Former Google Engineer On Android Lag vs iOS Smoothness

Wednesday, December 7, 2011
By Don Williams

Andrew Munn Google Engineer Mac After just emerging from a recent operation I’m in pain, quite a bit of pain in fact, but nonetheless I’ve decided to try my hand at doing another little post, and a post that gives my 2 cents on a recent post from Apple Insider.

In AppleInsider’s post, Andrew Munn, a former Google engineer, posted his observations on why Google’s Android experiences so much more lag when it comes to touch performance, and especially when compared to iOS’s buttery-smooth and seemingly instant touch input.

For example, AppleInsider quotes Mr. Munn as saying:

“……Android has a difficult time dealing with the touch interface because it handles rendering “on the main thread with normal priority,” as opposed to iOS, which treats UI rendering with real-time priority. He cites examples of website loading and the Movies app on Android where the operating system will continue to load while registering touch input.

Munn goes on to identify several other factors that contribute to UI lag on Android. For instance, the photo gallery app in either Android 3.0 Honeycomb or 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is capped at 30 frames per second in order to prevent a noticeable “hiccup” at 60 FPS.

Of course, Mr. Munn doesn’t put all of the blame on just Android itself, but also somewhat to the hardware itself, such as the NVidia’s Tegra 2, which limits Android because of its low memory bandwidth, and as far as Mr. Munn is concerned Android would be much better off running on a Samsung Hummingbird or even Apple’s own A4 chip, with the latter being more-or-less completely out of the question considering how much Steve Jobs hated everything Android, a system that he considered to be nothing less than a wholesale rip-off of iOS.

According to Mr. Munn, Android still “has a ways to go” before it can catch up to iOS and it fixing its overall lag in its devices, and quite frankly, as far as this former Google engineer is concerned, Android “will never be completely smooth because of its design constraints”, and he notes:

“Even with a Galaxy Nexus, or the quad-core EeePad Transformer Prime, there is no way to guarantee a smooth frame rate if these two design constraints remain true,” he said. “It’s telling that it takes the power of a Galaxy Nexus to approach the smoothness of a three year old iPhone.”

AppleInsider goes further in depth on the many reasons on why Mr. Munn believes that Android is not, and most likely never will be equal to the buttery-smooth experience of using iOS, but he does believe that eventually Google’s team, which he believes is more than qualified, will eventually cut down on Android’s considerable lag time.

Personally, even though I don’t own any Android device, or for that matter, any iOS device, I never fail to take advantage of playing with both when the opportunity arises, and I must say, that for the most part, when using both Android and iOS devices side-by-side, I can really notice the difference in the lag time between them. The Android lag is real; the fast and buttery-smooth experience of iOS is also very real and should count as one of the major considerations when purchasing either an iOS or Android device.

In conclusion, I believe that Android’s ‘lag’ in touch input is just one more major reason on why it will never be quite as good as iOS. Even if Google fixed the ‘lag’ in Android’s touch performance, its fragmentation and its considerable malware mess would, or should, make people think twice about choosing it over iOS.

Mr. Munn’s photo via: Google +

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