Android steals from iOS

[Google Engineer] Morrill said. “The problem is that there is no good UI for it. One of the core Android principles is that you never need a file manager. Ever. We wanted to avoid the obnoxious ‘sneeze and a file picker appears’ syndrome of basically every other OS. Local data that apps know how to handle should just be magically available within the apps, or stored in the cloud. You shouldn’t have to go spelunking on your SD card to find data.”

Really?

You’re claiming that file managers go against a core Android principal. Yet almost every Android phone produced has one.

The iPhone hasn’t had a file manager since day one. It has never had an SD card slot even when users asked for it. They made that choice for a reason, and it led to a simpler phone.

I don’t mind if you steal ideas from other companies, but don’t pretend that was your intention all along.

My week with Android

I can already hear the Android fanboys yelling.

“You weren’t using the latest Android device!” “Each Android phone is different!” “You are an Apple fanboy!”

It’s all true. But this review is real. I used a Nexus One for one week while abroad, and this is as unbiased of a review as you will get out of an Apple fanboy like me.

Many parts of Android are straight ripoffs of iOS. That’s ok. Many things are very different. But some aspects of the Android made it completely unusable as a phone. Other aspects made me want to throw it against a wall.

When the iPhone came out in 2007, it wasn’t perfect. It didn’t have 3G, apps, and it was only on AT&T. But it was a perfectly functioning phone.

From my week of using a Nexus One, heavy on calls, SMS, web, and maps, here were my biggest annoyances:

  • I could never hear the ringer or feel the vibrations. So I basically missed every single call and text.
  • Notifications like missed calls were hidden away in the notifications bar. So I missed those as well unless I explicitly checked. I love hitting the power button on the iPhone and seeing missed calls/texts/notifications.
  • Battery life was horrible. Didn’t even come close to lasting a day.
  • WORST: When typing, I often hit the “Home” button which lives just below the space bar in the keyboard. Most agravating thing EVER to constantly be taken home.
  • Hated the permanent back button. There’s no context to what “back” means. Especially when it would take me to other apps and the home screen. It’s usefulness was random.
  • When I was about to depart Paris by plane, I couldn’t remember if I had already switched the phone off. So i tapped the power button. The phone proceeded to boot. Grrr. On the iPhone, you hold power to turn it on. Tapping power or home will light up the screen if the phone is already on.
  • Inability to put the phone on silent without turning it on and using the touch interface.
  • Poorly thoughtout UI. For example, this screenshot:
  • On the left we have an unlock icon and an arrow point right. So if I swipe to the right, the phone unlocks. Cool.

    On the right, there’s a speaker icon and an arrow pointing left. So if I swipe to the left, the sound turns on. WRONG. In this state, the sound is already on and swiping turns it off. Grrr.

  • Generally poor responsiveness, inaccurate geo coordinates in maps, difficulty using two fingers in maps.

It’s all about the polish

For the past 20 years, I’ve been convincing people to buy Macs. There was a point a few years ago when Windows had “matched” everything the Mac had. My argument became tough. “But it just works on a Mac.”

Android is now at the same place vs the iPhone. The feature set looks identitcal, but the level of polish and usability is nowhere close. Explaining this to someone is nearly impossible. You have to use it.

Apple will keep adding cutting edge features like Siri, but the real win is that the iPhone just works.

WebOS Is Better Than Android via @techcrunch

The TouchPad is a fine device. The platform is more consumer friendly and operational in a tablet than Android right now and it has the pleasing user experience of webOS. We have never had any issues with webOS. We just couldn’t recommend it over the iPad. John’s official review of the TouchPad states, “WebOS and the Palm TouchPad are nearly perfect, an excellent amalgamation of everything that was ever right about Palm. But is even perfection, in this market, enough? Without a strong app base and some work on performance issues, the TouchPad may be the most beautiful dead-end we have seen yet.” Yep, that properly describes the TouchPad: a beautiful dead-end.

Some of Android’s faithful saw the TouchPad fire sale as an extraordinary opportunity. Here’s a dual-core tablet with an amazing 10-inch screen for only $100. Let’s all buy it and then put Android on it, they said. Great, but you, as curious onlooker not exactly sure how to flash a device or rebuild a kernel are better off with the stock webOS.

The out of the box experience of WebOS is incredible. In many ways, WebOS is what the Mac was 20 years ago: a better user experience, but a product no one is buying.

If Apple is the new Microsoft (but with a better product!), WebOS is the new Mac. And Android is Linux. It’s the hacker’s OS. It’s for people who want to tinker, people who enjoy installing plugins and patches. It’s for users who recompile their kernel for fun.

That doesn’t excite me.

I love using a stock OS that just works. I love knowing that apps work reliably, that updates install safely, and I love products that work well for me, and for my mom. Tinkering and debugging are a waste of my time.

WebOS is by far a better experience and better platform than Android (Android fanboy opinions aside). It’s really unfortunate they didn’t keep the fight going.

Why does Android get credit for being disruptive? It’s not.

Back in January 2010, following Google’s much-hyped Nexus One unveiling, I wrote a post entitled: Apple And Google Just Tag Teamed The U.S. Carriers. In it, I argue that the biggest part of Google’s announcement wasn’t any one device, it was the new model they were putting out there. Google’s ambition to sell devices directly to consumers would build upon the consumer-friendly mobile foundation laid by Apple with the iPhone. Under the new system, consumers would go to a website and click on the phone they want, click on the carrier they want, and boom, they’re done. This was going to change everything. It was going to be beautiful.

Then something happened.

While Apple (some would say stubbornly) clung to their exclusive agreement in order to continue to bend AT&T to their will, Google backed down. When it became clear that the Nexus One was simply not selling, Google seemingly panicked and went running with open arms to the carriers.

Somehow Google’s Android inserts itself into the conversation around cell phone innovation and breaking free of carrier control. Yet I fail to see what Android has really done to help.

When the iPhone came out 4 years ago, the entire industry changed. Here’s what the iPhone brought us for the first time:

  • A phone you could purchase directly from Apple at full price with no contract. This model ended up failing as consumers wanted the contract subsidy on the device, but Apple was the first to try to decouple the phone from the carrier.
  • No carrier influence in the operating system. My iPhone experience is exactly what Apple wants it to be. AT&T can’t add or remove apps or even put their logo on my phone.
  • The phone gets OS upgrades automatically from Apple through iTunes. The iPhone was one of the first with upgrades that user’s actually took, and it all happens independent of AT&T, through iTunes.
  • Although you sign a 2 year agreement with AT&T when you get an iPhone, Apple has negotiated so iPhone users can get the new iPhone each year. With cell phone technology moving so quickly (and with so many fanboys like me), I really appreciate this from Apple/AT&T. Two year upgrade cycles are unreasonable.
  • (I think) the iPhone is the first phone that is 100% pixel identical on more than one carrier. We’re not talking about “almost the same.” I can choose to get an iPhone on AT&T or Verizon and the phone itself doesn’t change in hardware or software.

With Android, I struggle to see what Google has done to make the cell phone market better, or to reduce the hold carriers have on us. The few things I can come up with are:

  • They provided a good OS for free to all handset manufacturers. This is great since most handset makers had crappy software. It means phones have more functionality and more consistency than they had before.
  • Android is a great, open developer platform. It lets people build software without a gate keeper (Apple).

Other than that, it seems Android suffers from the same issues other cell phones do. The carriers control the software and experience that ultimate ends up on the device. The carrier controls upgrades for software and hardware. There is a ton of fragmentation in the space. There is confusion for users. 

I see how Google tried to change things. They tried to sell the Nexus One direct and tried to bring consistent hardware and software to multiple carriers. But none of this has played out.

At least today, I’m not sure it makes sense to talk about Google in the same breath as Apple with regards to innovation in the mobile industry. Google promises a lot (free WiFi in San Francisco?) but delivers little.