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Android UI Will Never Be as Smooth as iOS Due to Design Framework, Says Engineer

If you have been a user of an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch over the years, then one of the most positive aspect of the iOS that you have probably noticed is the smoothness of the user interface. But what about the Android? It would be safe to say that Android is not the smoothest when it comes to scrolling through the UI. And now if this new report is of any indication, the Android will never be as smooth as the iOS or the Windows Phone 7, thanks to its design framework.

Android UI
This particular bit of news actually came from Google's social network, Google+. And this involves the posts of two clear experts on the field. One post belongs to Dianne Hackborn, a Google engineer as she talks about hardware acceleration and how it affects the Android's UI elements. And the other post belongs to Andrew Munn, a 3rd year software engineering student, ex-Google intern and future Windows Phone 7 intern, who posted an article in response to Hackborne's post.

First let's start with Hackborn's post, which was posted in an attempt to set the record straight regarding how graphics rendering work on Android. First she states that Android has always utilized hardware acceleration (utilizing the GPU instead of the CPU alone for UI rendering) since version 1.0 for its UI elements including menus being shown, sliding the notification shade, popups and dialogs and so on. Full hardware acceleration was only supported when Android 3.0 came a.k.a. Honeycomb. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich as expected also supports full hardware acceleration.
Android Home Menu
But Hackborn admits that hardware acceleration isn’t all rosy. A good example is when the PVR drivers of devices such as the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus consumes about 8MB of RAM when it starts to use OpenGL. This can potentially slow other things down such as app switching as the RAM takes away from the said processes. Hackborn states that, "hardware accelerated drawing is not a magical silver bullet to butter-smooth UI".

On the other hand Andrew Munn responds by explaining why the Android will never be as smooth as the iOS or the Windows Phone 7. He states that the main problem of the Android when it comes to rendering is threading and priority. Processes in the iOS occurs with dedicated threading which is also given real-time priority. He means that when the iOS receives a touch input, it halts the other processes and it dedicates most of the resources to rendering the UI, resulting in a smoother experience for the user. Due to the different design framework, Android simply doesn't do this. Instead it's possible that general processes occur while the user navigates the UI which inevitably results to the occasional "choppiness".

Munn did have a disclaimer that his post isn't exactly the definitive answer as to why Android is choppy, or if it is choppy at all. So if anything, we suggest that you read both their posts because they are rather insightful and informative. [via Phandroid, Google+ 1, 2]

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