Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Makes IOS a "Cleaner Experience" or "Easier To Use" than Android?

I keep reading comparisons between Google's Android and Apple's IOS in the press such as this where the author gives an edge to IOS because of the vague assessment that it's "easier to use" and has a "cleaner experience" without providing a lick of an explanation as to why those two specific facts are true.  It might be that IOS came out first, and was the journalists first experience with a touch interface, and therefore is the benchmark from the perspective of usability from which Android is to be judged, which isn't really fair when giving an assessment to somebody who hasn't used either.

I used Android before I used IOS.  When I sat down with my Android phone for the first time, it just felt good to me having come from PalmOS. I always knew that configuration was possible using the [menu] button (which I had learned in Palm), and that the desktop equivelant of the right-click was the tap-n-hold (something new but only needed to see once).

A few months ago, my Dad got a free iPod Touch.  He loves stock trading and so he wanted to use the included stock ticker app to check his stocks.  He's a retired software engineer with a MS in EE.  He COULDN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO CONFIGURE THE STUPID APP.  I, practicing software engineer with a degree in CS, needed 40 minutes to figure out what to do.  I kept looking for something to tap-n-hold or a "menu" or "setup" or maybe a slide up/down/left/right to get to more options.  I had to search around for a little hidden italic "i" and press that.  From there I was taken to a configuration screen.  There were three or four nagging issues like that for him - it took him DAYS to really understand the "paradigm" that Apple was providing.

In my experience, Android provides a more seamless way to manage music/video/caledar/etc by syncing over the air instead of forcing the user to connect a wire to a computer with specialized software (the same reason Amazon Kindle always wins in those "which e-book reader is better" articles), and a more uniform user experience due to the hardware [menu] button and tap-n-hold popups that provide a richer context sensitive experience.  Additionally, these UI elements mean fewer taps and drags and less time playing with every app to see how to get around it.  I don't understand why journalists keep repeating the "easier to use" or "cleaner experience" phrases when describing IOS in comparison to Android.  I haven't seen a single empirical study that shows one is easier to use than the other, and my own very limited personal experience, the converse is true. 

Would somebody please explain this to me?

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