If you’ve been designing for iPhone and are now looking to dip your toe in the pool of Android app design, you may be wondering about how iPhone and Android differ. Wiebke Poerschke, Mobile UI Designer at Salesforce.com, has assembled this handy list comparing common UI conventions between these two platforms.


Comparing Common iPhone and Android UI Conventions
by Wiebke Poerschke

After using an Android for a few months and having been an iPhone user for 3 years now, I developed an overview the following differences in UI patterns, which are helpful when designing applications for both platforms.

Navigation Buttons

The iPhone has only one physical button, the Home button. iPhone users will be used to menus bars placed at the bottom of the screen and a heavy utilization of a soft back button, usually found in the upper left corner of the screen.

Android phones sport four physical buttons: Back, Menu, Home, and Search. As a result, Android apps rarely have a bottom menu bar or a back button. Instead, Android apps rely on the physical Menu button on the device. Similarly, you will also almost never find a back button in an Android app since that would be redundant to the physical back button. In general, you should avoid placing persistent touch elements (like a menu bar) near the bottom of the screen since it is fairly easy to fat-finger and tap one of the physical buttons by mistake.


Refresh

Pull-to-refresh or pull-to reveal the search box is a well-known iPhone convention that can be found in Twitter and many other iPhone apps. Twitter just introduced the feature on Android, but it doesn’t seem to work as well as the same feature on iPhone and is an outlier with this pattern. Instead of pull-to-refresh, most Android apps provide an explicit refresh button on-screen or hide that option in the menu. Android also allows for apps to sync in the background with sync intervals chosen by the user.

Context Menus

A neat thing about Android phones are the contextual pop-up menus offering quick access to common actions. Tapping a user’s picture in your contact list, Facebook or Gmail opens this little menu that provides quick access to phone numbers, email addresses, Facebook, IM, etc.
A comparable iPhone pattern would be the swipe menu used by the Twitter app.

Notifications

iPhone apps use application badges to indicate updates, whereas Android has the notifications bar. Android’s notifications bar aggregates all app notifications in one convenient location which can be accessed in a pull-down drawer.

Both systems provide pop-up notifications for apps (though they look quite different).

Download the complete pattern comparison file (PDF)

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