I've been an Android user for 4 years. It's a miracle I lasted that long, after first buying a dismal HTC Desire with a badly pink-eyed screen and a ludicrous 150MB of user-accessible internal SD space for apps and games. That was my last HTC. But I stuck with Android... until now. Last month I decided to give an iPhone a spin for a year or two. Or possibly longer.
I seem to be going against the grain of history. With Android now at over 1 billion activations
and leading the way in most smartphone markets, Google’s mobile OS is clearly poised to bring another couple of billion online and eventually be the planet’s biggest tech platform. Apple’s iPhones and iPads are happy to be going after the top-end of that market. But even some power users and tech influencers in the US and Europe and going away from iOS to the big screens and bells and whistles of Android. I’m quietly heading in the opposite direction.
Though it's of no broader significance, I still fancied making a list of what bugged me to the extent that I’d give up on Android on my phone. Here's the list:
##1. Geotarded apps
Google Play chooses your store based on your SIM card. iTunes does it based on your payment method. I much prefer Apple's way of doing it, especially as moving around Asia causes a lot of apps to vanish from the Play store at a certain time. It's especially grim in China.
##2. Google Play is a pain
Along with geotarded apps, the Google Play app has inexplicably got worse (in terms of the UI) in the past couple of years. Plus, it's getting more strict in terms of cracking down on workarounds for updating your geotarded apps.
##3. Not much choice of Nexus/stock hardware
I like the look of the HTC One. And there's a Google Play Edition of the One with stock Android. I do like the look of stock Android. So, can I have that Google Play Edition thingy in blue? Nope. How about that svelte black? Nope. There’s a lot of Android hardware out there, but a very limited choice for those who can only tolerate stock Android - not much more choice than Apple offers. The Nexus 5 has improved things slightly with a choice of two colours.
##4. The great G+ arm twisting
G+ is ok. But it's not my favorite social network. It's not even my second, third, or fourth. But on Nexus phones, it's foisted on you a lot. I'd just rather not have G+ taking over my photos or my contacts, sneaking into my SMS app, or whatever else it wants to stick its nose into next. G+ feels like a load of baggage right now, and I don’t want to grapple with it.
##5. Rogue apps and RAM being maxxed out
I've had to delete a lot of Android apps that I'd actually like to use because they're badly written apps that run in the background all the time for no good reason. That results in worse battery life. Many apps like Camera360 and Circa keep running without my say-so and for no good reason.
It's no coincidence that a lot of these perpetual-motion apps are Chinese ones. But they're ones I'd like to use, like PPTV, Baidu Maps, Pandabus. But I've had to delete them all or I'd be using 90% of my RAM all the time on my phone. Even with lots deleted, it's still spinning at a constant 70-80% RAM. Imagine if your laptop did that.
It's so bad that even with the airplane mode on and the screen off (ie: overnight), both my (outgoing) Android phone and my Android tablet can lose anywhere from 5% to 10% of battery life.
I'm beginning to come round to iOS not permitting that kind of thing to happen, and the new 'background refresh' controls in iOS 7 make a lot of sense - now I can install absolutely anything and have full control over the (very few) apps that I permit to work in the background to send me notifications. This kind of ease of control is what persuaded me to ditch Windows for Mac OS X nearly a decade ago.
##6. Battery life
Issue #5 has a big impact on battery life. Woeful is the right adjective. Whereas all Android phones I've encountered struggle to get two days of battery life, even with little usage, the iPhone stretches to three non-busy days with ease. A very busy day can fly by with no need for an iPhone battery pack hook-up. An average day sees two full days of iPhone usage with ease. The only way I could get two solid days of usage out of my Android phone would be to use it as a murder weapon.
##7. I actually love iTunes
Being on Android sucked out my enthusiasm for listening to music. The Google Play music app, once launched, tends to run in the background forever, killing your battery life. That's an especial pain when traveling - which is usually when I listen to music. I've been at airports at 9am with 15% battery life on my Android because I listened to a couple of podcasts whilst catching up on work emails en route.
Plus, the Google Play music app gets very laggy after 30 minutes to an hour of usage. I'm actually missing the iTunes experience, especially for enjoying podcasts. I also won’t miss having to use a workaround for syncing music from laptop to phone (I used DoubleTwist, which never lived up to its promise of a few years ago).
##8. Long-standing UI inconsistencies
Lots of apps are still using Android 2.x elements in apps for things like dialog boxes, even though Android 4.x has been out since October 2011. Google is guilty too. For example, the stock messaging app (which vanished in Android 4.4) doesn't have reply/delete options from the notification tray, which it really ought to have to match Gmail, etc. The SMS has been replaced by the Hangout app, so does that have those useful buttons in the notification tray? Nope. Lord only knows why.
##9. Limited OS updates
Even if you’re on Google’s elite Nexus line of phones, you’ll only get OS updates for a maximum of 18 months, history has shown. iOS manages to support your phone for 3 full years, which is the reasonable maximum in terms of phone life you can expect in such a fast-moving sector.
##10. Fun new apps tend to go iOS-first
This is definitely still a trend. Even when an app hits Android, you might not get it on your device. Or, as happened to me with Vine for Android, Vine didn’t work on my particular Android phone for five months after it hit Google’s OS. Yes, there are a lot of devices for which support needs to be added, and many developers cannot cope with the myriad differences vomiting up hundreds of unexpected app problems.
So, that's my listicle. Android is still better than iOS in some respects, and some people will prefer it. iOS 7 is not perfect, for sure. I can see myself being persuaded to switch back to Android (as a phone, I mean; I still have an Android tablet) in future and I'll still recommend many people to go for Android for things like flexibility, customisation, and low cost.
Essentially, I'm keen to see how iOS fits into my workflow. It's quite a personal choice.
(Image credit: CNN)