It’s the User Experience, Stupid; How iPhone Critics Miss the Point

Steve Wildstrom / September 8th, 2011

The title tells it all: 10 Reasons Why iPhone 5 Doesn’t Stand a chance Against Motorola Droid Bionic. The article, by Elias Samuel in International Business Times, not surprisingly, lists 10 ways in which the Droid Bionic, just announced for Verizon Wireless is superior to the the forthcoming Apple iPhone 5.

Photo of Droic BionicI don’t mean to pick on Mr. Samuel’s, whose other work I am not familiar with.  But this article is sadly typical of a common style of tech reviewing.

Never mind that we know very little about the iPhone 5 hardware, though that doesn’t stop everyone from speculating. The problem is that even if all of Samuels’ assumptions about the new iPhone are right, it just doesn’t matter. For example, you can probably count on your fingers the number of potential iPhone buyers who care that the Bionic’s  Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 processor has specifications superior to the iPhone’s presumed Apple A5.

Some of the other claims are downright inane. If the lack of support for Flash and absence of an external memory card slot mattered, they would have killed iPhone and iPad sales by now. Obviously, they haven’t. And the alleged “open source advantage” is of interest mainly to ideologues (not to mention the fact that Android’s open sourciness is questionable at best.)

What is entirely lacking in Samuels’ review, and many, many others of its ilk, is a discussion of the one thing we do know about the iPhone 5, it’s IOS 5 software and the improvements it is likely to bring to the iPhone’s already great user experience. There are many Android phones whose hardware equals or beats the iPhone. There are none whose user experience comes close. And that, not speeds and feeds, Flash and LTE, is what sells phones.

The Droid Bionic looks to be a fine handset and I expect it will do well. But to say “iPhone 5 may not stand a chance against Motorola’s flagship phone” is just plain silly.

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Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.
  • Pert2u

    Thank you Steve!!! My wife read that article yesterday and asked me about it and I had to laugh. The article reads like a sales brochure instead of a real review. You’re comments are spot on!

  • Thi

    Yes, you’re right. Unfortunately, tech pundits often only do the easiest forms of comparisons which is by specs. Using simply specs instead of looking closely at user experience is akin to theory vs. practice. That is, specs:user experience::theory:practice. It doesn’t matter what the specs are if the experience of those specs when used doesn’t pan out. Why tech pundits often don’t get this probably is because they are used to focusing on easily quantifiable specs whereas user experience is much more difficult to get well and of a qualitative side.

    • Anonymous

      I would argue that they are not tech pundits at all then and should’t be credited as such. A pundit should have much more expansive and deep knowledge of tech and the industry.

      • Thi

        Well, unfortunately that is how they present themselves. Furthermore, if you remember that back before Apple became popular (circa pre-2001) that the typical comparison of Macs and PCs was about specs and always it was that you get more for your money with PCs because they were faster etc. etc. for less money. It’s the same line of argument that is currently used now in the article cited in the main text above. Unfortunately in the pre-2001 era, it was still all about the user experience and not about specs but those pundits still droned on and on about specs. To many computer geeks, the specs was where it counted because perhaps they did away with much of the UI where the user experience for the rest of us was.

        I remember back in 1990 or 1991 when I was using Macs and my friends were using Windows 3.1 or even DOS. A friend of mine in the PC camp scoffed at me and said using the mouse is just too slow and it was more efficient using the keyboard (i.e., the PC). Perhaps he’s right when we don’t care about the balance between efficiency and ease of use. But look at where we are now. It’s all graphical interface and perhaps the only place you don’t find much GUI are those backend servers and terminals that IT folks use.

        For the general consumer, GUI, ease of use, and user experience is really where it’s at.

  • Those who choose products based on technical specifications only would choose to drive a garbage truck instead of a Ferrari, because the garbage truck has a larger, more powerful engine.

    People who care primarily about the user experience, would choose the Ferrari.

    😉

  • Android phones require much faster processors in order to perform at the iPhone level. Why? becuase of the way Android displays graphical information or changes. In Android, everytime you press a menu option or make a selection, the screen is entirely redrawn. iOS does not redraw the entire screen but only draws in the function you chose. This is why Android phones, despite having much faster processors, still cant match the UI of iOS.

    • Thi

      That’s interesting to know. Why would Android be designed like that? I’m not a tech person but that method of redrawing seems like what a digital e-Ink screen would do because of the physical properties of its screen.

  • Rich

    This post is so right. I guess iPhone critics aren’t the only ones who miss the point – a lot of handset manufacturers miss it too, and sell far fewer phones than Apple does. It’s kind of amazing.

  • Cwhite

    It’s funny that Apple gets crap for the way they control the apps & platform but look at all of the viruses that are being seen on Android. Suddenly the control doesn’t seem so bad!

  • $360AShareAgainPissesMeOff>:-{

    Droidtards are into measuring specs, most consumers are not. If a product works well and they’re mostly satisfied with it along with good customer support, that will be more than enough to keep them loyal to a brand. That’s one reason why the iPhone 4 is still outselling any one particular brand-new Android smartphone. A Droidtard takes a smartphone and dissects it into components then gives points to each component such as faster processor, more megapixels, removable memory, more slots and then reaches a sum of points which will supposedly make the whole of that particular product better than a particular Apple smartphone. However it really doesn’t work that way for non-tech consumers.

    iPhones are designed to be a whole without such dissecting. The specs are based on how well and how easily the overall iPhone works for a typical consumer’s use. You can have the world’s fastest processor in a smartphone, but if the battery life is shortened dramatically, it will be nearly useless for a user. You can have a huge amount of megapixels on a camera’s sensor, but if the lens is of low quality or having to process all those megapixels of information takes too much time, the user isn’t going to be happy. A product needs to have precise balance in order to have a good overall user experience. Apple seems to be able to master the overall balance of a product to keep more and more consumers happy and loyal.

    There are a number of reasons that Apple products are becoming popular and when a consumer buys an Apple product, he or she is getting a completely seamless package from top to bottom that they can rely on and feel very comfortable with. Apple products are very distinctive, too. Great individual component specs in a product just doesn’t cut it for the discerning consumer. They want more than that. It’s very obvious that tech-heads understand nothing about what makes a non-tech consumer enjoy using a product. Apple does.

  • General Hordak

    Written by someone who has obviously never touched anAndroid phone.

    This review is as biased as all the others.

    The point of Android is its YOUR PROPERTY. Do what you like with it. The problem with iPhags is simply the “user experience” is too difficult for their feeble minds to comprehend. With Android the user experience is what you make it.

    It makes me laugh when I so things on my android phone that iTards stare at like “how so you do that? And its usually summat very simple.

    The fact is iPhone just looks good. As a smartphone its worthless compared to Android. There’s just too much it doesn’t do. Too much to list here as is the list of outright lies Apple sprouts about things it does do, especially those things that “make an iPhone an iPhone.” IPhone sets prefer form over function despite the fact you can choose whatever form you like.

    Yes the SD card is a moot point. The fact that you can get an extra gigabyte or two above the 32 maximum from apple by having one is not worth shouting about to me but it boggles the mind when you think people are paying a premium to not be able to do things unless Apple says so or MAYBE get them years after Android has had it.

    Yes technical specs mean summat although they are dependent on the phone you get but that’s your choice depending on what YOU WANT out of a smartphone. As far as the software is concerned, no contest. Ios just can’t do so many of the things Android users take for granted.

    • AnonymousAR

      Ha Ha, dear android user, you are actually endorsing the review “It’s the User Experience, Stupid”..ha ha…you sound so defensive. BTW, I’ve used both iPhone (original, now 3GS) and an android (LG), you should not compare a Suzuki well-run/everyday-commuting car with a fine Mercedese.

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