Apple's iOS 7 beats Android, other mobile operating systems in user experience report

Daniel Bean, Yahoo News
Yahoo News

With its release last week, iOS 7 has immediately become one of the most popular mobile operating systems on the planet. The question of whether it should be considered the best, however, still lingers. That's why one consulting firm known for “quantifying the intangible” set out to examine each of today’s most popular mobile operating systems to find which actually offers the best overall user experience.

examined Apple’s iOS 6 and iOS 7, Samsung’s version of Android 4.2.2, Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry 10. Its conclusion? iOS 7 was the operating system that users preferred most.

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Mobile OS Overall User Experience scoring

The OS's were rated on efficiency, customization, experience friction and cognitive load (the learning curve necessary to operate the OS).

“We do not look at features, we do not compare cutting-edge options and gadgets,” the report reads. “We only look at aspects that have a direct impact on the day-to-day user experience of an average, non-technical user.”

Though the firm awarded Apple’s iOS 7 the highest Overall User Experience scoring, iOS 6 wasn’t far behind, and Samsung’s Android was rated second or better in several categories. Blackberry 10 also scored competitively, just behind Android in the overall scoring. Microsoft's struggling Windows Phone 8, meanwhile, lagged well behind the pack.

The category of cognitive load is where Samsung’s Android really took a beating, with Pfeiffer reporting the OS contained “more than 4 times” the number of apps and widgets than iOS 7 and “a significantly higher number of icons and user interface elements.” Though iOS 7 easily beat out Samsung’s Android here, 162 to 40 (lower is better), it was Apple’s older version that was judged the easiest to learn, with a score of 32. Pfeiffer concluded that iOS 7 is “slightly less streamlined” than iOS 6:

“This difference is due to the addition of the Control Center, a new user interface element with a new set of icons that were not present in iOS before” the report says.

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The Control Center on Apple's mobile operating system, new in iOS 7. (iMore)

The story was the same with the user experience friction measurements, where Pfeiffer again blamed iOS 7's Control Center, this time citing its “annoying habit of accidentally popping up."

Samsung’s OS, meanwhile, edged the competition in customization, scoring a seven out of ten, one point higher than iOS 7 and two points higher than iOS 6. The report states that, “Android has the longest list of customization options of all mobile operating systems surveyed, but lacks some of the accessibility options present in iOS.”

So should we take this report as the gospel of smartphone comparisons?

In a way, Pfeiffer reaffirms the sense that iPhones are simpler to operate than Android’s feature-packed phones, possibly more suited for the geek crowd, though the companies do seem to be marketing to the same people.

It’s also important to remember that these benchmarking categories don’t examine the hardware of the devices at all, an area where some users have grown frustrated with Apple; and also that there are several different versions or "flavors" of Android running on different phones.

“We are definitely entering a world of maturity in terms of features and interaction patterns,” the Pfeiffer report concludes. “A world where smartphones are like cars: when you can drive one you can drive them all—but also a world where finishing and usability may be more important for the user than the latest killer feature.”

It’s a fair analogy. Let’s just hope the vertigo and nausea that some iOS 7 users are reportedly experiencing don't dangerously affect users' driving - err, smartphone operating.
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