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Worth Another Look

Give Android a chance

Paul Stamatiou, a designer at Twitter, recently published a thoughtful blog post titled "Android is better." He details an experiment that had him trying a Nexus 4 out for just a week before returning back to his iPhone. But it didn't turn out like he expected: "A week in it started feeling normal; the larger form factor was no longer a nuisance. A month in I didn't miss anything about my iPhone. Two months in I sold my iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. It has now been three months since I made the switch. I'm loving Android." Maybe, like Paul, you should give Android another look?

With Apple's Fall event right around the corner, many are preparing to upgrade their iPhone to the latest hardware. However, I would urge them to not settle for the new iPhone just because it's a new iPhone. For a few years following the initial rush of smartphones to the mainstream market, the iPhone had a tremendous lead on Android in adoption and app ecosystem. But some time around the release of the iPhone 4S, Android started gaining ground. After Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was released, its "Holo" UI showed the world that Google had more design sense than it previously let on.

In essence, Android isn't what it was a few years ago. It's changed dramatically, and is now significantly more accessible.

One of the biggest obstacles to switching platforms is the assumption that breaking away from Apple's ecosystem would be a lot of work. Stamatiou felt this way, until he realized that there were alternatives for everything for which he thought he needed an iPhone:

Image: Paul Stamatiou

Time and again, iOS to Android converts list Android's notification system as the number one reason they prefer Google's platform. While Stamatiou is no different, this is an important point to drive home as it's one of the areas where Apple has never really been able to compete.

As someone who has used both iOS and Android extensively, I also believe that Android handles notifications better than iOS. In fact, as Stamatiou says, "Basically, it's your entire phone command center."

But there are so many more features Android has that make up for anything it might lack compared to an iPhone, like:

  • Installing apps from the web:

  • Sharing to any number of services:

  • Context-based information in Google Now:

Image: Ash Berlin

Before the evolution of Android's design, Google was heavily criticized for the disconnect between the design and usability of their various services. But this has changed,and you now find more consistency between Google's services. Their "Play" offerings (music, movies, books, magazines, and TV) offer a very similar experience to one another. All of Google's in-house apps follow the Android Design Guidelines, and Google kindly asks that other app developers do the same. This has resulted in an experience that isn't jarring for users. When you can go from one app or service to another, and know how to use it immediately because it's the same as the last, you know they're doing something right. This isn't something Google realized at first, but rather something in which they have made great strides in understanding.

You can see some of this change in design sense in the Shazam app for Android which has improved dramatically during the evolution to its most recent version.

The other harsh reality is that you likely use more Google products than you realize. Between basic web search, Gmail, Google Drive, or Google+, the amount of Google tie-ins you may use in your everyday routine is significant. This is one of the things that really made Stamatiou fall in love with Android, and one of the best parts about surrounding yourself with Google's entire ecosystem. He quickly realized that Google's services impacted almost everything he did, regardless of the hardware he was using: "The list of Apple products I use daily largely amounts to OS X and Apple hardware. People identify themselves as Mac users and Windows users... zoom out a bit and you'll find another Venn diagram where Google almost entirely encompasses all of these users."

Unfortunately, Android's underlying problem is that it has always been associated with the stigmata that its overall app ecosystem is poor, and mainstream users should stay away, leaving the platform to the "techies." While this may have been the case at its inception, Google's mobile platform has grown monumentally, and could easily be recommended to anyone. Plus, iOS no longer has a monopoly on good apps. Android has grown enough to attract the developers it was lacking at the beginning.

Android isn't the platform it used to be. It isn't hard to use, it doesn't lack the apps you need, and it doesn't lag behind iOS. In fact, it has evolved so much since its inception, and so much in just the last couple of years, that it's finally starting to compete with, and even surpass, Apple's dominance. Give it a try. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Photo: Tsahi Levent-Levi