ICS offers exactly the wrong sort of tablet/phone integration
So here's a theory that popped into my head earlier this week.
I was excited about ICS on tablets. I thought the Honeycomb UI was weird, particularly the location of notifications and the app drawer button.
But now ICS has arrived, those UI aspects are unchanged. Show someone with an Android phone an ICS app, and tell them it's the same OS, and they're confused - they don't immediately know how to use it.
And where, exactly, does the line lie between phone layout and tablet layout in ICS? The Galaxy Note is phone layout, but the Tab 7.0 Plus tablet layout; where would you put a 6" device? (Someone will inevitably release one.)
Instead of unifying the UI, Google have focused on unifying the platform for developers. As Nilay (I think) was saying on the Mobile Podcast earlier this week, this is solving a problem no-one had. It's updating the UI of your app for tablets that takes time, not porting code. If you make it easier for developers to just chuck their phone apps onto a tablet, that's exactly what they'll do. The result? Key apps, like Twitter, still aren't properly updated for Android tablets - it's still the phone version.
Contrast Apple's approach. Look at an iPad, and it's literally a big iPhone - status bar and notifications at the top, home button at the bottom. Apple assume people will default to using it portrait, because that's what people are used to with phones. It's familiar. That's a real bonus in terms of take-up - people with iPhones know they'll be able to use it.
But when it comes to apps, the iPad is a separate product category that requires its own, properly adapted apps. The result? There are special iPad apps, and they're good.
Google has unified Android in precisely the wrong way. They should have unified the UI, producing a tablet UI that resembled the phone UI, with action buttons at the bottom and a status bar at the top, like people recognise. (With, of course, proper adjustments to icon sizes etc. for larger screens - I'm not talking about going back to Gingerbread tablets here.) But they should have kept separate categories of apps, putting more pressure on developers to produce separate tablet versions of apps for, say, any device of 7" or more.
Unified UI. Separate tablet apps. Works for Apple. So why does Android have it precisely the other way round?