In the summer of 2012, after quitting Apple, I went out on a limb and got my first Android phone. 5 years later I have switched back to iOS. It is interesting to see what has and has not changed, and what I miss about Android after two weeks with iPhone X.
When I first switched to a Samsung Galaxy S3 I was not impressed. The build quality was crap and the OS had a general lack of polish. What I did like was the giant screen and the widgets. A year later I got a Nexus 5 which was an excellent device. It had stock Android, good build quality and a pretty decent camera. I loved my N5, and when it broke a year ago, I replaced it with another N5. Thus I had 4 years with the same device, and it was good times.
So why change? Well, first of all I was getting sick of Google’s privacy shenanigans (cf. just the latest). Although I had nearly every Google service turned off, various “features” kept getting turned on or added with each update. Since a secure, private phone that is easy to use still has not materialized (see the latest), I decided to pledge my digital peasant loyalty to the feudal lord that I felt would be protect me. Back on iOS, I still have to turn off a lot of services, but I feel better about my new overlord not trying to pull the wool over my eyes.
The other main reason for switching back was camera. Just when Android seems to have a competitive camera, the iPhone leaps two years ahead (obviously I am limiting myself to just the Google phones, this this point is not quite fair).
Other reasons include a big beautiful screen, water resistance, AirPods (which apparently work on Android too!), and a unified ecosystem (since I use a Macbook Pro for work, and have an iMac at home).
Same and different
Over the past five years Android has matured a lot. It was way better using it near the end of my experience. It is kind of sad to say that iOS feels like a comfortable pair of old shoes. There have been additions (Widgets, Control Center, 3D Touch) but it basically looks and feels the same after 10 years. I expect this to change.
My personal conspiracy theory is that with the introduction of iPhone X this year, with a handful of new gestures and some new conventions, Apple is getting ready to introduce a radical change to iOS that will end up forking the iOS user base. My wild prediction is that next year we will see iOS Classic and iOS X, just like Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X 16 years ago.
When switching to Android 5 years ago I missed the following about the iPhone:
- working volume rocker on the headphones
- smooth audio handling when a call/notification came in
- fast keyboard switching (for multiple languages)
After 5 years none of those issues was ever fixed. I am happy to be back in a land where these small conveniences can once again be taken for granted.
Now, after two weeks with iPhone X, I miss the following about Android:
- centralized notifications are better
- notification light!
- better and more flexible widgets
Overall, using an Android phone feels closer to using a computer — iPhone feels like I am on rails. I still haven’t been able to adjust all my workflows to make things work the way I want. But, at least I am confident my information is safe. And I am looking forward to taking some great photos in Japan next month.