The Reason Why I Am Loving Android Over The iPhone

TL;DR  — I realized the iPhone’s lack of a back button was a huge user experience problem for me and having switched to Android, I’m much happier.

iphone5I was an iPhone customer on day 1 of its release in Canada. I lined up like everyone else. Signed my life over for 3-years.

A year earlier, I had pleaded for a company, any company to release a touch-enabled phone. The iPhone was revolutionary. No other phone came close.

And so I was happy with the iPhone for many years, opting to upgrade to the 3G, then to the 4. The iPhone is still a great phone, but after using the HTC One X Android phone for the last 6 months or so, I feel that the iPhone has a fundamental design flaw which results in a less than optimal user experience.

Let’s say you’re in Twitter app and you tap a link. It launches in Safari and away you go. When you’re done, you double press the home button (a clumsy maneuver, really) and then tap the Twitter app. That’s 2 presses and a tap just to get back to where you were when you tapped the link. That’s ridiculous. It should be one tap to get back. And that’s exactly how Android’s back button works.

When my iPhone 4 home button started to malfunction, I started to realize just how limiting having one button is. Especially when you have to press it 3-4 times for it to work once! It got so bad I had to enable the accessibility features.

I started to look at my other options. Beyond Apple. Scary, I know.

All the iPhone apps I cared about were also available on the Google Play store and looked similar. Most of them had recently been redesigned and looked identical. And there were only a few I’d need to buy again. So apps weren’t a showstopper for me.

My main sticking point was the screen. I absolutely loved the Retina screen on the iPhone 4. Fortunately, all the reviews of the HTC One X were praising its screen and its near Retina resolution. This was looking like the phone, but I figured I’d wait for the iPhone 5 release before pulling the trigger.

The day came to buy a new phone. I visited the Apple Store to try the iPhone 5, half expecting to be convinced and walk away with one. But although it was a beautiful piece of hardware (with a working home button), I still couldn’t get over the pain to get back to the previous app. So, I walked next door, nervously bought the HTC One X, and not a day has gone by in the past 6 months where I’ve regretted it.

htc-one-croppedAnd now the HTC One has been released, which has a beautiful brushed aluminium body much like the iPhone 5 and a big improvement over the HTC One X hardware. I fondled one at a shop last weekend and it is stunning. If I were in the market today, this is the phone I would pick up.

I’m not making an absolute claim here. I’m not saying that Android is better than iPhone. In fact, there are more awful Android phones out there than good ones. I’d recommend an iPhone over all of those. But for me, a great Android phone like the HTC One is a far better experience than an iPhone 5.

I should also be clear that this does not apply to all iOS devices. I’m only talking about the iPhone here. With the iPad you can use 3 fingers to swipe between apps which makes for a nice user experience. There’s really no need for a back button. And if I were buying a 10-inch tablet today, there’s no question I’d go for the iPad with Retina.

If Apple solves this user experience problem in the iPhone 6, I would definitely consider switching back. I just hope it doesn’t involve squeezing 3 fingers onto a 4-inch screen.

I can haz back button?

  • Tryzik

    What are your thoughts on waiting for the Vanilla version of the HTC one?

  • Oh wow, thanks for sharing! I hadn’t heard about that. Sounds like vanilla Android would be a bit better, though from the reviews, it seems like the HTC Sense skin is better than ever, and it was decent on my HTC One X. Though I’ve since rooted the phone and put on a stable version of CyanogenMod, which runs great. There’s only nightlies of CyanogenMod for the HTC One at the moment, but I’m sure there will be a stable version soon.

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  • Dear Brad,

    Thanks for posting this. Looking into a new phone myself and use my back button A LOT! Moving away from a platform (that shall remain nameless) and debating on the two front runners has been hard. Have been leaning towards Android and the fact that there is a back button is a BIG thing for me that I hadn’t considered in it’s entirety. I knew that the single button I wasn’t fond of, but couldn’t put my finger on it. Now I can and go back from it. 😉

  • Rob

    I don’t know. I just switched from Android to iPhone and I did notice the missing back button, but I haven’t missed it much. There is also something wrong with it: sometimes it’s not clear what it means. For example, if I jump into a browser app, does “back” mean back to the previous app or back to the previous page in the browser history. Maybe the ideal is for Apple to add a screen gesture (diagonal from top left corner) to mean “back to previous app or home screen”

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  • daryl

    The trick is to remember where you were before your last click. Wherever you were it’ll bring you back there. Its pretty intuitive I think.

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