In a word, experience. Or, put another way– the user experience. Mac users from the past all the way to the latest version of OS X know that Apple fretted over and sweated the details for a better user experience.
Winners And Losers
Most Windows PC manufacturers compare their wares with bullet points of features and benefits. Technology pundits do much the same.
What’s missing in most of the analysis of today’s modern computing devices– smartphones– is a comparison of what we do on each device.
That’s the user experience, and it’s just not as easy to define or quantify as bullet points of hardware features.
Yes, we use the hardware, and it’s an important component of mobile computing, but it’s the software and the interface that gives us the user experience.
How does Apple’s latest and greatest iOS version stack up against the competition made up of a Galaxy smartphone running Android OS, a BlackBerry 10, and a Nokia smartphone running Windows Phone?
The Pfeiffer Report conducted research on actual device usability and came up with results that both Google and Microsoft don’t want you to know (BlackBerry doesn’t really matter anymore).
The research covered a number of user experience elements.
Cognitive Load – sum of elements you need to be familiar with to use a device appropriately.
Efficiency and Integration – ease of use to get to key settings, view notifications, etc.
Customization – just how easy is it to customize aspects of Android vs. iOS vs. Windows Phone?
User Experience – what aspects of a device work well vs. those that do not.
As you might suspect from a detailed analysis and benchmarks of modern smartphones, some devices and OSs perform better or worse within specific user benchmarks.
For example, Android OS is highly customizable, so scored well, while Windows Phone is difficult to customize, so scored poorly.
Each of the research elements has winners and losers, so download Pfeiffer’s PDF for the details. That said, here’s a single graphic of the benchmark totals.
Definitely, Google and Microsoft would rather the average smartphone customer not read the details of Pfeiffer’s research.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘Kate, user interface studies are subjective, while hardware features and software features are not.’
Well, that’s true. And that’s the problem.
Mac users have known for a generation or two that Mac’s are more usable and friendly and less of a headache than a comparable Windows PC for the average computer user. That difference is difficult to quantify in a study, but not difficult for customers and users to figure out.
The same holds true for Apple’s iOS vs. Android (more like Windows on a phone than Microsoft’s own Windows Phone). For most users, iOS works better. Why? Because Apple designed a better user experience– top to bottom– than Google or Microsoft.
It’s true that thanks to Apple’s iPhone modern smartphones are a vast improvement over smartphones in the pre-post-PC era, yet obviously distinct differences between devices and platforms exist. These research results are not considered by Wall Street, seldom considered by the great unwashed masses of technology pundits and writers, yet are very obvious to customers. It was news when a Mac user switched to a Windows PC (while the reverse was more common), and it’s news today when an iPhone user switches to an Android or Windows inflicted smartphone.
The most important component of a device is usability, and it’s the one that is least studied and researched. Except maybe by Apple. Google and Microsoft don’t want potential customers to know just how good the iPhone 5S really is, and how iOS– either iOS 7 or iOS 6– is a vastly improved user experience over their respective platforms.