4029 - A Green Line

You may remember that, after having used Android only for years, I’ve bought an iPad Pro two weeks ago. I did it because the tablet market for Android did not offer anything in that class.

I won’t bother you and me with a full review, but I guess it’s a good time to relay some impressions. First of all: I consider it a success. The iPad is beautiful, fast and, with some tweaking, I got it to look as I like my tablets: free of icons. At least on the primary home screen. Basically I’ve moved all icons into folders on the second screen, and while empty screens at the end seem to vanish automatically, an empty screen in between is kept. Nice. This way I see my wallpaper. Other people probably won’t care, but as the photographer, I hate it when my images are cluttered with icons 🙂

Performance-wise I can’t complain. This tablet is as fast as I can imagine. So far I’ve never felt any lag, regardless of what I did.

I’ve installed my usual Google apps, GMail is my mail app, and even streaming to the Chromecast works. Nice again.

Ergonomically the story is different. Believe it or not, today Android is far ahead of iOS in terms of ergonomics. It’s really only one problem that bothers me, but it bites you whatever you do: No back button!

On Android, you open something by touching it, and with the back button you get … back. Not so on iOS. Frequently there is a small back arrow in the upper-left corner of the window. It may be smaller or bigger, sometimes it’s blue, sometimes it’s black, sometimes it’s missing. If you are in a browser, you may have to scroll up a little until it gets visible.

If it’s still missing, then you have opened something in a popup dialog. Conceptually you may not understand the difference (there may be some rule in Apple’s User Interface Guidelines though), but when it’s a dialog, you close it by touching “Done” in the upper right corner of the dialog. At least you do so, unless it’s an “X” in the same place.

Steve Jobs is dead and you feel it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not so much calling for visual consistency here - although Steve would likely have done that as well. What I want is a button that’s always in the same place and always gets me back, regardless of what it is that I have opened. That’s how it works in Android. There may be arrows, X-buttons or “Close” buttons, but even if so and regardless of where they are, you can always ignore them and instead back out with the universal back button.

My Nexus 5 and Nexus 9 had soft buttons, that were always in the same position, regardless of screen orientation. That’s my preferred arrangement. You can’t feel those buttons, but they are always where you expect them and you could use them blindly, if that would make any sense.

My current Android phone, a “BQ Aquaris X Pro”, has fixed buttons on the “lower” short edge, just like Samsung devices have, but at least their order is the same as on stock Android (not reversed like on Samsung devices). I can live with that. I always use a flip cover for protection, and that implies a “natural” way of holding the phone for any of the two orientations. You have to “learn” two positions for the back button, but for every orientation it is consistent and it works in all apps.

That’s not all. The notification system of Android has already been copied by Apple, but they are still where Android was two releases ago.

Funny. I wouldn’t have thought that I’d ever say something like that, but if I could keep the hardware and choose an operating system, I’d choose Android over iOS any time.