When it comes to Google, the natural assumption for mobile enthusiasts is that Android is the better platform. Google is, logically, better on Android. In real use-case scenarios, that’s not always the situation. In this week’s update on the ongoing Going iPhone project I take a look at Google services, as well as Chrome versus Safari. If you think Android is better by default, we might have a few surprises for you.
By and large, Google apps are the same across platforms. Apps like Translate are just going to be a conduit to a back-end solution, with nothing much changing in the way of interface. Gmail is also similarly cross-platform friendly — if you use the Gmail app instead of a third party email app. Even in finding similarities, there have been some big differences.
Google+, the social platform for Google fanboys, has some pretty useful little tweaks on iOS versus Android. On a post, you can scroll through comments along the bottom of the post without actually opening it up. Those comments also scroll past you, much like they do on Android, but the ability to cycle through at your whim is nice. The rest was similar in function, but for ease of use, iOS gets the nod for Google’s social media app.
Hangouts, though — Hangouts on iOS makes me want to flip all the way out. It’s horrific. I have never been so infuriated by a messaging service, and while I hate to rant, Hangouts on iOS deserves it. It’s slow, buggy, and nearly useless. The spinning color ball of death rattles along the bottom of the screen longer than it should, and does so all too often. Just about every time I open it up, it needs a good ten seconds to give itself a pep talk or whatever it’s doing behind the scenes.
A quick scenario: A friend sent me a message saying “hey, what’s up?”, to which I replied “not much, you?” From the time I got the pop-up notification of their message until the time my response went though? 17 seconds. This was after I noticed it was laggy, and decided to start timing these instances of slow messaging. Send a picture and it gets worse. I’m using an iPhone 5C, which is essentially an iPhone 5 in plastic, but still not an excuse. I tried Hangouts on an iPad mini Retina, and while not nearly as bad — it was still very laggy.
Aside form those differences, all other Google services across platforms were essentially the same. The real problem is there are some apps you can’t get on iOS, likely because Apple won’t allow them. Google Keep is meant to keep your notes in sync across devices, but it’s not on iOS. That’s a bit of a drawback. Google Now is on iOS, too, but takes a bit of a workaround, which we’ll get to in the section about browsers.
Chrome versus Safari on mobile is interesting. I’ve toyed with the two platforms, and with regard browsers it comes down to the OS almost entirely. When it comes to smartphones, the Chrome experience on Android is much better. If you’re familiar with Chrome, you’ll enjoy it on iOS much as you do on Android — unless you use some of the added options.
The main reason I find Chrome preferable on Android is sharing options. On Safari, and Chrome on iOS for that matter, you’re severely limited to how you can share an article. I’m not talking about sharing to some social media platform, I’m talking the “sharing” where it is routed to something like an Evernote or Drive account. I like to “share” things to Instapaer, which is possible via Chrome on Android . With iOS, you’re limited to a few options that don’t always get the job done. If you come across something during a mobile search, you’ll either save it to your bookmarks for reading later or forget all about it.
Safari on the iPad is much different — and better — but still not quite as good as Chrome is on Android. In considering sharing, which we know is a major part of how we communicate with one another, it seems an oversight to limit this feature on iOS. Apple has, and I’m not understanding why, much less enjoying the limitations.
Google Now on iOS comes via the Google Search app, and I have to say — I like it quite a bit. While it doesn’t launch as easily as on stock Android, Google’s Search/Now on iOS is really nice. The cards can be slid out of the way, and docked on the bottom of the screen. That’s helpful when you don’t want to be distracted by pushed info, and just want to do a simple search.
Like Google+, the Google Search interface is one I’d prefer Android had natively. It’s smoother, and gets back to the simple Google search without losing any functionality of Now. Either service is great on both platforms, but the iOS versions are just a touch nicer in my opinion. They make getting the job done a bit faster, which I appreciate. If you just want to check out a post on Google+ and scan the messages quickly, that’s easier on iOS. Search comes across as Search instead of Now, which is oddly refreshing.
It’s pretty easy to like Chrome ahead of Safari, but one thing dogs my thinking. Sharing is just plain terrible for iOS when compared to Android, even via Chrome. Safari was a touch quicker, but not noticeably so for day-to-day use. In a side-by-side, the two browsers are oddly similar on iOS, but Chrome on Android makes them both look silly and limited. The “add to home screen” is around in Safari, but oddly missing from Chrome on iOS, even though we find it on the Android version.
I also find it odd that the Safari for iPad was so much better than the iPhone version. Another great thing about Chrome for Android is that it is the same on either tablet or phone, which can’t be said for either browser on iOS. While I like the option to have Reader in Safari for iPad, not having that feature on the iPhone is a head scratcher for me.
Google services by and large were similar, if not exact replicas of one another. Some of the nuances can be attributed to programming languages, but not the snail-mail Hangouts. I use Hangouts a lot in my day, and the speed by which messages are sent and received on the iPhone is unacceptable. On more than one occasion, I cursed the iPhone aloud for this. In many regards, I’m starting to curse the iPhone.
Though an ongoing experiment, I must say I’m already getting annoyed at some very slight differences with iOS. Keeping an open mind, I’ll reserve judgement, but not for long. Be sure to check back next week as I continue this walk down iOS lane. Where it will take me, nobody knows.