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Apple Understands Design Better than Google

Google's new Android mobile platform is said to pose a real challenge to Apple's growing dominance of the US smartphone market. However, after simply looking at various screenshots of Android, it is easy for me to say that Android is not a real threat to Apple, at least yet. Apple understands design, which is why people find their products visually appealing. Even the smallest detail Apple attends to. Everything is crafted to the pixel, especially on the iPhone. Apple's attention to detail is amazing. Google Android, on the other hand, lacks consistency and overall has a clunky-looking design.

Gizmodo posted a blog entry about Google's new Android platform (external link), pointing out the obvious lack of attention to detail. The first, and most obvious, example is that the analog and digital clocks in the promotional screenshots do not match! Apple would never let something like that fly, especially in an advertisement or in promotional material. The screenshots also show the lack of consistency in Android's interface, with each section of the mobile OS being very different from the others. As Gizmodo puts it, there is a "sense of randomness". These are the sort of things that make a product feel unfinished, which consumers generally don't like.

Apple understands how to design beautiful products. Although some of their products are missing key features for certain consumers, they work for a sizable portion of the general public. They offer most of the features that people want. Looking towards the music market, Apple's iPod, despite the numerous features it lacks, is the most popular on the market. Microsoft's Zune is not, even though it has more features and may actually be a better bang for your buck. Nonetheless, it does show that often good design is extremely valuable in a product. People are still going to choose the iPhone over G1 because it does the basics and it looks better.

Of course, Android does a lot more things than the iPhone and has amazing potential as an open mobile platform. What it can do is cool, but it looks terrible. It is hard to determine whether or not this will cripple the Android platform early on, but I don't think it will. Take a look at Gmail: Gmail offers some really great features, but with an overall ugly design; simple, but ugly. Then take a look at Apple's MobileMe or even Windows Live Hotmail and you have a really nice looking interface, but a complete lack of features. I think it is fair to say that Gmail is a successful product and it has a lot of users, despite having a rather ugly interface. Android will probably not gain fast adoption, but I think when developers get their hands on it they can iron out the issues (a.k.a creating good skins for it).

Currently, I would recommend not to bother with Android. However, I think it is promising that it will evolve into a fantastic platform that will be more viable in the future.