From Android to iPhone
My cell phone contract recently came due for an upgrade and like any tech enthusiast I jumped at the chance to get a new gadget. I’ve been using Android devices for a few years now and have really liked them. They have their shortcomings but what phone doesn’t? My most recent Android phone was a Droid X. I had upgraded from the no-additional-naming-needed “Droid” two years ago and was very happy with the device. It had a huge screen that was great for reading email, web pages and watching video. It also felt far more “complete” than my old Droid.
The main point of contention for me with the Droid X was the camera. When the it first launched it was touted as being the newest greatest phone with a major camera upgrade. HD VIDEO! BEAUTIFUL PICTURES! GET READY TO HAVE YOUR MIND BLOWN! Well, I bought it and excitedly took pictures and videos and was extremely underwhelmed. I tried to blame lighting (or lack thereof), my own shaky trigger finger and a million other things so my new-toy-enthusiasm wouldn’t die too soon. But in the end, it was just a sub-par camera. Other than that issue, I was actually very happy with the device. I added a 32GB storage card and used it all the time for everything from work to play to entertaining my kids. But, like with any phone, two years later, my trusty Droid X had become a rusty Droid X and it was time to upgrade. The question was: do I stick with Android or try another platform? Should I jump into a Windows Phone? I’ve heard nothing but good things about them and it would likely work great with our company’s Windows based cloud environment. Or, should I switch over to an iPhone? I own a MacBook Pro, Apple TV and an iPad and I keep hearing about how well all these Apple products work together.
Since I’m always up for something new and Verizon has a terrible selection in the Windows Phone department, I got an iPhone 4s. I knew it had a good camera and was really wanting that pain to go away from my last purchase. I’ll say up front that my expectations were pretty high based on the hype. I had literally been told by intelligent peers with no hint of sarcasm “This phone will change your life.” I’ve now had my iPhone for a few months and feel I can give it a fair assessment. Here are the pros and cons of my new iPhone compared to my Android device. I’ll start by being nice…
- Speed: this phone is fast. All the time. Everything I do on it feels slick and never lags. About the only time I wait for anything is if it’s web based. (Lack of 4G discussed below.) I can very easily perform multiple tasks and switch from app to app without the slightest hiccup. All the apps I’ve installed run smoothly and I haven’t had one crash yet. Which brings me to…
- Apps: They’re just better on iPhone. I had denied this for a long time when I was an Android owner. I had the usual arguments of “Pretty much every app you’d get on iOS is also available for Android! Pretty much…” and “The Android market is just younger. Give it time and the apps will catch up.” Those arguments worked a couple years ago when Android was still relatively new to the game but now, we still see every week a new great app launch for iOS with a disclaimer of “Available on Android soon.” (Example: Even Google just updated their own G+ app for iOS a few weeks before they got to Android!) Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s not. Even when it is, it usually looks worse. I had literally hundreds of apps on my Droid X but maybe only used 6 of them regularly. Most just didn’t have that “sticky” quality that kept me coming back to use them over and over.
- The Hardware/Screen: the retina display really does look great. I was worried when I switched from the large-screened Droid X that I’d miss the extra real estate. Truth is, I’ve barely noticed it. Everything on the iPhone 4s screen is crisp and clear so it doesn’t need to be large. In fact, the size and feel of the device in general is great. It’s the perfect size for a phone, nicely built and very sturdy.
- Battery Life: this should maybe go under hardware but I think it deserves its own bullet point. I’m a heavy phone user for calls, email and apps and hadn’t met a phone that could take me through an entire day yet. The iPhone does so with ease. I enable wireless, location services (GPS) and push email all day with no issue.
- Accessories: One advantage of having an extremely popular mobile phone that’s identical across the board is that there’s no shortage of peripherals and accessories. I could use a different case, car mount, media dock or camera add-on every week for the entire time I own the phone and not run out of options.
- The Camera: I was ready to be disappointed. After my Android camera let down I didn’t want to put too much stock in this camera. When all is said and done, it’s the real reason I picked up the iPhone 4s over, say, the Galaxy Nexus (the other top contender for my upgrade). I had seen the Galaxy Nexus and loved Ice Cream Sandwich and a lot of other qualities of the phone but the pictures looked just as bad as the ones my Droid X took and I didn’t want to sign up for another two years of blurry. Luckily, the iPhone 4s delivered on the camera. Both stills and video look great. Not only that, there are a ton of photo editing and enhancing apps available to help make my photos even better. Now, every picture of my non-stop moving kids won’t be blurry or taken 4 seconds after the actual moment I was trying to capture.
- Navigation: Holy geez is the navigation terrible on the iPhone. Apple should really just staple a map to the back of every phone they sell and not waste the storage space putting their terrible Maps app on there. As somebody who is HORRIBLE with directions and also needs to drive to clients scattered throughout the Southeast, I rely heavily on GPS to get me where I’m going. The iPhone Maps app is a terrible excuse for a navigation app. It’s clumsy, lacks basic features like turn-by-turn and usually gets me more lost than I would have been had I just printed the directions off Google Maps before I left. That, or I almost wreck my car trying to read their directions or figure out which way I’m supposed to be driving. There are a few other replacements I’ve tried that are definitely better (Waze and MapQuest to name a couple) but getting to actually use the replacement apps is far more cumbersome than it should be. Which brings me to…
- App Lockdown: On my Android device, I had several navigation apps installed as well (I always went back to Google Maps though because it’s darn near perfect). If I pulled up a calendar appointment with the address of where I needed to go, I’d tap on the address and get asked which navigation app I wanted to use. If I use the same one all the time then I just say to use that app by default and never have to think about it again. But, it doesn’t have to be Google’s app by default. On the iPhone, when I tap on an address it will ALWAYS open the horrible Apple Maps app. In order to get my address into a better navigation app, I have to long-press on the address, choose ‘copy’, exit my calendar app, go find the app I want to use and open it, then find where to enter the address and paste it in there. Not a graceful implementation at all.
- The Keyboard: this kind of plays into the app lockdown topic as well. The only bad part about the iPhone screen size is there’s not much room for error while typing. At this point, the iPhone keyboard and attempts at fixing your typing are literally a joke. The other downside is that I can’t opt to use a replacement keyboard like I could on Android (I loved SwiftKey X).
- The Myth of “It just works”: This is a complaint I have with Apple products as a whole and could probably write 10,000 words on but I’ll try to keep focused on the iPhone for the purposes of this article. Let me state up front – things don’t “just work” in the way you’d like them to. If they do, it’s not without jumping through an amazing number of hoops at times. For example, try to add a custom ring tone to your iPhone. The iPhone is a great device for storing and playing your music so it seems like it’d be easy enough to just use one of the songs you already own as a ring tone. Not so. You can either buy the ring tone version of the song again (!) or go through all kinds of hassle to get one of your songs usable in the proper format, length and “folder” on your iPhone. On my Android, I would simply drop a song in a folder called “Rings” and be done. This type of hoop jumping isn’t limited to ring tones and navigation. I could give you countless examples of ways in which the iPhone is more difficult and less intuitive than the Android. Changing settings for an app might be done from within the app or within the settings App for the iPhone or usually both. There’s nothing intuitive about having to leave the app I’m using, open the Settings app and then go find the right spot to change a preference for the app I was just in.
- Lack of 4G: There’s no good reason, other than planned obsolescence, that Apple left 4G off the iPhone (despite AT&T customers’ 4G icon). I’m sure it’ll be available in the next phone but it should have been available in this one.
As bad as the bad section above sounds, I still really like the iPhone 4s. I especially like it for the media aspects like pictures, video and music. (Ironically, the things I was hoping to use my iPad and MacBook Pro for then discovered they weren’t any better than my Windows options. But that’s another post for another day.) I can take pictures and videos, edit them together with title slides, music, transitions and credits then upload it to YouTube in a matter of minutes right from the phone. The call quality is great and I enjoy using it with my Apple TV at home. It’s true the apps tend to cost more, but they also look and work better so I’m OK with paying $.99 for most of them. I’ve also found a few good sites for keeping track of when paid apps offer deals and are either steeply discounted or free (For example.). There are little things like a back button, file browsing, LED notifier light and widgets that I miss about my Android phone but I honestly don’t miss them as much as I thought I would.
The truth is, one phone really doesn’t blow the other one out of the water like Apple and Google would like you to believe. The iPhone didn’t “change my life” as my friend predicted but an Android phone wouldn’t have either. Knowing what I know about the iPhone compared to a comparable Android now, I would have made the same decision to switch to iPhone. As for next time; who knows? When it’s time to upgrade my phone again, hopefully Microsoft will have some good Windows phones on Verizon and I can take one for a spin. In the meantime, I’ll be using my iPhone to take really nice pictures of a map so I can find where I’m going.