Thursday, August 25, 2011

Android vs. iOS: Sorting It Out

We had an interesting conversation come up at work today. One of our content portals was found to be severely lacking in the mobile support department and one of our end users complained about this. This, of course, triggered an investigation on the various test devices we have around the office (iPad, iPod, HTC Phone, Motorola XOOM, etc.). When I overheard someone spout some strange nonesense about Google users not caring about quality/functionality, I had it. That was a personal insult to me. :)

I stood up and calmly walked over to ask the obvious Android questions:

Me: What device was the person using?
Them: Aren't they all the same?

Me: No, actually... every manufacturer gets to decide if they'll use the default Android browser or build their own. That XOOM, for instance, has the Motorola browser, not the same one I use, by default.

Them: Yes, but isn't this the majority of the market share represented here? Also, why should we care, our stats show 80% of our users are coming in on iOS.

Me: First, I have 5 browsers that I switch between on a daily basis for different purposes: speed, look, usability, isolation, etc. Why would you assume that I'd only use one browser?

Them: You mean there are multiple browsers? Why not just have one?

Me: For the same reason there are multiple browsers on the PC. No one fits all needs perfectly. Here, look at the search results in the Market for "Browser". I can list of 6 on there that I've personally used and many have high download counts with high ratings.

Me: Also, about your 80%, I frequently change my browsers' user agent to reflect different OSes. Sometimes sites are optimized for iPhone, for instance, so I'll change my browser to act like it's an iPhone. Other times I'll switch to desktop mode to see the standard web site instead of the mobile version. Basically, the Android developers (also users) have said, look, if some website has decided to cater specifically to a target market, I'll just let them think I'm part of that install base by mimicking their web responses. This can, in some cases (particularly tech-savvy user-targeted websites) grossly skew website statistics, but it reflects a reality created by an inefficiency designed by Apple.

Them: Well, it seems this is all very techy and not likely what someone who just bought the device would so.

Me: That's just it. People who buy these devices are both techy AND more likely to be our target end user. They want choice. They want the ABILITY to do these types of things. If they did buy an iOS device, I can almost guarantee that they have since jail broken it and added a lot of these features that come default on Android. It's all about choice, customization, and maximizing the possibilities of the technology. That's the typical Android user. I understand that some would want simplicity and prefer the iOS for this reason. I'm saying that Android can be both simple AND complex at the same time. Assumptions about how our tech-savvy users are using their devices need to be made in that light.