With a week before the announcement of the new iPhones by Apple, my iPhone 5 died. The power adapter stop working. The quote to fix it was insanely high, especially considering a new model was about to be announced within a week. I looked into my upgrade eligibility and found that I would not be eligible until mid-October. The end result, I needed to find a phone to use temporarily for almost a month before I could get the new iPhone.
Conveniently for me, I had a number of devices available to use. The downside is that they were all android phones.
For a little history, I have been using the iPhone since the iPhone 3 came out, so approximately 6 years. It feels like my entire life is on my iPhone. It integrates with my laptop (MacBook Pro) and my tablet (iPad mini). I have invested years figuring out which apps I like and don’t like as well as investing the costs of purchasing the premium apps.
I tell you all this to set the stage, I have invested in the Apple platform, not just one device. Between my wife, daughter and myself, we have a good mix of phone, tablet, laptop and AppleTV devices.
All that said, I was surprised at how easy it has been to switch over to using the Android device as well as what I have learned about what I expected to be a huge switching cost. For the record the phone that I am using is the Nexus 5.
Believe it or not, there are many “cool” features that I have discovered on the Android.
One of the first features I noticed is with the default email client. There are two features that I love that I didn’t have on my iPhone. First is the “unread” messages filter. This seems quite obvious and exists in almost every desktop mail client I’ve seen, but I have never had this on my iPhone and it has driven me crazy for a long time. Well I open the mail app and there it is where I’d expect it. I suspect there is an Android user or two reading this saying to themselves “What? iPhone doesn’t have this?”
The second feature in the mail client that I love is the ability to simply swipe left and right between messages. How useful is this swipe between messages to quickly read emails. Where has this been all my life (well at least the last six years?) On the iPhone I have these little up and down arrows at the top right that are tiny and not easy to use one handed.
Right out the gate I discovered the ability to use a custom launcher and the theming ability on the Android. This is not really a “functional” difference, but coupled with widgets, it really makes your phone feel more unique and tailored to you as an individual user. I understand that widgets have been introduced on iOS 8, but I haven’t really played with them yet, but as far as I know iOS isn’t skin-able yet.
The Google Now widget is one of my favorites, with a quick swipe from my home screen, I have a customized dashboard that gives me updated weather, news, order tracking of my amazon orders, updated sports score and more.
Switching over to Android wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. There were several adjustments and annoyances.
One thing that Apple has certainly done right is the design of the user interface. On the surface this sounds like a waste of time to discuss, but it makes a difference. There doesn’t appear to be much of a standard in Android apps, and many of them feel quite cluttered. I am an avid podcast listener, and am let down at the lack of a decent player on the android. I am using one of the more popular podcast clients, Podcast Addict, while one of the best free players, it falls way short of the built-in player that comes with iOS. This is just one example of many, there are several other apps that feel clunky and less than intuitive to use. Part of this is certainly the adjustment to a different OS, but I also notice that there are features missing that exist in the Android version of apps that are present in the iOS analog.
There are few apps that I have discovered on iOS that I really like. Most recently I started using Mynd. This is a sweet calendar application with several interesting features. It will track travel time to meetings, show you the linkedin profiles of the attendees, give you the ability to send a quick “running late” or the like email to the meeting organizer, as well as intelligently extracting conference call numbers along with the code so you can one click call into the conference without having to memorize the code, just to name a few of the features. It also presents your calendar is a very clean interface. The closest I’ve found on the Android is the Sunrise calendar app, it is much better than the default calendar, but lacks many of the features I like about Mynd.
Another app I miss is Siri. I started using Siri when it was still an app, before Apple purchased it and added it to the OS. I love it and used it all the time. “OK Google” isn’t quite the same, and the best alternative I’ve found yet is Dragon, but you have to launch it as an app, there isn’t a quick access to it like Siri has. Maybe a long time Android user can give me a tip on how to set this up or if there is a better app to use?
While I only called out a couple differences on the plus and minus sides, the overall experience was surprisingly so similar as to make using Android versus iPhone not much of a learning curve. I can still do all the basic functionality, and most things I use on the iPhone exist on the Android. The biggest consideration, and the thing that is left out of so many comparisons is that using an iPhone is one part of a platform. Apple integrates a lot between devices. My family is on Apple, so switching out one device throws a wrench into the works.
Here’s the fun part. Apple really upset me in the last year with their tighter DRM restrictions. I rented a movie on iTunes to watch with my daughter. I used iTunes on my laptop, intending to drive my projector connected to my laptop. Their restrictions prevented me from watching the movie, so I decided to watch it on the AppleTV in the living room. This is where I discovered that I could not access the rental on the AppleTV (even with the same account) and I could not use AirPlay as the AppleTV was not a trusted device (WTH?). I was able to get a refund from Apple on the rental, but that spawned my switch over to Roku. So now as I start to consider my next phone, I’m not sure if I want to stay on Android and go with a Note 4 or if I should stick with Apple and get the iPhone 6 plus. A couple weeks with the Android and the switching cost doesn’t really feel like such a huge barrier.
I’d love to hear any thoughts or comments you have, or experiences switching if you’ve already done it.
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