Why Droid Isn’t Better Than iPhone (and vice versa)

I read a Motorola Droid review about two weeks ago in which the reviewer said:

“The slide out keyboard is horrible; I haven’t even used it once.”

Which illuminates something about blogging and the web, and the way we relate to technology, especially the kind of technology in which we invest emotionally, and worry, subconsciously, about how it looks on us.

Our culture, as the bearers of handheld information access devices, is to knee-jerk every evaluation. We don’t break things in like a pair of shoes. There are no acquired tastes, no learned skills. The allure of the Device That Finally Understands us, and  the myth of User-Friendliness, and frequent tabloid-esque sightings of same, consume us, and bind us.

iPhone and Android are, if you zoom out to a distance that obscures countless bidirectional nitpicks, the same thing.  Sorry, but for the most part, it’s true.  So far, Apple does a better job of placing a positive user experience in the customer’s hands, and then saddles them with iTunes to cancel out the positives.  A new Android user needs to add several apps and replace several others to be at square one, but not being saddled with iTunes is a worthwhile trade.  But most people will need their kids to set up their iPhone OR their Android, so it doesn’t matter — or it depends on your kids.

Sometime around the end of 2008, I was building a new PC for my office from components: new power supply, new mother board, old case, etc. When it came down to the OS, I noticed that the supplier that I was buying parts from offered Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit for a mere $193.99.  I could have easily transferred my license for Windows XP to the new PC, or simply have relied on Linux. But I’m an IT guy with constituents who were using the following operating systems:

  1. 80 % Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 2003, 2008)
  2. 15 %  Mac OS X (Mostly Leopard and Snow Leopard)
  3. 5 % Other

Most people, I imagine, don’t worry about experiencing multiple environments, but for practically everything I do, I seek ways to do it in MS Windows, Apple Mac OS X, and sometimes Linux. It is important to appreciate that the third most popular OS family, Desktop Linux Distributions (this excludes mobiles Palm WebOS and Google Android), is in use by less than 2% of my several thousand users. So really, it’s Windows and Mac OS X, plus the minutia.

Of course, everybody hates Windows Vista. That’s what we have been led to believe, anyway. I have read dozens of reviews about Vista and why it’s not as good as XP, and I have found, for the most part, that I don’t even understand what the heck most of the reasons mean. Furthermore, the everybody that’s hating Vista isn’t a meaningful proportion of everybody. People want to by PC-compatibles, and when they bought them for a couple of years, they were shipped with Vista. The “word on the street” was that nobody was moving to that horrible Vista, and yet, in 2008, my annual client distribution survey showed that we had more Windows Vista clients than we did Mac OS clients.

Regular people don’t care. They don’t care about the opinions of the pundits that hate Vista for indecipherable reasons, they don’t care about the focus groups that led Microsoft down the dark and mysterious path of re-working its user interface, again, and they don’t care whether Mac is easier, or even if it’s better. What regular people want, apparently, is email, social media, and free access to music and movies.

So after 2 years as a Vista user, I have to say, it’s been pretty good. It was a wise choice. I have Windows 7 on my laptop (a Mac), alongside Mac OS X Leopard and Ubuntu Studio (*), so I know what’s coming, but Vista has been, for the most part, good to me.

I think that the primary reason that I’m OK with Vista is that I accepted the break-in period. Too often, objections to a change of environment are only the collision of current habits with new interfaces, and time, usually a short time, made shorter by not whining about it, spent in your new environment will solve most of the issues you face.

No environment is perfect. No environment is right for everyone. You may have to make choices and live with them for a while, before you can really evaluate them.  Most of the time, I assert, what we seek is familiarity, so we can continue to use our skills and habits, bad and good.