A few months ago, I wrote an Android versus iOS feature for PC & Tech Authority magazine, where I methodically went through every aspect of the two operating systems as a means of ranking them against each other.
iOS squeezed into the lead by a couple of points, yet to this day, I still prefer using Android. iOS may be a more consistent platform, with more apps and games, a superior multimedia player and lots of business-friendly features. But trumping all of that, in my opinion, is Android’s outstanding notifications system, making the equivalent feature on iOS look about as advanced as an old toothbrush.
At any one time, I have multiple things happening in the background on my smartphone. Tweetdeck checking my Facebook and Twitter accounts for new updates, three email accounts syncing (one of which also syncs with my Google Calendar, Gmail Contacts and Picasa Web Albums), and WhatsApp running in the background (a cheaper alternative to text messaging, similar to BlackBerry Messenger). That’s all in addition to the usual phone calls, voicemail and SMS/MMS that I receive on a regular basis.
What I like about the Android approach
What’s great about Android is that whenever something new happens – whether it’s a new text message, missed call, Facebook comment or email – an icon appears in the notification area in the top left-hand-corner of the screen. Pulling this area down reveals the Android notification drawer, where you can browse through any new notifications. This system ensures that you’re constantly up to date with the information flow on your smartphone and can instantly see what needs attention – even if you’re busy using another app. At the same time, you’re not interrupted by new notifications, and you can browse through them at your leisure.
On the iPhone
Contrast that with the situation on the iPhone, which is clunky at best, fragmented at worst. There are two different ways you can get notifications in iOS: as a small red number over the relevant icon app, and/or as a distracting pop-up dialogue that appears over whatever else you’re doing. Emails are quietly announced using the former method, while certain third party apps use the latter style of notification (dubbed ‘push notifications’ in iOS nomenclature), and text messages and icons use both types.
The problem with the former method is that you only know you have a new email when you go back to the homescreen, and if you’ve shifted the Mail icon from its default position on the dock to one of the other screens, then it’s possible to go for days without realising you have a new email.
Push notifications are more effective as they grab your attention immediately, but they’re nevertheless annoying as they distract from whatever it is you’re currently doing on your smartphone – not unlike annoying programs in Windows that pop-up to the foreground whenever they want something. The other problem with push notifications is that they only appear one at a time, so if you have three new text messages, the pop-up dialogues layer on top of one another and you have to click through all of them to get back to your homescreen.
Ideally, Apple will fix this in the next major update to iOS. In the meantime, I’m sticking to Android as my primary smartphone.
Also read: Opinion: What's wrong with Android tablets
Also read: Are you an "Android" type of person?
What do you like about Android or iOS? Add your comment below.