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Why do apps from the same company look worse on Android than on iPhone? (android-gripes.tumblr.com)
219 points by awalker 2363 days ago | hide | past | web | 130 comments | favorite

I think it's the standard that is set by the original creator of the UI widgets available on the platform, in this case, Apple vs. Google.

I'm an iPhone UI designer/developer and you can make a really nice looking app without doing any custom design work just by using the widgets that Apple provides. A good example of an app that was nearly all stock is Tweetie 1 for iPhone and it won an Apple Design Award. Apple has put an incredible amount of polish (single-pixel highlights and shadows, consistent sheen/gloss across elements, built-in animations for common interactions) into the widgets as part of UIKit, and then the apps that are included on the iPhone are also incredibly polished. This sets the bar very high and also gives a quality of UI design that developers can look up to and try to emulate.

The apps that Google built for Android (Maps in particular) are very clean and elegant but I would hesitate to call them beautiful or extremely polished. Google's design aesthetic typically eschews gradients, sheen, highlights and shadows in favor of a flatter, cleaner look and feel. Although Google's Android apps are well-designed, they don't look like a team of visual designers hand-crafted each and every corner like Apple's apps and UIKit widgets seem to be. Because of this cleaner, simpler aesthetic, the bar for "good-looking" on Android is a lot lower than for iPhone and it seems companies will cut corners on Android app UI design & visual polish because of it.

Another theory is that companies might feel that Android phone owners are more technical, more geeky, and thus "don't need" a really polished interface so they spend fewer resources on it. Once a few big companies release Android apps with a sub-par design, other companies see this and follow suit, continuing the trend forwards. Obviously this is a difficult stigma to get out of, but some companies are putting out great Android apps -- Gowalla comes to mind -- so there is hope.

That doesn't excuse the apps that actually write an entire UI from scratch. As I mentioned before, the CNBC app is all custom UI, beautiful and mostly entirely self-contained. However, the android version is a POS thats essentially just a mobile webpage.

Built in OS UI is not a factor here. I suspect budget isn't either.

Edit: Here's the link to their Android app. The screen you see is basically the whole app. Click on anything and you're sent to their mobile web http://www.cnbc.com/id/37130092/

Here's the iPhone app http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cnbc-real-time/id334125582?mt... It's hard to believe the same company released both apps.

Even their official "Apps" page has little mention of the Android app http://www.cnbc.com/id/33077961 It's just a tiny link at the bottom that I didn't notice the first time.

> Built in OS UI is not a factor here. I suspect budget isn't either.

The difference is possibly talent. They likely outsource the development to different companies; one who develops exclusively for the iPhone and the other for Android. Different teams of developers producing vastly different results. The iPhone ecosystem is more mature (and more picky) which could easily explain the differences.

Actually, there are quite a lot of standard UIKit objects used in the iPhone version, so it definitely isn't written from scratch. Granted, it doesn't explain why the Android version makes such a poor showing, since I'm pretty sure Android has equivalents for a lot of those elements.

There are, however, so many possible reasons why Android versions get the shaft that it's nearly impossible to say why any given pair of apps are so different in quality. It could be that it's easier to find iOS devs that really care about UX and polish (lots of self-selection going on here, similar to Mac/Windows third-party devs). It could be that a company asks their iOS dev to knock out an Android version, when they're not competent at developing for the platform. It could be that the folks in charge of getting mobile apps made for their company just like iPhones more (not a stretch, given demographic differences) or see them as more hip or marketable and funnel more money that way. Or, it could be that, after spending lavish amounts of money on the iPhone app and seeing it not set the world on fire, they scale back to merely "establishing a presence" on Android instead of making the same effort.

A lot of these behaviors wouldn't surprise me, particularly from companies whose primary business is not creating software.

The iphone has been a viable platform for much longer. For any given company their Android offering will most likely be more immature

I think it may be worth mentioning the history of the technologies and companies behind them. Apple has always been more focused on the aesthetics of their products compared to competitors. Their OS and other software products have always been "prettier" than the offerings of MS and the linux community. In contrast, linux has a history of minimalist UI design, disregarding aesthetics for functionality. Developers that work on the new products like iPhone and Android tend to come from the old school and bring they're relative biases and habits with them to this new arena. I think as the android platforms mature, we will see a blurring of the aesthetic lines between the two products much as we have seen in the mac/windows/linux world with OS X, Windows 7, and Ubuntu.

It's important to note that minimalist != disregarding aesthetics for functionality. Minimalism is an aesthetic. I would argue that Apple's designs set the industry standard for minimalism.

yes, you are correct. I misused the minimalism analogy. the command line was the minimalist champion, and in my opinion, linux still holds that crown, despite apple's influence on minimalist implementations of windowing systems and UI.

both apps are as hideously busy as their TV broadcasts

iOS provides more than just UI widgets. There's a lot more stuff given to developers on iOS vs Android. So if you 3mo to develop app on each platform the month you spend on Android recreating the libs Apple provides is spent making the iOS version "nicer".

Could you elaborate? I'm getting into Android development, and I'm wondering what I'm missing that's in iOS.

Android has more market share than iOS, which would seem to suggest it's moved far beyond the "technical, geeky" crowd.

My hunch is that we're starting to see a Windows/Mac differentiation here, with Android emerging as the clear winner of mobile and iOS being reserved for the trendy/artistic/quality crowd. That carries over into the apps themselves, with Android apps (like their windows counterparts) being clean and utilitarian, whereas iOS developers are devoting more time to making sure their app looks good.

Edit: The "quality" comment was not intended to suggest that Android lacks it, but rather that those who buy based upon perceived quality would be more likely to be drawn to the iPhone.

Android has more market share than iOS, which would seem to suggest it's moved far beyond the "technical, geeky" crowd.

OS market share is the easy metric, but it's not the right metric. Read the last six paragraphs:


Applying the Windows/Mac analogy to the mobile market is like trying to cram modern geopolitics into a cold war framework. You'll ruin your mind trying to make it work. Google isn't Microsoft, Android isn't Windows, and smartphones aren't purchased or used like desktop computers.

Apple is still Apple, which confuses people, I'll admit.

Does your link realise that their first couple of graphs are for the "phone" market, not the "smartphone" market?

It makes about as much sense as lumping in Apple's laptops or Samsung's TVs and the text only occasionally seems to recognize this, almost as if they drew the graphs thinking they referred to smartphones and then lightly edited the text rather than remove them when they realised their mistake. Makes them difficult to take seriously.

Yes, his link (me) realizes that. The point of the graphs is that Apple is the only manufacturer growing significantly relative to the market, so to call them dead in water is ridiculous.

Also, the share growth for all phones is relevant, because smartphones are almost certainly the largest component of that. Absent a breakdown of Samsung's growth by phone category, the most generous way to evaluate their smartphone share growth is to make the simplifying assumption that all of Samsung's growth comes from smartphones. Even then, their growth is a fraction of iPhone's growth and the point is made.

Apple's not been growing relative to the US smartphone market though. It's been flat for a year (while Android has taken share rapidly) which, despite the ominous overtones, is what "dead in the water" means, a ship without wind not going anywhere (sales still need to rise about 60% to keep up with market growth so the analogy isn't perfect, but they rarely are).

What you seem to be missing is that makers of both types of phone are losing share in dumbphones, even as they gain share in the more lucrative smartphone market.

If you had numbers for smartphones only, it's likely that about 4 or 5 companies would have higher growth than Apple. Almost certainly in the case of the second graph, because Apple has a higher marketshare and the same mathmatical trick that makes them look good against the Samsung who sell 1 in 4 phones, would make them look bad against the samsung that used to have 5% of the smartphone market but are catching up to and probably overtaking Apple soon.

Yes, you're right. My preceding comment ignores the shift from dumb to smartphones.

But seriously, read what I wrote in the post. This internal shift of mix between smartphones and dumbphones, or the rise of many Android manufacturers who aren't in the top 5 (e.g. HTC) is exactly the point. I wonder whether the intent of the "switchers" from dumbphone to smartphones all have the same intent to run apps.

I also noted and amplified the rapid Android share growth using the same "mathematical trick" you mention.

I call BS. My neighbor is a "normal" non-geek who has an android phone and even he notices the difference in app quality and bitches about it all the time (his wife has an iPhone). Just because he isn't "trendy" doesn't mean he doesn't know what quality is. Its his work phone, when his contract is up, he's already decided he's going to lobby for an iPhone and the apps are a huge reason why.

I have a work iPhone, a personal iPad and I used to have a relatively dumb personal phone. I "upgraded" the personal phone to a low end Android phone (a Samsung Galaxy Europa) and I've been really disappointed with it.

Of course, what people now tell me is "but that's a bad phone" - and I think that's the problem that Android faces - the actual end user experience is largely determined by the quality of the hardware and this varies a lot.

It would be most interesting to see what percentage of Android phones sold are these sorts of super-cheap devices (in this country, a Galaxy Europa is about 80 euro on pre-paid; they won't even sell it to you on contract. By contrast, a Galaxy S is about 550 on prepaid or 150 on contract), versus the high-end devices which we hear so much more about.

Most of my co-workers seem to be moving from iPhones to Android phones. I get the "Nexus S on AT&T" update from one of them every day... he can't wait to ditch his iPhone for a Nexus S.

Of course, we're all scientists, engineers, programmers who recently took a course in Android programming, so my experience probably isn't standard :)

That's a fairly optimistic view.

My take is that most purchasers of Android phones are probably quite disappointed with the experience. Whether it's because of battery life, lousy app selection, annoying add-ons by the carrier, or clunky app design.

Sure, slimy salespeople hired by the carriers are pushing Android phones and probably lying about features and quality just as they lie about plan details, etc. Yes they're selling a lot of (mediocre) phones to a lot of naive (or optimistic) people who trust the Google name based on their experience with search or gmail.

I predict a huge backlash as more and more consumers realize they were hoodwinked and should have just gone with an iPhone. Take the Evo 4G for example... the phone shipped unable to even last a whole day on a full charge (with moderate use). This is unconscionable. Clearly nobody who was in a postion to do something about this test drove one of the phones for a few days before moving forward with all the hype and marketing.

I think this will all bite Google when few people decide to upgrade to a new Android phone. The experience is so mediocre that even a few minutes playing with an iPhone, browsing the app store, or talking to the owner about battery life will cause tremendous buyers remorse.

I'm not sure they're disappointed, per se. The non-nerds I know who bought Android phones are generally pretty pleased to be able to make calls and use the web a bit.

They're not app consumers to the slightest degree. Android represents a small value-add over the dumbphones they had before, which is fine, but they're not part of the vast army that Android partisans seem to think is coming over the next hill.

This. A lot of people are coming to Android as a step up from feature phones. In fact a lot of Android phones ship without any way to install third party apps and act as essentially glorified feature phones. I'd love to see the statistics of Android phones sold with the Android store versus iOS device sales to get a better idea of where the two platforms stand in relation to each other.

A friend of mine bought a HTC Desire Z (of which the G2 is a variant) but while it is supposed to be in the powerhouse department (at the opposite end of the spectrum of a Galaxy Spica) its UI feels jerky, laggy and generally unwilling to respond to some user actions. My friend, despite being on the geeky side, seems not to notice it and because he seems to enjoy the phone I'm reluctant to make him notice and ruin its experience. Certainly this has to come from the fact he comes from a feature phone, so that phone is definitely an improvement.

I don't disagree with your observations about a pre-Gingerbread device, however it is remarkable how much 2.3 has improved. It is very competitive with the iPhone now from a spit and polish perspective, even on older hardware. So imagine the shine on a device like an upcoming Galaxy S II.

This segues to arguments that have a freshness dating. Android used to have crap hardware (the G1 was junk). Now it has amazing hardware. Android used to have no apps. Now it has an unbelievable number of apps, and almost all of the top tier apps. Android used to be a duct-tape clunky mess. Now (Gingerbread) it's a completely different beast: It is actually a loveable operating system.

So if Android made most of its gains when it was a shadow of what it is now, what are the detractors left with?

I don't think it's even slightly true that "a lot of Android phones ship without a way to install third party apps".

I've heard of portable media players or Nooks that run Android but don't have app stores (though the Nook is getting one). I've heard of tablets that don't have the official Google Market, though they often have an alternative market and relatively simple steps for the user to get the Market on to them. There's even 0.4% of "Android" phones that are running OPhone and so while they can run Android apps fine, they don't come with the Google apps or Marketplace, but again they have alternatives.

Do you have any links to what you mean by this?

My take is that most purchasers of Android phones are probably quite disappointed with the experience.

From last September, 65% of Android users are "very satisfied": http://www.therealmacgenius.com/2010/10/iphone-os-or-android.... That's less than the iPhone's 74%, but a far cry from the fanboy fantasy of Android being abandoned in droves.

I'm far from a fanboy... I got an Evo 4G and was so appalled by the battery life -- clearly nobody in their right mind would ship the product knowing how poor the battery life is -- that I did a double take and sold the 4G and bought an iPhone 4.

I'm actually rooting for Google. I'd just like to see them take the overall usability and build quality a lot more seriously than they appear to be taking it. It's completely absurd that carriers are installing things like a clock with hands which prevent the phones from being instantly upgradeable when a new version of Android is released.

Android gives carriers a lot of perverse incentives, most of which they appear to be following quite religiously.

Fair enough. I also had an Evo and the battery life wasn't great, but I didn't take that as an indictment of the entire Android ecosystem. (My Nexus S can last for 3 days with moderate use). I ended up giving it to a nontechnical friend, whose immediate reactions were that the screen is gorgeous, and that Swype and the universal text-to-speech are great.

It's completely absurd that carriers are installing things like a clock with hands which prevent the phones from being instantly upgradeable when a new version of Android is released.

No question that the carriers are doing significant damage to Android's perception. I don't think the skins are a huge contributor to update delays, for example the G2 runs stock Android but still won't get a Gingerbread update until some vague future date. You're absolutely right about the incentive problem; as long as customers are locked into contracts via phone subsidies, there's little motivation to keep them satisfied.

Ah yes. First it was shinier. Then it was more apps. Then it was more users. Now it's more paying users, rapidly eroding, and "lousy app selection." Chances of the huge backlash sure are looking better than ever.

My take is that most purchasers of Android phones are probably quite disappointed with the experience. Whether it's because of battery life, lousy app selection, annoying add-ons by the carrier, or clunky app design

In the Eclaire days, with sparse apps and a clunky, half-broken OS, you were absolutely right.

Today, however, you couldn't be further off the mark. A Gingerbread phone is a delightful, delightful beast. The app selection and quality has improved at a blistering pace.

I think this will all bite Google when few people decide to upgrade to a new Android phone. The experience is so mediocre that even a few minutes playing with an iPhone, browsing the app store, or talking to the owner about battery life will cause tremendous buyers remorse.

You mention the Evo yet EVERY SINGLE REVIEW criticized the battery life. How could you possibly not know about that?

Experience so mediocre? Your obsolete bias shows through. I would argue that a good Froyo device, or a normal Gingerbread phone, provides a far better experience to most users.

This page is thinly veiled fanboyism (and, unsurprisingly, was linked by Gruber, which speaks volumes). Worse, it isn't even CORRECT -- they used both an ancient Meebo app, and an ancient Facebook app, to demonstrate their poorly-demonstrated-anyways point. I would seriously consider Marcos Arment as a suspect behind it: His desperation has grown obvious.

I've never really understood the Windows/Mac analogy here. I think the main reason many people end up using Windows over OSX, or any other OS, has always been the availability of software. People use Windows because there is a lot of really good software that just isn't available on other platforms. Granted this is slowly becoming less of an issue now that OSX is gaining some ground, but it is still an issue for a lot of people.

If you compare iOS to Android, I think you see the same pattern. One of the reasons the iPhone is so popular is because of the apps, many of which just aren't available on Android. Even when an app is available for Android it often feels like a second class citizen, or an after thought - just as it often does on the Mac.

When I look at the mobile world in this light it seems like we should be comparing iOS to Windows and Android to OSX, but then again maybe I'm just reading into the analogy too much.

You have to go back further in time for the analogy to make sense. Which platform was Powerpoint originally written for? Seems crazy that it was written for the Mac now that it's so associated with Windows and Microsoft. Even the fact that Adobe Photoshop was a Mac program first seems a bit unlikely as Adobe has been treating the Mac as a second class citizen for a while.

They're basically predicting the same early lead then loss of market share, then mindshare will happen again, not saying that it's already happened.

Also, note that the "Mac users spend more money on software" argument was very popular, even (or indeed, especially) in the bleakest of dark times for the Mac platform. Meanwhile, software that was given away for free and/or relied on network effects (Skype, Firefox, various P2P things) generally started and focused on Windows, because that's where the people were.

Do you really think that? I used to be a Windows user, then switched to Mac by way of Linux a few years ago. Now I have to use Windows at work and I have a really hard time finding good Windows programs besides Office.

The Mac selection frankly feels way better and bigger to me. I would go even further and claim that the main advantage of OSX over Windows is the app selection in both quality and quantity!

By citing the parent comment and modifying the emphasized part I can correct it:

"I think the main reason many people end up using Windows over OSX, or any other OS, has always been the knowledge of software."

Like how to do X in software Y, or what software can one obtain to do task Z.

Probably the Mac App Store changes that, and certainly the perception of it. Also even timid users are much more inclined to go and ask stuff on the Internet, and not solely rely on their inner circle.

Canonical knew that even before the App Store singularity and tried to design a simple user-centric application finder in Ubuntu, alongside the very technical Synaptics package manager. Also they tried to push users to ask questions on forums on the very first page Firefox displays.

Yes, it's absolutely still true, although certainly to a lesser degree than a few years ago. The obvious easy example is games. The number of AAA games available on OSX is still tiny compared to what's available on Windows.

Or perhaps these companies are seeing more purchases/revenue from iOS users, meaning that investing more time and money into an iOS version is a better ROI than putting the same investment into an Android version.

A larger user base doesn't necessarily imply that the same user base is a larger source of revenue. There's a bunch of anecdotal evidence that indicates iOS users are more likely to purchase apps than are Android users.

Google, of all entities, has proven you don't need to charge for services to be profitable.

If you're not charging, you still need customers installing and using your app. Note, I said: "Or perhaps these companies are seeing more purchases/revenue..."

Revenue is revenue, whether you get it via a purchase or via eyeballs. If companies are getting less revenue from Android users vs iOS users then there's little reason for them to invest more in making their Android ports look as nice or function as well as their iOS ports.

The key here is to look at total revenue, rather than revenue/customer. The incremental costs of serving an additional customer are negligible, while development costs are (relatively) fixed. Thus the relative adoption rates of Android vs iOS customers becomes decreasingly important as the Android user base continues to grow.

Despite the apparent swing in popularity of my original statement, I stand by it. Android is looking more and more what Windows was in the early 90s. It doesn't matter how many iOS users purchase apps; if the Android market share is significantly large it will still be the more profitable platform to develop for.

I agree, total revenue is key. In fact, that's my entire thesis: the disparity between current iOS and Android apps may be explained by the possible disparity in revenue between the two platforms.

The reason I replied to your post is that I disagree with the "Android will be utilitarian/iOS will be artsy" assertion as being caused only by market share or user expectations (though I think user expectations are also a huge factor). My belief is that one major, current reason why iOS apps are of higher quality is not just because iOS users expect higher quality apps, but also because iOS users generate more total revenue for companies, providing a better ROI. If/when that shifts in favor of Android, those apps may become the higher quality versions.

As for what happens in the future, it's anyone's guess. Heck, it's entirely possible for Android to crush iOS in terms of market share but to still generate less total revenue for companies if no Android users actually install 3rd party apps. I don't expect that to happen, but it's certainly possible.

"My belief is that one major, current reason why iOS apps are of higher quality is not just because iOS users expect higher quality apps, but also because iOS users generate more total revenue for companies, providing a better ROI."

I think that's a fair point, and one I'll readily concede. My assertion is that, moving forward, we're likely to see that key metric shift in Android's favour, barring some massie swing in adoption numbers.

>Android has more market share than iOS

Is this even true? There are more adroid devices than iOS devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad)?

As of Q4 2010 the global sales were equal (10 million iPod Touches and 7 Million iPads and 16 million iPhone vs. 33 million Android phones). The Android sales were growing faster up to this crossover point, but while that means they'll have higher sales in the future, it also means that Apple currently have a higher installed base, which should last a few more months.

"Android has more market share than iOS"

Where are they? I read this statement all the time, but I barely know anyone who has an android phone. Not a scientific measurement, but still ...

"Android emerging as the clear winner of mobile and iOS being reserved for the trendy/artistic/quality crowd"

I really disagree with this statement. First, you can't generalize iOS buyers like this, but more importantly, how do you define winner? Market share? Phones with Android installed on them? How many of these Android users are buying apps?

As a developer, the only measurement I care about is how many of potential buyers of my app are there. Android might have more installed OSes, but iOS has more app buyers.

That's the real reason you see companies focused on iPhone app development and not Android app development.

I mostly agree with you. The exception is the last paragraph.

To me, the last paragraph reads along the lines of "Silly person, engineers can't design. Only a designer can add polish to something. Go back to your coding hole and don't even bother trying." Which is bullshit.

// edit: To clarify, a good app should most definitely have a designer, and a UI framework on the scale of Android's should have many, for sure. I'm just objecting to how the tone of the last paragraph felt.

In regards to the last paragraph, I agree, I think that you're more likely to see bad reviews for 'app is ugly' on the IOS app store than you are on Android. If the users really want applications to look good they need to negatively review poorly polished applications. Most of the time if the app functions correctly, reviews will be positive.

"The apps that Google built for Android (Maps in particular) are very clean and elegant but I would hesitate to call them beautiful or extremely polished. Google's design aesthetic typically eschews gradients, sheen, highlights and shadows in favor of a flatter, cleaner look and feel. "

Your post is very confusing.

At first you seem to imply that good design is tied to the amount of shadows, gradients or highlights and that a "clean, elegant" design is somehow worse. Yet later you say that Google's apps are well-designed...

Why not use accurate design concepts if you claim that you are a designer? Say exactly what's wrong with the design by pointing out which design rules were broken.

Design is not only about aesthetics. It's as much about how it works.

You can have a well designed app that isn't necessarily beautiful.

All Google stuff is by definition not beautiful, that doesn't mean it's not well designed.

It depends what you're designing for. If you're designing for more clicks, more ad glances, cross-promoting your services, you can say that Google's stuff is well designed and that it works - because these are the metrics that they use to evaluate their design.

When we're talking about "graphic design", beauty automatically flows from good design and Google's products are simply not well designed. And they will not be, because they micro-optimize for what brings more users.

I am not sure what you are getting at here.

All discussion about design must be understood in context. The context here is the iPhone vs. Android GUI.

I responded to the claim that flyosity's comment was somehow contradictory. It's not. It's just a matter of understanding that design in this context isn't only about the beauty.

In my experience, the main reason is that you only need to design for one screen resolution on the iPhone (retina artwork doesn't really affect the screen layout). This makes it a lot easier to statically position elements and create pixel perfect effects.

On the other hand, when you're dealing with dynamic layouts, you have to jump through a lot more hoops to make sure the app still looks good as the resolution is scaled up and down (e.g. creating a stretchable images and such and so forth).

I also think that Helvetica is a much nicer looking default font.

I don't buy it. As an Android dev you normally just worry about one resolution, Android provides you with the tools (device independent pixels) to make other screens look the same. Just like the iphone, designers are encouraged to provide 2 sets of art assets, for medium and high resolution screens.

The real reasons that apps looks worse on Android is that companies don't want to spend the time and money to get the apps polished. As an Android consultant I've come across the attitude from companies over and over again that the Android app should cost less money than the iPhone counterpart. The Android app is always an afterthought and treated as "let's just do a quick port of the iPhone app".

With respect to only having to "worry about one resolution", I disagree. Android does give you a set of tools for working with multiple screen types, but it's a bit more complicated than "2 sets of art assets". This only addresses one aspect of different screens: pixel density. This still leaves out different screen sizes. Even then, a "normal hdpi" screen can still be different from another "normal hdpi" screen.

It certainly does not help that Google's dashboard for screen and density figures has not been updated in over half a year.

As far as your second point goes, I think that companies' attitudes to Android development will change to reflect the evolving marketplace. A year or two ago, Android just did not have the market share to justify a lot of work. Now that Android is commanding significant market share, I think Android development will begin to be seen to be as important as iOS development.

There might be slight differences between "normal hdpi" screens but those differences won't affect a good design and the developer won't have to worry about it. And it definitely has nothing to do with why the meebo app looks like crap. It looks like crap because meebo didn't put the effort into it.

Where is that? I've been looking at this:


oops, you're right, that one hasn't been updated in a while.

I don't think that's quite true. Android does provide you with a way of dealing with the varying resolutions, but I don't think it solves the problem perfectly.

I think it takes a little longer to create cross-compatible assets than it would on iOS. If it's not an easily repeatable or stretchable asset, you have to think about how it will scale on different resolutions.

I'm not saying it's impossible, just that it costs more in time and money. Some companies won't be willing to accept that cost and will just cut corners.

I'll agree that helvetica looks nicer, but I don't think all the iPhone style gloss and huge spacing looks /better/. Looking at those side-by-sides and knowing that the iPhone versions came first just makes me think that the android versions could be much more information-dense and interactive than they are if they hadn't been limited by the preconceptions of what the existing iPhone version does.

Remember, though: contacts are touch-targets. The "huge spacing" is there to make the app easier to use. I think the article even touched on that.

Yep, I assume the FB app home page is half height to accommodate HVGA devices.

It's not shown in the example on the link, but the Android Facebook app's home screen uses the bottom half to show a stream of recently posted pictures from friends. I suppose the article's author must not have many friends who feel like sharing.

And that's also a pretty old version of Android FB. The current version includes Places, Chat and replaces Requests with Groups, creating a balanced 3x3 grid of icons.

Interesting blog, every entry appears to be a substantial jab at the platform itself... not really just "gripes" as I see them. I am impressed with how dedicated he is to the pursuit, not only does he have a blog solely for his android gripes, but he's also made an androidgripes gmail account as well as a twitter account and a facebook page to promote the blog. It doesn't seem to be possible to find the blogger's name, however, though as an anonymous figure he certainly is quite prolific [1].

I also note that the HN account that submitted this link was created immediately before submitting it, and that's their only activity.

I was considering responding to the flame bait in his closing paragraph ("Is it because iPhone developers are better at user interface design?" etc.) until I realized what I was looking seemed to have about a 99% chance of being corporate sponsored astroturfing. FTC disclosure, Apple?

[1] "Want to install "open" apps on Android? Think twice", "Is Samsung’s New Galaxy Tab Fibbing About Its Figure?", "J-P Teti: The iPad is 99% more open than any other computer", "'openness' considered harmful, said by Google on Honeycomb source code", "Everything that can go wrong with Motorola Android tablet does", "Android is sure a Wi-Fi connection dropper", etc.

Although the blog makes legitimate individual points (apart from the flamebait closer), I think you're 100% right that the overall motivation is a thinly disguised fanboi polemic.

* a 99% chance of being corporate sponsored astroturfing*

This is an interesting possibility, but at the same time have you ever read the comments on gizmodo?

Apple doesn't need to astroturf when there are fanbois just -dying- to tell everyone how good their platform is and how poor the competition does. This blog could just easily be the product of such a fanboi, just with a bit more promotion, money, time & writing ability than the average gizmodo commenter.

While I do agree that many Apple fans are quite eager to score points in favor of their preferred platform (just as many Android fans are as well), I still stand by my theory. Have you read the text of the rest of the articles, gone to the twitter and facebook pages and read the postings? In my opinion both the tone and volume is highly unusual, and to my ears the arguments sound exceedingly carefully framed in a way that is unusual outside of guerilla PR.

Obviously I can't say for sure, readers need to make up their own minds.

Maybe. There's certainly a lot of FUD there.

A lot of it still seems pretty adolescent though, like the post wholly about the "Gmail" icon or throwaway lines about "14 years old’s feeling".

The Twitter account looks like someone is curating it but the facebook page just looks they enabled Tumblr's "Post to Facebook" feature and walked away.

I guess there's no way to be sure.

"FTC disclosure, Apple?"

Paranoid, much? Even if you believe Apple has any need to do something like this, I think we can agree it would probably be done in a more subtle and effective manner than sponsoring an "Android gripes" blog that essentially nobody reads.

>Implying that AAPL could only operate a single astroturf site, instead of legions.

This is pure tin-hat thinking.

Given the number of Apple fan boys out there, and how friendly the media as a whole is to their cause, do you really think they would view the potential benefits of astroturfing as greater than the potential damage it would do to their brand?

It's not a matter of good or evil. It's a matter of smart vs. dumb.

Astroturfing is almost always found out, and usually quickly, and comes with a very nasty backlash. See, for instance, the recent fuss over the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 astroturfing.

To me, the most jaw-dropping post was about WiFi notifications. Android is perfectly capable of doing what he wants, it just seems whatever phone he was looking at didn't have that feature enabled at that time. That "gripe" is pure troll.

It would be like me complaining that an iPhone kept annoying me by showing me nearby WiFi networks everywhere I went. You can flip the switch on that, too (and with the exact same level of effort). Complaining is just being willfully obtuse and insisting the rest of the world should set their defaults the way you want them.

Gruber's just picked it up with no comment other than a strange piece of snide: http://daringfireball.net/linked/2011/04/07/android-apps-loo...

(What is he implying? Assuming sarcasm - he is saying that it's not a coincidence but that some unnamed other parties claim it is. I don't really get it but it seems like he's getting too lazy to actually offer an extended argument these days)

His column is barely readable nowadays. He picks all the stories and "small" snippets that try to position android and google as a failure. No explanation. No argument. Nothing at all.

And since there are no comments, he totally paints a one-sided story.

Gruber picked it up because he recognized a kindred spirit. As for the snark, it was just today's way of saying that Apple and iOS are overwhelmingly better than Google and Android. I don't read anything else into that.

This is super paranoid and somewhat disappointing. Occam's razor says that it's just an opinionated blogger. Apple has a huge marketing budget and no known history of astroturfing (unlike, for example, Sony). They don't need to do it, it's not their style.

Anyway, the author of the blog has a response: http://android-gripes.tumblr.com/why

Edit: Imagine this blog was titled "iOS gripes" and talked about unjust bannings from the App Store. Would you suggest that Google was astroturfing?

I'm not saying he's an astroturfer, but if I were to run an astroturfing campaing, this is pretty much exactly how I would do it.

Not commenting on the blog's choice of subject matter:

Making a Gmail / Twitter / Fb / Tumblr / etc. is standard for any website. There's nothing unusual about creating accounts on these other services as it's arguably an essential part of 'doing business' online.

As an Android and iOS developer, I would like to point out that one of the contributing factors to the lack of well-designed applications for Android is due to the lack of polish in the Android tools and the available IDE (ADT for Android, and XCode for iOS).

XCode on Mac OS X is a delightful experience, with the right tools and the right amount of control to make good applications, supported by excellent tools to optimize the look/performance. The interface builder and the simulator are quite polished and greatly reduce the effort in tweaking the UI.

However, with ADT, I spend most of my time struggling with XML layout files, and heap dumps attempting to improve the application. The interface builder became usable only with the latest version of ADT, and even-so, I often find myself dropping down into the XML often. The simulator takes a long time to load and is quite sluggish. I find it far more convenient to have the application run on the device each time. However, this implies that code-compile-run cycle takes more time on ADT than on XCode.

In conclusion, the iOS development tools help me in finishing the application quicker, leaving me enough time (and providing me better tools) to polish the interface further.

But you run emulator only first time (granted, that takes some time). Subsequently you deploy your app to already running emulator. That's pretty fast.

I don't, my computer can't run Eclipse and the emulator at the same time without stalling out.

Am I crazy or does the Android speedtest seem much more pleasant and usable? I've not used either, but from the single screenshot I can much more easily get a handle on the info from the Android one. The iPhone one seems a bit riced up to the detriment of usability (which is the important thing that Apple does well, not just looking pretty, right?).


1) big down and up icons next to the down and up speeds, to reinforce the text at a glance. 2) The text "kilobits / sec" is a readable white, rather than mid-grey and isn't obscured by the indicator hand. 3) Though the text on the Apple one has been corrected to match the dial which now shows K or M, the currently measured speed is given without units. I had trouble differentiating between the "1.18" and the "58" immediately below it which appears to be an advertisement.

Also, isn't the Android one just the old iPhone interface. So is the argument that Android is so fundamentally flawed, that it makes apps magically look exactly like an iPhone app from 6 months ago?

Here's an iPhone 3GS and 4 screenshot showing it being basically indistinguishable from the Android one (except buttons were moved to the top):


iOS comes with a handy set of UI controls that look decent even without customization. You can use the default UITableView, for instance (looking at the Meebo screenshot) and get the nice look-and-feel out of the box. This especially helps a low-budget dev like myself.

Apple showcase of the controls that come out-of-the box and various ways to tweak them: http://developer.apple.com/library/ios/#documentation/userex...

Default Android controls for some reason sport a more "circa-1990 MS DOS" look. The developers need to actually invest time to re-skin the components or make their own to get a modern look. This is made slightly more difficult if you want to support multiple screen sizes/resolutions. As such, many Android apps sadly seem to end up with the default look.

(I have written apps for both platforms.)

Do you think there would be a niche for creating good looking high quality UI controls for Android? Or will it still be a too big hassle to implement them?

I'm sure devs would love a snazzy UI framework that "just works" on popular screen sizes. I, for one, would use it. If it was open-source and distributed under a permissive enough license, even better.

UI controls are a contributing factor to Android’s ugliness. I’ll argue that Android doesn’t have a worthy equivalent to Xcode’s Interface Builder.

I have documented that iOS comes with scores of fonts available for Developers at http://iOSFonts.com at the same time (and someone correct me if I’m wrong) Android only has Droid Sans.

In many cases devs — and especially designers — for the mobile market are dog-fooding; they will likely use the iOS version of the app they make because they own the hardware themselves.

Google sets a low bar and a poor example for UX.

There are other factors, too. Some of which are that there is a higher ROI on iOS apps, a larger market share (when you count iPod touch as part of your audience), and an audience more likely to be concerned with quality.

I think the screen resolution issue is easily overlooked - my wife had the Sony X10 mini, with a screen resolution of 240 x 320, and a lot of other cheaper Android phones have a similar resolution.

If an app developer wants their phone to work on the whole range of Android phones, the app interface needs to cope with these very low resolution screens.

Agreed, just it adds another "I need to test this" configuration for devs. Have you found that many apps don't support this resolution?

Google actually tracks screen sizes of devices that access Android Market:


It appears that 240x320 (small + low density) accounts for 2.3% of users.

While unrelated to UI, another very handy page tracks Android versions in use out there. It looks like 2.2 has become the most common version in the last month: http://developer.android.com/resources/dashboard/platform-ve...

One note of caution; while the platform version thing is up to date, the screens one is from August 2010. 240x320 is probably an even smaller minority now, as it only really showed up in Sony's 'mini' devices, which did not sell well and seem to have been effectively discontinued; there are no released plans for a current-gen one.

The thing is Android apps or UI controls in general don't look bad on their own - they are quite ok - elegant, minimalistic and understated by choice. Focusing on getting the work done becomes more easy when you have less UI jazz to get distracted with.

This really shows in the Android App Market review comments - people who rate low mostly do so because of force closes, missing functions etc. (https://market.android.com/details?id=com.facebook.katana is a good case study.)

The other part is that iPhone has one resolution UI - Androids come in lots of different resolutions. So I think the amount of blank/white space and font sizes vary between different handsets and that makes some apps designed for low res UIs look a bit off on high res screens.

And frankly, I can't find anything worse looking in the examples the fanboi^W author presented and he doesn't seem to be making any real points as to why he thinks one was worse than other - apart from him just not liking anything other than iPhone UI.

Because Android users don't care. To make the app look nice, you would need to pay for 100 hours of a designer and 400 hours of programming. If it looks like crap, you only have to pay for 400 hours of programming. Android users don't care, so you make more return on your investment by neglecting design.

Apple users all have blogs about the virtues of serif fonts versus sans-serif fonts, so you are not going to sell your apps (or get ad views) if your app looks like crap. Therefore, paying the designer is worth the cost.

Also, Java programmers are a different demographic than Objective-C/Cocoa programmers. Java programmers mostly use Windows, which doesn't have a UI or "user experience". (The experience is mostly in removing spyware.) iPhone developers, by definition, can only use Apple products, thus self-selecting for people that care a little about UI.

Additionally, the finance doesn't really make sense for Android apps. Why would I waste 6 months of my time (which is around $100k) on an app that nobody will pay for when I could write bullshit software for an investment bank and get a guaranteed paycheck no matter what my UI looks like?

Android users get what they want: cheap. iPhone users get what they want: eye candy.

(Just to be clear, I love Android. But "user experience" doesn't mean much to me. As long as I can see my calendar and ssh to my machine at home over OpenVPN, I don't really care about anything else.)

This really hits on a key point: there is practically no money to be made B2C on Android. And this is normal. Historically there has rarely been a software business made rich by B2C. It's much easier to sell large-volume to businesses than it is to deal with fickle individual users.

Adobe doesn't sell most Photoshop licenses to individual users, they sell to businesses for whom the cost of pirating is not worth it. Windows licenses sold to individual users are dwarfed by Windows licenses sold to manufacturers, who buy it because that's what their customers expect. Opera gives away its various browsers, then uses the expertise and the satisfied customer base as arguments when licensing preloaded versions to manufacturers. Swype isn't selling its product to individual users in the app store for $4.99, they're selling to manufacturers whose customers appreciate or demand this software out of the box. Facebook isn't selling its apps or website access because it's so much easier to just sell eyeballs to advertisers.

Games are the major exception, but they only account for so much.

In the physical world, it's by and large the intermediaries that sell to individual users. Most companies producing physical stuff — especially non-premium products that are supposed to sell at scale — don't open their own stores and often outsource issues like individual warranty handling to third parties.

I heavily suspect the iPhone B2C model is an anomaly that may soon be corrected.

As a long term Windows (and Mac) user, I disagree with the part about Windows. Windows 7 is quite polished and I haven't had to deal with spyware in years (of using Windows XP / Windows Vista). Yes, Mac OS X is quite polished and has good workflow elements (expose, stacks, etc.) but so does Windows (tiling, maximizing, jump-list, etc.) .

As an Android (and iOS) developer, I would like to point out that one of the contributing factors to the lack of well-designed applications for Android is due to the lack of polish in the Android tools. XCode on Mac OS X is a delightful experience, with the right tools and the right amount of control to make good applications, supported by excellent tools to optimize the look/performance. However, with ADT, I spend most of my time struggling with XML layout files, and heap dumps attempting to improve the application.

I'm not so sure why this got voted down. You might not agree, but he does have a somewhat convincing argument.

Android users, on average, might well be somewhat more pragmatic than "design-addicted" Apple users, and settle with something that works instead of looks nice. They buy a phone to do their jobs, or communicate with their friends, but not (as much) to show off or worship it.

After all, they buy a (usually) cheaper phone.

Apple users all have blogs about the virtues of serif fonts versus sans-serif fonts

That made me laugh :)

He doesn't make a very convincing case. The iPhone Meebo emoticon screen looks a lot better, but all the others aren't as simple.

I prefer the look of the Android Meebo contact list, but I prefer the iPhone chat interface.

Note that his Android Facebook app needs updating. The missing Chat & Places icons fill it up. I think I prefer the Android version - the white background makes it look more lighter and more spacious than the iPhone version.

I don't like either Speedtest app much at all. I prefer the tabs at the bottom from the iPhone version, but hate (hate!) that purple (!!) ad bar above it. OTOH, I hate the "Test Again" button on the Android version.

"I prefer the look of the Android Meebo contact list, but I prefer the iPhone chat interface"

To me, from the apparent size of it, the Android one looks like hard to manipulate by touch. I don't want to feel like aiming each time I navigate. Also, probably the john@xyz filler with no user picture is part of the unsettlement. That point is valid of the Android one too, as it shows the user both offline, in buddies and in conversations. Weird.

That said, no developer in their right mind would ship such an emoticon picker. It's simply outrageous and just shows disdain to the user.

I agree with the sentiment... somewhat. For example, I prefer the Android Facebook to the iPhone. But the entire blog is about pointing out anecdotal instances where the author doesn't like Android? I would much rather hear from a developer than the author of this blog.

A counterexample is Wunderlist, which is built with Titanium Appcelerator, and looks and works really well on both platforms. It is also identical where it should but not where it mustn't: it follows the conventions of each platform in details such as where to put tabs, how to access the settings, etcetera.

* For Android - https://market.android.com/details?id=com.wunderkinder.wunde...

* For iOS - http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wunderlist-task-manager/id406...

Btw, I am interested if you know of other good multiplatform apps (not games) built using third-party middleware.

Economics? (investing more design/dev time in the [currently, at least] more profitable platform)

Laziness/incompetence? (I don't know how many times I've downloaded an Android equivalent to an iOS app only to find re-purposed, screen captured iOS graphics with a non-native UI)

Device fragmentation, no IB, perception that Android users don't appreciate polished UI/design - take your pick.

Regardless of which excuse is chosen, the blame lies with the designer/developer/manager, not the OS.

EDIT: I'm speaking of custom interfaces rather than stock OS controls and views. Those elements are obviously controlled by the OS.

I wouldn't say the blame lies with Android since at the end of the day, the responsibility lies with the designer, but I would say credit goes to iOS for making more aesthetically pleasing UI's easier to make than on Android.

Although it seems that most apps on Android seem to get the short end of the stick, I would like to point out that there are some apps that do get a high quality treatment on Android.

The Official Major League soccer app, MatchDay 2011, is quite gorgeous on both iOS and Android.

As a developer for both platforms, they each have their positives and negatives.

iOS feels like you're plugging together some pretty good looking (default) stuff and then layering on polish.

Android feels as though you're building from scratch... more like web development, where you need to create most/all of your assets from scratch.

From my experience developing for both iOS and Android, it's because iOS users expect your app to look good, or they won't use it.

Apple just sets a higher bar, both because of Apple's own apps and the approval process, and developers code to the users' expectations.

Plus, with the nice looking built-in UI widgets and Interface Builder, it actually takes some effort to make an app look bad.

Am I the only one who prefers the Android interface for Meebo (first time seeing it)? I often dread using the iOS version as I feel it's extremely cramped.

While I can't speak for Android, I think the simple answer is that Apple provides sample code and applications that are examples in great UI design on iOS.

I'm not seeing the same level of detail or commitment from Google or its partners at this time. It is much easier to copy off of a good design than to create a new one from scratch

(Replying to myself here) On the other hand.. maybe it boils down to what the users will put up with. If you come to iOS with a real crappy interface 9 times out of 10 you will be massacred in the user comments and reviews.

Maybe Android users have a lower tolerance for crappy UIs? I ask not trying to pick a fight or start a flamewar, but out of genuine curiosity.

If iOS users are more apt to pay for applications, I suspect for the most part that they have little to no tolerance for substandard UX.

So if it is free no one really cares, but if you are paying for something you now have a vested interest in the product.

Same reason John Carmac began focusing dev efforts on consoles - when hardware specs are consistent it's much easier to build highly optimized software / UI rather than trying to support endless configurations.


This is largely a comparison between the management styles of the two platforms. (FWIW: I've owned by iPhones and Androids.) On iOS, the UX guidelines are well defined and Apple forces apps to stick to them; Android is the Wild West. On iOS, nearly every app is straightforward but limited; on Android, apps can do whatever the hell they want. These two constraints lead to different outcomes. Two examples: NYTimes is much simpler on iOS but richer and more confusing on Android; Flikie HD isn't possible on iOS but works on Android and has an incredibly confusing interface. Reminds me of Mac vs PC all over again...

Because far far more people on iOS are on hardware of the latest, standard hardware that the software is aimed at.

As I understand, the Nexus is the one Android is putting forward as an example, it is the highest quality of all phones. The whole of the current generation of iOS devices are the same, perfected examples of the hardware and software working together.

There are probably Android phones of better hardware than an iPhone, but do you know any apps that demand these phones, that are too slow on anything with a slower processor?

Apple has crafted a development environment that is more conducive to producing high-quality polished apps with relatively little effort. The iOS SDK is a refined version of the Mac Cocoa SDK, which they have been developing for 10 years. They were able to keep the best qualities of standard Cocoa while further refining the framework for a mobile device. The end result is an SDK that not only has attracted tons of developers, but is also really enjoyable to work with.

Wow, the Android ones look much nicer. Oversized icons? Garish blue? Gimmicky graphics? Just focus on the content, please.

What oversized icons? You need these to work reliably on a 3.5" touchscreen with a finger. It's good design to be "generous" in target area.

Seriously, who's ever going to want a GUI?

While I agree with his overall thought, he chose some terrible examples to illustrate it.

I wouldn't be particularly surprised if they outsource the non-iOS development. Many multi-platform shops I know build only one flavor and then to save on full-time developer costs send out the work on other platforms elsewhere. I know of a few startups doing mobile apps who are now hiring Android devs, but did those apps as a purely out-of-house thing when they were small.

And it wouldn't be new for the industry. I had a buddy at Midway Chicago for many years, where they used to do many of their sports games on XBox and outsource the PS3/Wii ports.

For another great example, have a look at the CNBC free app. iPhone app is sharp and almost all self contained. Want to see details on a symbol? Click the quote and it'll show you within the app. Want to see a graph? Just turn the phone sideways and it'll show you a nice chart. It's got many other nice features that make it an excellent app.

The Android app is just garbage. It's basically just a watch list with links out to their mobile site. The end.

Admittedly more familiar w/ the iOS SDK but I've build a few Android apps. I find iOS controls easier to use and customize.

I think it also has to do with the fact that the iPhones have a fixed set of specs. With android you never know what kind of specs your users phone has (screen height/width e.d.). But with the iPhone you're always sure what controls your user has (touch screen instead of controller).

If you get invited to a party for fashion designers, you'd better spend some time picking the right thing to wear.

If you get invited to a geek party, remembering to shave alone would put you above the 90th percentile.

Why do VOIP apps on both platforms lack bluetooth support? I think that's a more interesting question to ask for mobile "phone" OSes.

one of the most appalling part (ignoring that record-breaking emoticon picker) is not the selected apps themselves but the left-aligned icons in the top status bar. Their lack of quality shows even more when contrasted with the carefully designed right-aligned part (I suppose that one is OS-tied and therefore from Google).

The WakeMate app is superior on the iPhone compared to it's android version.

From the apps I've worked on, iOS is a much more profitable platform and thus gets the majority of the focus and the initial app releases. Then apps get ported to Android (where they get heavily pirated and generate a fraction of the sales - regardless if time is spent making the app as good or better than its iOS counterpart.)

All apps shown are free.

I think it's the App Store review people who have generally done a good job in ensuring that an iOS app looks and behaves the way it's expected to. I'm not saying whether it's "wrong" or "right", just the mere fact that some warm body is running an app through its paces and makes an actual decision whether to reject it or not ensures a pretty consistent user interface.

While many things that can be said about the user interfaces of the three iOS apps shown in the original article, "consistent" definitely isn't one of them.

That outlook seems like a self fulfilling prophecy.

Probably closer to a positive feedback loop.

laziness, different developer teams... I don't think it's Android's fault at all.

With enough time and assets you can build pretty amazing UIs on Android. Everything is there for you to create custom components and override styles.

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