Why I Decided to Switch to Android from iOS... Again

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"What the heck? This looks just like another post you have on here, except backwards!" Yes sir (or ma'am), that is correct. Nearly 4 years ago I became the proud owner of an iPhone 4. When I was up for contract renewal on that phone, I decided to try out Android with the Samsung Galaxy S2 Skyrocket. Less than 6 months later I had switched back to my iPhone 4. I even wrote [an article on my experience with Android and why I switched back to iOS]({% post_url 2013-05-13-my-android-experience-and-why-i-switched-back-to-ios %}). Now I'm sitting here writing another article about why, two years later, I'm deciding to switch back to Android. When Android 4.4 Kit Kat is officially released and (presumably) the new Nexus phone (Nexus 5? that's what most people think) comes out, I will be purchasing it and moving away from the iPhone world once again. "But Mike, didn't you learn your lesson two years ago?" Apparently not. Kidding... I did learn quite a few lessons, but a lot has changed in the last two years with regards to both Android and iOS (like, a LOT, you guys), and in the light of all the new information, I'm giving Android a second chance. Here's why.

A big reason I didn't like Android was the fragmentation. It takes a long time for many phones to get the new updates in the Android platform because of all the hardware configurations and skins that manufacturers put on them, while Apple devices all get the update the day it comes out. But that fragmentation exists in Apple devices as well, it's just commonly overlooked. If you look at the stats, Android users are spread out among many more versions of the OS, with very few running the most recent version. Apple, on the other hand, has almost all of its users on the newest version. But that's where you need to look deeper. When Apple releases their new iOS versions, they leave out features on the older phones. iOS 6 brought panoramic photos built into the camera app, but only if you had the iPhone 4S or the iPhone 5. Is there any reason to exclude that feature from the iPhone 4? Absolutely not, except that they want you to spend more money to get the newest device. That kind of fragmentation exists all over the place within iOS, for no reason at all. Obviously with apps like FaceTime, you can't include that on a phone that doesn't have a front-facing camera, but features that don't rely on hardware have no reason to be excluded. I didn't realize this a couple of years ago when I complained about the fragmentation, and instead focused on my frustration with the fact that it took over 6 months after it was realeased for my phone to get the next update. The solution? Get an unlocked Nexus phone that runs stock Android. Updates are available almost immediately, and there's no Apple-style fragmentation. What's more, Android has begun packaging it's "features" as separate apps, so that even if your phone isn't running the newest version of Android, you can still get the newest versions of Gmail, Hangouts, Drive, etc. just by downloading that particular app in the Play store. Great approach from Google.

Let's talk about Apple and innovation. Sure, iOS 7 looks good. Much better than the older versions, in my opinion, but some may disagree. But take a minute to look past the pretty new design - what else did they really add? iTunes Radio is pretty good, but most of the other features are things that Android users will tell you they have had for years. Control Center is probably the best new feature in iOS 7, where you can quickly swipe up to access common settings options. This has been part of Android for many years. It's a great feature, but by no means can we say "that's innovative". Siri has gotten some improvements, but compared to Google Now, Siri is falling way behind. AirDrop is a new feature that lets you transmit data and files to another iPhone via Bluetooth. Innovative? Yeah right. Remember last year when the iPhone was coming out and Samsung had all those commercials for "The next big thing is already here" that touted their "Android Beam" functionality? It's the same thing. Another feature Apple stole. And that's it for the new version of iOS, as far as I can think. Some users will bring up shared photo streams, which was a nice addition (being able to have multiple people add photos to the same photo stream instead of just one owner sharing their photos), but let's be honest here - that should have been the way photo streams worked from the very beginning. Apple messed that up big time. So what else is new in the latest version of iOS? Not much at all. Remember when everyone looked forward to the new Apple operating system to see what new features the future of mobile computing held? Those days seem to be long gone. Apple's innovation seems to have passed with its founder two years ago. I haven't been impressed in a long time.

Finally, the biggest reason I left was that the Android OS was confusing, buggy, slower, less efficient (in terms of battery life), and not as polished as iOS. But that was 2011 - we'll soon be in 2014, and Android has made HUGE improvements, and in many ways it is now better than iOS. There are definitely things I'll miss about iOS - iMessage for sure, some iOS-only apps that I've invested in (especially Mailbox and Tweetbot) - but Google is proving that they have the innovation to change the future of smartphones, and personally, I'm on board with them.