Please Apple, don't turn iOS into an Android lookalike

Please Apple, don't turn iOS into an Android lookalike

Summary: While I do believe that Apple's iOS needs a facelift, I don't think that the Android approach of allowing CPU and battery-sucking widgets and live wallpapers is the way to go.

(Image: ZDNet)

The iOS user interface has remained virtually unchanged since the original iPhone was released back in 2007. Sure, it gets the job done, but as my ZDNet colleague and all-round mobile expert James Kendrick noted, it "desperately needs some pizzazz to modernize the interface".

I agree — iOS needs a facelift. But I hope Apple doesn't turn the platform into an Android clone.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm no Android hater. In fact, I've fallen quite deeply in love with my Nexus 7. It's a device that falls nicely in between my iPad and my iPhone, and I've already done stuff on it that some people think you need a PC to do.

But my experience with Android has made me certain of one thing — I don't want iOS to become another Android. Why? Because I've realized that having too much freedom to tweak and customize the interface is not a good thing.

Here's how I discovered this.

After unboxing my Nexus 7 — the first Android device that I have chosen to add to my every day carry — I was suddenly struck by how much Android let me do with the user interface that iOS doesn't. This was something of a surprise to me because I'm not normally one to get carried away with customizing interfaces. Not only did I start throwing icons all over the place, but I downloaded live wallpapers and widgets galore.

Life was good.

Well, OK, it was good … but …

While being freer to organize icons is a good thing, widgets and live wallpapers are a double-edged sword. Yes, they're cool and expand on the functionality offered by the platform, but they have two quite nasty side effects.

First is the performance hit that these enhancements bring with them. I quickly noticed that after installing a live wallpaper and a few widgets, my previously snappy Nexus 7 began feeling far from fast and fluid. In fact, I was surprised at how unresponsive the tablet started to feel. Even simple things like entering the password to unlock the device became hit and miss.

Flexibility and eye candy is good, but not when usability is the price.

Another aspect of the Nexus 7 that took a hit after installing the live wallpaper and the widgets that I had been lusting over the entire time I've been an iOS user was battery life. The 7 to 8 hours that I was previously getting out of the Nexus was slashed to under 5 hours.

This wasn't just a noticeable drop in battery life, it was painful, and for a while, it felt like my Nexus 7 was continually on charge.

Needless to say, I've scaled back my customizations, cutting widgets down to a handful of useful ones, and downscaling the live wallpaper to something more conservative.

It's also taught me that Apple is better off keeping iOS simple. Customizations and add-ons can quickly kludge up devices, and people who don't know better might not know how to fix the mess they're found themselves in. It wouldn't be long before some owners would start blaming their iPhone or iPad rather than things they've installed on the system.

There is no doubt a happy medium between the sparseness of iOS and the crazy carnival that is Android, but if I have to choose between performance and customizations, I will always choose performance.

Topics: Android, Apple, Smartphones, Tablets

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • :-D

    You want just iConboard to be still an iConboard where you can not even freely copy any file? :-) still like 10 years old OS with just icons? :-)
    • Apparently he DOES want his iconboard

      I can relate to the frustration of Android power and performance sucking, but I am quickly forgetting what that was like. My Note II is so much faster/stronger than earlier phones and apparently they have the battery stuff licked too.

      I always felt live wallpapers were important. There are so many useful and cool ones. Now I have no guilt about using them - my phone still lasts all day and night. Resizable home screen stuff has been great too.

      I think Apple would do well to just copy this functionality before it is too late.
      Schoolboy Bob
    • So what you are really saying is your want to be dictated to...

      "I don't think that the Android approach of allowing CPU and battery-sucking widgets and live wallpapers is the way to go"

      Guess what? With Android if you don't want to run live wallpaper or widgets, you don't have to. I know, its like I just blew your brain! And here is the flip side, I can run widgets if I want too. I know, I just blew your brain.... again!

      Android is about choice. You want to simultaneously run 8 apps at once, go for it. What to side load apps not from the Google store, be their guest. Want a 4, 5, 6, 7" phone, have at it.

      Want row after row of static icons, only iTunes store, everything dictated by the company man? There's a product for you too, its an Apple.
      Rann Xeroxx
  • Go in the middle dude

    Windows Phone. Best of both world features, except that its faster than both. I made the switch last year. Super happy I did.
    Sean Foley
    • Exactly what I came to say

      Windows Phone is the middle ground. In terms of customization my phone looks 100% different from every other phone out there. I've got live tiles of me, my girlfriend, my family, my music, my games all right there, so the phone feels very personalized. Yet it's not out of control, and very hard to get it there. A perfect middle ground.
      • I agree....

        I can get around Windows Phone with quickness and ease and it is different than any other Windows Phone out there. In many ways I wish they had built a tablet around the phone OS UI.
    • Middle of the road taken

      by Microsoft and looks good. Apple took waaay to long to change the UI. They could have taken the middle road like Microsoft to satisfy people who like simple UI and those who like to have a unique/customized UI.

      I love the Android customization but if Apple takes the same route then it would be a lazy way out. I hope they come up with something new because then someone else will make it better.

      His (Adrian Kingsley-Hughes) experience with the battery life because of the all the features Android has to offer is just careless. Abusing of anything has it consequences no matter how good it taste (sugar, beer/liquor, hamburgers, beef, soda, etc…) has its flaws/side effects (DUI, heart attacks, cavities, overweight obesity, etc…), so it would be your own fault or enjoyment, NOT the people that offer it.
      • I gotta say....

        You must watch what you have running on your Android or it can suck some major battery and life out of the device. Its more open than any of them so there are not too many restrictions from Google on how and what runs in the background. My Android tablet goes a long way on battery, but its because I went through the thing and turned off and shut down most apps. One thing that does bug me is the fact that you can't uninstall some apps the carrier loads up. Windows Phone allows me to uninstall all the Verizon software which I like.
        • Just root it.

          It's really not the pain that jailbreaking is. Root it, de-clutter, unroot. Job done!

          Whilst jailbreaking is an utter pain to undo, rooting is much more akin to just 'su'ing to root. Of course unroot it once your done there's enough malware floating about without leaving root access enabled!
          • jailbreaking

            Jailbreaking, at least on iOS is trivial to undo -- just reload the device with the original OS.

            Either way, if you know what you are doing, everything is possible.
          • Yeah.....

            Lets see grandma root her device. Won't happen outside of techies.
    • Re: Best of both world features

      If only that were true. I don't know what they promised you in the Live Tile sales pitch, but the reality is that they take up more space than icons while displaying less information than Android widgets.

      Worst, not best, of both worlds.
      • best I say!

        I think you're looking at it backwards. Live tiles are smaller than widgets and display more info than icons. Aannnnd we're back to best.
        • Smaller then widgets?

          A widget can be any size from icon size to the entire screen. In fact many can be custom resized to meet your needs. My phone, I have all my email, voice mail, text widgets, etc that I can flip through with one thumb. On my android tablet I have a panel for work info such as email, calendar, team micro-blog, Lync, etc. and a personal panel with home stuff. I typically put the tablet on my lap during meetings to glance at so I don't miss issues.

          Tiles are not very flexible. They are better then Apple icons, for sure.
          Rann Xeroxx
      • About the same

        The iPad can have a maximum of 4 x 6 = 24 icons. The Surface RT can have a maximum of 3 x 8 = 24 tiles.

        Tiles don't take up more space. Tiles are placed closer together then icons, so it is about the same.

        Tiles are something in between icons and widgets.
        • Re: Tiles don't take up more space.

          They do. Even on my little Asus Nexus 7 with its 7" screen, and excluding the Launcher dock that is at the bottom of every home screen (where I can place an additional 6 custom icons), I can put 6 × 6 = 36 icons on each home screen.
    • ?

      youre just an exception :)
    • Not so fast (slow)

      In-app performance on Windows Phone is the SLOWEST compared to iOS and Android. Every single app I tried, including the built-in apps, were slow. This was the primary reason I returned the Nokia Lumia 920. Sure it "seems" to get you to the starting line faster than Android and iOS to begin to get things done (c/o of the skewed "Smoked by Windows Phone" campaign), but Windows Phone sure as hell throttles the s h i t out of your momentum once the gun goes off. Windows Phone needs a lot of work under the hood. Also, and this is to complement Android moreso than iOS, Windows Phone does not allow much interaction or any at all between apps. That and the Windows Phone UI as a desktop UI is a recipe for regression.
      • There's always one in every crowd.

        Perhaps it was a bad unit or you just wanted it to fail. All reviews I've read don't include your issues and I've had a quick play with my Oldest Daughters Nokia 920 and no issues there.
        Tray again Apple man
  • I agree with the KISS principle.

    As an engineer, I've always sought simplicity and reliable functionality. Esthetics are desirable but are secondary, to my way of thinking.

    Except when it comes to art. Grin.