Why does iPhone seem more fluid than Android?

Why does iPhone seem more fluid than Android?

Fairly or unfairly, Google's Android often gets knocked for having a lagging or stuttering user interface when compared to Apple's iOS on iPhone and iPad. TiPb's previously guessed that this stemmed from very early architectural decisions made by Apple, who had a full screen, multi-touch UI -- albeit it a highly limited one -- in mind from the outset, as opposed to Google who originally had Android set up as a BlackBerry, Windows Mobile Standard, and Nokia competitor that had no need for high performance, sophisticated UI rendering.

That might turn out to be pretty much the case. In response to a Google+ post about hardware acceleration by Android engineer Dianne Hackborn, ex-Google intern Andrew Munn breaks down why Android's way of handling graphics and event processing hinders the OS from offering users a more fluid, lag-free UI.

Android UI will never be completely smooth because of the design constraints I discussed at the beginning:

  • UI rendering occurs on the main thread of an app
  • UI rendering has normal priority

The iPhone changed things by introducing a dedicated thread with high priority for handling UI rendering, redirecting all power (CPU and GPU) to handling UI element rendering in realtime based on touch input. The result? Smooth-as-butter UI elements, transitions and animations as soon as you touch the screen -- even on older hardware when paired with the latest iOS 5 software. The drawback: everything else, from app downloads to content rendering will pause so the UI can keep that high frame rate, high quality redraw pace.

Munn does disclose that he was only an intern with Google's Android team and never actually got his hands on the raw Android source code, so this could be taken as supposition.

Indeed, our own resident Mobile Nations Android guru, Jerry Hildenbrand from Android Central says there might be a bit more to it:

The way it stands now, as long as you have free resources to run multiple UI threads [in Android] the UI is amazingly smooth -- easily as smooth as the iPhone or WP7 phones. Problem is that nobody sets resource management up in a way to keep them free. A simple customization to the linux lowmemkiller kernel parameter fixes it, at the expense of huge memory hogs like Facebook or HTC applications. One day, when we have Octocore 12NM Cpu's, DDR3 RAM, and huge batteries this way will prove better. For now, you have to hack at it.

So Android can be set up to prioritize UI, if that's what's wanted, but it's not automatic like iOS. That might annoy user experience snobs, like our friends on the Iterate podcast but it might be a fine tradeoff for those with other priorities, like the big screens, different skins, and high customizability that Android's design does allow.

Hit the source for a full technical breakdown.

Source: Dianne Hackborn, Andrew Munn

Andrew Wray

Andrew Wray is a Salt Lake City, Utah based writer who focuses on news, how-tos, and jailbreak. Andrew also enjoys running, spending time with his daughter, and jamming out on his guitar. He works in a management position for Unisys Technical Services, a subsidiary of Unisys Corporation.

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Why does iPhone seem more fluid than Android?

72 Comments

I only tried an Android phone one time in a store because I wanted to see how my mobile site displayed on it. If I ever found a brand new Android device, sealed in the box, I'd toss it into the nearest dumpster.

It's not just the UI responsiveness, it's the entire user experience. Droid phones feel like they'd compare to early (very early) alpha versions of iPhones. The ideas regarding functionality are there (sometimes) but the deployment is typically hideous especially when compared to iOS.
Oh yeah I forgot Ice Cream Sandwich will fix all of this. It'll fix everything. Or maybe it's the OS version after ICS...or maybe the one after that? Can't keep it straight anymore.

unlike iphoney we have more choices than just the droid. Try the galaxy s2. Your just not use to having a choice.

actually i have plenty of choice and have had plenty of choice pre iphone on verizon as i work for them.. ive had 2 android devices which were rooted, over clocked and very verizon and moto blur free..when the iphone came to verizon i was like alot of people.."oh.. thats it? side to side? no widgets, customizing? nothing?" then i started to play with it a bit to learn how to use it since we get no training lol..then i had to learn how to trouble shoot a bit.. which 9 times out of 10 consisted of nothing more than having to do a soft reset by holding the power button and home button down for a bit..and then i realized how much less iphones came back compared to the myriad of android devices we sold. which came back on a daily basis..then i got one and i decided i liked the simplicity of the iphone.. yes it might seem boring to alot of droid fanboys but its my preference.. it also handles memory alot better than android does..well with devices like the razr and nexus that might not be the case but even the razr& bionic have their issues at times with freezing ive seen quite a few bionics have to be exchanged due to freezing up and lag.. and this is a device with 1ghz dual core and 1g of ram.there should be no slowdown here. and now the droid charge was pulled due to some issue or other and then put back on the shelf after a fix was found..lol. ios is a more stable and yes smoother operating system.. im not denying android is an awesome os .. its got great features.. and apple has been lacking in some depts but i still prefer it. and just like many of you on this forum you also have a choice..lol.i swear sometimes i think if this were an actual room.. people would come to blows over their choices..lol..they're only phones guys.

Since the battery life already sucks with Droid phones it makes sense that they sacrifice the UI experience (otherwise the phone would need a charge every 90 minutes).

If you don't like the Droid just try one of the 300 choices you have with android. Can you do that with the 1 choice you people have. What's it like having the same phone as all the other isheep.

You don't need 300 half-baked cheaply built choices when you have an iPhone. Superior hardware and spectacular software specially designed for that hardware is what makes makes the phone flow so damn amazing.

If apple is so great then why does my screen lag and apps force close and typing delay while typing this as well as the fact I need to force restart much more than my new android phone?
Just disappointed.

Double-click your Home button and check how many apps you have open in your multitask tray.
Most likely all of your RAM is being hogged by 20-30 apps (or a few very heavy ones). That's at least been the case with every single person that I've helped with this problem so far.

funny thing about the iphone is, yes its no where near as customizable as android devices, yes it hasnt changed its look much since its inception, and you can say all you want that the os is inferior to android because of this or that but there is no denying that it makes a huge statement when a device that hasnt changed its design even in its new iteration is still in more demand world wide and is out selling world wide with just one device any other device out with like 30 different flavors of styles..with a new one coming out every few months as the next latest and greatest..hmm.. im just saying...and why the hell do android fanboys keep coming on here to post? curious. but i digress..

Not really, ever heard of the pet rock?
The fact that people want/buy it says nothing other than people want/buy it.

yes... and the fable pet rock died about a century ago..lol.. not quite comparable but i get your meaning.. apple products have endured and continue to grow im sure not just because of good marketing as one other user states or just because people want/buy.. there are a lot of products that have come and gone because people wanted/bought them..but didnt last..

Wow! You guys are really swinging at anything that moves. Comparing the pet rock to the iPhone. Really? Let me explain it with a more acceptable analogy. If somebody had the best sports car on the market. And this sports car came in only one design. No choice in another design in no way takes away from it being the best because options on the car aren't there. It's still a badass sports car. And there are thousands of sports car makers out there right and if anyone of those cars was better people would but one of those instead. And if people buy something because somebody else does maybe just maybe it's because they actually like it. And on top of that every carrier has a return window, and an abundance of android phones to choose from. If they got an iPhone cause the neighbor has one, well A. That's dumb and B. Who cares what phone your neighbor has. Get the phone you like. Honestly android would be a much better challenger if they would get all their different OS version finally on the same page. Basically if people are sheep. Android is the sheep herder leading them to IOS. People don't want to pick a phone and then find out they are two or more versions behind and that this phone and this phone will get the new update now and these phones over here will probably never get it before the phone is last years model. Really if your the average Joe what would you buy. Sometimes having to many choices is something most don't want to face. If android get one OS for all then the iPhone will have to watch it's back.

Just better marketing, nothing more. You have to keep getting the ipone because of all the money you have spent on itunes

As far as "big screens" have you seriously ever compared the quality of your display to an iPhone 4 or 4s? Even my friends with Droids admit that their "big screens" really aren't that great in quality.
I'll assume the author of this bought a 60" HDTV for $600, just so he could show his friends his other shitty "big screen". Is there something small being compensated for here?

I disagree. I do a lot of reading on my phone and the bigger screens make it easier to do so. Plus now that I've tasted SAMOLED+ I can never go back to another screen type.
The screen looks awesome when displaying black near the edges, its so dark that you can't tell where the screen starts and ends.

So is the iphone going to be shitty when it gets a bigger screen. There are many phones with better resolution than your crap

My 3GS was great hardly any lag compared to some of the newest android phones. But now my iPhone 4S completely blows everything else out of the water I cannot get the phone to lag at all. The A5 chip is awesome !

bought an iphone3GS a few years back, change it with an iphone4 a year a go. dont want to be a narrow minded freak about android, so i bought an android tablet, but have to resell it right away after 2 weeks, because now i really know that android its totally sucks... BIG time!!!... ive given you a chance android, and you totally blew it...

bought an iphone3GS a few years back, change it with an iphone4 a year a go. dont want to be a narrow minded freak about android, so i bought an android tablet, but have to resell it right away after 2 weeks, because now i really know that android its totally sucks... BIG time!!!... ive given you a chance android, and you totally blew it...

Lol, us "user experience snobs"
How dare I want my bed to be able to sleep in well. At least I can get a huge bed with different sheets with Android.
I have all the damn devices. 10.1 Tab/iPad/4S/S2/Xperia Pro/etc...
Android is cool. The customization is there. But there is a lag. And it messes with the usability. Typing numbers. Picking apps, using the calculator. I'd rather the phone respond to what I am doing than having a widget on screen.

No actually, there's no lag on android. There's lag on certain devices but on vanilla android its buttery smooth. I would know, I have an old G2 and now I'm on a Skyrocket.

Good for you then. Because all of the Android devices I've had are laggy.
Then tell Google to impose restrictions so that the user experience is at least the same throughout.

Right certain devices are. Just like my old iPh3G. All I wanted was clarification. What devices are you speaking of?

While the iPhone is much smoother, iOS5 does have some lagging in it. Even the 4S has some if you know what to look for. I don't know why they would change a few things to cause these new cases of lag, but iOS5 is not nearly as smooth as iOS4. Take a look at the AppStore and scroll around on the main screen for it, it'll lag when you scroll down and it's trying to redraw the app icons in the list. That's completely new to iOS5, the issue was never there in iOS4... it's a shame... rumor had it a while back that some geniuses from RIM migrated to Apple to work on some UI designs for iOS5... I'm scared to think the cause of these new lags are those idiots doing what they did best when they were working at RIM... causing laggy shit to happen. We all know how bad a BB lags. Let's hope they get this fixed because iOS5 right now is just buggy and laggy.

Actually not really. I read this site daily and there is hardly any articles about android. Why waste time, when there is so much cool stuff with ios. Plus, why are you in this site. I NEVER go on the android because I think it's an inferior product, fragmented, and uninteresting. I don't even know he website names.
What are you doing here?

The multitasking tray doesn't actually show running apps. It shows a least recently used list of application some still in memory but many already killed.
When the foreground app requests memory and said memory is "hogged" by apps which were switched to background, those apps are killed.
What is probably happening to Ridesouth is that he is using iOS 4 on an iPhone 3G. The combination just never really worked and apple is to blame about it they should either have not supported the 3G or supported it correctly.
Another thing which causes the same symptom in the address bar of safari is if one has thousands of bookmark. This has been known to happen due to a bug in iCloud bookmark syncing which can produce thousands of duplicate.

"...Google’s Android often gets knocked for having a lagging or stuttering user interface when compared to Apple’s iOS on iPhone and iPad. " [citation needed]
I've heard that complaint about specific devices, but not about the Android platform in general.
P.S. The plural of anecdote is not data.

Two words- USER EXPERIENCE. Apple is focused on delivering a satisfying user experience to it's customers. The Android vendors do not. The Android vendors are stuck on the notion that they can sell whiz bang hardware with a half baked OS that is neither elegant, nor gives a satisfying user experience, for the same price as Apple products, and it just isn't happening. It's only going to get worse for Google if someone doesn't snap it out of the geek trance and focus them on user experience. Despite bigger screens, HDMI outputs, SD card slots, and other meaningless hardware that isn't inspiring everyone to stick with Android, people leave Android for iPhone because it isn't delivering a satisfying user experience.
Jobs wanted you to FEEL something when you use Apple products. SATISFACTION. Apple technology is easy to use, allows you to get done what you want to do with the least number of steps necessary, and the iPhone is quite attractive.

My experiences with the EVO 4G on Gingerbread left a bad feeling. The only way Android would've kept me is if I'd never wandered into a Verizon store one day and actually used an iPhone. That allowed me to see the same thing that Apple commercials accomplish that Android commercials do not- WHAT I CAN DO WITH IT. When I realized that I could not only do everything that I could do on Android but do it better, more efficiently, and quicker on a more fluid OS, that was it for me. I was done with Android. I knew my next upgrade would be whatever the next iPhone was and I moved on to the iPhone 4S. It totally rocks. The iPhone makes users feel a sense of satisfaction at getting things done, that the buggy, laggy, Android just doesn't do, no matter how much bigger your screen is, how much faster your processor is (or how many cores it has) or how much you like to watch Flash videos. I can see Flash on my iPhone thanks to the Photon Browser and there are more apps and accessories for the iPhone. Plus, CarrieriQ is not being used to spy on my iPhone, but on Android, you are being spied on. LOL!!!

Maybe you should check your facts. As the article you linked points out, CarrieriQ can be opted out of on the iPhone. Can it be opted out of on Android? No. Plus, Apple has publicly stated that they are not tracking any customer useage with CarrieriQ and never will. Have HTC, Samsung, Moto or any other Android vendor claimed that yet? No.

PimpLucious is right. I come here on a daily basis and a lot of articles are about android. Especially from Rene. Why do they feel the need to bash android when they already own the superior product? I like android, I just prefer iOS. I'd also really like to come here to read news about iOS, not how bad android runs or how horrible the UI looks. This blog needs more open minded people who can handle the thought of competition. It really is a good thing.

Wait so iOS doesn't "just work"? That's funny, I almost never manage my running apps and I have zero lag on my Skyrocket. My 4thG iPod Touch is a different story.

It just works...except when it doesn't. I've already detailed in one of my comments here examples when iOS hasn't worked.
Most people only use their iPhones for calling and texting, so their satisfaction often has little do do with the uniqueness of iPhone's advantages.

I'm kinda shocked at how snobby iOS users can be. I love all platforms and their advantages but for this writer to say that Android itself is laggy (which is not true on vanilla android) and to maintain the myth that android was meant to be a blackberry clone (the CNET article showed a picture of ONE of the early android prototypes. Android was always meant to be on different form factors so we really don't know if there were more all touchscreen prototypes).
The truth is that iOS devices have not always been buttery smooth. I remember waiting for the checkerboarding in the browser to load up all the time on my original iPhone. Remember iOS 2? I almost gave up the platform because of that buggy shit. Five swap out within a couple months. IOS 4 on the 3G was a joke too. We all have our lag sometimes lets stop pretending like we're superior people because of what phone we're currently holding.

This, the UI experience, is one reason why I have gone back to the iPhone. I've used various Android devices (my tablet is still Android), but even running OC'd CM7 ROMs I couldn't get the same UI experience on Android I consistently get on my iPhone 4. Consistency is huge for me...and that just doesn't exist on Android.
For example, I just tried again with the HTC Rezound. Quad-core, 1GB RAM, 720P display...and yet it was SO SLOW in usability compared to my iPhone. Most of that I attribute to the crap-tastic HTC Sense, but still, that phone should FLY. So, back it went and I'm back to my iPhone.
Yes, I may be in the minority, but stutter drives me insane. Even on my iPhone (Navigon you suck, worst purchase ever), stutter drives me insane. But far and away the UI experience is superior on my iPhone.

im totally right there with you. exactly why i went back to the iPhone after having tried a bunch of android phones. not the only reason. i found mail and a few other things disgusting on android. not just the ui, but the overall experience and lack of default functionality

In agreement with you both. Stutter on my HTC EVO 4G with Gingerbread was the end for me. The ridiculous memory leak from hell and the inconsistent performance plus soft reboots sent me running to the iPhone 4S. Maybe it was due to HTC Sense, which is the most God awful UI overlay, performance wise. Maybe my experience might have been different with a Nexus, but I lost patience after the EVO and went to the iPhone 4S. No lag. NO reboots. Every app and accessory I need is there and everything just works. It has nothing to do with that "fashion accessory" or the "I'm better than you" perception that uninformed individuals have regarding the iPhone. It has everything to do with using a product that works for you. I make no apologies for switching to the iPhone and I don't care if some Android geek who "thinks he's smarter than everyone else in the room" thinks about my phone choice. If vanilla Android is the bees knees, why are there no lines forming for the Galaxy Nexus, anywhere? The Android user experience up to this point is a laggy, bug ridden headache that I just didn't want anymore.

Apple is counting on your loyalty to stay in business. Never be loyal to any kind product manufacturer. Buy what ever suits you at the time. Android or IOS! Don't be sheep to any and all. They work for money not you. You have the power not them.

This isn't a techno-religious thing with me. I use technologies that work. I tried Linux via Redhat, Suse, and Ubuntu. They accomplish most of what I want and need to do, but none of them is compatible with any of the music recording software and hardware (controllers, mixers, audio interfaces) that I need to use. Windows and MacOSX are.
Over the years, I used Windows Mobile, then Palm, and then Android. Perhaps if I'd gotten the Nexus S, I'd have had a satisfying Android experience but I didn't. I had the HTC EVO4G. With Froyo, it was great. After Gingerbread, it was buggy and unreliable, so I had to bail on Android. Had HP released a decent WebOS phone, I'd have gone back to WebOS. I like WebOS. It allowed me to accomplish what I needed to on a Smartphone but HP killed it. Not interested in Windows Phone. But after trying an iPhone in a Verizon store, I found the phone that did everything I needed to do with all the apps I want and need and that's it for me. I stick with what works for me. Should Apple fail to meet my needs, I will bail from them but for now, the iPhone is fine with me.

I just asked Siri why some of you are so judgey. She asked if I'd like to search the web for that. But honestly both have pro and cons. I love my hoard of old and new Apple products but I also enjoy my G-2 provided by my employer as well as my HP Touchpad running the Cynogen Mod. Just sayin this looks childish. (in a whiney kid voice) "my toys cooler than yours"

I think this is a very fair article. It is hardly arguable that the latest Android devices still display less fluidity and smoothness in terms of UI rendering than the latest iPhone. However, Android devices are generally more customizable, and are offered in a plethora of sizes with widely varying specs and software iterations. Fluidity vs. customizability. Smoothness vs. wide selection. It all comes down to personal preference, and this article does a good job exressing that notion without pushing for one product or another.
This article addresses a rival OS, but is also a comparison between said rival and the OS to which this website is dedicated. Comparisons are great! Thanks TiPB!

Everyone has an opinion. Some like this. Others like that. Then some get offended when someone doesn't agree with what they like or dislike. Then someone else thinks the discussion is pointless and yet comments on it anyway. Bottom line is, use what works for you. That's what I do, and I don't care if anyone agrees with that or not because at the end of the day, I'm just trying to get things done and whatever technology gets me there is the one I will use. That being said, based on my experiences with Android, that won't be it.

Actually it does. Try opening a heavy web page and scroll just a little bit. Safari will pause the loading until you take your finger off the screen.

OK guys, basically, the idea of Android is great. Google have released a great OS with great apps they put on there, like Navigation etc. however, once it hits the carriers and manufacturers, they put their crap on it and it slows down the phone, means your updates are dependent on two middlemen.
And before you say iFanboys go and spend all their money on phones, they spend less money because their phones work for three years worth of O.S, but with the droids, even the same manufacturer makes their latest phone obsolete with a newer one three months later. If you say the solution is to root your phone (and void warranty -- and yes even HTC confirmed it to me last week), then you could do the same with an iPhone (only Apple will maintain warranty even on a jailbroken phone) and why should you have to root your phone?
Go the route of getting a pure google experience like Nexus? Well that's great except (a) even the Nexus S still hasn't gotten the latest updates, and (b) they seem to intentionally make the specs of their phones obsolete from the get-go. The specs on the Nexus S at the time was horrible, not even being a dual core when every second phone was dual core at the time and with the GNS, a poor camera. It seems that they made a deal with Samsung not to bastardise Samsung's other phones by making it slightly more poorer. And hey, as long as you are not using one of the American carriers you can even get to use Google Wallet (provided the carrier doesn't block it which is happening these days with AT&T and the other major carrier).
You would think Google would make Motorola a pure OS since they bought them but I guess it's all about patent control for them rather than customers.
With Apple you know from one phone manufacturer you get one phone a year and don't have to look with jealousy at the next guy a month later when he has a newer Samsung Galaxy plastic phone.

All this crap from both the android and apple said is so dumb. "Better" is a matter of opinion so both sides are right. Neither one is completely better than the other in my opinion. Each one offers features that is better than other. It's sad that everyone always argues about this. Buy the product you like, and let them by the product they like.

Data entry jobs are some of the best jobs that you can find online. The work is easy, and it goes very fast. You can work from home for a few hours a week out of the comfort of your own house and possibly over time be earning a phenomenal income.

Great template and customizable ... well more of controlled choice really. I keep getting an IO error when I embed it on my Joomla site. Still I appreciate the effort.

Android is the better platform hands down. I mean come on, IOS was released first and is now borrowing from Android. The galaxy s2 won smartphone of the year, not iPhone. Android sales have taken over iPhone sales long ago. This is mostly data, not opinion. Every update Android widens the gap.. What's lacking is consumer awareness.
IOS is actually built into every Android device.. it's called the App drawer. And what's with people saying Android is hard to use? It's like the scene from Zoolander where they're trying to get the files of the computer LOL! Everything is right there on the home screen idiots, you have the OPTION to customize it.

I'm impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that's equally educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is something not enough people are speaking intelligently about. Now i'm very happy that I found this during my search for something relating to this.
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Great article. You should download and try iOS7. It's going to be interesting the cool new things people will start making with the crazy API changes. Most people don't realise Apple have spent a tonne of time updating all their API's, in fact all their new apps are built with the API's us developers will be able to use.

Here's a UX comparison between Android and iOS standard widgets, with links to the documentation on the relevant Apple / Android websites. It's a nice way to get started learning all the technical terms. (ios6 / Android)

http://kintek.com.au/blog/portkit-ux-metaphor-equivalents-for-ios-6-and-...

Well we must admit that whatever futuristic mobiles we have today are because of Iphone. It gave better definition of touch phones and smart phones. Its like how 'Son cannot be born without father...' But I disagree with most people here regarding Android's lag. I saw many Droids which are incredible in performance and in every aspect and some of them even surpass Iphone. I like Apple's innovation bt unfortunately it has started copying Android making a dent in their history of innovation.