So I switched to Android

First things first: this post is not a rant.

It isn’t one of those fan boy posts you may stumble upon from time to time either.

I want this to be a quick and honest tale about what it’s like to leave a well known environment (the iPhone and its operative system iOS) for something of which I knew little (Android and the numerous devices it powers), and the reasons that drove me to consider and then make the switch in the first place.

My experience with the iPhone

Let me begin by saying that my experience with the iPhone is not the reason of the switch. I’ve been a happy iPhone user for the past seven years, and I still think those are the best mobile devices out there.

In that time, I’ve had an iPhone 3GS and an iPhone 5S, and I must say that the operative system they run is intuitive, fast and problem-solving oriented.

Sure, as a developer I would have liked a little more control here and there, but overall I can’t really complain.

The reasons that drove me to consider alternatives to that safe harbor are essentially three:

  1. I wanted a bigger screen. The iPhone 5S was the last of the “small ones”, and thanks to great services such as Pocket, my reading time on the iPhone has spiked up in the past couple of years, mostly when commuting to/from my workplace, and reading on a bigger screen is a completely different story.
  2. I needed more space. 16GBs might have been good 7 years ago, when photo cameras on phones weren’t this appealing, and generally produced smaller file sizes.
    Finding myself in the position of having to backup and delete most of them before, say, making a trip, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to download offline maps has become annoyingly frequent recently.

I know what you’re thinking: “you could’ve used iCloud”. I’ve never been much of an iCloud person, to be honest, and its limits are still pretty stringent.
3. The price. Again, let me clarify on this point: iPhones are well worth what they cost, and the same applies to almost all of other Apple devices (after all I’m writing this post on a six years-old MacBook Pro, and my main browsing device back at home is an iPad Air 2).

At a certain point, though, mostly because the prices in the country where I live are significantly higher than the US for example, they simply become too high for such an expense to be made once every two/three years.

If I were to choose between finding the money for an iPhone 7 plus, or spending a few more days out on holiday, I’d pick the holiday any day.

The switch

One of the main driving reasons for this change is that my partner at work has made the switch from iOS a couple of years ago and didn’t regret it, so I started to actively look for alternatives.

I chose Android. Most of the apps I used on the iPhone have their Android counterpart that works exactly the same, and the Android release cycle feels (and probably is) much more stable that the one of Windows mobile OS, so I think this was kind of a no brainer.

At a certain point in my digital life, I’ve realized that the way I use the Web is much more Google-centric than it is Apple-centric.

My email is on Gmail, I take notes with Google Keep, Google Maps beats Apple Maps 3-0, and we use Google Drive at work, as well as Google Calendar for both personal and work events.

So, yeah, Google, you got me. Generally, this situation is one I wouldn’t recommend – being completely hooked to a highly connected set of services, because if one fails bad, chances are the others will follow along.

Google is pretty trustworthy on this aspect, though. So for now, I’m keeping this thought in the back of my head.

The device

Apple makes it awfully simple for people to buy one of their product, and rightfully so. You want to buy an iPhone? Ok, you have a basic/advanced models combo. It’s an easy choice, very little cognitive overload, higher conversion rate.

When you’re approaching the Android world, things change drastically.

Although there is an official device, promoted from Google themselves, any mobile devices manufacturer can virtually create one or more product running the OS, and, in fact, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

So if you want to buy an Android device, the quantity of available choices that you have is quite intimidating.

Apple offers not only great devices, but also the trustworthiness of a huge company, and finding one that does the same for Android isn’t necessarily that straightforward.

I’d like to paint three scenarios:

  1. You can go for the big fish, Samsung or Google, only to find that its devices are priced just as much as an iPhone. For that price, I think the iPhone is a better choice.
  2. You can opt for a not-so-big, yet still reliable company, such as LG, HTC, or even Huawei, for which the price range is usually significantly wider.
  3. You can be a little adventurous and pick a less known company that tries to stay afloat and swim steadily in this ocean, usually also being aggressive on the price.

I firmly think that decisions made on money are wrong. If you’re finding something (anything, really) that suits you better, and it’s also cheaper, then great, lucky you. But if you’re making a decision (again, about anything) based purely on money, I think you might (will) end up regretting it.

Despite willing to spend less money, I’m not really inclined to compromise on quality. For my experience, quality compromises lead to frustration, and frustration isn’t something I like to deal with, for personal stuff, as well as for work-related problems.

Long story short, I went for option #3 and chose to purchase a OnePlus 3.

OnePlus is a young company, and they know this is a truth they can’t deny. There’s nothing to be ashamed about being new on the market, by the way – it’s just a fact.

When you unbox the OnePlus 3, you can read a quick note right from the CEO that tells you that, although they’re young, they’re also doing their best to learn from their mistakes and get better at doing stuff.

Creating a product is hard.

We know that all too well. When we’ve created our page builder for WordPress, Brix, we knew it wasn’t only a matter of how good the product might intrinsically be.

It’s a matter of how it’s perceived by potential buyers, how’s going to be supported over time, how can it respond to the market, and how many blows it can get without falling down.

At $399 OnePlus has created a wonderful device, that’s modern, solid, and eye-catching – a rare combination of factors.

You look at it, and you perceive an idea behind it. Some would say that such idea is simply “Ok, let’s port the iPhone to Android”, but I think there’s more than that.

What I miss

Being so accustomed to iOS, it’s difficult not to notice small differences.

I’d like to make a list of things that I miss, coming from the iPhone, but keep in mind that only some of these items are software-related, while the rest is likely due to the different hardware being used.

  1. The adaptive brightness of the screen works erratically. The display is very bright, perhaps the brightest display I’ve ever seen on a mobile device, yet sometimes fails at setting the correct brightness depending on the ambient light. Not a biggie, happened at times on the iPhone as well.
  2. Android could use some love on the focus state of textual inputs. The blinking cursor is there even if the field has no focus yet, leaving me perplexed. I’ll probably get used to it, but I think this issue should be tackled somehow.
  3. Android has an option for everything. On one side, this is a plus: you can make your device behave exactly the way you want. On the other side, options are not always consistent in how they’re laid out, and they can be a bit hard to find.
  4. There’s no a built-in way to block annoying incoming calls in the OS, and to do that you need to install third-party apps, which must then be configured to make them work and not drain your battery.

What I like having now

  1. I like having all the apps that I used on the iPhone. This is a big plus and probably the single biggest factor that led me to change OS: the experience on Facebook, Twitter, Pocket, Maps.me, just to name a few, is nearly identical across operative systems.
  2. I won’t be using it anytime soon, but I like the idea of being able to turn on electronic payments on the phone.
  3. The touch sensor on the OnePlus 3 is unbelievably fast. I used to prefer inputting the usual four-digit number to unlock the phone, but I rarely do it anymore.
  4. The OS feels more fresh. UI inconsistencies aside, I have the feeling that the folks at Google like to experiment more with their OS: the result may vary, but generally I see this as an opportunity to create something better and better, rather than a risk for failure.
  5. Fast charging. The OnePlus 3 is a beast, in this regard. They’ve implemented (and patented, if I’m not mistaken) a system to fast charge the phone using a special power connector that overheats itself, instead of doing it to the phone’s battery. The result is that a one-hour charge gets you to 100%: pretty impressive. Also, battery itself is not bad either: I usually get 4 days during the week, and 5 over the weekend, and recently I also tested it while at WordCamp Milano, where I”ve been able to get 2 full days of really intense usage (I was on Slack+WIFI all the time, basically).
  6. I love being able to know if I have notifications pending to be read by looking at a simple led light in the upper left corner of my phone, and I also like the fact that you can know which apps generated those notifications by looking at the led light color.
  7. Lots of other small things: power management analysis, data traffic analysis, the ability to clear background processes and their respective caches with ease, memory available (6GB RAM coupled with 64GB), etc.

Conclusion

There actually isn’t a conclusion to this post. This is just a report of my first month with an Android device, and I’m looking forward to testing it even more in the coming months.

At this point, I’d consider it useless to make a suggestion as to whether switch or not: phones are very personal devices, and you have to pick one according to your feelings and needs, both in terms of functionality and aestethics.

The one thing I can say, though, is that switching is possible and that it’s less painful than what it may seem.

So, any comments? Let me know!