Confessions of an Android Fanboy: I bought an iPhone and I liked it
Hello, my name is Philipp and I’m an Android fanboy. I’m the guy people ask “Which new phone should I get?” or “How can you do this and that?”. I’ve written more than 100 Android-related articles in the past years. If you would’ve asked me 1,5 months ago about iPhones, I would have probably told you “meh, it’s just an overpriced phone that’s far too restrictive in anything”. Two weeks ago, I got an iPhone 6S+ and… things changed. But let’s start from the beginning.
The history of my Android addiction – or: How I became an Android junkie
My first Android device was a HTC Desire HD in 2010 which my replaced my iPhone 3G. Coming from iOS, I immediately fell in love with Android and the endless possibilities it had to offer. I was hooked. And then it started… First, I learned how to root and flash a custom ROM. It was great. Suddenly I was able to update my phone to a newer version of Android without waiting for an official update. The next device of my choice was the Nexus 4. Wow, what a device. Great price, shitty camera but stock Android. Let’s change how the UI looks with a custom launcher. Awesome. Flashing custom ROMs became a daily thing. I lived the life of a flash-a-holic. Next up, custom kernels. Overclocking for more power or undervolting for more battery life? Been there, done that. But what can I do about an unstable system? Is it the kernel or the ROM? Or a combination of both? Time to go back to a stock kernel. Still not working fine? Back to stock Android. Too boring? Time for Xposed. Hardcore Android users might now what I’m talking about.
While I really liked my stock Android phone, there where two things that really annoyed me: Battery life and camera. Consequently, I decided to go for a LG G3 next. The battery easily lasted trough the day and it took awesome pictures. However, I hated the LG Android skin. It’s slow, it’s ugly and just ruined the experience. The solution to that? Install a AOSP-based ROM and enjoy “stock” Android. Unfortunately, due to the lack of official camera drivers this comes at a price: Bad camera quality.
Some of you might thing that I went a little crazy with my Android phones but I really enjoyed tinkering around. Many people are happy with the experience Android offers out of the box. That’s alright. But I wanted more. I’m not sure if this all happened because I was able to do so, or if I just wasn’t happy with what my current Android setup had to offer. I guess in the end it was a combination of both. There was also no real alternative: iPhones where small and super restricted – I wanted a huge screen, a removable battery, expandable storage and all that for a fair price.
2015 – The year of compromises
Fast forward to 2015. I’m sick and tired of my LG G3. The custom ROM is not running stable, I have to update it every few days and I just want a new phone. Stock Android is the top priority, followed by a 5,5″ display, a battery that should easily get me trough the day and a good camera. Too much to ask? Apparently yes. While many devices in fact do have a decent battery life, great camera and display, they all come with a huge downside: Non-stock Android – and that’s a no-no for me. I want to run the latest version of Android. Period. I don’t want to rely on custom ROMs, just to run the latest version of Google’s operating system. I want a clean experience, no bloatware and no useless functionalities.
I want a phone that works. Living in Germany, that basically brings it down to the Moto X or Nexus 6P. At least in theory. With the recent history of Motorola not sticking to its promises of rolling out Android updates as fast as possible (or even at all), I’m not really happy with getting a Motorola device. Also, in contrast to the $399 price tag in the US, the phone starts at a whopping 499 EUR (roughly $536 USD) in Germany. Even including a 19% VAT, that’s roughly $50 USD more for the same device.
So what about the Nexus 6P? Well, it’s complicated. At the moment, it is not even clear when it will be released in Germany. Similar to the Moto X, we have to pay a premium price compared to the US. The 32GB version will retail for 649 EUR, that’s close to a 200 EUR premium (100 EUR / 107 USD including VAT) in contrast to the US price. Which I was willing to pay – at launch. But given the uncertain launch date, potential hardware issues (hello #bendgate & screen burn-in) and the fact, that the resell value of a Nexus device in Germany is probably close to 0, I decided to look around a little. And then there was this phone from the company I hated so much.
Are we at a point where iOS is showing more innovation and Android is catching up?
In the previous years Android devices had a strong advantage over iOS: A big range of devices, big screens, expandable storage options and replaceable batteries. It was great. However, if you look at recent flagship devices, most of these options do not exist anymore. Yes, there are many Android devices, but let’s be honest here: If you want a high-end phone, the selection becomes significantly smaller. Looking at iPhones, this has always been the cases. Even more so, with the launch of the iPhone 6+, Apple finally delivered a device with a big display, attracting many Android users. While Android devices used to be more affordable in previous years, prices nowadays are pretty close to the ones of iOS devices. If you consider the resell value after one or two years of usage, I would even go ahead and say that prices are identical, if not even better for iPhones.
Next, let’s look at technical innovations. Android 6.0 brings many innovations like Doze, system-wide integration of the fingerprint sensor, privacy options or Google now on Tap. If you look close at this, all those features except Google Now on Tap have been present in iOS for quite a while already. I haven’t personally tested it myself, but first reviews indicate that it’s not working flawless yet. Apple, on the other hand, launched 3D touch, which at the moment might seem useless in many cases, but might become a pretty cool feature once app developers integrate it more. In contrast to Daniel, I’m using 3D touch daily for things like opening my front-cam, the keyboard cursor or accessing the direct route to my apartment.
I’m also not a big fan of laughing about a new feature, just because it’s not quite there yet. This has been (and still is) Google’s policy across many products. Think about features like NFC, qHD displays, wireless charging or 3D camera phones. While some of these things didn’t make it to the mass market, others are still here and play a vital role in our mobile devices. You can say whatever you want about Apple, but if they’re including a feature, they are doing it right. Google, on the other hand, has a history of initially half-assing most of the features and then improving them over time (or getting rid of them).
All in all, it seems like Apple is currently more innovative than Google when it comes to it’s mobile devices or operating systems. To me it looks like Android is currently catching up to what iOS excelled at in the last years: Good build quality, a focus on battery live and a decent camera. But what comes next if all other advantages of Android devices like microSD slots or replaceable batteries are gone?
My first two weeks with an iPhone 6S+
Roughly two weeks ago I received a 64GB iPhone 6S+. After using it as my daily go-to device I have to say that I don’t love it, but I really like it. The first thing that I noticed is that it works quite well out of the box. Setup is easy, it integrates well with my MacBook Pro using iCloud and it works really good with my two Gmail- and a work-related Exchange ActiveSync accounts. Apple’s “it just works” claim holds true in this area. Finding accessories for the iPhone was also pretty easy: Given the popularity of those devices, it’s super easy to find a proper case and screen protector. Yes, you can also find accessories for Android devices, but the sheer amount of options for Apple devices is just far superior.
My biggest challenge so far is adapting to iOS. If you’re trying to use an iPhone just like you’re used to use your Android device, you’re going to have a bad time. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it might affect your user experience a lot. Let me give you a few examples: After the initial setup, I went ahead and installed a few apps that I used on a daily basis on my Android device: Gmail, Chrome and Swiftkey.
- Gmail: I liked that I can setup my email accounts separate from the iOS email accounts. However, it was really annoying that there is no unified mailbox and I constantly had to switch between the inboxes.
- Chrome: Easy setup, bookmarks are all there and it works. However, I can’t define an iOS-wide standard browser so the iPhone always opens links in Safari
- SwiftKey: Works as intended, but feels really slow and clunky. The user experience is definitely not as good as on Android
God was I annoyed. 5 minutes in, and the restrictive operating system is already driving me insane. But I did not give up. I looked for alternatives and was surprised. Safari for iOS works really well. With the support of extensions like 1password, an integrated ad- and script blocker and a bookmark sync via iCloud, the user experience is quite awesome. Next, I tried to find a solution for the keyboard and simply tested the iOS default keyboard. While it is not perfect, it’s still pretty good and works fast.
I didn’t really like the default email app, but Outlook for iOS is pretty much the greatest mobile email client I ever used. It integrates multiple email accounts very well, has a built-in file sharing support and – one of the best features – a focus inbox which only displays important emails. With multiple email accounts set-up, I receive a fair amount of spam / random newsletters / other crap. I don’t want to read this on my mobile device. Outlook for iOS is great at filtering this, keeping my notifications clean. To sum it up, the first thing that you need to do as a former Android user is to evaluate what works best for you in iOS. Things will work different, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Hardware wise, there is not much to say here what hasn’t been said before. The camera is great, the display sharp and the battery easily lasts me through a busy day. The phone does not crash, bluetooth connects flawlessly and it really just works. But honestly, I expected this from a 950 EUR phone. So far I’m pretty happy with it, although some things keep bugging me.
Some things that really annoy me about iOS
Like I said before, you have to adapt to iOS to be happy with it. However, there are a few things that are quite hard to adapt to.
- Notifications: Why is it not possible to sum-up notifications in the lock screen? I don’t need to see every single WhatsApp message that I received, I want to see a total number. Also, why is there no indication in the status bar? Don’t get me wrong, I really like the notification-count on the app, but the whole system just seems to be outdated.
- Homescreen: Coming from Android, this is a big topic. I want to be able to arrange icons on the home screen the way I want them to be. The phone comes with many Apple apps preinstalled which I can’t uninstall or hide. I’ve created an Apple crap folder with all app icons in it, but this just seems to be another outdated workaround. Also, what about widgets?
- Widgets: I don’t need 1000 widgets, but I want to place them where ever I want, not only in a hidden menu.
- iTunes: Personally, I’m mostly using cloud sync and streaming, so I don’t really need a proper file transfer. But iTunes in general is just.. crap.
- Go-back button: Whoever decided to put the back button in the upper left corner? On a 5.5″ display device? Really? I know you can double tap the home button, but this seems to be a design choice made for 4″ devices.
- Some apps: It’s 2015. If your device does not support 1080p displays yet, it should be banned from the app store. Period.
As an Android user, all those things seem really bad – and they are. But it’s nothing that can’t be fixed and then announced as a new revolutionary feature. Things move slower at iOS, but most of the time they’re implemented well once they’re there.
Is the iPhone the better phone?
The big question that I’ve been asking myself is whether the iPhone is the better phone or not. So far, I can tell you that I don’t know, but for me it seems like the better option at the moment. I know that many people will call me crazy for switching to an iPhone in 2015, the year where Google finally released a good Nexus device. Personally, I’m just really sick and tired of Google’s product policy at the moment. I don’t understand why the Nexus 6P is still not available in Germany. I don’t understand while Google just says nothing instead of saying a release date, even if it’s somewhere in 2016. Why is Google Play still a mess, full of crappy & fake apps? It’s that “we don’t care, somehow it will work out” mindset that drives me insane.
And it doesn’t stop at releasing a phone or maintaining an app store. I’m really interested in mobile payments. Living in Germany, a country where paying with a credit card offline can be quite tricky, my hopes for paying with a mobile device any time soon are pretty low. However, I believe that if there’s somebody who can make it possible, it’s going to be Apple. I know that iOS is limited, but at least it works in its restricted manner. If I need customer support, I just call the Apple hotline or walk over to the Apple Store. The phone will receive updates in a timely manner, and if I decide to sell it, I’ll be able to do so for a lot of money.
If you’re agnostic about mobile operating systems, I can only recommend to give iOS and the iPhone a try. In the end, we’re talking about a phone. With the iPhone I spend less time tweaking my phone and more time just using it. And that’s what matters to me.