UX Derby: Mobile OS

By Naheemat Mustapha

July 21, 2023

2 mins


UX Derby: Mobile OS

By Naheemat Mustapha

July 21, 2023

2 mins


Messi or Ronaldo? Cats or dogs? Extra hot or lemon and herb? To say our lives are ruled by binaries would be an overstatement. But as anyone who has felt the pang of disappointment upon ordering a Coke and being confronted with the fateful words ‘We’ve got Pepsi – is that OK?’ will attest, our tastes can separate us along deep fault lines. Against this backdrop, this month we’ll be weighing in on one of the great tussles of our age – the battle for supremacy over the world inside our mobile phones. It’s Apple vs. Android. 

 

Both Apple and Android boast a substantial market share – 28.4% and 70.8% of the global market respectively. Each also offers unique user experiences, with its own camp of loyalists who swear by the UX – and will pay handsomely for the hardware that supports it.

 

Both approaches to UX differ significantly – so much so that Samsung recently launched a new Apple IOS application that allows users to experience the functionality of an Android (via the Samsung User Interface) on an iPhone. If you want to test-drive it yourself, see here

 

That being said, at Manifesto we pride ourselves on our unbiased critical approach. As such, we have accessed the Apple and Android User experience across the following five pillars to evaluate who truly deserves the plaudits:

  • UI Design
  • Navigation 
  • App store
  • Integration
  • Personalisation

 

APPLE

 

Design

 

Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Apple’s iOS is its iconic design. It’s the undisputed champion of digital minimalism. It is controlled and sleek, characterised by a simple, clean layout with a limited colour palette and typography that is easy to read. It adheres to flat design guidelines, with rounded corners and minimal use of shadows that give elements the appearance of being layered on top of one another. The interface is visually appealing and intuitive, making it very easy for most users to navigate. Overall, Apple’s consistent and refined design is ideal for users who value aesthetics and simplicity very highly. 

 

Navigation

 

Apple’s iOS navigation is highly intuitive, with simple gestures for multitasking and a clean home screen. Users can easily switch between apps by swiping left or right from the bottom of the screen, while returning to the home screen requires a simple swipe up, also from the bottom of the screen. We’ve got to give it to the gang from Cupertino here – as far as navigation goes it’s as slick as they come.

 

App Store

 

The mobile app experience is a major factor in the overall UX of any smartphone and Apple is clearly aware of this. Apple’s App Store is highly curated, with strict guidelines for app developers, resulting in a higher quality of apps and a more consistent user experience. It is a place of wonder and magic where every app is carefully curated and regulated by Apple’s watchful eye. Strict guidelines and measures are put in place to prevent malware and other harmful apps from being downloaded. The App Store offers a generally consistent and security-conscious user experience.

 

Integration

 

Apple’s ecosystem is highly integrated and very comprehensive, with a seamless connection between its devices, services, and apps. For example, users can easily Airdrop files between their iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and they can use Apple Pay to make purchases on their phone or Apple watch. This one is a slightly polarising pillar for Apple, a real selling point for most Apple loyalists, but rather off-putting for non-fans who find that this means Apple devices exist in an exclusive members-only club of sorts, hostile to external brands and restricting users from integration across other non-apple devices. 

 

Personalisation

 

Apple’s iOS is pretty narrowed down, with minimal personalisation options. Users can easily change the wallpaper and organise apps into folders, but significantly changing the overall look and feel of an Apple device is a real task. It is important to note that while the 2020 iOS 14 update brought iOS devices out of the stone age of personalisation, achieving a truly distinct overall appearance still does require more effort than on competing Android OS. This certainly allows for consistency, but it is also ultimately a pain point for some users.

 

 

ANDROID

Design

 

Android, on the other hand, is the wild west of UX design. It hosts multiple home screens, widgets all over the shop, bolder colours, and lots of icons and pre-installed apps . Unlike with the iOS, it features more square forms and greater depth effects. To a great detail however, the design tends to vary depending on the manufacturer of the device, with some devices featuring a more minimalistic design similar to Apple, while others have more flamboyant designs. There’s certainly much more diversity in design, with all the good and bad that potentially entails.

 

Navigation

 

While Android also features some simple gestures for key user actions, like the palm swipe gesture to take screenshots. Its navigation can be more complex, sometimes unnecessarily so. For example, unlike on iOS where all in-app navigation is contained within the app design, Android features its own bottom navigation bar, superimposed on all apps. This means that most Android apps feature two back buttons, one, usually at the top left corner and native to the app, and another in the Android bottom navigation bar. Swiping between apps is also a 3-step process involving a button in the bottom nav bar and horizontal scrolling before a selection is made. 

 

App store 

 

Android’s app store, better known as the Google Play Store, is more open than Apple’s equivalent. This means it has a huge variety of apps to download, but also the potential inconvenience of much lower-quality or even potentially harmful ones. It is a paradise for the risk-takers and thrill-seekers – in contrast to Apple’s more polished, but ultimately more restrictive space. It is worth stating that Google does have security measures in place to prevent harmful apps from being downloaded, but it is generally still less strict than Apple. Thus, the Play Store has a wider selection of apps but may be more prone to security issues.

 

Integration

As different manufacturers run different versions of the Android operating system, there are predictably fewer opportunities for integration. Google has, however, made efforts to improve connectivity between its devices and services, such as integrating Google Assistant and Google Home with Android devices. It’s not quite on the same level as Apple, but it is improving over time. On the other hand, Android embraces freedom. Users are never tied down to any one brand – want a Samsung phone and a Google Pixel tablet? No problem! Apple could never.

 

Personalisation

 

Personalisation cuts to the core of Android’s identity, with the ability to configure themes, launchers, and much more. Users can choose from a variety of third-party launchers which significantly alter the look and feel of the device. Home and lock screens are also easily customised. Android does everything Apple can do and then some in this regard, especially with the introduction of the One UI 5.0 on some devices. It truly is a playground for users who crave endless customization options.

 

 

Summary

 

Taking us back to where we started, Apple vs. Android is less about one being truly superior, and more a commentary on what type of person you are. Apple leads the way with a sleek, consistent and widely appealing design and navigation system where uniformity and timely updates are the order of the day. But of course, good UX entails much more than that. Android on the other hand is generally more comprehensive and accommodates for a wider spectrum of user preferences. It truly embraces the wild, untamed wilderness of customization and variety, where users can lose themselves in the freedom to choose. If Apple is Sweden – sleek, minimal, well organised, with strong rules that you mustn’t break, Android is the USA – freedom-obsessed, diverse, often brilliant, frequently chaotic. 

 

But what’s a UX derby without an out-and-out winner? If we’re reducing things down to the first principles of good design – the marriage of form and function – we’re going to have to give this one to Apple for the consistency of its vision, the simplicity of use and the integration with its wider product ecosystem.


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