David Ruddock Compares the Nexus 9 and iPad Air 2

I really enjoy reviews like this one by David Ruddock at Android Police. It’s often very interesting to read something from the point of view of someone more deeply attuned to another platform. This, from the list of “cons” for the iPad, caught my eye:

  • Is an iPad, will result in some people thinking you’re an Apple sycophant / the kind of person who lingers at coffee shops for 8 hours a day.

I often need reminding just how weird some people’s ideas are about Apple and Apple users.

Substantially, these few bits stood out to me. Battery life:

Standby life on the Nexus 9 isn’t fantastic, either - I’m getting around 15% idle drain quite reliably every 24 hours, which is absolutely at odds with Google’s 30-day standby estimate. Even if you don’t agree with my assessment of the usage time life, Android’s idle drain is still an absolute embarrassment. I could let my first Air sit for a week untouched and the battery gauge would barely budge - maybe a few percent. Android has never been great about this, and it doesn’t seem to be getting much better.

Safari vs. Chrome:

You can throw benchmarks and timed tests at me until you’re blue in the face - mobile Safari kicks Chrome’s ass every day of the week. The smoothness alone is evidence to me that while Google may care about a browser’s technical proficiency, Apple cares at least as much about its usability and consistency, if not more.

Chrome for Android’s usability is a victim of Google’s cross-platform utopian vision, and for now, it’s just not a fantastic touch browser. Safari may not always be faster in every benchmark or timed comparison, but it’s smoother in all the ways that matter.

The feel:

From a smoothness and stability standpoint, iOS 8 feels so much more refined and predictable than Lollipop does on the Nexus 9. Apple is known for obsessing over things like animation draw times and smooth scrolling, trying to create an experience that never feels jarring or rough around the edges. Apple seems to toil indefatigably to ensure those home screen swipes and launch animations are perfect every time. Moving to the more powerful A8X chip with three cores now means that smoothness persists even during app installs or other background operations, an area where the first Air occasionally would have difficulty.

This is such a huge thing, for me, from a UX standpoint. Google has tried to instill these values in Android with things like Project Butter, but it’s never seemed to pan out exactly in the way I think we all hoped would. The obsession with smoothness in iOS is almost religious. In Android, it’s always seemed like an attitude of “hey, if you can keep things at around 60FPS, that’d be great or whatever.” I realize animations and such things are far more aesthetic than functional, but they can have a huge effect on how you perceive performance and feel about a device. Using the iPad just feels nicer, I don’t find myself getting annoyed by it nearly as often as the Nexus.

This ties into one of my recent themes here on DF, regarding Google’s own iOS apps, and the asymmetry of the Google/Apple Android/iOS rivalries. Ruddock is clearly an Android guy, but more so than that he’s a Google guy. He can use an iPad and still have a Gmail app, still have a Google Maps app, still use Google Docs, etc. Google’s wide support for iOS makes it a lot more likely that an all-in Google platform user might prefer an iPad to an Android tablet.

Friday, 14 November 2014