iOS vs Android – which is better?

I often get the question about Android vs iOS and which is better. The short answer is: “neither” or “both” depending on if you want the pessimistic or the optimistic version.

Here’s the breakdown of it:

I’ve been using iOS since the iPhone 1. Just before the iPhone 5 was released, I decided to give Android an honest attempt. I saw that Apple had lagged behind on a lot of features: I had replaced most of the core apps with third party apps – Chrome instead of Safari, Mailbox instead of Mail, Fantastical instead of Calendar – and don’t get me started on the Podcasts app which I seriously hope the whole team at Apple got fired for. Twice. But even though I could switch the core apps out, that didn’t help much as Apple doesn’t let me set those as default. So links from other apps still opened in Safari, though Chrome was my preferred browser. I still had to configure the Mail app with my Gmail account, even though I mostly used Mailbox or the Gmail app to read and write e-mails.

I went for a Samsung Galaxy S3. At first it was awkward, but I thought I could deal with it. Every time I encountered a glitch an Android fan would be “hey, you should download X, it fixes exactly that”. And so I spent hours on downloading apps and customizing the experience so that it would be less awkward.

Using Android instead of an iPhone  was like having driven a sports car on a smooth highway, and then driving a different sports car on a bumpy country road. I ended up going back to iOS.

This year, I decided to give Android another go as the HTC One got really good reviews. That experience was much better and I realized that I didn’t hate Android. I hate Samsung. The HTC One experience was so good that I left my iPhone 5 until recently. What drove me back wasn’t Android or iOS per se, but the fact that a majority of the quantified self devices that I’m trying out only work with iOS.

Here are the things I’ll miss with Android:

– Apps being able to interact with each other, without having to build in explicit support for every app, in each app. I can use Feedly, and from there share directly to Flipboard and Buffer without having to exit the app. On iOS, the support for sharing to Flipboard has to be coded into Feedly (which it isn’t). This means that a new great app on iOS also requires updates for apps I already use in order for them to be able to interact.

– A clean home screen. My iPhone 5 screen looks as if it’ll explode if you just add another app. It’s cluttered and it’s impossible to get the clean, minimalistic look I have on my HTC One. Which is ironic, considering Apple’s minimalistic designs.

I use the same background on both phones. Which looks cleaner and more minimalistic to you?

– Widgets. I loved not having to open the calendar to see my calendar, I just swiped to the screen left of my home screen. Evernote? Don’t have to open it either, the notes are right there on the third screen. To do? Second screen to the left had a full screen Remember the Milk widget with all my todos.

– Google Now. I know that this is available on iOS too, but the whole point becomes moot when you have to open an app to access it. The Google Now widget is a much better assistant than Siri because it’s proactive. I love how, when I switch on my HTC One in a new country, I immediately get the exchange rate of currency X to my own, or a couple useful phrases translated to the local language.

– Voice recognition. Google’s default voice recognition is so much better than Apple’s – especially for me who has an accent as I’m not a native English speaker. The voice control experience is so much better on Android, as it is better of recognizing context and intent. I don’t have to tell it to “search the web” or “google” – Google Now does that automatically when it needs to.

– HTC One specific (I think): being able to snap photos while filming. Great feature, but on the other hand iOS 7 and iPhone 5S will also have this.

– The notification system. Being able to tweak notifications much better than in iOS was very valuable. My phone shouldn’t run my life, it should assist me and make my life easier. The notification system is key here, and Android’s is simply much better. I can choose to have sounds or have the LED blink in different colors, or have the notifications turn up in the notification center – where they are actionable as opposed to iOS notifications that simply start the app in question.

– The universal back button. This is perhaps the single best feature in Android. Being able to go back to the previous app using that button is gold.

Things I won’t miss with Android:

– Pocket dialing. This is an HTC One specific issue, but this is the first smartphone I’ve ever had that has dialled people, move icons around on my home screen and even deleted apps from the tray while the phone has been in my pocket.

– Another HTC One specific issue is that the remote control on the headphones can’t control volume. Nor can it activate voice control. This effectively renders voice control as useless as iOS does Google Now.

– Charging time and battery life. both the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC One charge a lot slower (with the original chargers) than the iPhone 5 does. You can see a comparison chart between the S3 and the iPhone here

– The constant tweaking. Having to download another launcher, a third party keyboard, a screen brightness manager and a bunch of other apps just to get the phone up to a minimum standard is simply not okay.

– Always being second or third. I felt that if someone said “The iOS app is out now, an Android app is coming soon” one more time, I’d go falling down on them. And then there’s issues like the Basis Monitor, who when releasing an Android app actually released a Samsung app.

– Stupid User Interfaces in apps. Android has got a lot of apps, and it’s got a lot of apps made by people who don’t really understand UX. They make apps for themselves, which is a very different thing. The frustration with some apps made me want to poke my finger through my eye, into my brain and swirl it around. Even apps that should be great (Evernote) aren’t. It’s not logical to have to tap a pen icon on a touch screen to edit a note. In Evernote on the iPhone it’s an intuitive tap in the note that allows you to edit it.

All in all: Android today is great. The problem isn’t Android, but clumsy third party vendors like Samsung that bloat it, or HTC that don’t think things through all the way. Had it not been for me trying out stuff like the Misfit Shine, W/Me, Heartmath HRV monitor and mostly any other Bluetooth enabled device, I’d have kept the HTC One as my main phone. Now the iPhone 5 is my primary phone and the Android is the secondary.

If you’re thinking about which phone to buy, and deciding between Android and iOS, I’d say that as long as you go for one of Google’s own smartphones like the Nexus 4 or Moto X you’ll most likely be just as happy as if you had gone for iOS. iOS constrain you more, but it also works better out of the box. Android allows you more freedom, but also requires you to tweak it more. And you’ll always be second when it comes to the great mainstream apps. But you won’t go wrong with Android.

(Unless it’s a Samsung.)

Link roundup June 17, 2013

  1. The Curse Of The Network Effect | TechCrunch

    • Marketplaces where either the buyer or seller expects to choose from an exhaustive listing – so-called “complete” marketplaces – typically give-up far more value than they are able to capture.
    • Unless they facilitate the transaction itself, these businesses often find themselves in a bind.

    Insightful about monetizing services or marketplaces that rely on being complete from the founder of an event listing service.

  2. Facebook Made Me Do It – NYTimes.com

    In a study of social exchange systems like Facebook, when people were told that their networks liked the content they were sharing, they shared more. But when they were told that people in their network did not like their shared content, they actually shared even more to figure out what their network might like, and “come up with more content that was edgier,” he said.

    I think that this is true in lack of approval/disapproval (if we don’t get likes or comments at all). If we get active disapproval my guess is that we’d be prone to share less rather than more. Interesting nonetheless.

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  3. How Accurate Are Fitness Trackers?

    But the devices were far less reliable in tracking the energy costs of light-intensity activities like standing or cleaning, often misinterpreting them as physical immobility. Only the calorie cost of typing was overestimated, and only by the armband monitor, which considered the arm movements involved to be far more dynamic than they actually are.

    That wrist worn devices are bad at detecting when we bike isn’t a surprise, but that they’re bad at detecting standing is news to me.

  4. Fertile Ground – Marco.org

    I don’t think most developers of mature, non-trivial apps are going to have an easy time migrating them well to iOS 7. Even if they overcome the technical barriers, the resulting apps just won’t look and feel right. They won’t fool anyone.

    This is another side of the coin of iOS7. It remains to be seen if Marco is right (I hope so). And if he is, I wonder if Apple did this as a conscious choice, or if it’s a (lucky) circumstance. This is an interesting post nonetheless.

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  5. Did Apple Just Ally With Microsoft Against Google?

    It’s a huge win for the giant of Redmond, which has long been hunting for more fronts to open up on Google in the search wars.

    This isn’t a win for Microsoft, it’s a huge loss for Apple users. Have you seen the Bing Challenge? It claims that most people choose Bing’s results when compared to Google’s. However, asking people to “just search for anything” makes it hard to evaluate the results. I did the challenge, but with with five searches that I actually needed results for. Result? Google won 4 of the rounds. Twice. There’s a reason people don’t use Bing, and it’s not “habit”.

  6. Microsoft Has Hired People To Make Positive Comments About Xbox One On Reddit, Contractor Says

    Obviously, we can’t confirm this story. We asked Microsoft for comment on if they have people on their payroll using Reddit and will update when they reply.

    This is sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t story. It doesn’t matter what Microsoft says here: they obviously can’t confirm it. However, the fact that this story can be born says a lot: the Xbox One is receiving a lot of negativity. Had it not, there would be no need to even fabricate a story such as this. So in the end, it’s still a product that (mostly) sucks according to people.

  7. The Irrationality of Giving Up This Much Liberty to Fight Terror

    we aren’t trading civil liberties for security, but a sense of security. We aren’t empowering the national-security state so that we’re safer, but so we feel safer.

    This isn’t happening only in the US. It’s happening in the EU and in Sweden. Everyone should read this, and realize that it’s time to say NO. Politicians gain from giving us a sense of security (not actual security) as it gives them more power.

  8. Smartphones vs tablets vs traditional PCs – and how iOS changed the world
    I love this visualization of smartphones vs tablets vs “traditional PCs”. And the post in itself contains a lot of insights about how iOS changed the world of computing, and also the challenges ahead. Note that this was written way ahead of the release of iOS 7 (and that Apple missed delivering on key features, such as “being able to choose another default app than Apple’s own”)

    Read the whole post here: Fraser Speirs – Blog – The iOS 7 Power User Challenge

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  9. “It was the perfect search engine,” Singhal said. “You could ask it a question and it would tell you exactly the right answer, one right answer—and sometimes it would tell you things you needed to know in advance, before you could ask it.”

    I recently switched to an HTC One and after trying out Google’s voice control in it, I really see how it could in just a few years become something akin to the Star Trek computer. It’s much more intuitive than Siri on my iPhone (and I did ask her lots of stuff). After having used Google’s voice control on Android, I’m even more agog about trying out Google Glass.

  10. Facebook is just fine — How to use the internet — Medium

    My newsfeed is almost all signal. This is, in part, because I am ruthless. If you are overtly negative (which is different than having opinions differing from my own), you get hidden. If I don’t find value in your postings, you get hidden.

    As much as I criticize Facebook for their shortcomings, it’s also good to give credit where it is due – and Facebook does have an amazing service at its core, just like Craig Mod writes here. The key is, just as mr. Mod writes, to hide everything that isn’t relevant and teach Facebook what you like and what you don’t. I do this a lot.

Why I just asked Memoto for a refund

I’ve just e-mailed Memoto and asked for a refund of my Kickstarter pledge. I still think it’s an exciting and interesting product, but I don’t believe enough people will be prepared to pay $108 (excluding taxes) per year to use it. It’s ironic, as I can see that one of the arguments for the high subscription fee is sustainability.

I’ve been excited about Memoto ever since I first heard about it at SSWC last August. I became a backer as soon as their Kickstarter campaign launched and I think the team is a bunch of brilliant people. But their recent announcement to charge $108, excluding any taxes, annually to use their cloud service is a step down the wrong path. I know that Memoto didn’t arbitrarily choose a price, that they have been crunching numbers and landed on $108 to build a sustainable company. I think that it’s a huge gamble on enough people being interested in logging all of their lives through the Memoto service, a gamble that I wouldn’t bet on.

People are prepared to pay for storage, software and other services in the cloud. Google, Evernote, Flickr, Dropbox are just a few. And you can combine hardware with a service. Look at Bodymedia users (an activity and sleep tracker for losing weight), who pay over $100 for the device and then $83 per year to use it.

I also know that there is a direct correleation between how useful a service is and how much you’re prepared to pay. To pay $25 per year for Flickr Pro is reasonable. Even $50 a year is reasonable, considering you get 1 TB of data. Paying Google $60 for 200 GB of data for your Gmail, Google Drive and Picasa accounts is reasonable. Paying $135 (which it will amount to in Sweden, as 25% VAT is applied) to store your photos in Memoto’s cloud? The discrepancy between “useful” and “price” is too big for casual users. Especially since you can only store Memoto photos there, nothing else.

There is an option not to pay for the service from year 2. In that case you can download the images from the camera to your own storage. You lose Memoto’s “momentification”, the service that puts all photos that belong to a separate moment together, so you don’t have to browse through the 1440 photos the camera takes during a 12 hour day. But you also lose any GPS data, as that is not stored in the EXIF data of the images. Without processing the images on Memoto’s servers, your images won’t be geotagged. This is the deal breaker for me.

Add to that that there’s big competition on the market. Autographer, a lifelogging device that works a bit differently is starting to ship July 30 (they might beat Memoto to market). It’s still unclear if they will charge you for uncrippled use of their product (I’ve asked them and will update with their answer) Autographer will cost more than the Memoto, £399, but will not require any subscription.  Google+ has a light version of momentification: if you upload a time lapse series of photos, Google+ will put them together into an animation.

Another reason I don’t think that Memoto will reach a sustainable subscription rate at the announced price has to do with function. I got to beta test an early version for a couple days, and I realized that what happens in front of me isn’t as interesting as what happens where I’m looking. The value of the logged data is higher if I find a way of mounting the Memoto on a baseball cap, rather than wearing it on the collar of my sweater. Another challenge that Memoto faces is the angle: when you wear it on your collar or on your chest pocket there is no way of fixating the angle of the camera. A lot of the photos I took during the day, especially while walking was at an angle similar to the image below:

The angle of Memoto when worn on the collar of the shirt

One solution is wearing it as a necklace, another is to wear it further down (requires a shirt or something similar). Or a wide angle lens for the camera. A fear I have is that many Memoto users might be disappointed by this, considering the amount of images of Memoto worn exactly like this there are out there. That disappointment will impact the readiness to pay the subscription fee.

So what do I think Memoto should do? After all, storage does cost. And if you use the camera for 12 hours a day it’s 1440 photos per day. Assume each photo being 500 k and you have over 700 mb of data per day. In a year that’s a whopping 250 gb. So year two you’d be pushing half a terabyte of data. Google would charge you at least $120 per year, Dropbox would take $499. Memoto’s subscription fee for lifeloggers who save all their data is more than fair.

While hardcore lifeloggers are an important target group, there is another one: the casual loggers. This group won’t care for the 8 hours of sitting at the office or the commute to work every day. They will want automatic capture of moments out of the ordinary: travels, dinners with friends, conferences. For this group, Memoto’s subscription fee is outrageously high.

I’d introduce two plans: one flat rate storage plan like the current. $108 excluding taxes is a great price. Let’s call this plan “Lifelogger”. And then I’d have the “Casual memorizer” plan, with limited amount of storage for $30 a year. Once you hit the storage limit, you can either delete (or move!) some of your images, or increase the plan at a premium rate. I believe there to be a lot more “Casual Memorizers” than “Lifeloggers” out there, while Memoto are putting their moey on that there are enough hardcore lifeloggers out there who will buy the camera and pay the annual fee.

I’m not ready to wage my money on it, and therefore I asked for a refund. I still believe in the product, I still believe in the team and if they change their subscription plans to accomodate casual lifeloggers, I’ll gladly come back as a customer.

UPDATE: I just spoke to the team behind Memoto, and they said that they’re still talking internally about different subscription models. Since there’s a chance they’ll go for a lower end, I decided to stay as a backer.

The drawing of the humans comes from Peter Kiselkov’s tutorial of how to draw a human body.