Seemingly taking no chances, Apple didn’t just announce cool features in the new iPad. It also took at dig at Android tablets, to show how the iPad is better than they are. Called on behalf of the prosecution: Twitter. Evidence? Twitter’s iPad app is beautiful to use, while Twitter offers no similar Android app. It’s a true weakness, and it’s not just Twitter. Even Google’s own Google+ app could be called to testify against Android.
Cook: Twitter Is Better On The iPad
The testimony happened around 21:50 into the presentation, which you can watch here. Apple CEO Tim Cook shows the Twitter app for Android running on a Samsung tablet:
“You can see it’s pretty basic. It kind of looks like a blown-up smartphone app. That’s because it’s exactly what it is,” Cook says. He then goes on to talk about the Twitter app:
Cook explains how you can see more about tweets, photos and videos that are mentioned. He then goes on to talk about similar issues with the Yelp app for the iPad, saying it’s better because it’s designed to take advantage of the larger space a tablet allows, unlike the Yelp app for Android.
“This is a key reason why momentum on iPad continues to build and the competitive tablets aren’t gaining traction,” Cook said, before moving on.
True: Twitter On Android Tablets Sucks
Cook is absolutely right in terms of Twitter. I’m a regular Twitter user on the iPad. It’s a glorious experience. I can easily find more about someone when viewing their tweet:
In contrast, doing the same thing using the Android app (on a Asus Transformer Prime running Android 4) is a sad, empty experience:
If I select a story with a photo or a link, I’m shown that photo or what’s being linked to within the Twitter app, on the iPad:
In contrast, the Twitter app for Android gives that same, empty experience I’ve mentioned:
I use my iPad much more than my Android tablet, and this is part of the reason. Many of the iPad apps I use are designed to be used on a tablet. Many of the Android apps I use waste that tablet space and experience.
What’s Up, Twitter?
Of course, some of the blame is with Twitter and other companies. If Twitter wanted to, it could provide a better tablet experience for Android. But so far, it hasn’t. Why not? Twitter spokesperson Carolyn Penner told me:
As you know, Android is an important platform for us.
Don’t hold your breath.
One reason for the delay might be that Twitter got more integrated into Apple’s iOS mobile operating system last year, and part of having that favored status might be that you don’t do favors for Google.
Twitter’s also been pretty much on the outs with Google over the failure to renew a content deal last year and the favoritism it feels Google started giving Google+ over Twitter in Search Plus Your World earlier this year. Potentially, that further disincentivizes Twitter from wanting to do much for Android.
Does Going “All In” On Apple Payoff?
Instagram offers another example of why ignoring Android might be worthwhile, for some. The world’s largest “mobile-only” social network, the headlines said last week, estimating it has 25 million users. But world’s largest iOS-only social network might have been more accurate. Because if you’re not using an iOS device like the iPhone or the iPad, you’re not going to be Instagramming.
Instagram is going on two years old, and still no Android app? If I recall correctly, Apple’s lavished plenty of love on Instagram over the past year. I’m pretty sure it’s been featured both within the app store and within Apple commercials. Apple’s staff named it the best iPhone app for 2011.
If you’re Instagram, do you risk losing potential Apple love by rolling out an Android app? Or do you stay iOS only? Surely, that’s a factor.
Dear App Makers: We Are Android Users, Hear Us Roar
Of course, there’s a risk to app makers, by ignoring Android. Pick your survey, and there are more Android smartphone users reported these days than iPhone users. One out this week has Android’s share of smartphone users in the US at 49% to Apple’s 30%.
While my main tablet is the iPad, my main phone is Android (I also own an iPhone 4S). If the new hot “who’s nearby” app Highlight wants to be iPhone-only, that’s a lot of people it’s missing out on. It also means I’m far more inclined to use that other new hot “who’s nearby” app, Banjo. Banjo is biplatformial. It’s for iOS and Android.
As for Twitter, I don’t tend to blame Android when it looks so crappy on my Android tablet. I blame Twitter and wonder why they’re being so lame. I’ve also talked to a couple of developers who, because everyone they know uses the iPhone, dismiss Android despite the many stats that show usage out there. That’s lame, too.
But Developing For Android Is Harder
But it’s not all down to lameness, nor trying to curry favor with Apple. It’s also because, as Apple has said many times, Android is fragmented. It’s not standard. You can’t just develop an “Android” app. You have to think about the literally hundreds of different Android devices out there, which even Google can’t keep track of.
I got an up-close-and-personal wake-up call about this when going through a mobile app development process recently. I wanted a mobile app, and I damn well wanted it to work on both the iPhone and Android. The developer said sure, we can do Android. But which phones should it be “awesome” on, because there are a variety of resolutions and screen sizes.
Oh. Yeah. I should know that, because I’ve got three different Android phones sitting on my desk right now, along with my Android tablet, and the screen sizes and resolutions are indeed all different.
That’s a challenge Google really needs to figure out. Perhaps it’s finally time for it to dictate some preferred standards for Android devices in terms of hardware, similar to how Google has been trying to promote design standards for Android 4.
Google’s Own Apps Should Lead The Way
At the very least, Google itself could lead the pack in supporting Android tablets. Behold, the glory of Google+ on my Android tablet:
If Google itself can’t come up with a better experience for its own social network on the latest version of its own mobile operating system, why should any other company be going above and beyond?
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