The iPhone Does What Android Doesn’t

No one can argue that Google hasn’t done an amazing job of catching up to the iPhone. A year after the release of the iPhone, Apple looked unstoppable. Then T-Mobile launches the G1 — which was a horrible device — and it didn’t look like Google could come up with anything any better than Blackberry or Palm. Despite a rough start, Google has done a lot of things right. But for everything Android has done right, they’ve managed to do as many things wrong.

Not What You Expected

Practically every review and personal experience I’ve read or heard, plus my own experience on several Android devices, the reaction is very much the same. “It’s nice, but something is just not quite right.” If you hand over your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad to anyone — regardless of age — the reaction is always, amazement. It does what the user expects, and it does it flawlessly. I’ve never heard someone use an iPhone for the first time and say, “Well, I didn’t expect that.”

One simple, yet huge example is the scroll bounce, the pleasant bounce you get when you scroll to the end of a list. No other device has it. On the Android, when you get to the bottom, the scrolling simply halts. It’s sudden, unexpected, and simply doesn’t feel right. Not only does the iPhone scroll feel right, but there’s actually some practical benefits. For example, most of Apple’s apps offer a hidden search box that only appears if you scroll up past the end of the page. Other developers have used this bounce to automatically add to a list of items, or direct the user to the next item.

Android Market vs iTunes App Store

I’m not even going to try to apologize for some of the App Store rejections (like award winning cartoonists) and approvals (like an ungodly number of fart apps). Though let’s not forget Android had its own embarrassing rejection story earlier this week. Apple definitely has some odd rules and has made some absolutely unforgivable rejections. But conversely, there are problems with Android’s free-for-all in their store.

Apple has something called “iPhone Human Interface Guidelines” which all developers must follow. It’s long, detailed, and can be quite frustrating. But it provides something that Android apps don’t have: Consistency. For example, on many iPhone apps, you will find a white “i” icon. Every iPhone user knows what happens when you tap that icon, because Apple dictates what that icon can do. In a list, iPhone users know to tap the list item to select it, and tap the blue arrow for more information about the corresponding list item. This is simply because Apple won’t let an app define it any other way.

The quality of the design for iPhone apps is also vastly superior to anything on the Android Market. The number of amazing designs and unique apps are limitless for the iPhone. So much so, there are multiple blogs dedicated to highlighting pixel perfect apps.

Physical Buttons

They seemed like a good idea of the time, but how many people have complained that their Android phone did something unexpected because they accidentally bumped one of the physical buttons at the bottom of the device? The iPhone has four buttons. The lock button at the top is not likely to get bumped by accident. The volume buttons might, but the worst thing they might do is make your phone unexpectedly loud. It certainly wouldn’t abruptly end your work. The home button could, but Apple designed it in such a way that you’d be hard pressed (no pun intended) to accidentally hit the home button.

On the Android, the hardware buttons control the app’s menu, which is not the place you think to go when you’re using a touch screen device. If it’s touch screen, users are looking on the screen for the action items, not at the bottom off-screen. I’ve witnessed many users be unable to find how to control their app settings because of this.

Then there’s the trackball. Why do you need a trackball to duplicate the functionality of the touch screen… unless the touchscreen doesn’t react the way you’d expect.

Guess an OS, and UI Potluck

Let’s say I’m not a techie kind of guy, and I see a commercial advertising Android. Looks cool, it has a touch screen “just like the iPhone.” So I run out to my local Verizon store and talk to the kid who just started shaving last week. He hands me some random phone that runs Android. That’s what I wanted, right? So I get home and I start looking for all those advertised features… the things Android can do that the iPhone can’t. But then I find out, some of those things only work on Android 2.0 or better, and my phone is running some other version. But I just bought it, how can it be running an old OS? You mean this phone won’t support the latest version of Android, and I can’t upgrade even if I wanted to?

And what if I bought one of the HTC phones running the Sense UI? Now my phone looks completely different from everyone else I know with an Android phone. Wait a minute, there’s more than one UI for Android? How was I to know which one to get?

(No really, how do you know what UI to get?!)

Multitouch

How many of the Android phones support multitouch? If you don’t know the answer, that’s the problem.

iTunes

You may not love iTunes, but Google doesn’t have anything like it, which means adding music on an Android phone is difficult at best.

Actual instructions for adding music to an Android phone:

  1. In order to add music to your Android phone you’ll need to plug it into your PC using a USB cable. Once it’s connected to your PC, you should see a small USB icon in the upper left corner of your phone.
  2. Drag the “menu bar” down and there will be an entry titled USB connected. Tap (or click) it.
  3. Now tap the Mount button.
  4. Depending on how you have Windows configured to react when a new drive is detected, you may see a Removable Disk screen similar to the one below. If you do, select Open folder to view files using Windows Explorer, click OK and skip the next step. If you don’t see a Removable Disk window, proceed to the next step (#5).
  5. Double-click the My Computer icon on your Desktop, or open My Computer from your Start menu. There will be a new drive listed – double click it.
  6. You’re now viewing the contents of the SD card in your Android device. There *should* be a folder titled Music — but if there isn’t don’t worry — just create it.
  7. Now navigate to the location you store your audio files on your PC. Select the ones you want to copy to your Android phone/device and copy them by clicking Ctrl+C or right-clicking on them and selecting Copy.
  8. Return to the Music folder on your phones SD card and paste the files into it (click CTRL+V or right-click and select Paste).
  9. Your music/audio files will now copy over.
  10. Back on your phone, pull down the top menu bar again, if it isn’t still being displayed. Tap (click) the Turn off USB storage entry.
  11. Now tap the Turn Off button.
  12. At this point you can disconnect your Android phone from your PC. To listen to the files you just added, go to your Applications screen and select the Music app.
  13. And now you’ll be able to play your songs and/or audio files on your Android phone!

Wow, what?!

And Finally… iEnvy

Let’s not kid around, there is something desirable about having an Apple logo on the back of your portable device. Don’t believe me? Buy your kid a Sony MP3 player when they ask for an iPod. I’ve run across several people carrying The Droid, a My Touch, or even the Nexus One, and they’ve all said they really wish they had gotten the iPhone.

There’s a reason people have Apple stickers on the back of their cars, and never a Microsoft or Android sticker. Even the people who hate on Apple know their stuff is just plain cool… it’s why they hate it so much.

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