Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The #1 Android feature missing from iOS

I bought an iPad mini for Christmas, since I'm starting to learn iOS development to complement the Android development I have already done. It's a nice device, great for e-reading. But I'm an Android guy at heart, and there is one basic feature that Android has for which there is no iOS equivalent, and it drives me nuts.

It's the Back button.

In iOS, if I'm in Gmail and open a link, how do I get back to the email? I find the little Back button in the upper left corner and tap on it. If I click on a link inside the mini-browser and want to get back to the previous page? Well, I can't, as far as I can tell. If I'm in Facebook and open a picture, it opens up full-screen, so how do I get back to the Facebook feed? I tap on the screen so that the buttons appear, find the nearly invisible Done button in the upper right corner, and tap on it. If I'm in Safari and click on a link, how do I go back to the previous page? I find the little left arrow button on the Safari toolbar and click on it.

One of my most common workflows is:

  1. I see an interesting notification come in.
  2. I tap on the notification to open the email/tweet/Skype/whatever.
  3. I finish and want to go back to whatever I was doing.

How do I accomplish step 3 in iOS? Well...there's the four-finger swipe to switch between running apps. Sometimes that gets me where I want to go, sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't, I have to hit the Home button, try to remember what I was doing previously, and open up the previous app again. It seems there's not really a consistent way to do this. And consistency is supposed to be a hallmark of iOS.

The way to do all of these things in Android is, you guessed it, the Back button. I use it constantly, and it works great. If there is some equivalent in iOS that I just haven't found yet, please feel free to sound off in the comments and let me know!


TerminatorJoe said...

I've just started moving the other way: after using an iPad for a year and a half, I bought a Nexus 10. I do like the back button (though I'm still getting used to how it behaves when an app opens the browser and you want to back). On iOS, there was no consistent way.

One thing that doesn't seem as nice in my limited Android experience is that the apps like Gmail, Google+, Twitter, Facebook don't have mini-browsers. Sometimes I do want to view a link in the browser, but generally, staying in the iOS apps was often nicer than jumping back and forth just to view pic someone posted, etc. Maybe the Android tablet versions of these apps will add this at some point.

Eric said...

I actually prefer that the links open up in the full browser. Then I know that any time I'm seeing a web page, it's in the same app, with the same interface and the same functionality. On the other hand, I agree that if I'm just looking at a picture, there's not much point in opening a full browser.

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