Alex Colon has a post up on what Apple should copy from Samsung. I know some of you hate those sorts of posts but I enjoy them and thinking about what I wish my platforms did differently. His list consists of more phone sizes, special features, removable parts, more releases and then the vague “borrow from others.” Ignoring the last bit, which is a cop out (and not true when you look at how much Apple has borrowed from Android and WebOS), let me comment on his ideas.
First the removable parts bit is just bad. It makes the phone bigger and more prone to breakage. Even Android phones tend to be moving away from SD cards and removable batteries. There’s great reasons for that. Further, the SD card is one of my most disliked features of Android because it’s nearly impossible to use well. You can’t easily store applications or application data on it. I got a Samsung Tab 2 and the SD card is largely unused. I have only 8 G of memory because I excitedly thought I could use that SD card in a useful way. However basically I can sync songs to it and that’s about it. (I guess I could do movies too if I used it for more than Netflix) So instead I’m constantly running out of space. If that sort of confusion gets me, a pretty savvy tech user, I hate to think how the typical naive user sees it. Batteries are also not as big a deal on iOS since there are tons of battery cases you can get. I personally just carry a small cheap battery that plugs in with a cable. When it’s in my pocket and I’m low on power I just plug it in. Works great. Replaceable batteries aren’t nearly as big a deal as many make out.
Phone sizes is a good one. Honestly to me the iPhone 4 was the pinnacle of Apple design. While I love my iPhone 5 I initially disliked the larger size. I frequently couldn’t hit all the buttons with my thumb. Oddly many apps didn’t adjust to this by putting their controls only at the top or bottom. (Apple maps was the worst for this) Then a few months after turning 45 the dreaded body decay I’d been warned of started. I went from having no trouble seeing my phone screen to needing reading glasses. Now I really wish a 4.7″ phone was an option.
The problem with multiple sizes though is that it ruins the economies of scale. The economies of scale are what enables Apple to maintain its margins at those price points and avoid intrusive selling of my data. Maybe if the market gets bigger Apple will figure a way around this. We’ll see. In the meantime sometimes when using my iPhone I’m having to break out ugly, hated reading glasses. Ugh.
The “special features” category is just weird. It’s not that some of Samsung’s features aren’t interesting. It’s that most of them aren’t that refined and primarily are demo fodder. Also it’s frequently the case it’s hard to even know about this. The dual camera recording honestly just makes little sense to me. Smart scroll doesn’t work on my device, so I’ve not tried it. However on iOS and Android apps that do tilt scrolling I quickly turn it off. I hate it. My problem with smart gestures that you do above the phone is that it’s just too easy to activate them accidentally. Pop up tips, long a feature of OSX and Windows, would be nice. The idea is that if you hold your finger above an UI item it will give a help tip. That’s something I’d like Apple to copy if they could make it so regular use doesn’t activate it. They’d be much nicer on my Samsung devices if more apps supported them. Most of the other features I found were limited and better versions were available at both the Google Play or iOS app stores. It’s interesting they give you defaults, but I’d rather just not have them if they aren’t great.
All that said, when we move in to what I wish Apple would copy from Android in general rather than Samsung’s special features I think there’s a lot more. I was honestly pretty surprised that Apple hadn’t yet brought inter application communications to iOS. It’s long overdue. While Android’s implementation is a tad too complex and fiddly it is nice to be able to share data more broadly. Many iOS apps fake this with urls but then you’re limited to the apps that support that. The trick is avoiding the problem of “too many apps” which I think many of us have. Imagine the list of apps that could conceivably handle a JPEG or text snippet. It’s too ridiculous to consider. Apple needn’t adopt Android’s solutions here but I think they do have to come up with something soon.
Closely related to data sharing is being able to specify default apps for many categories. I’d love to be able to specify a different default camera app, email client, twitter client or so forth. Admittedly right now the categories are fairly limited. But they’d probably increase quickly once data sharing became standard.
I would have once added better multitasking but I think iOS7 threads that needle fairly well.
Google Now is available for iOS but it would be nice to have some of that predictive technology integrated better with notifications at a system level. That’s something Android does quite well, even if ultimately Google Now is just too plain biased towards Google services. (Unsurprising, but for all the people complaining about Apple lock in there are more options on iOS for calendars, mail and so forth than on Android in terms of system integration – something I wish Android would start copying from iOS)
Android’s NFC just isn’t something I care about even if Apple might add it to the iPhone 5s.
A lot of people hype widgets on your home screen. After using them both on my Android device as well as jailbroken iOS devices all I can say is “meh.”
While I love the new notification UI in iOS7 Apple could borrow from Android the recognition that clearing many notifications should be easier.
I truly wish Apple would borrow from Android the ability to run customized lock screens or keyboards. It’s not that I love the Android keyboards. (I finally converged on Google’s keyboard) I like the hacks on Cydia much better than what Android offers. It’s just that I like the ability to customize. I recognize the security issues though. With 3rd party keyboards it’s inevitable that a key logger will get through.