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Designers Should Be Using Both iOS and Android Together Daily

Earlier this spring I switched mobile operating systems from iOS to Android. I had been used to the iPhone for a couple iterations but decided to switch to a HTC One as I wanted a larger clear screen. I’m still enjoying my HTC One and I have no regrets changing. One of the reasons why I was able to make the phone change is that I still had my iPad mini that was running iOS. I had the best of both worlds. That brings me to why I’m writing this post that simply states that designers should be using both operating systems daily.

For the time being “designer” could be anyone responsible for designing something digital-potentially web, an app, products etc. My classification is important as much as the sentiment. On a daily basis I’m using both my phone and tablet intermixed with my MacBook Pro retina. The ecosystem for the most part plays nicely with each other thanks to the cloud and that most apps I use are on all platforms. As I go back and forth I try to keep an eye on how the different systems take on the same interactions differently and which one’s are similar. I also like from a design thinking perspective comparing. The same app in the different environments. A designer needs to keep up with best practices. Best practices aren’t just on one platform.

Personally my system of using Android for my phone and iOS for a tablet works really well. It’s what I would recommend that others do as I don’t think it’s a great idea to go Android tablet. I think there’s a long way for those devices to come close to an iPad or iPad mini. So that’s the catch, a lot of designers are unwilling to change from iOS for their phone to Android which is too bad. I’ve become a better designer because I have learned to see what the best of both systems offers (and worst practices). While my comparison is subjective in that I am not comparing two mobile devices or two tablet devices together, but one of each, this review does offer a general working knowledge of both systems.

↧ Keyboard iOS iA Writer
Keyboard iOS ia Writer

↧ Keyboard Gmail Android
Keyboard Android

As good as android is, it’s not perfect-or rather my HTC one isn’t perfect. As I write the first draft of this on my iPad mini I’m using IA Writer. I couldn’t imagine using my HTC One keyboard for a long focused writing. IA writer has one of the best mobile keyboards I’ve used due to the additional buttons it displays. Comparing that keyboard to HTC isn’t comparable but interesting to compare none the less to show what possible.

↧ Home Screen iOS
Home Screen iOS

↧ Home Screen Aviate Android
Home Screen Android

↧ Search iOS
Search iOS

↧ Search Android Aviate
Search Android

After years of downloading every app possible I’ve now tried to simplify my daily flow. In terms of operating system fundament sit doesn’t get more basic than comparing home screens. iOS is basically locked down with basic functionality like creating folders where more than two apps can be put together. On the other hand Android goes much further. On a basic level I can sort apps by download recency and alphabetically along with my custom ordering. On an advanced level I can find apps that modify my home screen in entirely new ways. I’ve recently started using Aviate which I quite love. It took about a day to get used to it taking over my home screen but don’t think I should switch back on. It really enhances the experience of my phone depending on what flow I’m in to. Comparing iOS to Android home screens, iOS doesn’t offer much info where as Android makes it possible to create a personal dashboard that saves taps and makes apps more useful in a system. I commented on twitter a while ago questioning why more Android apps don’t take advantage of widgets. Most are poorly designed but offers a great way of making the app more useful. I use a couple sports widgets to track my teams along with weather. Even looking at how sports widgets display the same info differently is fascinating. None of that is possible on iOS which is too bad.

↧ Notifications Expanded iOS
Notifications Expanded iOS

↧ Notifications Expanded Android
Notifications Expanded Android

When I’m not using the actual devices I rely on notifications. In terms of info display I think both systems work well. I don’t think one has a distinct advantage over the other when the info window is expanded. Where iOS falls short is the actual notification comes in. I feel like it overtakes the top of my screen. I can’t close it. Because a lot of apps use some sort of top navigation the alerts tend to cover the buttons which is annoying. The HTC One displays the incoming notifications on the top but doesn’t conflict with my larger screen. I also find that opening the notification window easier on my HTC One. He little iOS tab feels too small to drag. iOS’ advantage is that it will display notification on the screen when off. I miss not having that capability on my HTC One.

Some of the useful apps I use on both devices daily include Twitter (and Tweetbot occasionally on iPad Mini), Spotify, Instagram/Flickr, Wunderlist to keep lists, Pocket and Kindle to read, Google Gmail, Maps and Chrome for basic stuff and Strava to track my biking routes. Each of those apps work on both platforms and a few work nicely with all three platforms including my laptop. The iOS apps that don’t work on both platforms include IA writer and Dark Sky which is too bad along with the magazines I subscribe to. Off the top of my head aside from Aviate I don’t think there’s any apps I use that are only on Android.

↧ Twitter iOS
Twitter iOS

↧ Twitter Android
Twitter Android

↧ Spotify iOS
Spotify iOS

↧ Spotify Android
Spotify Android

↧ Instagram iOS
Instagram iOS

↧ Instagram Android
Instagram Android

↧ Flickr iOS
Flickr iOS

↧ Flickr Android
Flickr Android

↧ Wunderlist iOS
Wunderlist iOS

↧ Wunderlist Android
Wunderlist Android

↧ Pocket iOS
Pocket iOS

↧ Pocket Android
Pocket Android

↧ Kindle iOS
Kindle iOS

↧ Kindle Android
Kindle Android

↧ Google Maps iOS
Google Maps iOS

↧ Google Maps Android
Google Maps Android

↧ Strava iOS
Strava iOS

↧ Strava Andriod
Strava Andriod

Comparing most of those apps on both platforms, some work exactly the same like Wunderlist, some with small aesthetic nav differences like Twiiter while others look drastically different like Strava though maintains the same functionality. Kindle shows the shortfalls of iOS not having a back button compared to Android. If a person is reading a book and wants to view all books, it takes two taps to the same screen that only takes one with Android. Having the capability to compare apps is at the core of why I think designers need to be using platforms. Comparing how a user on twitter goes back and forth is different depending on the device. How someone shares/saves articles using Pocket have interesting nuances. Only using one platform and not the other makes it hard on a designer to learn new design patterns.

↧ Settings iOS
Settings iOS

↧ Settings Android
Settings Android

Settings is one of those black boxes for a lot of visual designers. The catch is that if you’re a product or ux designer they have to understand settings intimately. If they don’t know this it’s pretty hard to understand the functionality their designing. On a platform level iOS does much better displaying the information while Android to gives more functionality to modify and edit. I have to admit there’s been times when one app’s preferences has taken over on all apps which has been difficult to adjust on Android. I’ve had to spend time on list serves to figure out the bug and how to fix that. I don’t think I’ve ever had that issue win iOS.

I’ve really only scratched the surface as to why a designer needs to be on both (actually all 3 if you include desktop/laptop). The takeaway for me is that by thinking of how the same functionality can be designed differently or the same is extremely helpful. It’s also important to understand why differences exist and designing to those advantages. If you’re not on both platforms it’s extremely hard to know this.

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  • http://areturnafterlongwanderings.com/ kenna

    It’s as if it’s insulting/degrading to collaborate with one another. Currently, to me, Google’s heading a good design direction and it seems HTC is actually listening more to their users and are actually incorporating lots of default Android design into their phones… The biggest problem is, both Apple and Android have different aesthetics and at least one of them is stubborn/full of pride. I find it ridiculous that I need to make two icons for my app, for iOS and Android, in order for it to look good and be good enough for the os it will be running on.

  • Thomas Cannon

    Google’s design direction still feels heavy-handed to me. Good article about being familiar with the UI from both (Thanks for the comparison photos), but I would have a hard time looking at Android everyday.

  • http://designnotes.info/ Michael Surtees

    While I do agree that the icon situation is brutal in the lack of consistency over systems, there are things like this that help http://realfavicongenerator.net/

  • AriWeinstein

    Cool article, but I feel like the screenshots would be be a lot more helpful if it were comparing “apples and apples,” so to speak (ha ha). You’re comparing an Android phone to an iOS tablet; Android phone to iPhone would be a lot more informative. The iPhone and iPad UIs have a bunch of important differences, and it makes comparisons like the Settings app pretty useless.

  • http://www.au.mobilepundits.com/ Mobile Pundits

    It is true that android is much more
    insecure than iOS by design. One thing that makes to prefer iOS is that their
    is no iPhone app can access another apps data without user intervention as well
    as iPhone applications are given full access to every app’s data. On the other
    hand, Android applications have been shown to send a constant stream of user
    data including location to remote servers. That simply would not happen with an
    iPhone app unless the user really wanted it to.
    cross platform development in iOS and Android