iOS to Android app guide

android_apps.jpg

Because buying devices and exploring their experiences is one of the twisted ways in which I have fun, I thought I'd put together a short app migration list for an iOS to Android.

I spent a full 5 days with it as my primary phone, leaving my iPhone 5 at home. It was a rough start, but at this point I could pick up either device for a day and feel alright. Many apps have equivalents, like Rdio and Evernote, but some needed substitutes. Here's what I found.

I'll start by addressing some overall discomfort with the interface and how I partially addressed it.

Overall Experience

The core, unaltered Android 4.2 experience is much improved from the past, but many things about it felt off to me. I couldn't articulate why until that first week was over. Parts of the interface lacked affordances, and I dislike how the design language seems allergic to containers or lines that provide content. Many 3rd party apps fared even worse in that department. While 2012 was a year of bashing on skeumorphism (partially justified, but also misunderstood and misdirected), I see the other extreme being just as rampant. It's just harder to describe.

The screen to screen transitions in the home screen felt wrong, with screens entering side by side on the right, but falling backwards when pushed to the left edge. This asymmetry really got to me, and led me to appreciate the simple but very consistent spatial model iOS employs. Also in the App Launcher, where all your apps are located, the constant side to side swipe was aggravating. My widget list eventually needed 5-6 swipes to get through, and most of them didn't preview what they did. Real crummy.

Nova Launcher

Nova Launcher on Google Play

I didn't expect it to help much and downloaded this on a whim to see what alternate launchers were about, but it turns out it was quite helpful for the above issues.

I could change the home screen animation to a cube, which has symmetrical motion and matches the "dead-end" visual feedback better. When I push against a dead-end the cube partially rotates and gets a subtle blue highlight. Big improvement, even if I find the cube itself garish.

I reduced the 5 home screens to 3, as I found 5 excessive. I also changed the App Launcher to a free flowing vertical scroll, which is far easier to track with my eyes, and much more efficient to find any single app. Widgets were changed to the same model, so spatially I had two tall columns of apps and widgets. Far more comfortable. Now with a single sideways swipe to navigate between Apps and Widgets, it all felt more concise and usable.

Alright, now down to a few apps.

Apps

RSS Reader

iOS: Reeder

Android: Press

Press on Google Play

For an RSS purest, Press is by far the best option on Android. It costs money, but if you're coming from iOS that should be fine (and sort of comforting honestly). It's elegant and they've done well with the layout.

Two minor things bother me.

First, Tapping "All Unread" first brings me to my feed categories instead of a big list of the actual articles. I then have to stretch to near the top left corner to tap "All Subscriptions". Extra tap, and an awkward one at that.

Second, as a subway commuter I try to load up feeds before heading underground so I can at least skim the shortened versions. Press doesn't cache the images though, so that's annoying.

Todo List

iOS: Things and Reminders

Android: Wunderlist (switched on iOS as well)

Wunderlist on Google Play

At first I tried switching Any.Do on Android and iOS, to ensure consistency. There was a Chrome extension which allowed me to use it on any computer, and it's interface seemed pleasing at first. In practice it felt much clumsier, and I tossed it after a few days. Functionally it also couldn't create a task that recurred every 2 weeks, I only had options for every day, week, month, etc…

I was a consistent Wunderlist over a year ago, and since then they've iterated a whole version and it's quite nice. The widget on Android is a bit crummy (as many widgets), as completing a task via the widget doesn't seem to update it until I launch the app. Annoying since I check on multiple devices.

I haven't found a good replacement for quick, location based reminders like I use Reminders for. I honestly miss it every day I'm using the Nexus 4 instead of my iPhone.

Podcasts

iOS: Podcasts or Downcast

Android: Pocketcasts

Pocketcasts on Google Play

I tried BeyondPod at first, and it worked reasonably well but I wasn't a fan of the UI. Eventually I switched over to Pocket Casts and I've been generally happy with it since. It vaguely reminds me of Downcast in it's direct approach.

Reddit

iOS: Alien Blue

Android: reddit sync

reddit sync on Google Play

This was a tough one. At first I was using Bacon Reader, which I found pretty awful. reddit sync was a big surprise, and in some ways I actually like it more than Alien Blue. For viewing images in the list view it's pretty great, partially due to the much larger Nexus 4 screen. However the interactions for voting up/down are junk (holding a tap brings up a bland, all text contextual menu). Still, a pleasant surprise.

Reddit Flow on Google Play

Reddit Flow may usurp reddit sync as my app of choice though. It seems inspired by Alien Blue, but also feels like a siblings of Press, which is only a good thing. If more apps on Android start to adopt this interaction model it'd be a huge plus. Pullable nav off the left edge, swipe-able content panes. It's a solid solution on iOS and Android.

Closing it up

These apps have made jumping back and forth much more pleasant. I still miss certain things like Tweetbot and 1Password (which only has a very ugly read-only client), but I can get by.

On the positive side I get to use Google Now, which while hasn't been great as I'd hope, it has been good. It seems to forget what I want, and frustrates as much as it amazes. Still, I like the idea of anticipated information, and this upward swipe as a balance to the swipe down of notifications. Stuff that has happened vs stuff that will happen.

I'll probably pick it up for a day or so a week. We'll see if I skew towards it more over time.