As a software developer, I’m constantly looking to improve some sort of experience: user-experience, developer-experience, how-long-will-this-meeting-take-experience.
When my daily usage of my iPhone (6s) started to have more annoyances than delights, I decided to embark on a rather expensive test.
Less than a week of constant use (timed perfectly for constant photo & video snapping over the Thanksgiving holiday), I’d made the decision to switch.
In a nutshell, the Google ecosystem is a perpetually positive user experience. Apple’s is getting as bad as iTunes.
But who wants to read long, explanatory prose when you can have features fight it out with bold headlines & block quotes? 👊
Tie: AT&T vs. Project Fi.
On iPhone, I was with AT&T. Originally grandfathered into unlimited data, but lost it during an upgrade process. (Insert expletives here)
But unlimited data was never here to stay, so what matters now is simplicity & transparency of billing.
Project Fi is a simple, monthly plan: $20 + $10 per GB. With the Project Fi Widget, my usage is visibly less as a result.
However, there’s a noticeable caveat that my speeds were sometimes half on Project Fi compared to AT&T previously (e.g. 30Mbps vs 60Mbps).
For me, I’ll take simplicity & transparency over the speed of consuming costly bits (given a 10Mbps minimum), but this isn’t a defensible position.
Winner: Pixel’s Fingerprint Scanner (vs. iPhone’s).
When I attempted to unlock my iPhone (or my wife’s), more often than not there was a ritual of button pressing, swiping, & tapping, followed by muted cursing that they removed Swipe to Unlock.
The Pixel’s is on the back of the phone, which seemed an odd choice at first, but it’s incredibly natural to unlock your phone when you grab it face-down off of a dining table or out of your pocket.
More importantly, my thumb doesn’t have to contort downwards like the iPhone requires.
Winner: Android (vs. iOS).
It’s worth noting that my experience with Android on my Nexus 6p (for testing 3rd party scripts thrashing the DOM, of course!) was pretty terrible.
Android on Google Pixel is incredibly helpful, surprisingly intuitive, and smart. It’s never working against you.
This is something that has to be experienced (it is called user-experience for a reason), but some highlights are:
- I opened Google Inbox, as I’ve been doing for a while. It helpfully prompted me to disable duplicate Gmail notifications.
- The bottom back button maintains history across apps. So, if I click a link in an email to a tweet, click the tweet’s link to Github, open in Chrome, browse a few pages, and then press back several times, I step backwards all the way to the original email.
- The UI is peppered with helpful hints. Phone didn’t unlock? Finger moved too fast. Try again. Charging over USB? Charging slowly vs. Charging rapidly. As a result, the UI makes the right-path discoverable instead of making you wonder “Why isn’t this working??”
- Unpinned apps are tucked away in a lower, alphabetized drawer. In iOS, my screens were a cluster of chronologically-installed apps that was a chore to clean up, losing discoverability.
- The UI has a consistent, minimal vocabulary: gears & arrows. An up/down arrow will hide/reveal a drawer, while back/forward navigates history. Gears always take you to contextual settings. It doesn’t sound important, but these 2 ever-present icons make customization & settings incredibly shallow and attainable.
Winner: Google Apps (vs. Apple’s).
I take lots of photos & videos. A friend shared this quote with me ahead of our first child being born:
“The best camera is the one you have on you. And that’s your phone.”
I did my best to categorize (Picasa! iPhoto! Photos!) & backup (TimeCapsule! Dropbox!) photos, but was insanely frustrated by the difficulty in finding pictures of a recently deceased family member when I knew I had that one special moment somewhere in my library.
Google Photos is incredible. Besides free, original-quality backups, indexing, & facial-recognition, every other day or so I get a delightful notification to Rediscover a memory or view an automatically-generated GIF from several snaps of an event.
As a developer, I use Google Chrome. I was completely caught off-guard when researching a performance bug to find that Chrome on iOS does not use the same rendering engine as Chrome on Android, due to App Store restrictions:
Chrome for iOS has some pretty major technical restrictions imposed by the App Store, such as a requirement to use the built-in UIWebView for rendering, no V8, and a single-process model…
Edit: I had something about Google Maps vs. Maps, but that’d just be cruel.
I bought the Watch (that’s an Apple logo, for those who can’t see it), and now have an expensive time-piece that’s locked into the Apple ecosystem.
What’s depressing is that the Apple ecosystem isn’t what it used to be, and isn’t worth being entrenched in.
Apps can no longer get by with minimal, polished interfaces. They have to be anticipatory, discoverable, and encourage advancement with every interaction.
I suppose I should be mildly concerned about vendor lock-in with Google, but Google Takeout provides a decent escape-hatch when Microsoft ups the ante in a few years.