This is a tale of a guy who decided to go to the Dark Side of the Force and it liked what he found. By guy I mean “me” and by Dark Force I mean Android.
Yes, I’ve switched to the Google Bot, away from the bitten Apple. Before I start my tale, let me discuss my previous background in phones.
I’ve been an iPhone user since the launch of the iPhone 3G (the first officially available in Europe) and since then I had all the different iteration of the phone. I’ve always traded the previous model for the new one so that every year I could enjoy the latest and greatest release from Cupertino.
I always went great length in order to get these devices. I’ve queuing hours and hours in front of Apple Stores in different countries in Europe in order to be among the first to hold the new iPhone. On the other side I’ve always made fun of Android devices, blaming the system of not being polished and well-finished in all its details as iOS was, I made fun of apps and the fragmentation issues and I also made fun of the complexity of the operations in order to navigate through the different screens.
To be honest I’ve always made this assumptions based on what I read on the internet or from what I saw from some of my friends, but it was never based on a personal experience, since I’ve never owned an Android device before.
Being a so-called “tech-savvy” I’m always exposed to the different side of technology and what it has to offer to us and lately, Android has picked up in the general conversation more and more, so I decided to increase my personal investment in this world.
If I have to identify exactly the main factors that lead me to this change, I would probably say there are two of them. First was the “being-bored” aspect and then there was the Google-world side.
The “being-bored” element derives exclusively by looking at the iPhone itself as a device. Update after update the iPhone remained always the same device. The original iPhone was the breakthrough device. Its successors became a way for Apple to consolidate the initial breakthrough with one refinement after the other, blooming a device to its maturity, making it a self-sustaining device. At this point in time there are only the tech-pundits that are still complaining about some missing features or the recurrence of the design or the dimension of the screen. For the general public the iPhone is a very fine device and it will keep being year after year.
And that’s mainly because the iPhone is a great device but it wasn’t anymore a perfect fit for me.
Then we have to talk about the Google-world side of things. Since I’ve bought my own domain I’ve heavily started using Gmail as my primary inbox and by installing the suite of Google Apps I started shifting more and more toward an all-Google world. With Chrome installed on every machine I own, I’ve been circling more and more inside the Google Plex. What you find after a while is that the Google ecosystem doesn’t always work perfectly on an iOS device (incredible, isn’t it?!).
Finally, before starting I have to declare my device of choice for the change: it’s the LG manufactured Nexus 4, which to date is still the flagship devices if you want to enjoy a pure Android experience. It has the latest version of the OS and being sold by Google directly means two things: it will receive the latest software updates almost immediately and it’s a relatively cheap device if compared to many other flagship device or to the iPhone itself.
Now that I’ve set the ground for the discussion, I want to present you a list of elements which I’ve found incredibly attracting the moment I made the switch.
It seems strange to start with this element, but it certainly is one of the best feature of Android. Widgets are a different and many times better way to display information on your screen. Depending on the app, a number on an icon or a text notification might not be the best way to display information to the user. If you are on iOS you don’t have any other choice to work around this issue, if you are on Android you can place a widget on your screen.
Weather is the best example. A static icon that always show the sun it’s not a good representation of an always changing element. A widget containing information about temperature and a quick overview of the forecast for the next hours is a better choice.
I’m a big fan of american TV shows but since I follow so many of them it’s never easy to keep up. On iOS I had an App dedicated to remind me when new episodes were available but I was clunky and only showed a number of the unseen episodes. To see the details I had to open the app, waiting for a refresh and then I was ready. On Android I have a full page widget which refresh automatically every day and shows me all the unseen and upcoming episodes.
Talking in abstract terms, the advantage of the widget on the regular app is the convenience for the user. You can set a widget to display information relevant to a specific point in time or a particular location or you can display frequently used actions. Then if you need more than the glance offered by the widget you can simply tap on it and you’ll get the full app treatment with the option of going in depth as much as you need.
If you want to move your files around on iOS, how can you do that? The easiest answer is that probably you can’t. The more thought-through answer is that sometimes some apps allow you to open an instance of a file into another app, creating a new instance of the same file which is in no way related to the previous one. This means that changes to an instance are never reflected on the original file. Pictures are the easiest files to move around since Apple started giving access to the camera roll to developers. Other files are more difficult to move around and probably involve a transition over to Dropbox before becoming available somewhere else. The holy land promised by iCloud is still nowhere to be found (or at least is not as widespread as promised).
On Android every app can be included into the sharing menu, meaning that you can easily move files around. Not only that but since you can have root access to your phone file system, you can manually moves files as you would normally do on your computer.
As a wise man said once, “with great power comes great responsibility”, meaning that if you move the wrong file you can do a big mess on your phone but in general you will be safe and much more free to dispose of your contents.
Ok, this one is probably a bit nerdy at surely wasn’t the main reason for the switch, but it still is nice to have. Also it doesn’t directly depends on Android since it’s mostly an hardware feature.
Anyway, I bought some NFC tags and my house is completely touch-friendly! Some examples? I one tag that automatically sets the alarm for the morning. Another one on mirror over my bathroom’ sink that starts playing Radio 1 so in the morning when I shave and I take a shower I have a nice background. Another one sets a timer on my phone when I use the oven and finally I left one tag in the office so that when I arrive in the morning it mutes the phone and deactivates WiFi and Bluetooth Tapping on the same tag in the evening resets everything on.
This technology is certainly still in its infancy mainly because nobody uses in a mass situation but I’ve found that it could easily fit in my day-to-day operations, making some repetitive action easier and quicker, leaving my focus on something else more important.
Again the screen is an hardware feature which is indirectly linked to Android. Thanks to the different devices on the market, the screen is one feature that can help differentiate a phone from another. Android devices are known to carry especially big screens and the same is true for my Nexus 4. With 4.7” and a pixel density of 320ppi this phone has a great estate which is very well used by many apps. Also, side by side with an iPhone 5 makes you realize how the bigger screen on the iPhone is just a marketing stunt with few real life advantages. With one more row on the Springboard there isn’t really much more to see.
I was worried about the usability of a larger screen but I quickly realized that I can handle 4.7” easily thanks also to the ergonomics of the device which is really solid in the hand.
Google Now is probably the reason why an Android device is so compelling. If you don’t know what Google Now is, check this link that will give you a sense of what this service is all about. A quick way of describing from the point of view of an iOS user is: Siri on steroids. By monitoring your activities, location, inbox calendar and much more, Google Now provides you with “cards” each showing a different piece of information. As you might guess from the name, Google Now is very time and location driven allowing it to display relevant information only when they are needed.
Described like that it could sound a little bit creepy but we all know that everybody is monitoring our online activities. Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, they all know something about us. Some of them more some less. Google along with Facebook is certainly one of those companies that knows almost anything and at least they are using this incredible knowledge to provide the user with a great service.
Let me start this final paragraph by saying that this was only a personal experience of day to day activities and in no way can be made as a general argument that Apple is doomed due to its iOS.
iOS is doing great and it will remain my only choice for tablet for example. Despite all the flexibility of Android a tablet with that OS is still a big joke to me, mainly because of its lack of great apps.
I only wanted to lay down the arguments that made a switch very compelling to me as others did previously.
Also, this should not sound as me pointing the finger and saying that you should do the same. I believe that choosing a smartphone is a very personal experience that should arise after a bit of “meditation”. At the end of the day a smartphone is a device that is almost always with us and that carries some operations for us so it should really fit into your day-to-day flow.
Having said that, I’m looking forward to the future innovations and the next iterations of smartphones, confident that the best is yet to come.