One question we often get asked is why the Android version of most original iPhone apps looks so bad in terms of design and feel. When we benchmarked the Facebook iPhone app with the Android app about a year ago the a quick comparison originally revealed that even companies with massive development teams such as Facebook failed to develop an Android app that was anywhere close to the iPhone equivalent. At the time there was nothing that was better than the iPhone app. Icons look old, not correctly sized and the colour schemes weren´t consistent with the Facebook website or Android design, search required two clicks instead of one as for iOS and in notifications, links opened up the browser.
Since then the Android Facebook app has vastly improved but it’s still behind iOS. So, why is there such a big difference? Is this simply because Apple is so brilliant in terms of design? But why would Google with their simplicity and great usability across most online services not be able to take their skills to the mobile? Is there another explanation?
To answer the question we’ve looked at 3 different factors including the SDKs, the developers and the expectations.
1. SDKs and approval process
The iPhone SDK was initially developed with one main thing in mind. Control of the user experience by Apple. By providing a framework for developing “standard” looking UIs Apple Google on the other hand took a much more liberal approach with Android arguing that developers should have total freedom in almost everything they do. Although Apple have loosened up requirements since the results of the original approach is still very obvious.
2. The developers
This is going to be a sensitive one but the truth is that most iPhone developers are originally web designers / developers with HTML, Java Script, CSS and maybe flash experience. They are usually not hard core coders. This means that they are generally more focused on the finish of a product. Most Android developers on the other hand are Java developers with a background from server side development, coding of PC applications and other fairly deep coding experiences. Apple made iPhone development as easy as Microsoft made PC development with Visual Basic which means that the creative and design centric people can make their own apps without deep coding knowledge.
In addition to this there are different expectations from users. Historically Apple customers have been more interested in fashion and design whereas Android originally had a perception of being more techie. With both operating systems now reaching a much wider audience this is no longer true but maybe the expectations are still different between users. Despite the big differences between the iPhone version and Android version of the same apps they usually have similar or better rating on Android.
So does it have to be this way?
The answer is simply NO. The Android operating system has the same capabilities as iPhone to create great looking apps even though the UI framework doesn’t go as far. The only people to blame for the deficiencies in Android apps are the individuals and businesses developing the apps. Don’t compromise and the results speak for themselves.