Why the iPhone isn’t the final word in mobile user experience
There’s more to the smartphone market than the iPhone, although given the top-of-mind awareness of Apple’s hugely popular brand, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. This has a lot to do with the seamless integration of hardware, OS, and ecosystem the proprietary device offers; an all-round shiny package that once made the words iPhone and smartphone synonymous.
However, Android is a now the more ubiquitous OS, ruling the global smartphone market with a massive 79.3% of its share. The fragmented nature of the Android hardware is perhaps the reason it is not as ‘in-your-face’ recognisable (to people who take no interest in these things) as Apple’s product. Talk tends to be in terms of iPhone, or Samsung Galaxy, ignoring the multitude of devices that exist in between these two high-end pioneers.
Nevertheless, it is the iPhone that has captured the public imagination.
The iPhone may well be at the cutting edge of user-centric, out-of-box ease of use, but it most certainly isn’t the last word in mobile user experience.
iPhone = Less customisability
Android devices, for instance, offer greater customisation options, allowing users to ‘tinker’ with displays, home screens etc, and receive and view content how they want. This also goes for Windows Phone 8, which has chosen the to follow the Android route of customisability, in contrast to Apple (up to and including iOS6), which has a far more rigid, ‘mother knows best’ approach to how the user interacts with their device.
iPhone = Less freedom
Android phones are open platform, allowing for a far greater range of content, accessible through emulators and sideloading. You can change browser, keyboard, and even the app launcher, all of which are impossible on an iPhone (unless you wish to jailbreak it, and void your warranty).
iPhone = Less universal
Android has a greater penetration worldwide (as demonstrated by its market share), and the fragmentation of hardware means it runs on many low-end, inexpensive devices, which gives it the foothold in poorer countries, priced out by the iPhone’s cost. This gives Android devices a universal appeal, opening up the information highway, and providing a much needed method of communication to those for whom internet access isn’t a given.
The recently released iOS7 has sought to remedy some of the less user-friendly aspects of previous versions. It remains proprietary, so you are still restricted to what Apple says you can and can’t have, but it has now incorporated features already standard to Android and other OS devices. Features such as Control Center, giving the user quick, and effortless access to settings etc, in a single swipe; and the iPhone’s own Near Field Communication (NFC) substitute, called AirDrop, which allows fast, and easy wi-fi sharing between compatible Apple devices.
All that aside, the intention of this blogpost wasn’t to bash the iPhone – simply to highlight that as far as mobile user experience goes, it’s always good to remember that Apple’s isn’t the only game in town.