Cross-platform apps: to be or not to be consistent?
That is my question.
Instagram has been receiving plenty of coverage in the last week due to its Android release and I, like many, downloaded the app to at the very least check it out. At first glance, it seemed user-friendly enough. While navigating through it, however, I noticed I was doing a lot more tapping than I usually do. Then it hit me that the app navigates exactly like the iOS app, especially with the bottom nav bar.
And it's not only Instagram. Facebook's Android app navigates the way the iOS app does, as does Twitter's, Path's, and Slacker's. I'm sure there are more, but the point is these big apps translate their interface as directly as possible from iOS to Android. I can see some logic in developing them this way: no/less time spent on designing an Android interface and consistency across platforms. But to me, that comes off as lazy and inconsistent to the publishing platform.
I run Android 4.0.4 on my Droid Incredible 2 so I'm used to ICS behaviors like swipe gestures for navigation between tabs, action bars, and action overflow. The big one for Android navigation is the swiping between tabs/related views; it makes the interface second to the content and I don't have to focus on navigating as much since a gesture is in my opinion a lot easier than having to hunt and peck at buttons. These behaviors are part of the Android design guidelines that Google published a few months back so it's not like developers haven't had time to design for Android that way, they just choose not to. But I don't see any good reason not to.
Many of the native apps in ICS are very easy to navigate like the dialer, the contacts app, Gmail, Play Store, and Youtube. The use of action bars and gestures make sure of that. Their guideline make sure of that. There's more focus on the content instead of focus on the UI.
I understand that these services and their APIs are constantly changing but that isn't much of an excuse. I understand that there's a lot of development outside from mobile apps, but again, that isn't much of an excuse. If this isn't a better design for Facebook on Android, then I don't know what is. When third-party apps like Friendcaster and Boid can adhere to those guidelines while updating for API changes with a smaller development team than the official app, then what excuse is there?
I'd love some good discussion as to why cross-platform app consistency does more good than bad if anyone has any differing opinions.