Friday, February 1, 2013

Android vs iOS: I made the switch

I have been an Apple fanboy for quite a while. I had an iPod even before they where cool and I have used iOS since version 3.

I have watched the addition of multitasking "done right" with iOS 4 which somehow still drained my battery faster. I have also updated to iOS 6, the update that has zero benefits to the user. I have waited for the iPhone 5 to buy a new phone... and was disappointed by it's lack of innovation. So I looked at +Android again - and Google has just released the +Nexus 4 in time. So I switched.
The first real surprise is that the Nexus actually looks cooler and feels much more modern than the iPhone. Gorilla glass, dual cameras and "Retina" display are on board. But Apple no longer sets these standards: I also have a notification light, Qi charging, and no physical home button. This gives an overall feel of a modern high-tech device. And it comes at 2/3 of the cost.
Then there are these widgets on the home screen. Apple only let's me see the number of unread mails. Android let's me actually see if the mail is important or if it's just another newsletter. It let's me control my my media player right from there and shows me my daily agenda. Compared to that the static icons on iOS look ancient.
The next cool feature is the customizability. Don't like the built in keyboard? Download the Hacker's keyboard and now you can actually make use of that ssh client! In addition you can decide what email client or what maps program you like.
Then there is the integration between apps and the system. Just install the LinkedIn app, and all your contacts which have published their phone number are in your address book. This means you can call them if you need to - and it is up to them to keep their number up to data. No more asking: Is this number still current?

But not everything is great. There are some things iOS does a much better job on.

The fist thing I was missing was a music player. My main use case for the phone is to listen to music, and the Apple and iTune universe handle this so great that I was amazed on how bad the situation is on Android. First I had to find a music player. Then I had to pay extra to make it actually useful. And it was not just 1 EUR, double twist actually costs 10 EUR to make full use out of it. That's an extra premium that you have to factor in if you want to listen to music and podcasts.

The next thing I was really surprised about was the lack of headphone control. On iOS, all you do is buy one of the many headphones out there, plug it in, and it worked: Play/Pause, Prev/Next, and volume control are accessible. All buttons react immediately. On Android? Apparently there is no standard for headphone control. Apple has their own, and enough marketshare to make it work. For Android, you have to buy special headphones (if they say Apple somewhere in the documentation they they will probably not work). I finally settled on the Philips SHE7005A. They work nicely, but have only a single button. No problem as play/pause is one click, and next is two clicks, right? Theoretically, yes. But unfortunately there is a 1-2 second delay between pressing the controls and the action actually happening. This means I never know if i just paused and resumed the song or if I selected the next song. Not a very nice user experience.

And this is the final problem with Android: There is no consistent user experience. And if you need extra functionality, there is not just one app for that, but there are many apps. And many of these apps are garbage. It is really difficult to sort the good from the bad. In that respect, the "safe" appstore of the Apple world is actually more useful for the user.

To sum up: In the Apple world, things still just work. If you limit yourself to the Apple universe, everything will be smooth. But unfortunately that universe has not expanded in the last two years. I you want something new and cool, but are ready to experiment a little bit, then Android is better. I don't regret that I switched and Apple will have to do a lot of innovation to get me back.