So I used an iPhone..
This story was posted first on GadgtSpot.com
There’s a running joke in my town that I have every phone not made by Apple. For the most part, that isn’t inaccurate; I use a lot of Android phones. After ditching my iPhone 3Gs in early 2011, I have remained fully invested in Google’s ecosystem. So what happens when I use an iPhone 6 Plus, paired to an Apple Watch, for 60 days?
Buckle in, this is a long one. But if you are thinking about switching from Android to iOS, do yourself a favor and read this, twice. I’ll be making a lot of my comparisons to stock Android, because usage varies wildly when you mess with manufacturers skins.
Starting in early June, I switched my main SIM into an iPhone. I enabled iMessage, signed into my Gmail accounts, and started setting up the phone for daily use. I dove all in. I wore an Apple Watch, I setup all the Continuity features on my Mac. I left my Nexus 5X in my bag when possible.
Having just come from the Nexus 6 and 6P, I was used to much larger screens on much smaller footprints. The iPhone 6 Plus is just so blatantly big, and yet so glaringly small; it feels awkward, forced, and like the cheap, poorly made phones of years past. Nothing about this phone feels especially nice in my hands. Sorry, it just doesn’t. Everyone offers a metal unibody design, and they usually do it better than Apple.
Keeping with the hardware, I’ll touch on the home button. Ah, puns. Coming from the versatility and diversity of software navigation in Android, the single physical button was jarring, for sure. Over time, I got used to it, but it was never as seamless and efficient as a dedicated back, home, and overview button.
The fingerprint sensor here was somewhat unreliable compared to the Nexus Imprint sensor on the Nexus 6P and 5X. I work in the water most of the day (this becomes important later, I think), and if my finger was even slightly wet/sweaty/dirty, the iPhone had trouble. The Nexus 5X (at half the price, easily) was accurate nearly every time.
Moving on, I am glad Apple moved the power button to the right side, where it belongs, but I would have preferred a lower placement, similar to the Motorola Nexus 6. The volume buttons are okay, nothing special here. The mute switch wasn’t nearly as useful as people claim: I always keep my phone on vibrate.
I hate the lightning cable. Sure, reversible and small can be handy, but proprietary is proprietary, and I hate it. There were complaints about USB-C not being widely available, but as time went on, accessory and device manufacturers started supporting that standard. Lightning isn’t a standard. It isn’t as powerful, as useful, or as reliable as Type C.
In my two months since I began this challenge, I’ve broken two Lightning cables. Not a single Type C adapter, cable, or port has had problems in the 9 months I’ve been using the standard. If durability is important, I’d stick to good old USB.
The speaker, ouch. Obviously dual, front facing speakers are always preferred. But I expect at least some effort here. Quiet, very muffled, and just plain awful. There’s such an emphasis on iTunes and Apple Music, that I’d expect something just a bit stronger here. The Nexus 5X proves a cheap phone with a single speaker can still be somewhat tolerable, and the Mate 8 still has one of my favorite mono bottom facing speakers out there.
Yes, the metal construction is nice, and the glass just bleeds into the frame, I know. But it just isn’t anything better here than what Huawei, HTC, and Lenovo/Moto are doing, and at much more reasonable prices.
Ok, software time.
Over the past decade (yeah, it really has been that long), the two largest mobile operating systems, Android and iOS, have grown more similar than they have different. They both launch apps, they both handle notifications, they both die by the end of the day. I won’t dwell on the similarities, just the differences.
Setup was obnoxious, to say the least. Sure, if I was coming from an iPhone, it would have been easy and seamless. But setup from scratch took nearly an hour. Screen after screen made me enable feature after feature. Come on guys. That’s not a thing on Android. I just want to get in and get going.
Okay, I’m in. Now time to setup my home screens. But I can’t do much past changing the wallpaper and rearranging icons within the predefined grid. This isn’t new to iOS, but I sure miss my calendar widget on Android, and the freedom to keep my home screen relatively clean. Alright, fine. Time to get my apps.
The “App Gap” is nothing, hate to break it toyou. Yes, there are apps created first, and sometimes only, on iOS. But Android gets its fair share. Jotterpad, Flamingo, and Relay are some of my most used apps, and they just aren’t available on iOS. This is nothing new, and nothing to be changed any time soon. Developers create apps for the platforms they use, and everyone will have their preferences. I’ll just suffer through first party apps. -shudder-
Yeah, iMessage is neat, and really convenient. It’s just a part of texting on the iPhone. I like that everyone can use it, with little setup. But to keep it exclusive to Apple products just feels arrogant and wrong. It has become either a cheap way to retain users on the platform, or a lousy role model for cross platform options to replace. If they are going to continue to build the exclusivity of iMessage, they can’t honestly expect it to grow in users.
In a totally unrelated vein, my first install was Google Hangouts, which is regrettably better on iOS. Social media apps were next, followed by all the work stuff. I gave up on trying to find a good alternative to my favorite Reddit and Twitter clients, so I settled with the first party apps, which are better here than on Android.
App experiences were largely the same, but there are an unexpected amount of user experience changes that were a constant annoyance during these months. No back button was a huge change, but Apple added a software back action, right? Yeah, but that’s on the top left of the screen, and goes back to the previous app (like the multitasking screen), not the previous activity. If you open the New Tweet screen, there’s no OS level back button to go to where you started, that has to be created by the app developer.
I’ll touch on notifications, but stop me before I start throwing things.
App badges are iconic, but utterly meaningless. I don’t need to know how many emails I’m missing, I need to know if I get an important email. The same is true of every app. Its about the quality of notifications, not the quantity.
And in the notifications view, both on the lock screen and in the tray, WHY ARE NOTIFICATIONS NOT GROUPED BY APP. If I miss a conversation in Hangouts, just show me the most recent message, and let me decide if I want to view the previous messages or not. And actions for notifications are really inconsistent, if there at all.
AND IF I DEAL WITH ONE NOTIFICATION FROM AN APP, WHY ARE THE REST OF THEM NOT CLEARED.
End Rant. (for now…)
I don’t use an iPhone because I rely on my phone to get things done
My experiences were not all bad. Performance was mostly smooth, and the phone handled bouncing in and out of the camera app really well; I can take a photo, jump over and post it somewhere, then jump back and take another picture, with absolutely zero slow down. Most of that can be hidden by the sheer amount of time it takes to jump between apps, but it’s still an experience that I’ve yet to be happy with on any Android phone.
But sharing between apps is still a nightmare. Instagram was in the news recently for creating an easy way to share photos into the app from the camera, but that screen is missing any support for hashtags, tagging, and sharing to other services: basically all of Instagram’s features. Most apps don’t even show up in the share sheet, and almost all of those experiences are similar; sharing is just not a priority on iOS.
Back on that camera, it just doesn’t live up to the hype. Yes, itseasy, and smooth, which is helpful, but I just don’t ever prefer shots from this camera to anything else. They are great for Snapchat, Instagram, and everything else, sure. But they just don’t do anything for me. Granted I usually sit behind my DSLR all day, so I’m pretty picky. I’ll leave it at this: the iPhone takes iPhone images. They will be slightly below whatever expectations you have, but you won’t hate them.
During this whole period, I kept the iPhone in my right front pocket, and whichever Android phone I was reviewing in my bag. Consistently, I would pull out the iPhone to do something, spend about 5 minutes fumbling and fighting to get something done, and either give up, give in, or just pull the other phone out of my bag. Chock this up to familiarity, or habit, you be the judge.
That doesn’t meant the iPhone isn’t for you, it just isn’t for me. I have a workflow that keeps me sane, and I just won’t stay sane on iOS.
For everyone who asks me why I don’t use an iPhone, I’ll send them here. I don’t use an iPhone because I rely on my phone to get things done. I can’t afford to waste time on my phone fumbling and fighting just to get from point A to point B.
I need Android, what about you? Let me know what you use, here in the comments or over on Twitter, I’d love to hear it!