I got into the smartphone game late: My first foray was with the iPhone 5 back in April of 2013. Going from a Sanyo Juno to the iPhone 5 was like when The Wizard of Oz switches to color — to say I was enthused would be an understatement.
But two years later, I had become disillusioned with Apple. I was sick of all of the proprietary necessities, and I was damn sick of being asked to sign into iCloud every 5 minutes. I fell into the stereotypical Android mindset: "I want freedom and can no longer live in Apple's box."
So I got the Samsung Galaxy S5. I was thrilled with it, and used it until I started working here. As I wrote more for iMore, I found myself more and more glancing back to the world of iOS. My mobile allegiance wavered, and when the iPhone 7 was released, I fell in love with the iPhone all over again. I've now used it longer than any phone in the last year, and until recently, I've been plenty happy with it.
But as iOS's little irksome qualities rear their little heads, I once again feel the tug of the Android ecosystem.
Why I want to switch
I haven't just jumped back onto an Android phone yet. I've been mulling things over to see if it's what I truly want. Here's why I'm thinking of switching back:
Let's be honest: iCloud is annoying. (Throw Apple IDs in there too for good measure.) The fact that I have to sign into every little thing on iPhone drives me crazy; Touch ID has quieted that fire to a degree, but every time I get randomly asked to sign in (for whatever reason), my ire grows again.
I don't like using iCloud, and I hate even more that you only get 5GB for free. That's paltry compared to Google Drive's 15GB and photo storage capabilities. "Why don't you use both?" you might ask. I do. But why can't iCloud just be better so that I can buy in completely?
Google's suite of apps have worked flawlessly for me, and you only have to sign in once and you're in for everything. Not once, on any Android device that I've used, was I randomly asked to sign into my Google account unless I had actually signed out of it myself.
- Everything you need to know about iCloud on iPhone, iPad, and Mac
- Google Photos may be free — but there's still a cost
The more I think about it, the more I enjoy the Android user experience best. To me, it feels like they actually work more like Macs than iPhones do — and no matter my qualms with iOS, I love my Mac.
The biggest thing for me is the way notifications are presented. Android wins big time with its stacked notifications that are neatly laid out and easy to dismiss or act upon. I also appreciate that you don't have to swipe down an entire screen to see them. Lock screen access is just more pleasant on Android, too.
There! I said it! Throw your daggers, light your torches, and sharpen your pitchforks.
Kidding. It's not about freedom in the sense that Apple is an evil overlord; I'm talking about the freedom to do the actions that make sense, like quickly tapping and holding to drag apps around the home screen. Moving apps around iOS's Home screen is a chore, especially if you have a 3D Touch-enabled iPhone, and there isn't any way to customize those actions.
The ability to see and manage the files stored on your device is also a massive boon to Android. I love that I can just throw songs on and then go into the internal memory as though I'm on a computer. It's especially handy for managing storage — something my iPhone constantly struggles with.
This is, obviously, the nature of the Android ecosystem being detached from hardware manufacturing. But that said, I like that I have many phone options to choose from. Before the iPhone SE, users who wanted a small phone had to stick with old technology; in contrast, if I don't like the look or size of one Android device, I can just pick another of the many options available. It's almost like you can build your own phone; you pick the features you want, and find the device right for you.
There are downsides here, of course: Detaching hardware from software means that Android devices aren't always updated as quickly as they should be, and new hardware devices may not support new software features. But it's a tradeoff I'm willing to make.
It also means paying less for a great phone: If I don't want to spend the cash on the latest and greatest Galaxy S8, I can likely find an Android device with decent specs for much less.
Again, comparing iPhone and Android isn't exactly apples to apples, but I love the ability to truly customize your Android device. Between launchers, screen layout options, themes, and icon packs, you can personalize your smartphone experience, while iPhone, as a whole, is pretty cookie-cutter: You can change your background, but that's about it. Especially on larger phones, the ability to set up your screen the way you want it is paramount, especially when it comes to widgets — another boon for Android.
With an iPhone, I feel like I'm interacting with a phone. When I'm using an Android device that I've set up, I'm interacting with my phone.
Android's native Google apps are better. Period. Google Calendar is far better than iOS's Calendar app, Google Maps is excellent, Google Photos is a better photo manager than the Photos app, Gmail is a fantastic mail manager, and Google Drive is easy to use, convenient, and intuitive.
Are these bold statements? Sure. And you may disagree with me. But Apple has some work to do in the native apps category, and while the company's working on it, it's not there yet. Google's apps, in contrast, have seen significant overhaul over the last few years, and have not only become functionally great, but nicely minimalistic in their Material Design looks.
Quick Charge and wireless charging. 'Nuff said.
Currently, Siri is the superior assistant for me, but I feel like once Google gets Assistant on its feet, it'll far surpass any Siri functionality. Given Google's track record with quick iteration and its massive database to help augment Assistant, third-party app integration and other advancements should come quickly.
Why I'm hesitating
While those nitpicks may make it seem like I hate my iPhone and iOS, I don't. I actually really like my iPhone. In fact, I'm having a really hard time deciding whether or not I should switch back (and it's not just because I seem to have misplaced my SIM tool).
No matter how much I want to resist it, I've become part of Apple's larger ecosystem. I have an iPhone, Mac, iPad, Apple TV, and an Apple Watch, and they all work together beautifully. Aside from phones, I have no other Android devices (largely because, well, Canada), so if I make the abrupt switch, I lose all that cross-device functionality.
I love the convenience of texting on my Mac instead of having to stop what I'm doing and pick up my phone. I love wearing an Apple Watch when I'm out and really busy. Sure, I can still use the iPad, Apple TV, and Mac together, but I use my phone the most, so why wouldn't I want it tied in?
This sort of goes part and parcel with the ecosystem, but I feel that it's an important enough feature to mention. AirDrop is the BEST. If I'm out on the road with the magician I work for, and he's just received a standing ovation, which I've filmed, I don't have to painstakingly email it or transfer it to my Mac to then send to him. I just AirDrop it over, and a gigantic file near-instantly winds its way to him.
Additionally, throughout the course of my day I end up having to take an enormous amount of screenshots: Quickly sending them to my Mac via AirDrop instead of having to mess around with Dropbox or Google Drive or a USB cable is more than convenient; it's a lifesaver.
One of the main features that brought me back to iPhone in the first place was iMessage. It's great to be able to send or receive video in full quality, and far superior to an MMS message. (On Android, you'll sometimes receive video that looks like it was shot with a toaster.)
iMessage is just plain more fun, too, thanks to group messaging, stickers, and games. Google's Keyboard is trying to replicate these things, but it's not doing the best job just yet.
Perhaps the best iOS feature of all is that when an update goes out, everyone gets it instantaneously. For security and functionality, there's no beating it: Android updates can take forever to get to certain phones depending on model and even carrier. Since manufacturers can put its own specific Android flavor on its devices, these updates have to go through its system first. For example: I didn't get Marshmallow on my Galaxy S5 until like 6 months after it rolled out, and when I did, it was super-buggy.
I have friends who use iOS
As much as I hate to base my decision on what other people are using, I do have friends who own an iPhone, and, much like my decision to delete Facebook, I feel like switching would arouse annoyance.
I share a Pages document with a friend for a project we're working on; I regularly send group texts to my band (who all use the iPhone); I also need to stay on top of updates, so I can help my mother and sister when they inevitably need it, and write for iMore. It's not so much peer pressure as the fact that I just hate to inconvenience that many people at once.
Setting up a new phone takes a while
Setting up a brand new phone is often fun and a journey of discovery and amazement. When you've done it four or five times in the last year, however, it can get a bit tedious. You can't really just switch at the drop of a hat; you have to set everything the way you like it, download all your most-used apps, update some stuff, and it's kind of a chore.
Apple is a massive company with millions of customers, but when I've had to call support, I've felt like I'm the only one that matters. With a recent iCloud issue (surprise, surprise), the agent said she would follow up the next day, but actually called me back within 15 minutes to say she had been doing a bit more research and wanted to try something else before she made me wait any longer. That's excellent customer service.
In contrast, going to Google for support is like going to the Prime Minister or President to ask why your trash wasn't picked up yesterday.
Will I switch?
I'm still seesawing, but honestly — probably. I have a perfectly good Nexus 6P sitting on my desk, and its huge screen and rear fingerprint sensor are calling to me. But I've been thinking about it for almost two weeks and still haven't pulled the trigger. Yes, my iPhone 7 has its shortcomings, but there are also many things it does right that keep me from readily crossing sides. I'm living in the ecosystem, and there are some major conveniences and niceties that I'd miss. And if nothing else: The beauty of working for a company that covers technology is that I don't have to give up one phone for the other. I can always use both!
What do you think?
Have you thought about switching? What keeps you on your iPhone or keeps you on your Android phone? You can get in on the conversation in our forums or comment below!
- Eight reasons I'm tempted to switch back to Android
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- AirPods vs Android: How Apple's headphones work cross-platform
- How to use an Android watch with iPhone
- How to move your files from Android to iPad
- Where's iMessage for Android?
- Where's FaceTime for Android?