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The iPhone is once again one of the best Google phones on the planet

With Google's latest generation of better designed iOS apps, including Google+, Gmail, YouTube, Google Search, Google Maps, Chrome, and more, the iPhone 5 is once again among the very best Google phones on the planet. iOS may not enjoy the deep integration into everything Google that Android does, but for most things, the overall performance of the iPhone, and the ability to use the best of Google alongside the best of Apple, all on one device, makes for an incredibly compelling experience.

And it's been a while since any Apple or Google user could attest to that with anything approaching conviction.

When the iPhone first launched in 2007, then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt joined Steve Jobs on stage to announce their collaboration on the device. On top of Apple's revolutionary hardware and multitouch interface, the iPhone would enjoy Google's amazing services, including map data and, announced shortly after, YouTube. Then the dark days came, when Google switched Android from a BlackBerry or Windows Mobile Standard competitor to an iPhone competitor, strategically seeing where the market was shifting and deciding to ensure they wouldn't leave their destiny entirely to devices outside their control and corporate interests. Apple and Google went from partners to increasingly bitter rivals, and from a great relationship to one shattered and ruined, at the expense of their mutual user base.

Yet now, because of Google making this new, better generation of apps, and Apple approving them, we're approaching something of a renaissance. You can now, once again, have a phenomenal Google experience on the iPhone, whether that's just the Gmail you use at home or work, or the full suite of apps you prefer over Apple's built-in offerings.

Sure, it probably annoys both companies a great deal. But Apple needs great apps to sell more iPhones, and great Google apps are absolutely key to segment of their user base. Likewise, Google sells user attention, and iOS still provides the most valuable, persistent attention to sell. Both companies are smart enough to recognize this, and we benefit. For once.

In some ways, the Google experience on iOS still lags behind. For example, while voice control on Google Search is fast and accurate, it's nowhere nearly as powerful as Google Now is on Android. And, of course, the lack of any way to set third party apps as the default in iOS, instead of Apple's apps, reduces the convenience. Likewise, Google Chrome's inability to use the more powerful Nitro JavaScript engine, while by no means a showstopper, is an unfortunate hiccup in Apple's heavily sandboxed playground.

Yet in other ways, Google on iOS is even better. Using Android without wanting to use Google isn't pleasant, but on iOS you can easily pick and choose your Google Services, and mix and match between them, Apple's built-in services, and offerings from Yahoo!, Microsoft, and others. You also get the benefit of Apple's still much smoother user interface, which doesn't offer all the features of Android, but handles everything from scrolling to swiping to tapping with far, far more buttery-ness than even the latest version of Jelly Bean.

But I've been using a Nexus 4 for the last few weeks, and it's an amazing complement to the iPhone, strong where Apple is weak and vice versa. But thanks to the much-improved quality of Google's iOS apps, I can pretty much jump from one device to the other and back without missing a beat.

I'm trying to reduce the amount of social networks I'm engaged in, but Google+ works great on the iPhone. I prefer unified inboxes, so I generally stick to Apple's Mail app, but when I'm in Gmail only mode, the new Gmail app is fantastic. I don't sign in to my browsers, so Chrome doesn't give me any advantages on iOS, but for those who do, it's great. Google Maps, on the other hand, provides the reliability Apple's Maps have thus far failed to provide. And the list goes on and on.

For anyone who loves Google but, for whatever reason, doesn't care for Android, the iPhone is once again more than just a good alternative. For the first time in a long time, the iPhone is once again one of the best Google phones on the planet.

If you've gone all in on Gmail apps on your iPhone, especially if you've also used Android recently, let me know how you think the experience compare.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I have to disagree with the notion that the iPhone is one of the best google phones. Google made remarkable strides in their iOS support in 2012, but there are some hard limits they can never overcome. You mentioned Chrome and Nitro, but Google will never be able to, on their own, make Google Maps the default (and Google for some incomprehensible reason has not integrated Contacts). They cannot make Gmail cannot download messages in the background, or open mail links. They cannot integrate Google voice with the dialer or make it work well with caller id (except on Sprint). They cannot make Google Now searches take any less taps to implement, or implement its predictive functions at all. Nor will they ever be able to do so, unless Apple changes their rules and/or Apple and Google link arms from Cupertino to Mountain View singing Kum-bay-ya. None of this makes the iPhone a bad phone. It is great that these Google services are available on iOS, but every single one of them is less than best-of-breed, so it is just not close to one of the best *Google* phones. Instead of having the "best of Google alongside the best of Apple," we have "the pretty-good of Google alongside the best of Apple." To me, that combination still makes the iPhone the best phone on the planet. But the best *Google* phone? Nah.
  • Are you tired of going office daily? Earn 50$ per hour working from home with Google! I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I'd be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Here is what I've been doing, GoogleCash.fab17.c0m
  • Please don't call the iPhone an android phone. Seriously.
  • He didn't call it an android phone. He said one of the best google phones.. There is a difference.
  • I agree. I am one of those people who loves Google but doesn't particularly care for Android. My iPhone 5 with the suite of Google apps is great. One thing I have always done on my iPhones is sync my Google contacts and calendar with the native iOS contacts and calendar apps. This makes for a smoother back and forth from the computer browser to my device. Many people don't know that there is a different way to setup a Gmail account on iPhones that allows you to also sync the gmail contacts. Instead of setting it up through the "Gmail" option in iOS settings... Use Microsoft Exchange instead. This will sync mail/contacts/calendar but not notes. But who really cares about notes anyways?
  • For month, Google will no longer allow new devices to be set up with EAS except for paid Google Apps accounts. (Existing devices will continue to work.)
  • Where did you read that? Source?
  • Lots of places, but for one: You can set up cardDAV and calDAV easily enough, and in many ways they are better than Exchange sync, but with neither Google nor Apple supporting the push flavors of IMAP, there is no real solution for push mail to, so, if that is what you need, make sure to set up your devices now.
  • Gotcha. Well that stinks. But yes, cardDAV and calDAV are also valid options. I've actually started using the Gmail app for iOS and I do like it, aside from the unified inbox. But I can always use Sparrow app for that as well if need be. Thanks for the info.
  • Actually Apple's Mail app supports IMAP. I've been using IMAP for nearly 3 years on my iPhone.
  • *push
  • I use Hotmail for my Calendar and primary email. Their service just syncs so well on my iOS devices, seamlessly and instantly. I was using it for contacts as well but I switched my contacts over to iCloud with the intent to get rid of my Windows PC and move to either an iMac or a Mac mini. I have tried using Gmail for contact syncing in the past but it didn't work as well. Mind you that was a few years ago.
  • I've switched over to all the google apps just to try them out. Been going for two weeks now. They are exceptional apps, and the cross platform synchronization is very useful, but they do suffer from iOS sand boxing them. I'm not sure it's apples best play to lock apps down the way they do. Having the best services and software running without limitations would be amazing to see. Would drive apple to make their own apps better too.
  • It's often because of that lock down of the system and apps that iOS feels smoother than Android. It's optimized for the setup! I prefer Apples strict control instead of bad performance like on most Android devices. But there's allways one or two things they could loosen a little up in... The user should be able to change some of the default apps and functions - and the developers should have an API to add "share to" services, like they have in "Open in...".
  • The Nexus 4 is as smooth as the iPhone.
  • I disagree. Just from the brief period if time I had the nexus 4. Just the animations of flipboard alone feel weird to me
  • I feel as if I have just read this article a week or two ago, did something change?
  • "You also get the benefit of Apple's still much smoother user interface, which doesn't offer all the features of Android, but handles everything from scrolling to swiping to tapping with far, far more buttery-ness than even the latest version of Jelly Bean."
    This is not true. I have a Maxx HD with Nova Launcher, and there is not an iPhone that is smoother. BTW, I also have an iPhone.
  • It's true. Any Android expert will tell you exactly that. Last night at CES, I was talking about it with Brian Klugg from Anandtech and Alex Dobie from Android Central. Brian put my Nexus 4 in dev mode and had it show screen redraws. Multiple times it was redrawing the same elements 4x (in the red), which is a huge performance hit. Once again, the next version of Android is supposed to fix this, but that's what they always say.
  • Well, the home screen feels fine with Nova or Apex, but there's still some lag in apps and menus. An example is in a maps application for Android - any of them! It's not as smooth as with iOS (iOS almost always with 55-60fps, Android drops a lot of fps when challenged).
  • I couldn't agree more Rene! I love Google services, but I hate the android OS! Thus the iPhone provides all the Google services I know and love, with the platform I know and love. It's like a tale of Romeo & Juliet!!
  • do realize Romeo and Juliet killed themselves? (Yeah, yeah, the families said they'd end their feud while grieving over their childrens''s still a tragedy.)
  • Good article, Rene.
  • Much Smoother? I cant comprehend any device being "much smoother" then my nexus 4. The iPhone has a smoother browser, and thats because Chrome is still complete ass (but the integration with google now and chrome on desktop still make it my daily browser). Besides that I have never seen any lag in my phone. iOS has its one ups over Android (and vice versa), but smoothness ISN'T one of them anymore.
  • Yes it is, and objectively, empirically so. It's not something you can argue with. It's in the code. Again, it's supposed to be fixed in the next version of Android, but up to today, they're not prioritizing UI performance in the code, and absent that, it's impossible for it to be as good. Arguing that it is is like arguing iOS is as good as Android at multiple apps, or that the sun rises under our feet.
  • Visibly speaking I see no lag. Ever. I see lag every so often on my Tegra 3 N7, but I dont see lag on my N4. I'm not saying that the iPhone isnt smoother based on code, I'm saying visibly I cant tell a difference between the smoothness of my phone and an iPhone. Under the hood I'm sure Android is a more strenuous OS, but the processors these days seem to handle it just fine. I dont know how one could get much better then no lag, but maybe I have a special N4.
  • It's not lag exactly. But the over all "feel" of moving about the UI is just not as smooth on Android compared to iOS. My Moto X is plenty powerful and doesn't lag. It just isn't as smooth scrolling, flicking, pinching, zooming, panning, while interacting with the screen; it just isn't. The Nexus 5 performs exactly the same way, the devices are plenty powerful. It's an Android problem not a hardware problem.
  • a native Gtalk app in iOS would be lovely....
  • "IMO" is a great alternative to using google talk on your iPhone.
  • I really liked Gmail on my iPhone, but once I reached for the dictation button to write an email while on my commute, I realized it was not integrated. I deleted the app.
  • That's strange, I just tried to compose a new email in the Gmail app on my iPhone 5, I see the voice to text button appearing and was able to use it successfully.
  • Re-downloaded it. Works fine for me now, too. Strange.
  • You just recycled the same article you wrote a couple months ago. I'm so over this ridiculous blog.
  • What a crime against humanity. Oh well, hopefully seeing this article was the worst thing to happen to you today. Thats still a pretty good day.
  • The only Google service I really miss since my switch to the iphone is google talk.
  • "IMO" is a great alternative to using google talk on your iPhone.
  • I've been hesitate to move everything over to the Google services because they have no dedicated calendar app. I would love to see one from Google. While their at it, it would be nice to see a dedicated contacts app as well. I also hope that Apple will one day allow consumers to change the default apps. I guess only time will tell. Anyone else switch completely over to the dedicated Google apps on IOS? Great article Rene!
  • What do you want extra from a dedicated contacts app? I fee like the stock contacts app does all that I need while staying synced to my gmail contacts.
  • I miss latitude. I was expecting a new version with the new google map app but it is still the old app that time has forgotten.
  • The only thing I miss on the iPhone is the Google Talk app. Apart from that, everything works great.
  • Except the 4 inch screen which is absurdly small and not even HD. And a bunch of icons all over my homescreen screams 2007
  • I switched over from Android and I totally love the screen size. Way easier to handle. Also I keep my screen clean and dump everything in folders in the second and third screens so I don't really see the problem.
  • "IMO" is a great alternative to using google talk on your iPhone.
  • Thanks. I do use IMO. But it not as good as Gtalk. I hope Google comes up with an iPhone app for Gtalk soon.
  • I'd love to see GTalk on my iPhone as well. It's sorely missed.
  • I downloaded Intelli IM. Love the group chat for Google Talk. Solid so far!
  • I disagree with one statement. I don't think google is annoyed by this at all. Else, why add functionality that is equal or greater than that of its android counter-part.
  • Google is probably annoyed YouTube and maps aren't default applications but other than that they're probably fine with it. After all google's money maker is ads and anyway they can serve you ads I'm sure they're a-ok with.
  • Just noticed this is an old article. I'm confused as to why flipboard is showing me this.
    Anyway, does anyone still find apple maps unreliable? I've never had problems with it and I live in a small city. However I'll be glad when apple integrates hopstop for transit directions though
  • Coming from an Android lover who's using an iPhone. I will say these Google apps work great on it! If only if I could use google now instead of Siri. I use all the google alternatives more than the native apple counterparts. I Do miss my nexus
  • You can, using the Google search app. Just open it and say "ok Google now".
  • I agree. I love using Google apps on my 5s. The overall smoothness can not be beat.