The iPhone — Navigation, iOS, and the Walled Garden

Gabriel Peal
6 min readMar 9, 2023
This is part 5 of my detailed breakdown of Android and iOS in 2023. To return to the beginning, click here.


Overall, Navigation on iOS is a mixed bag that I generally find more cumbersome than on Android.

Back button

On Android, you can swipe from either edge of the screen to go back. It works anywhere and no matter which hand you’re holding your phone with.

Navigation blocked during animations

Sometimes, I just want to mark an iMessage as read. There is no way to do that from the conversation list. You have to tap into the message and then go back. I’d like to do that quickly: tap, then quickly swipe to go back. Unfortunately, iOS blocks input during animations so you have to wait for it to finish. It’s only a split second but it makes the phone feel unresponsive if it doesn’t do anything the first time and winds up just slowing things down.

Gestures require significant motion

Relative to the back gesture on Android, iOS navigation gestures require significantly more motion and velocity. I’ve gotten used to it since getting the phone but it makes the overall experience feel “heavier” and slower. It’s hard to explain once you’re used to smaller, faster gestures but “heavier” feels about right.

The exaggerated motion is noticeable on edges swipe to go back and on downward swipes to close modals. Modal closing often also requires scrolling to the top of the view before you can drag it down and close it which is clearly slower than just using the back button.

Inconsistent navigation

Sometimes, you swipe from the left to go back. Sometimes, you swipe down to close a modal. Sometimes, neither works and you have to tap the back/close button in the toolbar. Sometimes, if the last action took you to a new app, you have to go all the way to the top left of the screen and tap the return-to-previous-app button. On Android, you just swipe in from either edge of the screen at any point and it’ll just go back to the last thing. That’s it. Simple.

Home Screen

Home Screen

Grid size

The iOS home screen is limited to four columns. On Android, you can configure it to be four, five, or six. Personally, I find that six columns allow me to organize all of my apps more efficiently without sacrificing legibility.


I personally like to have two widgets on my home screen: Google Calendar and Todoist and both have widgets on both platforms.

However, both widgets are far less dense on iOS. With my normal usage patterns, neither iOS widget can show all of the items that are relevant to me on any given day.

Widgets on Android are scrollable so on days when not even the Android version can fit everything, I can still scroll it on the home screen instead of opening the app.

Finally, widgets on Android are resizable. You can adjust the number of rows or columns they take up and the content will update accordingly.

Miscellaneous iOS

iOS settings I’ve changed

  1. I turned on wifi calling.
  2. I set up SMS sync to receive all text (and two-factor codes) on my computer.
  3. I enabled the 1Password Safari extension. I didn’t know about this and originally had a whole section about issues I’ve had with 1Password on iOS. This solved all of them but I didn’t know the fix for months.

App quality

Historically, Android apps have been lower quality than iOS. However, I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Your standard suite of apps such as Gmail, Slack, Spotify, YouTube, Twitter, etc. are nearly identical across platforms. There are minor differences here and there but, overall, the quality of individual apps was hardly noticeable.


Siri is simply not as good as Google Assistant. You can ask Google Assistant all sorts of things and it’ll give you an answer. Most of the time, Siri just offers to “search the web for you”. Marques Brownlee agrees with me.

Text Selection

Android uses on-device ML to improve text selection. In both examples above, I long pressed December but only Android recognized that it was a date, correctly highlighted the entire thing, and provided a quick action for it.


One-handed modes

Screens are getting larger and harder to use with one hand. Apple introduced Reachability to slide the screen down and make the top easier to reach. This works fine. However, I prefer Samsung’s implementation which scales the entire screen down to either the left or right corner of the screen and lets you operate your entire phone as if the screen was smaller.

AirPod found moving with you/Multiple Apple accounts

I have a personal Apple account on my iPhone and a developer account on my work laptop. I originally paired my AirPods to my work laptop and now, every time I go anywhere with my AirPods, I get notified that somebody else’s AirPods are following you. It feels like Google built a world where everybody has multiple accounts while Apple assumes everybody has one. When you have two, lots of things break.


I opened my laptop on a train and I was prompted to join a hotspot from my phone. I hadn’t enabled it on my phone or done anything else unusual yet it was actually what I wanted and it worked great. Neat!

No status for wifi + no internet

When Android is connected to wifi but there is no active internet connection, it displays a ! on top of the wifi symbol. iPhone doesn’t do that. It just shows the wifi icon and you have to figure out that you don’t have internet via trial and error.

Spam calls steal keyboard focus on my Mac

When I get a phone call, I get a notification on my Mac. The notification is special and steals focus. This means that spammers often interrupt me and steal keyboard focus from what I’m currently doing. I hate that.

The walled garden

Apple Store (not the App Store)

Having a store you can go to is nice. For me, personally, I’m not sure what value I would get out of it but there is something safe about knowing that if something happens, you can walk into a store and get help. The stores are also beautiful which adds to the premium feeling of the iPhone.

Apple Ecosystem

I use macOS and own AirPods and have never had any issues using those alongside an Android phone. I text, send links, files, and share my clipboard via PushBullet. It works flawlessly and gets auto-installed on any new phone or computer.

AirPods also function perfectly as normal Bluetooth headphones. In fact, I have fewer issues with macOS/iOS trying to be overly smart with device handoff and stealing focus when I’m doing things like fidgeting with my AirPod case.

If this piece resonated with you or you have any thoughts or questions, you can find me on Twitter @gpeal8.



Gabriel Peal

Open source maintainer of Lottie and Mavericks. Full stack at Watershed. Formerly Android at Tonal, Airbnb, and Android Auto at Google.