The obligatory blog post. When one switches operating systems, especially on smartphones, it seems that one has to write a blog post about it. I just moved from iOS to Android on my smartphone. I handed over my iPhone 4S to someone whose iPhone 3G was totally broken down and got myself a Moto X.
Before I made the switch I could borrow a Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini1. The phone was ok but especially the screen was bad. Low resolution pen-tile AMOLED-display which was too bright in the night and too dim in sunlight. But the operating system was fun to use and far from the horrors I heard so far from people who are accustomed to iOS and tried Android. In addition, I didn’t see any stuttering when browsing the web or scrolling or whatever. It’s a phone more on the low-end side and neither in the stock Samsung-taste of Android 4.1 nor on Cyanogenmod 11 (Android 4.4.2) I’ve seen performances issues.
So it didn’t took me long to decide that my next phone won’t be by Apple but some other vendor.
So what are the reasons?
When I think about it, then this is probably the main reason. Apple devices are expensive. They are good devices, are probably produced in the most humane way capitalism allows right now but are always pretty much on the high-end side of the spectrum. And the low end-phones aren’t very reasonable priced in my opinion. So usually only the newest phone is a viable choice with Apple. And then you have to pay even for a 16GB-model something like €700. This is a lot of money. And they won’t get cheaper after a couple of months. The whole year the product is the newest available it will cost €700. And buying them used isn’t really cheaper as well. Yes, I know the argument that this is actually a good thing because I can buy an Apple device, sell it a year later and then buy a new one for “cheap”. But I keep my device until they break down or I get a new one and give my old ones away to people who need one2.
I bought now a Moto X with 16GB of internal storage. According to benchmarks and that’s the only way to compare Android-phones somehow to iOS-phones it is somewhere between the iPhone 5 and 5S. And I paid €379 for it3. I am buying my devices usually by paying in installements. With my dealer of choice I have to pay €30/month for an iPhone 5S with 16GB and €15 for the Moto X. It is only €15 per month but that’s already noticeable. And I had already once the case that my iPhone got stolen and I paid for two and then it really hurt4.
And I just bought some Micro-USB-cables. After the cable-tax of Apple where I have to pay €19 per Lightning-cable when switching away from having a dock-connector device, I paid €7,20 for the three cables (€2,40/cable) I wanted to have5.
So after the whole price-argument I come to the parts that I actually like better in Android. Thankfully to the iOS8-announcement I can shorten this a bit because it seems that 80% of the announcement was about stuff they copied from Android and maybe other mobile OSs.
I am talking about the Android-version the Moto X ships with. This is a stock Android 4.4.2 (Kitkat) with some nice additions but nothing like the modified HTC- or Samsung-devices which seems to have some hefty modifications.
I like that I can set a different default browser, mail-client and what not. And that browsers can actually be browsers and not yet another wrapper for iOS-webkit. My default browser for example is Firefox because it supports plug-ins like https everywhere and I use usually Firefox on my desktop operating systems these days as well. In addition I can change a lot of stuff. The share sheet which allows me to send stuff from one app to another got replaced by Andmade Share because that allows me to change the order of the apps that appear in the share sheet since I want to share 90% of the time to Instapaper anyways. I can also hide apps from the share sheet. By the way I hope the share sheet in iOS8 works equally well. Each time I tried an app that supports sharing to Instapaper I had to enter my credentials. That can be really annoying. With Android I entered them once and since then I can just share from my browser, my ADN-apps, my twitter-apps etc. I replaced also the launcher (the Springboard) with something else which had some extra functionality I like. An example would be definable gestures like swiping up will open my preferred ADN-client with a window for writing new posts. The stock-stuff works and is nice but being able to replace them is great.
Downloading from the desktop browser and the Play Store
A thing I missed more or less immediately when using Android and having a look again at iOS is the ability to buy on the desktop Play Store and it will immediately download to a device. And I do not need to have iTunes installed for buying apps. I just go there, click install or buy, select my device and it will directly download to my phone. It’s not that it will download to my computer and in addition to my phone. And when an app is free I do not have to enter my google-credentials. Something I do not understand until today why I have to enter my Apple-credentials for free apps.
And since we are on the topic of buying apps, the Play Store beats the App Store hands down. Sorry Apple but except a bit of a refresh on the design side (mainly for the worse imho), the AppStore didn’t change since iOS 2. The Play Store has videos (for all developers), an imho better overview of reviews, developers can respond directly to reviews etc. The whole experience of buying stuff is a lot better. Please Apple: Learn from Google and give at least developers a way to upload a video-demo of their app and let them respond to reviews.
Apropos buying stuff. Every time I listen to podcasts from iOS-users who talk about the Play Store and that everything is free there, I have to say that they are wrong. There are lots of free apps but many of them are trials or offer in-app-purchases. Yes, you read that right: trials. The Play Store has them. Swift Key Free for example works for one month like the normal app and then ceases to work. But you can buy the full app to get it. Other apps have limited functionality and then use some app that I guess work like a plug-in to extend the Pro-functionality. Or the apps are ad-supported and you can pay for removing the apps. Most of the good stuff costs money, like on iOS. Interestingly apps seem to be cheaper though even though there are trials. SquareEnix-games are as expensive like on iOS but the rest feels in general a bit cheaper. Another reason could be that the Play Store doesn’t seem to work in the tier-scheme like iOS but that developers set one price for one region and other prices get directly converted to the local currency and setting prices for all regions is optional. But I guess trials aren’t necessarily the solution to get reasonable prices for software again.
Because my iPhone did some weird things, I reinstalled it a couple of weeks ago and did a clean install without using my backup. Thus I installed apps when I really needed them. And found out that there aren’t that many apps that I actually use. So I got curious what the Play Store had to offer in that regard and I found out that pretty much everything was there. The only thing missing was OmniFocus but with Quantus Tasks there is an app available that will sync with OmniFocus. It doesn’t have the same functionality as the iOS-app but it is a neat companion-app that works quite well. Otherwise everything is available in some form or another for Android. A client for Anki, a client Instapaper, a client for Fever, the next 1Password-app is in Beta and now a full-fledged 1Password-client, the Kindle-app is available and better because it allows buying directly from the app etc. Even newer games like Monument Valley or Threes are available. And in regards to games I had to find out that thanks to the Humble Bundle I have already a lot of games for Android.
Because the Play Store allows more type of apps, there is even some stuff, that I won’t get on iOS. Like an SFTP-client that allows me to copy stuff from my computer to my phone which can be used in apps, without the need of iTunes or some companion app on the Mac. I can get Dropbox-free because I can just use Owncloud or Bittorrent-Sync since apps usually can access the file system and for example Bittorrent-Sync can do its magic in the background. I have a very good e-mail-client called K-9 which works together with another app to directly provide GPG-support. If you are into encrypting your stuff you are probably better off on Android anyways thanks to the Guardian Project. Even apps that are also available on the iPhone like ChatSecure just work better on Android. Or there is Tasker which allows me to automate my phone by location, events, dates whatever. When I put in my headphones, a pop-up comes up that shows me my main media-player apps and when I leave home Wifi gets disabled and when I reach my workplace it gets automatically enabled again and some other stuff gets turned off automatically.
One comment about the design quality of the apps. Apps are usually equally good designed on Android as on iOS. But on iOS there are some apps which are outstandingly designed and those I have not yet seen so far on Android. So the average might be worse but if you cut off the 5% of best/worst designed apps, Android and iOS are probably on the same level. And if apps are using the default design of Android which is called Holo, then they look usually equally good to apps that use mainly the default design of iOS 7.
It should be known by now that I have a thing for retrogames. Even though touch controls aren’t that great, it is awesome that I can officially install emulators from the Play Store. Being able to play some Lucas Arts-adventures on the go or having turn-based strategy games of the big consoles or handheld-consoles without having to carrying around all the time my handhelds with me is nice. Since controllers for Android seem to be quite cheap it might even be a nice replacement for my PSP. But this will have to wait probably a month or two.
iOS has the notification center but notifications on Android are better. You can have multiple audio-players in your notifications, you can have persistent notifications, notifications can have buttons so that you can reply immediately to an ADN-message etc. They are plain better. Apple just did enough that it could count as just enough but there is still some work to do.
And on the Moto X with Active Display they are even better. When my phone vibrates I can get it from my pocket, hit the lock-symbol and it will show me the newest notification in detail on top and older non-acknowledged notifications on the bottom. Thanks to the AMOLED-display only the text and the graphics are using battery, everything else is black. I read it already in several reviews of the phone but this is the way notifications should work for a locked phone. If only design-wise because not every phone has an AMOLED-display which has some disadvantages to an LCD-display.
After getting into all the advantages without the stuff I like but you will probably see in iOS 8 as well, I will now talk a bit about the disadvantages.
On iOS backups are no problem, either you back up your device to iTunes or iCloud. On Android, well not so much. There is backup to Google which apparently backs up settings but that’s it. And then there are some apps on the Play Store that should help but the apparently best app called Helium says that it has problems with Motorola-phones. The settings-part didn’t work so well when I switched from the S3 Mini with Cyanogenmod 11 to the Moto X. So, no backups it seems. Thankfully most of my data is synced nowadays, contacts are in my owncloud, calendars on iCloud6, 1Password is synced, Anki is synced, podcast-states are synced because of PocketCasts, photos get uploaded to Flickr automatically and so on. Not a lot of data I would loose except maybe how far I am in some games but because of my gaming habits that doesn’t hurt that much. And setting up the settings didn’t took long. The one thing that got saved was which apps are installed on my phone and as soon as I entered my google-credentials all the apps that were installed before got downloaded to the phone.
As written above Quantus Tasks is nice but it is no OmniFocus 2 like on the iPhone. But I am thinking about switching to Todo.txt or some other plain text-solution plus an app for reminders for my todo-needs. The reason is that I am not sure if I want to pay the $40-upgrade fee and I can’t use OmniFocus with my computer at work. And there are some nice apps for Todo.txt now available and in the end at least the shell script and the file itself will always work. And on Android there is Simpletask available which is a great todo.txt-client. Looks better, has more features and works better than the official todo.txt-app. And there is even a cloudless-version that I can sync via local storage which means I can sync it via Bittorrent Sync.
Modern iOS-apps are heavily gestures-based. In Android pushing buttons is usually the way to go. While using gestures might be faster and sometimes more comfortable, they have also the problem that you have to learn them and that developers have to put a tutorial into the app. I like gesture-based interfaces that’s why I put this part into the disadvantage-section but you could also argue that interfaces that need a tutorial are majorly flawed.
In iOS I often used Spotlight to open my apps. Pull the springboard down, start typing the app-name, tap it, start. It is simple search and it doesn’t seem to exist in the Android-universe. Seriously? The layer were all installed apps are presented are sorted by alphabet, so one finds an app reasonably fast but it is still way slower than Spotlight. I really miss it.
I was wrong. There is a way to search for apps. Thanks @evs.
So, these are the main disadvantages I have seen so far. Otherwise I honestly found no problems. Nothing in the consistency-department, even the by iOS-users often dreaded back-button was a thing I grew accustomed to. It took a couple of days until my finger accepted that there is no back-gesture but a back-button. And unlike from what I heard so far its behavior is usually not inconsistent. In my scenarios it worked always as I was thinking of it and only when I really tried to get it to behave inconsistently, I broke it. Yes even that shouldn’t be the case but in general it works. Just an example:
- I open my twitter-client
- from there I open the details of a tweet
- tap a link and get moved Firefox
- and navigate there one page.
Using the back-button:
- Back 1: one page back in Firefox
- Back 2: back to the details-view in the twitter-app
- Back 3: back to my main timeline
- Back 4: back to the homescreen
- Back 5: nothing happens
I know that I will never see Carcassonne by The Coding Monkeys or Omni-products but I am not sure if the overall price difference is it worth. After all I change my phone every two to three years7 and getting a €700-€800-device is really a lot of money.
After I bought the phone I had a short while a tiny bit of buyer’s remorse, and while I am writing this I am thinking whether I am a case of post-purchase rationalization because the whole thing just works too good for me. Especially when I am thinking about what loads of other iOS-users who have used an Android-phone told me about their experience. But maybe it is just good enough for me and the advantages8 weigh heavier than the disadvantages. All in all I am happy with the phone I am having now and that’s good. I don’t know if I want to switch back, right now I think that iOS8 got some real neat features but Apple would still have to release a far cheaper phone that I would consider buying one again. And then I wouldn’t have stuff like emulators, tasker or the customizability. But like I explained to an Android-user who would never use iOS because he thinks that it puts you under tutelage, you pay Apple for making decisions for you and for that you get a cleaner looking, probably more secure OS that lets you make less errors. But that’s not for everyone. And sometimes it is nice to have to think a bit less by having less choice in some areas. Right now, I prefer the way of having more choice and having to pay less.