Saturday, April 26, 2014

Usability, iOS versus Android

Nothing in this world is perfect. Heck, almost nothing even approaches it. This includes Apple and iOS, the operating system on iPhones and iPad. But let me tell you, you get some perspective when you try Android, and you learn to be thankful for what in comparison seems like a divinely inspired experience, iOS.
When I chose my first personal computer in 1995, I chose Apple because I heard that usability was better. It seems nothing has changed.

Latest example: I heard about the new "Kindle for Samsung" app.
I was thinking: why do we need a new app just for Samsung? Why not just use the normal Android Kindle app, and if that is lacking, why not just improve that one, Samsung hardware is not that different.

The answer, I guess, is pretty obvious: it's not for our advantage (gasp!!), but for Samsung's advantage it was made. Just more promotional tools, getting you to use a special Samsung app when reading Kindle books. (I wonder what they paid Amazon, it should be a lot.)

Interestingly, but perhaps typically, the promotion does not mention a single advantage to using the Kindle For Samsung App! It just says it includes a free book every month. (Which I couldn't care less about, what are the odds it is one I'd want?) But I was curious, because apparently the interface is different, and a screenshot showed a Search interface which did indeed seem to be an improvement upon the normal Kindle app's, which is not very clear.

So I set out to get this app. Sigh, I get tired just thinking about it, so lets just say that after 40 minutes of navigating, downloading, creating new accounts, signing in on web sites and apps again and again, complying with unusual demands (like there must be Special Characters in passwords), and so on, I still don't have the flipping' app.

The step I'm stuck on is that for some reason, despite having signed in on their web app store, I also had to sign in on Samsung's special app store app (sigh) before I could download the app. And I signed in, and to the message: "processing failed". When I changed the password, I got "Wrong Password", so clearly I have the right password, but there's simply a bug in the app or server so I can't sign in!

Because I've heard from bright people who like Android better than iOS, I just can't believe it can be this bad, so I keep trying, but every time I try it, it is like this. Just poor usability and buggy as hell.

Maybe there's a personality type who just likes things to be like this? There was an old Foxtrot cartoon; the geek kid disliked the (then new) iMac because it was easy. But then he heard how insanely hard it was to upgrade the RAM, and then he loved it, got very interested.
(By the way, this has not changed either, it is made virtually impossible for a layman to get into an iMac.)

This does not explain Android's big market share, though. I guess the rest, the majority, are all the people who just don't have the perceptions to distinguish between Good and Bad quality. Like they can't tell good ice cream from bad ice cream. So they buy only on price.


craniac said...

Why not just come out and say that you don't like Android? Your arguments here say nothing about the usability of Android versus that of iOS; instead you take one vendor's implementation of a single app, with the sucky marketing tactics they use to pull you in as being indicative of the OS itself.

If you had any intention of comparing iOS and Android fairly, you would be doing so on a Google Nexus device where you have bare Android to work with, or at least with a custom ROM like CyanogenMod installed on your Samsung device. When you're using a vendor's shell you really aren't giving Android a chance.

I recently flashed the latest CyanogenMod implementation of Android KitKat onto my 17 month old Samsung Galaxy S3 and it's like a different device. Where it was slow, laggy and unstable; it's now faster than I recall it being when brand new. Samsung really does Android and their users no favours with the TouchWiz shell and the crapware that goes with it.

Lest you think I'm a total Android fan boy, I should point out that I also own an iPad Air (upgraded from an iPad 2). I like iOS on the tablet but prefer Android for my phone. But both are at the same time great and terrible to use. There are times on both devices that I find myself thinking "If only I was doing this task on iOS/Android instead of Android/iOS, it would be so much simpler". Each has its strong points and weak points.

But perhaps you should be asking yourself why you bother using an app/OS/device that annoys you and doesn't meet your needs.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Partly curiousity, partly research. Partly I love gadgets in general.

But mostly because a very few things in iOS do not meet my needs. The main thing at the moment being that there's no phablet for it. No pocket-sized ereader. The current iPhone, 5s, is just too small, as I've argued several times, and seen argued several other places too.

If there was a 5.5-inch Nexus, I might try that. But I've only seen Samsungs.

Anonymous said...

So, Craniac...I don't think you really get what Eolake's article is about. Even a casual reading will show that he wants an environment that is dead simple to use. So do I, by the way and that is why I think your suggestion of a Cyanogen mod is actually pretty funny.

If I complained that my Chevy's engine made it too difficult to check the oil, would you suggest that I replace the engine? I doubt it, especially if there were other cars that had perfectly good access to the oil.

Or perhaps you would just criticize me for complaining about it and point out how the underlying GM engine was perfectly good and I was being unfair to GM by bitching about Chevy implementation. Either way, I just want a car I can easily maintain and the underlying structure doesn't matter if usability gets effed up between the factory and your door.

The analogy could go on, but the point is that Eolake came right out and said that his experience with the Android world was annoying and he didn't like it. Sounds perfectly fair to me.

My feelings on the matter, as apparently are about a billion other people's, are that you go with the computing ecosystem that is built from the foundation up on the concept of simplicity. At this point in time that is very clearly Apple.

As to why Eolake doesn't use a different device? I suspect he might in the future.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Thanks, Bill.

Quite so. Some like to tinker with the engine in his car though I'm not sure if I can do that these days, and others just want to car to take them where he wants to go with as little fuss as possible.
The iPad clearly aims aims at the latter. And, I think with considerable success particularly considering that they had to start from scratch.