Where I’m Coming From, And Why a Switch to Android May Be Worth Considering
It’s a bit of a long story, but over the course of the past four years I have owned two iPhones – the iPhone 3S and the iPhone 4, the latter being my current device. During those four years I’ve had few complaints about Apple’s devices. They’re well designed, they’re easy to use, and for the most part, they actually DO “just work”. A strange thing has happened lately though. I’m starting to get really sick of the iPhone and iOS in general. I can’t say if it’s because I’ve been using iOS for so long or because I’m tired of being locked inside Apple’s walled garden; I just know that I’m growing a little tired of it.
With my cell contract ending in a few months I did what I suspect most iPhone users do when their contract is up – I began to prepare myself for the new iteration of the iPhone. The trouble is, the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S simply don’t blow my socks off. In fact, they do very little to impress me. First and foremost, the screen size is just too damn small. It’s great that they added an extra row of icons with the iPhone 5, but the screen is still too small and the aspect ratio appears odd to me. I realize that screen size may not be a big deal to some of you, but it’s actually a deal breaker for me. Another factor in my decision to explore the Android offerings is the introduction of two-year cell phone plans here in Canada. In short, the government here has forced the providers to limit contract terms to two years. It’s a good idea in theory, but iPhone’s are now considerably more expensive as a result. It’s not that I mind spending $300 on a new phone, it’s just that…well, I’d like to get a lot of bang for my buck. At the moment, I feel like purchasing an iPhone 5S would be rather anticlimactic. I’d bring it home, restore it from one of my iPhone 4 backups, and 20 minutes later I’d have pretty much the exact same phone, just with an extra row of icons and a bit more speed. Hardly worth my $300. So, it is here that I began to think about Android devices, specifically the HTC One.
Why the HTC One? It’s mostly due to the aluminum body and amazing build quality. Most of the Android devices I’ve held in the past feel like a plastic phone my son or daughter would play with, not like a high quality computing device. The HTC One is “tight”.
One last thing before we go any further here. I should tell you my house is 100% Apple at the moment. There are Apple TV’s, an Apple desktop, and an iPad that I use regularly. I mention this only to point out there may be some underlying iOS biases in this article.
What Are The Most Compelling Reasons to Join the Android World?
As I mentioned above, screen-size is the driving force for me. The screen on the iPhone 5 and 5S is too small and too oddly shaped for my liking, as I’ve stated. When compared to the screen on my current phone (iPhone 4) any of these screens make my phone feel dated, but the HTC does boast a higher resolution than the “Retina” display on the iPhone 5S. Let me just get a little nerdy here and say the HTC One comes with 468 pixels per inch (ppi) vs the iPhone’s 326ppi. As a result, you’re not just getting a larger screen – it’s noticeably sharper than the iPhone 5, especially when reading fine print. In addition to screen size, there are other advantages that Android holds over iOS – at least in my opinion.
Advantages such as:
Integration with Google services (Gmail/Calendar): I already use Google services on my iPhone. While I have no complaints about how everything functions with iOS, the integration of the services with Android is much tighter. There are less workarounds and more options for email – especially if I’m looking for a client that pushes Gmail, something the native iOS Mail program doesn’t offer. I realize it’s not offered due to Google pulling their ActiveSync service, but why it doesn’t work is sort of immaterial.
Ability to choose default apps: I don’t use the built-in Mail app that comes with iOS. Partly because it doesn’t offer “push” services for my Gmail account as mentioned above, but also because it’s sluggish and out of date when compared to newer offerings (e.g. Mailbox). I also don’t want to use the Safari web browser on iOS because I prefer Google Chrome. Unfortunately, I can’t do that because Apple blocks third-party developers from writing fast and efficient web browsers. The code that is required to render web pages quickly is locked and can only be used by, you guessed it, Safari. All other web browser developers (Google, Dolphin, Opera) are forced to use older versions of Apple’s Safari engine. The result is a slower browsing experience. For a more detailed account of this, I would suggest the following article as it details things nicely. With Android, I can use any mail program or web browser that I want, I’m not locked into their basic, first party apps.
No need for proprietary cables and connectors: If I were to purchase an Android phone I wouldn’t have to spend a dime on extra cables. Android phones use a standard USB cable to charge and connect to a desktop/laptop computer. That means you probably already have a handful of spare cables lying around that you can use to charge your new phone at work or at school. In the event you don’t have spare cables you can easily purchase a standard USB cable for a small fee. With the iPhone 5′s proprietary cable you’re left spending $30 on every spare cable, and without that white cord from Apple – you’re screwed.
Visible File System: With an Android phone you can see the files and folders that house your data. In iOS, you cannot. The result is that you can treat your Android phone as an external hard drive by plugging into a desktop computer and dragging your files/music where you see fit. You can also share files easily across a multitude of apps in Android, you’re not limited to the sharing services built into the OS. In short, you can use your phone to store and share files as you see fit.
Haptic Feedback: This one is a personal preference, but the haptic feedback offered on Android is something that I really find useful. If you’re not familiar with this term think of it this way: haptic feedback makes each key press feel like a click, like you’re actually typing on a physical keyboard. I admit it sounds a little over the top, maybe even cheesy, but it’s actually quite useful. On the Android phones I’ve used you don’t even really notice it – but it’s there.
Notification Status Light:. Most Android phones come equipped with a notification light that tells you if you’ve received an email or missed a phone call (among other things). I’ve never had access to such a feature, but I suspect it would come in handy from time to time.
It’s not iOS 7. When I bought my first Apple computer in 2007, I did so partially just to get away from Windows. This time around it’s iOS that I’m kind of growing tired of. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great. It’s just…well, I know it inside and out. What it does it does very well, and what it lacks frustrates me more and more every day. For example, because I don’t use the “stock” Mail app, attaching pictures to an email is a bit of a chore because the Photo app facilitates sharing photos via the stock Mail app. If you use an app like Mailbox, sharing a picture from the Photos app will take you to a screen that asks you to set up an account so the Mail app can share your data. I’m also not completely sold on the colour scheme in iOS. It’s definitely good to see Apple change things up a bit, but the bright white, pink, and blue everywhere is actually kind of ugly at times.
It’s not an iPhone: – Everywhere I look today, people are carrying iPhones. meeting rooms, conference halls, the shopping mall – iPhones are everywhere. Every time I see a white iPhone in a bright pink case or a teenager texting on one at the mall, it makes me NOT want to own an iPhone. Is this a fair way to view things? Probably not, but somewhere deep down inside me there is an Android geek shaking his head whenever I encounter an ignorant iPhone user, of which there are many.
What Would I Miss if I Switched From iOS to Android. Is There Anything I Couldn’t Do Without ?
After reading the points in Android’s favour above, you may think I’ve made up my mind. Unfortunately, it’s not that black and white.
While the aforementioned ticks in the Android for column are certainly worth considering, it’s only part of the story. The most convincing argument on the pro-Apple side of the fence, for me anyway, is the fact that I’ve been down this road before. About a year ago I purchased a Nexus 7 tablet so that I could have a working knowledge of Android for this blog. I used the tablet for about three weeks but I ultimately sold it online. There were several reasons for punting the Nexus 7, but at the forefront were two burning issues – the apps that were available and the overall Android experience. I’ll explain further below. In the meantime, here are a few points in Apple’s favour:
iMessage: Depending on your family and friends, this may or may not be a factor. Pretty much everyone I know owns an iPhone, so my actual texting package with my provider is pretty bare bones. iMessage lets you chat for free, no matter where you’re friends/family are, and the ability to hold a chat with a group of people is actually quite useful. There are ways of achieving this functionality in Android, but in order for them to be useful your family/friends need to be using the same app. iMessage is simple, convenient, and ready to go.
App Availabilty: I would say 90% of my must-have apps are on Android. Evernote, Dropbox, Feedly, Flipboard, Facebook (ugh, I know) – they’re all there. The problem is they feel a bit different. I can’t quite put my finger on it but apps like Evernote just aren’t as polished and as shiny as they are on iOS. Maybe it was the fact the Nexus 7′s screen pales in comparison to the retina displays I’m accustomed to, I don’t know. Just let it be said that there’s a definite lack of polish. To further complicate issues, staples in my app collection like Tweetbot and Analytics (Google) for this website are non-existent.
Resale value: Let’s say you purchase a phone on a two-year contract. At the end of those two years, your iPhone is going to be worth more than anything you buy with the Android moniker. Fact.
Better Battery Life: I know, this seems counterintuitive. While I have no way of proving this myself, I’ve read several articles online that suggest battery life in Android is not the greatest. I suppose the larger screens do come at a cost.
Hardware mute switch:. Seems like a relatively minor feature, but try to find the “mute” switch on your Android phone. Got ya!
Consistent Operating System Updates: When you own an Apple device, you know exactly when updates to your phone are going to roll out because Apple makes the hardware. With Android, the phones are made by Motorolla, HTC, Samsung, LG, Sony, the list goes on. Just because a new version of Android is on the horizon, it doesn’t mean you’ll be getting it anytime soon, if at all. Your particular device will see an update when Android is ready for your device, and when your cell phone provider releases the update. Remember, they aren’t writing software for a handful of phones (e.g. iPhone 4, 5, 5S). They’re making an update for all of these.
Airplay compatibility: You wouldn’t think it’s all that useful, but I use my iPhone to stream videos, music, photos to my Apple TV on a regular basis.There are apps that accomplish this via Android, but from what I’ve read they can be temperamental. As with most things Apple, “it just works”.
So What Am I Going to Do? What’s My Final decision?
I wish I had a final decision. Since most of my desire to upgrade revolves around having a bigger screen, I’m very tempted to go with an HTC One. I’d like to hold off until the iPhone 6 comes out, but I just don’t know if I can wait that long. If the cell phone providers in my area start throwing Christmas promotions at me and I can get a good plan with an HTC One for $150 you may just see me sporting one. At the same time, I’m not convinced I’m ready to part with Apple just yet. Time will tell.
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