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Android apps really that bad?

Created by matnlaci on March 15, 2012, 6:51 p.m.
  • Ok, I'd like to call shenanigans on the keynote and on Will's claim that android apps are shit compared to ipad apps. Now, before we get too far, let me explain my situation. I'm a galaxy tab 10.1 owner. I got it on day 1. I also use an android phone, although I live in a location where the 'big 3' carriers don't have great coverage so I'm stuck with a smaller carrier that doesn't even offer the iphone, othwerwise, I'm pretty sure I would be using an iphone. So, I have good familiarity with android and almost no familiarity with the apple market. I'm making that very clear.

    So, when I saw Tim Cook showing the stock twitter app on android and then showing the twitter app for Ipad, I thought, this guy is clearly cherry picking apps. When he showed the twitter app on the ipad, it looked almost exactly like the twitter app I use on my galaxy tab. So, he intentionally chose a 'bad' app in the android ecosystem and compared it to a 'good' app in the apple ecosystem. BTW, the app I was referring to on android is tweetcaster.

    Cook made it sound like every android app is only made for phones and is just stretched when used on a tablet. I'm here to tell you, that is patently false. The android market isn't as mature as apple's, but I think it is catching up.

    I'd like to pose a challenge to Will & Norm as they like to test things. Show screenshots of the best android apps side by side with the apple equivalent apps. If the claim that apple apps are better than android apps - show me the money, Jerry, show me the money. Don't show cherry picked crappy android apps vs good apple ones. Are there crappy android apps? You bet, but I can't imagine the apple ecosystem is any different.

    I also heard the statement Will made about the Android SDK is harder to install (and use) than the Apple SDK. I can't imagine the big shops are having trouble installing the android sdk.

  • I've found Android applications to generally be of comparable quality, and the selection of free (as in $0) applications on Android is vastly better than iOS.
  • This is something I would like to see addressed in a bit more detail as well. Will and the guys often use vague terms like 'better' or 'bad' to describe one ecosystem or the other. I would like to hear a more specific analysis not only because I think its really more of a perspective issue but it would help me look more critically at apps I use or am testing.

  • @matnlaci: Tim Cook did that because that's what is convenient for Apple. Of course he is going to cherrypick - particularly on popular Android sofftware (which, btw, looked like Twitter for Android by Twitter, although I wasn't paying very much attention, and don't know if [TfA] has this problem.. He could careless if it is in whole inaccurate -- as long as it makes their platform appear better, and so long as he doesn't get charged for spreading falsities, it's fair game.

    This is what Apple does. Look at their whole history of Mac vs PCs. They cherrypicked everything that the Mac could do better, ignore everything that the PC did better, and then advertised it -- even if it's not entirely true.

  • My own personal anecdotal evidence (which is poor evidence) has been that the iPhone apps simply feel better and are more varied than Android equivalents. This is having bought an iPhone 3 or so months after buying an Android transformer. It's hard to pin down exactly why I like iPhone apps better than Android ones, it could be that a lot of Android phones have ugly UIs, or feel clunky, or that a lot of the "hot" apps tend to be missing on Android. All I know is that I probably used 4 or 5 apps on my Android tablet that felt like they were really neat, and I have 3 pages of apps on my iPhone.

    Also, the problem with the Android SDK extends beyond simply being hard to install. That is a major problem, as it drives away the small niche developers who may end up making something huge for you (e.g. Instapaper esque guys), and it is ridiculous how hard it is to install. Beyond that though, the tool quality isn't great (Its OK but compared to something like Visual Studio its meh), the fragmentation is an issue (decided what version of the SDK to develop against, what support the tools have for that version, getting a device to test for that version), and the SDK documentation wasn't great when I was developing for it (Lack of good overviews of design, lack of examples for common design patterns, lack of or poor documentation on classes/methods). The SDK documentation has seemed to improved since I was messing with it though.

  • The problem I had with the way it was presented was that they themselves said it was a phone app running on a tablet. running iPhone apps on the iPad is actually a worse experience than the android example because the app you are using either a tiny box in the middle of the screen or a big pixelated mess even though the iPad could just use the retina display assets instead of the lower res ones.

  • A lot of Android apps on tablet are terrible, as well as being a lack of them compared to iOS.

    Phone however is fine.

  • I've not had a problem finding an app to do what I want on Android. I guess the perception of the Android market as being bad is because apps often appear first on the Apple market as that's where the big money is but most arrive on Android at some point.

    Also since my Transformer updated to ICS the UI looks and feels much better, makes my phone that's using 2.3 feel like the dinosaur OS that it is.

  • @Sooty said:

    A lot of Android apps on tablet are terrible, as well as being a lack of them compared to iOS.

    Phone however is fine.

    This is my opinion on the matter. I love my Android phone, but my Android tablet kinda sucks, there's so few tablet apps and many of them are kinda bad. The issue for me with Android apps is that a lot of them feel like afterthoughts to the developer. For example, the Android version of Plants Vs. Zombies (which actually for phones only) has been semibroken since release, as in, on a number of phones, including my Galaxy S, it will work maybe one in five times and the rest of the time it force closes at the loading screen. People have been complaining about this since December and it still hasn't been fixed while if you check the Apple App Store, the iOS versions practically get weekly updates.

  • I just thought it was funny that Will and Gary block people who call them apple fanboys, but yet don't call out Apple for a cheap marketing trick like they pulled during the keynote. Maybe I'm wrong here, and that's why I'm making the challenge, I'd love someone to prove me wrong, rather than spending $599 to buy a new ipad just to find out I prefer the galaxy tab I already own. Find the 'best' ipad apps and the 'best' android apps on a tablet for various purposes (twitter, facebook, email, podcatching, movies, books, etc...) and put screenshots of the apps as they appear on a tablet side by side. I'll bet if you do that, the argument that android apps look stretched, or don't use space well and/or are 'ugly' or 'fugo' on the android tablets as Will said falls apart very quickly. I'm not saying there aren't shitty android apps. There are, but there are also very good ones, especially for all of the major uses.

    Good feedback, and I get that there are some smaller devs out there who probably do have some challenges, but google has been responsive and has shown they can make things better, I think the new play version of the market is vastly improved as it ties in together the various media types.

  • @Ben_H: You say you like your android phone, but the tablet sucks and then go on to give an example of a game that crashes on yourphone? See, I'd say the reverse. I like my android tablet, but my android phone sucks (hence my original comment that I would probably be using an iphone if my carrier offered it). My phone is also a galaxy S, which will turn itself off at random times and will also freeze occasionally as well. I've known lots of people using my same carrier and none of them have been happy with this phone.

  • @MAGZine said:

    @matnlaci: Tim Cook did that because that's what is convenient for Apple. Of course he is going to cherrypick - particularly on popular Android sofftware (which, btw, looked like Twitter for Android by Twitter, although I wasn't paying very much attention, and don't know if [TfA] has this problem.. He could careless if it is in whole inaccurate -- as long as it makes their platform appear better, and so long as he doesn't get charged for spreading falsities, it's fair game.

    This is what Apple does. Look at their whole history of Mac vs PCs. They cherrypicked everything that the Mac could do better, ignore everything that the PC did better, and then advertised it -- even if it's not entirely true.

    It'd be nice if tech sites would call them out on things like this, instead of literally licking the devices out of pure excitement.

  • @matnlaci said:

    @Ben_H: You say you like your android phone, but the tablet sucks and then go on to give an example of a game that crashes on yourphone? See, I'd say the reverse. I like my android tablet, but my android phone sucks (hence my original comment that I would probably be using an iphone if my carrier offered it). My phone is also a galaxy S, which will turn itself off at random times and will also freeze occasionally as well. I've known lots of people using my same carrier and none of them have been happy with this phone.

    Yeah I admit that's a terrible example and I wasn't thinking when I wrote that, but I guess my point is that the number of tablet exclusive apps on the Android Market is just disappointing. I bought in right at the start and have had very few good experiences with my Android tablet. I just get the feeling that the Android tablet version of the vast majority of apps is more of an afterthought than anything for developers.

    On the topic of the Galaxy S, outside of a few issues when I first got it (but that was due to my carrier just starting up their HSPA+ network at the time), I have had almost no problems with it. It's never done the random turn offs I hear a lot about, and it is never slow other than immediately after starting up. The battery's starting to not hold as much of a charge but that's because it's almost 2 years old, and I'm getting an upgrade in around 3 months so I don't really care.

    I'm sticking with Android for phones because I like the customizability, but I just don't like Android tablets after using the competition. They just don't feel as good. It's all down to personal preference.

  • Android SDK is harder to install (and use) than the Apple SDK

    Yep, this is one of those things where it's true, if you're not a programmer. If you code then it's a far more open question.

    For me it is a lot harder to install the iOS SDK, what with it requiring an Intel Mac with recent OS X version as a base requirement. And needing to give $100 per year to deploy my software to any device so I can test it on actual silicon, that's another thing that makes the iOS SDK a lot harder to install; the big message that says you don't own your own computing device and so have to pay to install software to it. A software stack that's filled with code written for free by the open source community makes that device what it is, so the only way to get your software onto an iOS device (without paying) is to have given to projects like KHTML in the past or to void warranty and deal with the manufacturer trying to block you from rooting. Anyway, that's all not totally relevant to (as a person who own no Intel Macs) it being required of my to buy a 'dev box' from Apple to develop any iOS software. As most people with computers don't own a Mac, I'd say most people would find it hard to install the iOS SDK because they need to buy a specialist machine to do so.

    Android SDK was hard to install. They now have an updater tool that is a lot more mature and easier to grab all the content you need. The IDE is Eclipse, the world's most popular IDE and what (just about) everyone not on Visual Studio uses. It can install on any OS. I used to hate Eclipse when I was doing Qt stuff some years ago, but I left the warm embrace of VS a few years ago and now use Eclipse more often than not. I'm not going to say it's perfect, but it's popular for good reason.

    Oh, and if you really don't want to install a few programs and select the right options in an updater (you can grab the SDK tools, documentations, examples, and 3rd party SDK extensions for any version still on the public repos with the Android SDK updater; that means you do need to know enough about Android to know what the version are) then nVidia built a 1-click installer than gives you all the Android tools and their Tegra specific profilers and debug tools. They did this back when the Android SDK install was slightly less clean than the current version.

    Edit: added 'without paying' to clarify point.

  • On a completely unrelated note, this is the first time I've posted in a tested forum and I have to give you guys props. These are very well thought out responses by people who clearly have knowledge of the subject matter. Also, I've been a follower of Will since he was with maximumpc and even though I'm calling him out on this topic, I must say I still think he and Norm are the greatest tech journalists out there, so I can forgive a little apple fanboyism now and then. Oh yea, and I <3 Gary as well.

  • @matnlaci said:

    Find the 'best' ipad apps and the 'best' android apps on a tablet for various purposes (twitter, facebook, email, podcatching, movies, books, etc...) and put screenshots of the apps as they appear on a tablet side by side.

    This is an excellent idea, but would be even better served by video. I think a lot of the claims the guys are making are based on how smooth everything feels with use; not as much the Apple cherry-picking stuff.

  • As for them blocking people who call them fanboys, I understand that. The term fanboy is about as useless as the term hipster in a real discussion, and shows black and white thinking. For whatever reason Apple's products fit with their sensibilities/lives/hunger for shiny things, more than a different ecosystem. It certainly wasn't always this way, and won't be forever.

    I believe that like a lot of "good consumers" they buy the best products to fit their needs, and when Apple can't do that with the iPad, they'll move on to the next big thing.

  • I find the apps to be about the same. The big difference is that Android in general is alittle more....janky. I'm a big android fan and user, and it's not a bad system in the least, but it has its issues. iOS has some issues as well but it does have a little bit more user friendliness. This also translates over to the device being a lot more simplified. It's a trade off, but its always been that way. Apple's walled garden approach means you do it their way or no way. You end up getting a good experience. Android is conversely open and reaps pros and cons from it.

    My question ends up being that I think I remember on podcast them mentioning that Androids apps are phone apps that don't look great. But if memory serves this time about a year ago weren't they saying that Android's internal scaler is the best?

    Eh either way. Android apps aren't the hell that people make them out to be. If you're trying to compare them to iOS apps they probably look a little less polished. However this doesn't indicate any more or less functionality.

  • As someone who most recently has owned an iPad 2 and has always used Android phones (most recently the Galaxy S II Skyrocket), I would say that this is partially true. Android has a greater selection of apps that can do things Apple would never allow, but iOS apps (iPad specific ones) are clearly better tailored to the device they're on. I have a rooted/customized Kindle Fire and the app quality on both Google Play and Amazon Appstore just doesn't quite compare to iOS.

    Does that mean I prefer iOS for tablets? Not at all. In fact, other than third party app quality, I think the iPad is a steaming pile of shit. It's an ease of use vs capability issue, just like everything else between iOS and Android. There are people suited to each. I definitely wish Google would figure out how to get their developers to commit to Android tablets, though.

  • Having owned all three major OS' (iOS, Android, WP7) I think the app argument is highly asinine. They all have a lot of apps that do exactly the same thing, some good some not so great. Cherry picking the worst app, and then showing it against the best one is pretty sleazy, and probably very effective, marketing BS.

    I will agree that pretty much every time Will says crap like "The Android market sucks" it's his personal preference clouding his journalist nature. But Whiskey editorial is purposefully biased, you just just need to take it with a grain of salt.

  • @Lotan said:

    Having owned all three major OS' (iOS, Android, WP7) I think the app argument is highly asinine. They all have a lot of apps that do exactly the same thing, some good some not so great. Cherry picking the worst app, and then showing it against the best one is pretty sleazy, and probably very effective, marketing BS.

    I will agree that pretty much every time Will says crap like "The Android market sucks" it's his personal preference clouding his journalist nature. But Whiskey editorial is purposefully biased, you just just need to take it with a grain of salt.

    He specifically singled out tablet apps, and he's right. Android on tablet is very poor because of the app situation.

    On phone then yeah I agree, Android is fine. Haven't felt like I've been getting an inferior experience at all.

  • What is the tablet situation that makes Android on tablets so much worse than Android on phones?

    I use a Galaxy S2 and an iPad. Is it just a case of all the Android apps looking like iPhone apps on iPad? That seems somewhat implausible to me given that Android phones don't have the same screen sizes, resolutions or aspect ratios, so unless my S2 is the model for most developers (possible but not that likely) I don't really understand where the problem comes in.


  • @Vermy81: Well one major problem with tablets is Honeycomb. A lot of tablets launched with that (after all that was supposed to be the tablet android OS), and it broke compatibility and had a lot of issues. ICS fixes a lot of this, but a lot of the apps that are available for android on phones simply aren't available at all on Honeycomb tablets, because it's not backwards compatible. ICS is still barely being adopted (it was like near 1% last time I checked), and its funny that its almost more worthwhile to put gingerbread on your tablet instead of honeycomb.

    Outside of that there are other issues. Many apps that are designed for phones simply don't work well with tablets. There are different expectations on the GUI and how you interact with it on a tablet (for instance the virtual joystick games are usually a lot more clunky on a tablet than a phone). There are different expectations for smoothness on tablets than on phones, personally I dont care about a little hitching UI on my phone, but on a tablet it bothers the hell out of me.

    There are other reasons as well, but thats what I can think of off the top of my head.