Why it's OK for the iPhone to have the same UI, and why it isn't for Windows Phone
If there's one thing that's certain in life, that should be the fact that iOS is exclusive to Apple. And since it's only Apple that makes iPhone and iPads, it's somewhat normal if its products use the same UI. We don't say that it's cool if a UI almost doesn't change over the course of 5 years, but what we're saying is that it's more or less normal if it remains very similar, or even the same (in case it's a good UI, that is). What isn't normal in this industry, though, is to have different handset manufacturers releasing products that use the same exact interface, as it is happening with Windows Phone. While this is helping Microsoft draw attention to the signature Metro (or Modern) style, it isn't really helping the manufacturers much, as they are forced to compete mainly on the hardware level, without being able to differentiate their products software-wise. And with set specification limits, how much of a competition can there be in terms of hardware?
It just works
Some may make jokes out of this, but it's true - iOS's user interface simply works, and that's among its biggest assets. Sure its simplicity probably makes it a bit harder to implement changes that would add some more advanced functionality (like widgets), but why fix something that ain't broken? The reality is that iOS works, and it works for quite a few people.
Additionally, even though Apple doesn't make any groundbreaking changes to its UI, we have to admit that it's practically the most polished mobile OS UI out there, so it will actually be better if we see other manufacturers work on their software so that they don't look like 'iPhone for kids', rather than expect change from Apple. But back to Windows Phone, Microsoft has also done a pretty good job with its UI, although it's very different and would require more time for users to get used to it. Either way, it isn't nearly as established right now, so who cares about Metro/Modern? The need for software differentiation in the Windows Phone world is getting stronger by the day.
Being in the middle
Microsoft is playing an interesting game with Windows Phone. The OS takes the middle road between iOS and Android, being much more closed than Android, but not as integrated as iOS. However, since Microsoft isn't making its own phones, it has to rely on hardware manufacturers, which, in turn, want their phones to look differently from those of the competition. What do you do when manufacturers want personalized UI, and Microsoft wants one and the same UI? It's a tough situation in which Microsoft will have to make a few compromises, and think of a way for manufacturers to create UIs that are different, but still reminiscent of the Metro/Modern look, as Windows Phone also has to be similar to Windows 8. Again, the middle road. But we're afraid that sticking to one and the same UI won't help Windows Phone, as Microsoft's hardware partners are already demotivated to produce WP handsets, except for Nokia, which obviously loves making them Windows Phones.
Apple isn't really pressed to change the looks of its iOS. After all, iOS's UI is part of the iPhone's iconic look. It's something that's recognized and sought after. Whatever changes Apple makes, it'll try to preserve a similar look and feel for the software, as well as the hardware.
As you can guess, it's very different with Windows Phone. The OS still has a tiny market share, and what Microsoft has to do is to impress users with flashy handsets that don't all look alike. Still, with big screens taking up much of the space on a device's front side, they all somehow end up looking the same.
What do you say, folks, should Microsoft let phone makers do their own custom UIs, or Live Tiles FTW?
1. loken (Posts: 462; Member since: 09 May 2012)
IOS VS WP8 = WP8 Win.. but i guess microsoft should let oem's make their own skin... because same ui is boring like IOS
29. bobfreking55 (Posts: 866; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)
i hope not to the point where updates will take long because of skins - and they if they do make it, i hope they make a stock packing phone like the nexus (surface phones?)
oh well, that is... if they do update it with WP9.
38. MeoCao (unregistered)
In fact users do not want different UIs for the same OS. Android fans want nothing more than "Pure Google" experience over Sense or TouchWiz.
What people really want is they can customize the home screen to their liking and make them unique. That is where both iOS and WP suck.
47. Tommy187 (Posts: 1; Member since: 11 Sep 2012)
Speak for yourself, and not every android owner. The average consumer don't care about vanilla android because it's just simply not attractive compare to Touchwiz or Sense UI. Look at the Galaxy Nexus sales, then look at the Galaxy S III sales. Heck, even look at the HTC One X sales compare to the Galaxy Nexus. How well did the Galaxy S sell again? LG2X? People who really want vanilla android either buys a nexus, or root their phones. Sales wise, consumers are happy with the skins that OEMs applies.
If you're a fan of vanilla android, that's fine, but don't speak for the whole android community when you state that no one wants different skins for their android phone. I would good so far to say that it's because of skins like touch wiz and sense ui that android has become as big as they are today.
55. MeoCao (unregistered)
Galaxy Nexus fails b-c of poor screen and camera not b-c of OS.
Skins were useful before ICS but from then on, especially with JB the skins only make Android worse b-c Android UI now is so refined.
61. taz89 (Posts: 1943; Member since: 03 May 2011)
Couldn't agree more..I laugh at the people who say we should get rid of skins... The reason android is popular because every thing does not look the same... Galaxy nexus got a lot of advertising And still did not sell so much even after price cut... Stock ics with its tron like colours is just boring for majority of the general consumers... The geeks need to accept that for many skins are better than stock.. Personally I like tw as it brings its own unique features and I can put a launcher on top and get the best of both worlds
79. glentomas123 (Posts: 68; Member since: 01 Jun 2011)
Obviously, you haven't used jelly bean. Touch wiz and Sense can't compete with JB's smooth, fast, simple, uncluttered, and friendly UI. Pure JB FTW!
69. rancor1223 (Posts: 17; Member since: 11 Sep 2012)
Well average customer is usualy an idiot who can barely use Facebook. So, yeah, those people doesn't care about Pure Google. But every Android user, who understands computers and stuff do want it.
58. McLTE (Posts: 620; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)
As much as I enjoy using vanilla Android with no skin on my Nexus.. I have to totally disagree with you here.
My wife is a typical consumer.. she played with my phone and was rather blah about it. She had a HTC Incredible that was earing out and wanted a new LTE android on the cheap, so she purchased a Samsung Charge.. used it for about 5 days and HATED it. She was so adamant about saving money, even me trying to convince her to go to new hardware (Rezound had just come out) she resisted saying NO WAY am I spending $300 on a phone!!!
Well, 5 days later, she went back to the store and swapped the Charge for a... Rezound. All of a sudden she didn't care about the price difference (it was $50 vs $300).
What was the biggest reason? She loves the HTC Sense UI.. enough to drop that kind of cash difference to get the Rezound.
THIS is why manufacturers want to create their own UI. It differentiates their phones and once consumers get used to the way things are, they don't want to switch. I'm sure my wife will look for another HTC phone at her next update.
I still like vanilla Android. :)
What I would like to see is Android adopt some of the best aspects of the various custom UI's out there.. or force manufacturers to make their UI installable (removable).
I hope WP8 also allows some level of customization and not force people into ONE standard UI.. people will get bored with it.
67. MeoCao (unregistered)
I think you are talking about home screen launchers. launchers are nice but skins cause fragmentation of Android and lots of other drawbacks. Up to now skins haven't offered anything substantial to Android as far as I know.
87. Stuntman (Posts: 665; Member since: 01 Aug 2011)
That is not true. I found that Sense adds a lot of value over pure Google. TouchWiz does add some value, although not as much to my liking. If you want a pure Google experience, then get the Nexus phones. If you want some pre-installed features, then look at the non-Google devices.
As for whether or not MS should allow manufacturers to make their own skins, that's up to MS. I personally think they should because I am not that impressed with the default WP UI. It has gotten better with WP 8, but it seems too bland. You can't even add a wall paper to the background.
93. myclevername (Posts: 93; Member since: 07 Jun 2010)
Have you ever used Windows Phone? You can customize the home screen to your hearts content. Add, unpin, pin, resize, change colors, receive live tile updates. And with Windows 8 even more home screen customization is coming. It is the perfect balance of the same old iScreen and the out of control, four swipes wide, pin Gmail and Gmaps on there 3 or 4 times by mistake crap that is Android.
96. Non_Sequitur (Posts: 1111; Member since: 16 Mar 2012)
Yeah, but at least WP isn't as boring as iOS. iOS is soooo booorring. WP looks nice.
46. -box- (Posts: 3565; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)
I'm tired of skins, personally. They make updates take longer, they're not always robust (I stopped counting how many times Sense crashed on my HTC Sensation, even with no other apps running, on a daily basis), and LiveTiles /work/. I'm all for each OEM having a unique personalization option for them (i.e. Nokia has a unique color "Nokia Blue" for the LiveTiles on the Lumias) but not at the expense of the excellent UI/UX.
As for iOS, I find it to be backwards, unintuitive, and frustrating. I would have to be paid several hundred dollars a week to try to use one on a daily basis, and even then I'd still try to use a different option. I felt the same way about BlackBerry OSes from about version 3 or 4 and up to 5 and early 6 releases, so it's not just my dislike of apple at play here. Maybe I'm just too used to more intuitive OSes like Symbian, Android, Windows Phone, and even old Palm.
62. Alistaire (Posts: 132; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)
that is one reason I switched from Iphone 4 to Nokia Lumia 900...
63. threed61 (Posts: 116; Member since: 27 May 2011)
It doesn't really matter right now in the USA, its not as though anyone but AT&T offers a selection of WP devices, most consumers will have to take what their carrier deigns to offer, if at all.
77. jshan (Posts: 148; Member since: 25 Dec 2011)
Mad fellows trying to show that how fool they r !! :€
90. ahmed_ali_yossef2010 (Posts: 154; Member since: 26 Jul 2012)
you know something this website hates apple it didn't even broadcast the apple keynote like it did with samsung
98. JGuinan007 (Posts: 605; Member since: 19 May 2011)
MS can not allow OEMs to skin on WP8 yet the OS has no real market share and most people know nothing of the OS you add skins on windows phone now it will confuse consumers not PA consumers but the avg joe
99. rsxl5 (Posts: 65; Member since: 05 Sep 2012)
It is no the same!!!
... tiles corners are not rounded ;P
2. bloodline (Posts: 686; Member since: 01 Dec 2011)
If it aint broke don't fix it is a lazy moto for company thats wants you to pay premium.
If it aint broke why buy a new one
7. andro. (Posts: 1927; Member since: 16 Sep 2011)
Agreed,if it aint broke then why buy the same thing again 3 years running.
11. Ray.S (Posts: 239; Member since: 19 Jul 2011)
Because there are areas that have to be upgraded/improved over time. There are new features to be added, etc. But this doesn't mean that all elements of the device need to be messed with.
22. DIYguy (Posts: 190; Member since: 27 Feb 2011)
Nothing THAT crucial has come to cell phones in many years that would make you upgrade...
27. bobfreking55 (Posts: 866; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)
yeah, but I think it's the trends in design. why not wear a hippies' clothes today if it's still in good condition?
they could have made Android smoother and more functional without the Holo UI - but they did add it. :)
34. neutralguy (Posts: 1152; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)
So you mean to say that you always upgrade your processor even if your phone doesn't need it? WHY? Why upgrade your processor if it runs smoothly in single core.
Somethings doesn't need to be messed with. That's true. But the thing is, it's getting older and older and older.
If you're an iPhone user, you'll get bored with it after a year. And if you upgrade your iPhone to the newer model, you'll get even more bored with it.
91. gallitoking (Posts: 4630; Member since: 17 May 2011)
thats were you are wrong.. iphone users dont get bored,,,year after year.. is you haters that keep on hating on people happy with their OS
51. Mittal (Posts: 426; Member since: 14 Dec 2011)
Some salient features wrt iOS and/or iPhone would be
1. Very polished UI. Agreed. But not enough reason to not freshen it up some way to satisfy the user's wish for freshness
2. Besides, i think most ppl will agree that Android is more functional (widgets etc..)
3. I think the iOS and Android serve 2 quite different population ( not taking into consideration ppl who Jailbreak or Root). iOS seems for folks who value a flawless mobile experience and simplicity. Android is for the more restless type, who want full utility out of their device. As far as WP goes, yes maybe some more work is needed, but awesome job done to create a fresh UI
52. dr_fajardo12 (Posts: 107; Member since: 26 Aug 2012)
thanks ray s you are an example of non an apple fan :)
56. maryaaadil (Posts: 146; Member since: 07 Apr 2012)
I agree but imagine a person has a iphone 4 he would have no reason to upgrade to 4s cause
1. Same design
2. Same UI
3. Almost same speed.
4. Same screen.
5. Siri is not so useful(on daily basis)
And he can do it by jailbreaking it
6. No LTE.
7. Price diffrence( it is too much in India)
24. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5279; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)
Ummm. Apple isn't going to release a major upgrade to the UI of iOS anytime soon because it will cost huge $ to re-architect any new UI. Widgets on iOS would require fundamental changes to iOS internals. All of the problems Android had with lag until ICS/JB would be present in iOS.
You can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. iOS's UI is here to stay for quite some time.
78. andro. (Posts: 1927; Member since: 16 Sep 2011)
Realistically its will be at least 2-3 years before there is any changes in ios ui. It hasn't changed much since 5 years ago and with ifans buying over and over again it only makes sense that apple will like you said spend as little as possible each year to keep the ui appear somewhat miminally updated. Android has the market share,and each manufacturer is constantly battling to be top dog within it,as a result ui's and launchers progress in leaps and bounds each year
20. asulect (Posts: 130; Member since: 27 Aug 2012)
Actually, it is becausethis exact none changing UI model, majority of apple users only upgrade their phones every two years instead of average Android users upgrading every six months to 1 years.
And, even though it looks like people are paying premium on the iphone, the iphone's second hand value holds up much better. As of today, you can still trade in your two years old iphone 4(not 4S) to Amazon more than $200(no selling involved, just trade in to amazon). That's enough money for you buy a iphone 5 when you sign another 2 year contract.
The overall ownership for iphone is actually much cheaper than Android if you take those into consideration.
40. dinzle (Posts: 21; Member since: 03 Dec 2011)
What are you talking about? About half of iphone users terminated there contracts early to upgrade to the 4s.......
65. asulect (Posts: 130; Member since: 27 Aug 2012)
You really think half the people buying on the iphone 4s the first few weeks terminated their contract the same as half people upgraded terminated the contract?
This statistics did not include the people who sat at home and did not buy the iphone 4S the first few weeks and those who did not buy the iphone 4S and waited until iphone 5 to come out.
And even when you use this very skewed statistic, only 45% terminated their contact. Majorly still did not.
73. asulect (Posts: 130; Member since: 27 Aug 2012)
Hey Dinzle. Thank you for that link. I just realized the 45% people who terminated their contract to upgrade are the smarter ones.
I have an iphone 4s and did not a plan to upgrade to iphone 5 at all.
You've just made me realize I can tradein my iphone 4s to amazon for $410 today and use that money to pay $230 to terminate my verizon contract and have $180 left over to buy the new iphone 5. This means I only have to pay out of pocket of about $20 + whatever tax to get a new iphone 5 even if I terminate my contract. Now's that really low cost of ownership.
3. AppleConspiracy (Posts: 627; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)
Microsoft didn't count on this in the first place, I believe, because they though they could have best of both worlds.
Now I think they are beginning to realize this, and eventually I believe they will introduce their own smartphone just like they did with the Surface tablet, and get rid of the burden of the fallen OEM industry. My predicition is that Nokia would be sold to Microsoft like Motorola Mobility has been to Google, and thay will produce Microsoft phones.
It's the only thing that can compete with Apple if they want to be iconic and unique.
39. snowgator (Posts: 3158; Member since: 19 Jan 2011)
I agree with your assessment, just disagree with the conclusion. I feel some UI differential is coming, and probably this coming year (holidays 2013?) if sales of WP 8 don't come out of the gate strong and hold up for the entire year. I can see MS being successful with Tablets, but smart phones are a different animal. MS stands to make more cash having manufacturers build their devices.
4. Suts_97 (Posts: 123; Member since: 05 May 2012)
Everything about iOS is perfect isn't it PA ?
10. iguano (Posts: 101; Member since: 10 May 2012)
lol I was thinking the same thing, I have not read a single article that speak well of microsoft and nokia in months, but tomorrow, you will see the HEAVENS!!!! lol
23. ayephoner (Posts: 833; Member since: 09 Jun 2009)
this is absurd.
this article is well written and not biased in the least and you guys attack the author and the site.
the annual iphone announcement and launch are huge news. get over your frustration with that and let it be. wp and android have so many announcements for so many devices that it dilutes the significance of any of them. if you look at the entire year, coverage is much, much more balanced than you guys claim.
59. threed61 (Posts: 116; Member since: 27 May 2011)
I don't like Apple and use Windows Phone, and I've seen a lot of positive articles about Nokia and Windows Phone here.
12. Ray.S (Posts: 239; Member since: 19 Jul 2011)
I don't really agree with you on that one. :)
28. bobfreking55 (Posts: 866; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)
Ray, you aren't much of a WP fan and you seem to like iOS. I would like to hear your opinion on what WP does better than iOS. :)
33. AppleConspiracy (Posts: 627; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)
You missed the point of this article. It's not about what OS does better.
49. bobfreking55 (Posts: 866; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)
i just wanted to get his side. :) i know.
35. Ray.S (Posts: 239; Member since: 19 Jul 2011)
I actually like Windows Phone and hope that it will establish itself as a prominent player. I think its main virtue is that it does many things differently than the well known / standard way, which deserves appreciation. As far as things that it does better go, I like how the Live Tiles can show additional information which updates in real time. I also like that most apps in the Marketplace have trial versions, and the way screenshots are handled is also better (in my opinion). There may be more that I'm missing, of course.
50. bobfreking55 (Posts: 866; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)
thanks for answering. :) i needed that.
you know, holiday season. gifts. ;)
5. onggeo (Posts: 30; Member since: 20 Mar 2012)
I don't mind the tiles, I actually like it. The ability to change the size of tile is a huge step in the right direction. Other ways to customize the tiles that could be implemented in future versions would be to assign custom colors for each tile and the ability to change what will be displayed on the tile. I know it's hard for OEMs to differentiate themselves through software, but they should look at it as a challenge to come up with better designs and hardware.
6. wendygarett (unregistered)
I thought this was the michael article but nice job ray :)
8. eisenbricher (Posts: 964; Member since: 09 Aug 2012)
It just works!! But it'll be horrible mistake if someone considers that it will work forever. I see gigantic companies dwindling in short time recently. Apple isn't immune either.
Yet I pray for everyone's goodwill ~
9. Snoobab (Posts: 166; Member since: 07 Dec 2011)
User experience seems to be at the forefront of the WP UI. With this in mind, I doubt MS will ever let manufacturers modify it. It's been cleverly thought out and seems to work extremely well.
14. KingShango (Posts: 89; Member since: 16 May 2012)
From what I've seen the OEM's have already done a good job differentiate themselves. The Nokia 920 looks nothing like the Samsung Ativ and I'm sure HTC's will also be distinct.
On the software side Nokia has its propietary stuff like City Lens and HTC is rumored to has some Sense like live tiles. I'm not sure if the Ativ has S-voice but I don't see any reason it couldn't.
Instead of being middle of the road It seems to me like WP is the best of both worlds.
15. lsguntu (Posts: 66; Member since: 06 Aug 2012)
I think microsoft adds more and more customizations to the home screen for the user to make changes in the coming Windows phone versions.
When Apple is selling the same phone with same UI, why cant microsoft sell the same UI with different phone models? User has different hardware options. I am using Samsing focus (bought 1.5 years back) and actually bored with the phone but not the UI.
I have been waiting for Lumia 920 (which will be my next phone for sure) from past 4 months.
16. good2great (Posts: 1033; Member since: 22 Feb 2012)
Nice read Ray!
Looking forward to your live blog about the iPhone announcement tomorrow.
17. infinitemethod (Posts: 122; Member since: 04 Sep 2012)
WP8 is going to skyrocket past iOS within just a few years. Once the ball gets rolling for Windows 8, developers apps will work on all Windows 8 devices without changing anything. It'll be so easy for developers to get apps out.
18. gilbilly (Posts: 2; Member since: 06 Sep 2012)
I look at all these custom UIs and although the argument goes back and forth I truly believe that they slow down the pure UI and that they affect update distribution. I think the best way to differentiate is to do what Nokia is doing and offering exclusive apps and content so that it is a consumer choice to either use Nokia's turn by turn apps etc. Samsung could release an app to customize your tiles for example and only offer it on Samsung phones. Or more likely a series of S apps with an S Pen option. Hardware should be the differentiator in order to make it easier for the developers. The consumer wins in that case with standard updates, more app development and carriers that are forced to include the best hardware.
P.S. I would hate to see a WP8 all touchwized.