Android to iOS: Day Three - This Isn't A Google Phone

Yesterday's dramas with Apple ID and geo-locking of purchases aside, I was able to take my first steps in getting to know the iPhone. Not that huge amounts have changed since I had my previous iPhones, but iOS 6 for iPhone is new and adds some features that subtly change the way that the iPhone works.

Yesterday I touched on the loss of Android widgets and how I had expected that to cause me issues. So far it has proven to be a non-issue. However I had to change my way of thinking for this to be the case.

My expectations when using previous Android phones has been that my home screen displays the clock, weather and upcoming appointments. From there, one swipe away would be emails and messages and a further swipe would take me to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ widgets.

I have spent a considerable amount of time (and a lesser amount of money) to ensure that the wallpapers and widgets that sat on my Note 2 or One X home screens were stunning visually, complementary and provided quick glance views of the information that I needed.

On the iPhone the operation is much the same, but also very different. From the 'homescreen' I swipe down into the notification centre and get access to the same set of information, but listed on one (scrollable) screen. The only app missing is Google+, which I remedied by placing on my first page of icons.

By not trying to emulate the Android way of working on the iPhone I found that I have actually managed to achieve a similar standard of user experience. So although the iOS home screen looks dated, working with the flow exposes some very well thought through design decisions.

Apple has built its iOS empire as much on the huge third-party accessory market as the quality of its devices. Nothing about the iPhone 5 suggests that strength will disappear anytime soon.

The wide variety of cases and add-ons available in just about every retail store is just the beginning. Plugged into the USB port in my car - a 2013 Nissan Qashqai - I find all the head unit controls work perfectly to control the iPod function for music. The control knob perfectly matches the iPod Classic's wheel controller and its possible to dive through menus and playlists for the perfect multimedia experience.

Even better, when used as a Sat Nav the voice instructions are relayed over the bluetooth connection so that the iPhone can sit in the iPhone sized slot in the centre console. And if I just want to leave my phone in my pocket - for a short journey for example - the iPhone streams music over bluetooth with full AVRCP control as well. Which means that track information is streamed to the in-car display whilst the audio and steering wheel buttons control the music.

This doesn't sound like a big deal, but no Android phone provides the plug-in USB experience (in fact since Google's move to MTP over USB, rather than Mass Storage over USB most cars won't even see the music when the phone is plugged in) and only a select few (notably Samsung) have implemented AVRCP 1.3+ to allow streaming of track data with audio. Google's standard Android build does not include this.

Pretty much every other peripheral that I have works perfectly with iOS. Again whilst some Android devices do, there's no guarantee until you've actually tried each individual item with each phone. And manufacturers tend to come to market with iOS compatibility first - Lacie only has an iOS application for its MyNAS service and Sony have just released their first Lightning compatible music dock.

For me the takeaway from today has been that the functionality gap between the iPhone and Android is smaller than it appears when sitting on the Android side of the fence. And the compatibility gap is as wide as ever.

Tomorrow I'll look at two key parts of the smartphone user experience - battery life and screen performance.


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