I’m an Apple user at heart; I use a Mac as my computer, an iPhone as my smartphone and an iPad as my tablet. In my opinion, it’s a pretty great setup, especially when it’s backed by Apple’s iTunes and iCloud ecosystem that keeps everything working together. But although that’s probably not going to change, I’ve felt an impulse (though I have not succumbed, yet) to break the circle of devices and introduce a new Android phone to the mix.
Let me be clear: I’m not talking about Android in general here. I’m talking very specifically about Ice Cream Sandwich and its significant advancements for the platform.
Finally, a Better UI
I only bought my first smartphone just over a year ago, and it was from HTC running Sense over Android. Trust me when I say that the phone did not look nice, mainly due to its UI that was inconsistent, ugly and disobeyed most principles of good design, as well as having awful typography.
What a beautiful operating system...
That was on Froyo. Now, we’re onto Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, which looks a lot better on a number of levels. The typeface, Roboto, looks much better than its counterpart in any prior Android version, and the use of a single accent colour throughout really unifies the experience across apps and parts of the operating system.
Stock Android is much cleaner and more minimal than ever before, and this is reflected in a beautiful interface that is, admittedly, many times better than iOS. Even as a dedicated Apple user, I can admit that the UI of Ice Cream Sandwich and Windows 8/Phone 7 are miles ahead of the iPhone’s and iPad’s.
The Improving Ecosystem
Don’t get me wrong, there’s much to love about the iPhone and a lot that’s keeping me in that setup, not wanting to jump, but the UI is getting left behind day by day. The iCloud/iTunes ecosystem will keep me forever tied to the world of Apple, and that’s not a bad thing, but Google’s getting there with a real competitor.
For data, Google’s ecosystem of Gmail, Google Calendar, and so on, has been a viable competitor to iCloud, but hasn’t offered enough support for media like music and movies. But just while I was in the process of writing this article, Google came out with its consolidated media offering, Google Play, which I reviewed here at AppStorm.
I’m not sure why, but I’ve never found the Google ecosystem to be as straightforward as Apple’s. However, the steps Google are taking to consolidate its experience are great, and are producing improving results. It’s not quite there yet, but it looks like it’s closer.
Google Play is an important step forward for Android.
The results of Google’s work in Ice Cream Sandwich and Google Play are a much cleaner design and simpler experience, that’s more like Apple than many fanboys would want. When I was a day-to-day Android user, I didn’t have a stock app that I could open up and just buy a movie on, for it to be also accessible on my computer and tablet. The iPhone, however, had iTunes – and that was a much more straightforward process.
However, if you’re presented with buying any other Ice Cream Sandwich phone aside from the Galaxy Nexus, please ignore everything I just wrote. For some reason, Android phone makers maintain that skinning Android is a good thing even though the whole argument of a straightforward, clean experience is what could actually start attracting some iOS users to Android. As soon as a skin is applied, that design language goes out the window and you don’t get Android – you get some hybrid of Android with extra stuff no-one wants, and that’s only degrading the experience for the customer.
As someone whose primary beat is Apple, I need an iPhone. However, since I do little aside from the odd Google search, Twitter and regular phone functions on my smartphone, I’d definitely have picked up a Galaxy Nexus over an iPhone if it weren’t for that lock-in.