Why it's OK for the iPhone to have the same UI, and why it isn't for Windows Phone

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Why it's OK for the iPhone to have the same UI, and why it isn't for Windows Phone
When it comes to iOS, we all agree that the UI of the platform needs a facelift in order to become fresh, more dynamic and functional. But guess what, Windows Phone manufacturers actually need more change in their UIs than Apple.


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: May 09, 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: Jul 15, 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.

64. aaronkatrini

Posts: 242; Member since: Jun 06, 2012

iOS UI is like Android for Kids!

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: Sep 11, 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: 2014; Member since: May 03, 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: 70; Member since: Jun 01, 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: Sep 11, 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: 922; Member since: Oct 18, 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: 843; Member since: Aug 01, 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: 94; Member since: Jun 07, 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: Mar 16, 2012

Yeah, but at least WP isn't as boring as iOS. iOS is soooo booorring. WP looks nice.

46. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 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: Apr 13, 2012

that is one reason I switched from Iphone 4 to Nokia Lumia 900...

63. threed61

Posts: 259; Member since: May 27, 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: 200; Member since: Dec 25, 2011

Mad fellows trying to show that how fool they r !! :€

90. ahmed_ali_yossef2010

Posts: 164; Member since: Jul 26, 2012

you know something this website hates apple it didn't even broadcast the apple keynote like it did with samsung

98. JGuinan007

Posts: 699; Member since: May 19, 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: Sep 05, 2012

It is no the same!!! ... tiles corners are not rounded ;P http://www.phonearena.com/news/Google-didnt-believ e-rounded-corners-were-patentable_id34341

2. bloodline

Posts: 706; Member since: Dec 01, 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: 1999; Member since: Sep 16, 2011

Agreed,if it aint broke then why buy the same thing again 3 years running.

11. Ray.S

Posts: 456; Member since: Jul 19, 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: Feb 27, 2011

Nothing THAT crucial has come to cell phones in many years that would make you upgrade...

27. bobfreking55

Posts: 866; Member since: Jul 15, 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: Apr 30, 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: 4721; Member since: May 17, 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: 494; Member since: Dec 14, 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: 134; Member since: Aug 26, 2012

thanks ray s you are an example of non an apple fan :)

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