**NOTE: This is by no means exhaustive. Much more has been written on this, but I’m obviously writing about those aspects of the UI that are important to me. I’m also mixing in performance issues as well. And a titch of hardware. So fucking sue me. (It should be noted as well that the UIs are very similar, so I’m not covering things that I feel are either identical or equivalent.)
iPhone: Wow. Suddenly I understand why all my friends who have iPhones are endlessly tweeting. YOU CAN ACTUALLY TYPE ON THE iPHONE! It’s not perfect, but it’s far more responsive and easier to use than the Android keyboard (even pre-hacking). (Even Japanese support is built-in.) The larger screen definitely helps. I find it fiddly for go-back-and-fix work, though. It’s much worse at letting you drop the cursor in the middle of the word.
The UI is almost always responsive (although it does choke at weird times; times when I don’t have a lot of apps running), and it is reasonably intuitive, although annoying. I am not a fan of having pages and pages of icons as my default display. And yes, I know you can collapse them, but that really defeats the utility. So, yeah, let’s just say that I’m not a big fan of a homescreen that looks like an old man’s Windows desktop.
It’s an interesting choice to put the settings for each app under a universal “settings” button. I’m not sure yet whether I like or hate the idea. I will say it’s a bit weird when you’re in an application and you want to change settings to have to back out to the homescreen first.
Something that’s nice though, and this isn’t really a UI thing, but a Process Management thing, which is not going to get its own section so I’ll mention it here: the double tap to manage the iPhone’s running applications is a nice touch. To do the same thing on the Android is a pain in the cojones and usually involves installing an application (and I’ve never found any of them very satisfying).
HTC Magic: Typing. Ugh. I dread having to type on my Android phone. It was not great originally, but now that my HTC Magic is constantly choking on the large dick of Cyanogenmod 5.8, typing is usually an ordeal, especially while listening to music via Subsonic (more on music in another part). Also because I switched to a 3rd party firmware, I also wound up having to install a 3rd-party Japanese input method (Simeji), which may be superior to the Magic’s DoCoMo firmware input method, but I wouldn’t know because it is resource intensive and really drags on the Magic. If I dread typing on the Magic in English, I dread typing in Japanese even more. It’s something that I avoid at all costs. Oh, and fuck you Google Maps for making me have to type in kanji addresses (while we’re on the subject).
I will say, however, that the placement of the period and comma on the same screen as the alphabetic characters is a much better idea than the iPhone’s strategy of requiring the user to hit the button for numbers and special characters every time he or she wants to use a comma. Now I know why my iPhone using friends are so miserly with their punctuation. It should be noted as well that now that I’m using the Magic only as an internet access point for the iPhone and not running any other heavy-duty apps on it, typing is actually quite decent… though still not quite as pleasant as on the iPhone, mainly because of the difference in screen size (more on that later, too) and my fat fingers.
I mentioned with the iPhone that cursor placement is problematic. The Magic’s solution to that is the mini-trackball it inherited from its older brother the HTC Dream (a.k.a. the G1, the first Android phone). The trackball is a pain in the ass most of the time (I’ll get to that when I talk about hardware), but it is simply unbeatable for getting the cursor to the letter in the middle of the word that you need to fix. I also find that cursor placement is the one area that the Magic’s touchscreen beats the iPhone for accuracy.
The homescreen on the Android is much nicer than the iPhone’s. The sea of icons is absent and in its place is 3 screens (more or fewer screens can be set) of my beautiful wallpaper and just a few of the most crucial icons, buttons, and widgets. A touch of a button brings up the entire list of installed apps if I want it, but most of the time I only use the old favourites. The advantage here is, of course, not just aesthetic, but utilitarian: you can have widgets that give you important info like weather and calendar, and also functional buttons controlling things like silent mode, wifi, bluetooth, and GPS status, whether or not the machine is syncing accounts, and screen brightness.
Of course, with the underpowered HTC Magic, I removed all but the most necessary widgets, as they do serve to slow the phone to a crawl.
Can you tell I wrote these on the fly from no notes? No? Maybe you should read on…
Next: Part II – Cameras