An Android user takes on iOS for a full week, my experience

The time finally came for me to put my Android device down, take out the SIM card and insert it into a freshly purchased Apple iPhone 5s.

Was I nervous, afraid and think that I’d hate it?  Yes.

Did any of those feelings last longer than one day? No.

Enter iPhone 5s, let’s get started!

iPhone 5S.
iPhone 5S.

A test, especially when you are trying to dive into a completely different world (iOS rather than Android) is nothing that should be taken lightly, can be daunting and should be of an adequate length of time to fully immerse yourself into the device and it’s ecosystem.  This was a test of 7 days with certain parameters to ensure that I was fully in iOS as much of the time as I could be:

  • No going back to Android (Explanation: If there was an action that I could do easily with an Android smartphone, I was not allowed to do so — I had to figure out how it could be done on iOS or simply do without).
  • Must use the device as my “daily driver” for 7 complete days.
  • Cannot carry my Android device of choice (Moto Nexus 6) around as a backup.

Let the games begin!

One of the first things that you will notice about an Apple device is its attention to detail, just how well the device is constructed and trying to follow that “it just works” flow with the apps that are built in.  And I must say, the apps that are bundled with the iPhone work well and are very consistent.  Setting up security during the initial setup was painless with PIN to lock as well as Touch-ID, which is absolutely phenomenal (more on that later).  After this initial phase, it was time to get down and dirty and install some of my favorite apps.  Being someone who pays attention to iOS, apps and all major device releases, at this point we all know that the apps that matter are on all of the mobile ecosystems — so there was no hassle in finding the same apps that I had on my Nexus 6, in addition to a few other iPhone exclusives, to put on my new device.  There were the must have apps:  Pocketcasts, Gmail, Google, Google Photos, Hangouts (because I use Google Voice exclusively), Chrome and a few more that had to be installed first — this was all done during the night before that day that I was to begin using the device as my daily driver.

Fast forward to day number one.  I unplugged the iPhone from it’s charger and didn’t really know what to expect during my day; however, there were a few things, that just in day one I noticed within hours.

  1. TouchID is phenomenal.  Apple truly got something 100% correct here, which is why this feature has been duplicated, some not as well, in other devices that are on the market today.  Using ID to unlock your device is almost instantaneous it is so fast.  In addition, many apps that implement security features, such as PIN numbers to access Credit Karma, allow TouchID to be your method of sign in, which is just further eliminating tapping away incessantly on the keyboard.  Way to go Apple, way to go.
  2. The App Store is really bad.  I will not go so far as to say it is horrible, but it is really bad.  Why?
    1. App discovery is almost non existent here, it seems that the App Store is just overrun with games instead of apps to help make your life easier and while those are there you have to shuffle through the likes of Dungeon Boss and Minecraft to get to them.
    2. Why are there two stores in iOS?  You have the iTunes Store and the App Store.  If everything was compiled into one convenient location it seems that it would make it easier on the user to go to a one stop shop.
  3. Text is incredibly clear not only indoors but outdoors as well with direct sunlight.
  4. Consistency throughout.  Every app, regardless of how powerful you think it may be, launches in the same amount of time and it is simply refreshing.  Not only do they launch at the same rate, but you get back to the homescreen (or initiating folder) at the same rate.  Some might view this as boring (which, admittedly, it kind of is) but it is also very consistent.  Consistency is key here when talking about iOS, it is certainly the most consistent mobile OS experience that I have had to date for these reasons.  Let’s have a look at an example, shall we?  There are a few notoriously bad apps in Android that seem to take their sweet time opening, while at times they are instant others leave you wondering is the app just in a bad mood today.  (Here is an odd fact, these are all Google apps and they perform and look better on iOS)
    1. Google Play Music on iOS just opens and I hate to use that “just works” mantra here, but it does.  I did several performance tests here to validate my findings.  I grabbed my Nexus 6 and opened the app the same time and about 7/10 the iPhone would somehow always win; however, the iPhone does not handle this app better because it opens quicker, it handles this app better because it consistently opens and closes the app at the same rate, regardless if it is being switched from or into or started fresh after swiping the card away.
    2. YouTube on Android (to put it blatantly) has sucked for a long time, the app truly had a mind of it’s own when opening and speed was something that surely wasn’t a focal point.  This has largely been fixed now; however, it still hiccups at times (which happens in every mobile OS, even iOS — more on that later).  I performed the same test that I performed with Google Play Music and the results were the same; however, YouTube is not the offender that it used to be on Android.
  5. Going back.  Back buttons and back actions exist all over the mobile sphere.  But does Apple get it right?  Partly yes and it has nothing to do with a hardware button since the only button on the device that actually manipulates your position in the OS is home.  So although Apple doesn’t have the physical back button here or on screen, developers do an excellent job at providing that navigation in the app and the experience is nothing short of spectacular.  One swipe to the right, in most apps, will return you to the previous screen consistently and there isn’t much learning that needs to be done to recognize this.
  6. Notifications are a pure afterthought in the grand scheme of things.  You’d have to be pretty blind in Apple love to miss the fact that notifications were never meant to be focal point in iOS; however, this is essentially by design.  Notifications come in through the Notifications tab in the pull down menu and they might as well stay there with as many swipes and taps that it takes for you to remove them!  Clear all, please.  Please.
  7. Although the latest version of iOS (8.4.1) allows for probably the most amount of customization and sharing you are still limited here.  I will simply say that I tried to share a picture and failed miserably.  Sending a simple photo to my wife resulted in failure, so much that I just said forget it.  In this case, I wanted to share a picture from Google Photos to Hangouts, which is my primary messenger since I use Google Voice; however, the share was not allowed.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could share to another number of apps, such as GroupMe; however, you would think that as a messaging app it would allow shares to be initiated between the two regardless.  (It is difficult to tell if this is Hangouts issue or if it’s an Apple issue, we can call it 50/50 for now. More on this later.).

Day to day interactions throughout the week continued smoothly.  I was honestly very surprised that I was not reaching for my trusted Nexus 6 more over these past few days; but for the most part I did not need to.  My apps experience on iOS has been very good, except for a few hiccups that resulted in an Apple screen during the update process of a few apps, even a few dropped frames here and there (as I stated before, every mobile OS has hiccups, this is something that some iPhone users probably do not want to admit).  Otherwise, I have been flipping through apps like a pro and honestly trying to see just how smooth transitions can be when going back and forth between apps and you could probably guess how these tests went?  Smooth, consistent and all resulting in a great end-user experience.  Throughout installing app after app I was wondering if this would have a negative affect on battery life; however, it has been nothing short of stellar, as I am typing this my iPhone is currently sitting at a comfortable 67% battery remaining.  Speaking of battery life, I cannot forget to mention that standby time is better than any device I’ve ever touched.  If you take this phone off of the charger at 100% and leave it alone, you will return hours later to see it either on the same percentage or very close.  Hopefully, these types of battery issues for Android are fixed in the 6.0, Marshmallow, update.  One thing to note, is that it doesn’t seem like one app can kill and bog down your entire system in ways that Android apps are prone to do due to bad coding and this is likely due to the sandbox that you are placed in when using iOS which in this case is a great thing because Apple is controlling the user experience; however as noted above, controlling the UX can be a bad thing when sharing a simple picture fails.  Google’s apps on are iOS are nothing short of gorgeous and one irritating part about each app is that it honestly performs better than it’s Android counterpart with the exception of GMail and Google Drive and it’s included suite of apps.

Being a big fan of music and podcasts, the built in Podcasts app was a dream come true; however, I eventually replaced it with my trusted Pocketcasts, it is still useful on its own.  When it came to listening to music, as I mentioned the Google Play Music app worked perfectly and sound was surprisingly good for the one speaker that the iPhone 5S has, although at times it could be tinty and somewhat unsubstantial.  I’d certainly like to see front-facing speakers on the next iteration, doubt it will happen but can a guy wish?

Enough about the overall good experiences.  What are some things that truly annoyed me?

  1. Apps that I don’t like I have no way of hiding, I am limited to putting them in folders and letting them sit there taking up valuable screen real estate.  There is no way that you will like or even use every app that your smartphone ships with, it should be the users choice if they want to see it on their screen.
  2. Next, Siri — yes, your friend Siri is absurdly terrible, aside from a few cutesy responses she can give you, this “assistant” does nothing of the such.  It’s not because it cannot accept basic commands such as setting reminders but it is horrendous at voice recognition and seemingly limited in the types of results that it can display back to you.
  3. Widgets in the Today pane are not only confusing but odd because of the fact that there are certain ones that cannot be removed (of course) only rearranged.  If I don’t want the calendar there, let me remove it.
  4. The ability to change my keyboard to SwiftKey is great; however, at certain points the Apple keyboard would just take over.  Although permissions for SwiftKey were granted after installation, it was as if Apple didn’t trust SwiftKey on some password screens so it would pop up, which in turn required me to change it back again at some point after I was done entering text.
  5. Workarounds. Some things you cannot do directly in iOS. For example, if I’m using Google Hangouts (or any 3rd party SMS app) it cannot be my default client, so apps cannot share directly in to it. So if I wanted to share a picture to it, it couldn’t be done inside of the app itself. This is even more apparent when you’re using multiple 3rd party apps. If it’s on your device it should be able to talk to anything else that is there as well.  This does not hold true when in regard to every third party app, but is definitely true when dealing with Hangouts, this could a miss on Google’s behalf or it could be the fact that Apple wants Messages as the default messenger app for the OS.  On the other hand. anything can be shared with GMail.

The verdict.

Do I hate iOS?  No.  Do I like iOS?  Yes!  It is great and so is Android.  That is such a cliche answer; however, there are things to love about each OS and each ecosystem that their respective users live in.  iOS offers a consistent, predictable experience.  One in which you know what you are getting and you are OK with certain boundaries and limitations as long as your device is stable and you can reach certain apps that you need to.  There was not a time that an app caused me to wonder, “Why is the app loading so slowly?” or “Why did that app not close when I hit home?” — never, iOS being a touch first operating system simply responds in a reasonable and consistent manner.

There is certainly room for iOS in my life and this is not the last time that I will carry an iPhone as this is now my personal device I will continue to use it and grow in my experience, as well as continue to use my Android devices; so, using both will work for me.

Is iOS better than Android?  Is Android better than iOS?  Both of these questions are a matter of choice and while one day while out with your friends putting the SIM into your iPhone might be the better choice, going for a day at the lake may call for Android.  The choice is yours, at the end of the day I still love my Nexus 6 and it will be my more dominant daily driver, the iPhone will certainly make regular appearances.

In case you are interesting in seeing my setup, see my 1st homescreen below (it’s the only one that matters, the other page only has 2 apps on it with no folders):

My iPhone homescreen setup.
My iPhone homescreen setup.