Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An Android user looks at iOS: 2: First impression

This is a multi-part series about an objective look at iOS.

Disclaimer: I work at Google, I am an Android programmer and a long-time Linux user.  This is all personal opinion, free of any incentives.  I try to be as objective as possible, but bias leaks into every analysis. Having said that, if you are looking for validation for your fanaticism, this article will be disappointing.

Part 1 covered the purchase
-> Part 2 covers first impressions

First impression
The iPod Touch (4g) arrived today. It shipped in a clear plastic container, and the container was elegantly attached to the cardboard shipping container using an elegant cardboard holder. It was beautifully done. I have seen this earlier with Apple products: the unboxing is pure pleasure. Every tab, every bit of plastic is clearly marked to make it easy to remove the product from the packaging.

The device itself is a curious blend of elegance and confusion. The bezel is rounded, so the power and volume up/down buttons need to stick out of it to make them parallel with the screen. However, since the bezel is rounded and narrow, it is difficult to obtain any opposable grip when pressing down on the buttons. The device slips away when changing volume or pressing power, and it takes a bit of practice to use the power or volume buttons with one hand. Also, the back is as shiny as a mirror. Already in the first few minutes it gathered a few scratches from the table. I can tell the back will be a hazy mess in a short duration. It is a curious choice of materials, while the new device looks amazing, its beauty will fade very rapidly. The device doesn't feel flimsy but does feel delicate. I would expect a handheld, mobile consumer device to be a lot more sturdy. I now understand why every iPhone I see is encased in a rubberized case.

The first impression of the case was of handling a delicate glass artwork: breathtaking beauty combined with shocking fragility.

Signing in, ...again and again
The iPhone requires an Apple login at start-up. While entering the Apple ID, it wanted to spell correct my ID, and also while entering my name, when setting up an email account. Even more baffling was that the suggestions were different. In one case the correction was "Vibrant" and in the second, it was "Coltan".

And the iPhone requires an Apple account password very frequently. I provided this for the startup screen and I was amazed at how often it prompted me for the password. I did not keep count, but I grabbed six separate screenshots, before giving up.  The screen does not indicate why it needs a password, or who needs it. Very baffling. There seemed to be no logic in asking me for passwords. I installed free applications, and it asked me for passwords on some of them and not others. Also confusingly, the keyboard always shows uppercase characters irrespective of the actual input mode.

On the plus side, it was great that the icons were not static: the calendar icon showed today's date. (The clock icon didn't show the current time, why?) And the notification shade was quite similar to Android, which was nice. The dock at the bottom of the screen was similar to the dock in OSX, and the popup when changing volume was also exactly the same as the OSX version, which was also wonderful.

The screen (retina without IPS) was also gorgeous. The fonts in Books were gorgeous. This would make a lovely book reader, and I fully expect the iPad with retina display to be an awesome bedtime bookreader as well.

The device setup was painless, except for the iTunes and sync which will be the next post.