Why do apps from the same company look worse on Android than on iPhone?
When I use an iPhone and an Android phone at the same time, I often find that apps from the same company look a lot different on these two platforms - the ones on Android usually look much worse.
Here is a couple of examples.
This is what Meebo IM (see update ) looks on Android, the contact list screen and the conversation screen:
and this is what Meebo IM looks on iPhone:
I think the difference is pretty obvious. The one on Android pretty much looks like a programming class project. The contact items are too narrow and thus hard to click. They also look bad. The conversation interface is like a geeky IRC client. Those smiley icons are disproportionately small. On the other hand, the interface on iPhone looks much much more polished.
Here is another example - the Facebook launch interface on iPhone vs. Android (see updates  and ):
The same thing here. In the Android interface, icons are not properly aligned. The extra space makes the view look very awkward.
Let’s take a look at the search interface in Facebook apps:
First, the search target tabs look much better on iPhone. Those tabs on the Android app, again, look like a programming class project. Second, what’s the point to show the “Facebook” bar at the top again? It does nothing other than occupying the already very scarce room in this page. Third, the “Facebook” bar, the search input box and the tabs are all in different heights. They look very messy when put together. Lastly, the Android app doesn’t have search for pages. Is it because it’s too difficult to put three tabs than just two?
Again, these is no focus on details.
The last example is the user interface of Speedtest:
This time the difference is not that dramatic, but obviously the one on iPhone looks nicer. The Android UI putting the tab buttons on the top is quite distracting. If I remember correctly, the one on iPhone used to look similar to the one on Android a very long time ago. This company chose to improve the iPhone interface first. Just in case you didn’t notice, the Android phone’s wireless connection is usually slower than the iPhone’s. I run these two speed tests with both phones connected to the same wireless router, and the Android phone is always slower.
Since the apps of interest are from the same company, they should have the same user interface standard, even if the iPhone versions and the Android versions are developed by different people. But why do they look so different? Is it because iPhone developers are better at user interface design? Is it because the iPhone development environment is better than the Android’s? Is it because iPhone users care more about user interface? Or is it because Android itself implants the ignorance of beauty, usability and focus on details into the community at the first place?
 Updates (4/7/2011 21:38): As some people pointed out that the Facebook app I used was not the latest. It is true. I upgraded to the latest but I didn’t find any changes except that there are two more buttons in the latest release, “Places” and “Chat”. However, I will not update my screenshot. The point is that the Facebook app on Android used to look like that. The iPhone version never looked like that. How could they release an app that doesn’t even have balanced button layout? By the way, the version I installed happened to have a serious bug that drains my battery very fast. It was fixed later.
 Updates (4/7/2011 22:00): Added the comparison of the search interface of Facebook apps on iPhone vs. Android.
 Updates (4/8/2011 1:23): Somebody mentioned that the recently released LinkedIn Android app is worse than the LinkedIn app on iPhone. I took a look and found it is indeed true, so I wrote a new blog post about it: the new LinkedIn app proves it again.
 Update (4/11/2011 8:19): Some readers (especially thank David) pointed out that the empty space in the Facebook app on Android will become a picture stream once you have friends sharing pictures. I tried, it worked, but the picture loading is very slow. Plus, it seems to pick pictures randomly. More importantly, I don’t think it is necessary to load pictures in the landing page. If I only look at the pictures, I may miss more interesting feeds that do not have pictures. So I will have go to the feed page anyway. Plus, when there is no picture, they should somehow remove that empty space. What if somebody has friends that don’t share pictures? This is typical on Android, they give you some more features to make you happy, because they know the competitor is better, but those features are often not necessary. People call it “feature creep”.
 Update (5/16/2011): Many people complained that the choice of Meebo IM is not fair, because its Android version has not been updated since 2009. First of all, to be honest, I didn’t know that. Meebo IM on Android had more than 27K reviews and still had 4 stars. I never care about when an app is released when I pick apps. Second of all, does it mean that Meebo has given up on Android?
Looking for answers of this question? Here you go:
- Why do apps look worse on Android than iPhone, a programmer’s perspective
- Android apps worse than iPhone? There are reasons
- Nikolai Sander is perfectly right
- iOS is a better investment than Android
Thanks to all the guest writers and the comments from readers! I greatly appreciate it.