.
- Photo quality: This gap is also narrowing but the iPhone is still a top-tier camera.
- Hardware quality: There are great Android phones but there always seem to be some compromise—battery life, build quality, storage, camera, etc.
To 3rd-hand quote Tom Dale (who was then re-quoted by Daring Fireball & Business Insider):
“Google is getting better at design faster than Apple is getting better at web services.”