One thing I did notice right away was that the console felt different. It felt like it was maybe more responsive somehow, and not just when it was scrolling a wall of text. It even felt different when I was typing. Somehow, typing at a console (not in X, not via SSH) felt better in FreeBSD than it did in Linux. I couldn't tell you why, and I didn't really understand it myself. It wasn't something I could measure, or even describe, but it left me feeling like FreeBSD was more than 'just like Linux'.
I only used it for a day or so before I realized that I'd screwed up the partitioning and wiped out my Windows partition, and so had to re-reformat, but it left a profound impression.
I feel like iOS is the same way. All the Android phones I've tried (including a friend's Nexus One) have been, theoretically, the same as an iPhone in terms of features and capabilities and even hardware, but even before I got into using them in depth there was just something that felt a little off about tapping on icons or scrolling lists, and I could never put my finger on it, so to speak. Perhaps it's just design decisions or usage patterns that I'd internalized already, but I've always felt like it was something more. Maybe the scrolling behaviour is something I picked up on unconsciously, because while I don't remember it being slow or jerky, I do remember it didn't feel right.
Perhaps the numbers-oriented engineers at Google can't quantify it and so don't prioritize it, or maybe they just don't think it's worth wasting time on, but I think consumers, in the end, will notice. The real question is how many will actually care, and how many will shrug it off because of the benefits (perceived or real) that Android provides them over the iPhone?
Does anyone have a good explanation for this?
I had a similar perception with Solaris on SPARC. It was slower overall but more responsive when interacting on the shell. Sometimes I had high load (10 or more) and did not notice when using a shell in a terminal.
I think Linux got much better since then. I don't feel the difference on current FreeBSD, Solaris or Linux installations.