On My First Week with Android
So here’s an interesting question — which element of your life now would most effectively blow the mind of your childhood self? This was recently posed on my favorite podcast, You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes, which I’ve pondered off and on without a really good answer until an obvious one popped into my mind this morning. If I wanted to make ten year old Tyler -
— really stoked about the future, I’d just hand him my smartphone. I’ve always loved computers, ever since my folks put my sister and I into the science and tech magnet school back when we were kids. There was a computer lab filled with Bondi Blue iMac G3's, the collective light of which I still remember fondly to this day. Since then, computers of all sorts and the internet in particular have become omnipresent in, well, all of our lives. I feel that just producing a slab of a computer out of my pocket would be powerful enough for both my present and past self to get a simultaneous nosebleed and for time to unravel like so many Ricks and Mortys.
That fondness for technology I had when I was a kid has only evolved with me as I’ve gotten older. I’ve never been one for “latest and greatest”, I just want “good enough for me, right now”. Which is a line my iPhone has, to be honest, been failing to meet quite a bit this year, principally with regards to its battery. I may be asking too much, but I personally feel that if your 1558 mAh battery isn’t removable because of your closed-garden philosophy and if said battery is only so small owing to the fact that you feel that a larger one would break your precious silhouette and if said fucking battery is so shit it can’t go a year on moderate daily use without dying on me every day before lunch that maybe you should give up making phones and start making fucking mirrors, Apple — which would, of course, fit in so nicely with your latent, inexplicable urge to market yourself as a fashion brand — a milanese loop, by the way, doesn’t change the fact that you’re selling an overpriced, underspec’d “watch” that fails in so many basic functions of an actual watch — and why is jailbreaking the only goddamn way to get your crap proprietary apps off of my phone?
Sorry. </nerd rant.>
Yes, this is a post about my initial impressions of my new Android-powered device, but I’m not going to waste any more time than has already been devoted to the fanboy flame wars. Rather, this is a truly personal reflection of what it has been like, for me, having just recently made the change.
Now, the first thing I noticed about Android — right out of the gate — is the delightful frequency with which it mails me envelopes of cash. We’re not talking about anything ridiculous here, just $20 or $35 at a time, but still, it’s a heck of a gesture and really proves that Google understands it’s user base and the degree to which they — nay, we! — appreciate little surprises like that.
I’ll say that Android Lollipop is my new benchmark for what a fun UI experience looks and feels like. That’s obviously a subjective preference. Folks who unabashedly adore everything iOS have a lot to love in the products coming out of Cupertino. Personally, I just think Google’s Material Design language is the most intuitive way of interacting with a glass screen. For example, with a tap, icons pulse up towards you, making use of the oft-forgotten negative space between the screen and the software. Its one of the many overhauls undertaken by the dev team and, in rethinking basic interactions like these, I feel like Android is really on to something.
They didn’t just change the way feedback is presented, however. There are more integral, structural changes that have been done as well. For example, my Moto X (2015) has, in just a week, garnered enough of my preferences to have gotten up before me this morning, gone to the farmer’s market and then come back with a bag of locally roasted Sumatra coffee for me. I hadn’t had it before, my phone just thought it was something I’d enjoy. And I did! Thanks, Android!
I’ve also learned how much more accurate and reliable Google Now is when compared to Siri. A party trick I’d been using with my iPhone was to hold the home button for Siri and say anything, as clearly as I could, and then show everyone how ruthlessly she would butcher whatever southern drawl I’ve retained. It was almost impressive how badly Siri would perform. For me, anyway, I completely understand that someone with a different affectation to their speech would maybe have a better go of it. A yankee, perhaps.
One of the detracting statements often made about Android is just how varied the product line is. This, I can certainly sympathize with. Someone who procured a new iPhone 6s yesterday, for example, knows exactly what they’re getting. It’s a streamlined experience, owing to Apple’s insistence all these years on making their software in step with their hardware. When I set out to find myself an Android phone, I was aware of this distinction but was taken aback by how wildly different Android can appear and perform, depending on the manufacturer. Samsung makes the world’s best screens, for example, but I can’t get on board with their TouchWiz skin. OxygenOS is a little warmer for me, but still, not my thing. So in looking for a stock or near-stock experience, I realized I pretty much had two options. The Nexus 6 or a Moto X. I went with the Moto X owing to… look, we’ve come this far, I’m not going to sugarcoat this. I went with the Moto X because I’ve been lusting after the white/bamboo combination since the Moto X2's ad campaign, which showcased a dude building one.
(The Moto X and the Nexus 6 — which was, of course, made my Motorola — both showcase one my favorite hardware features, which I’ve been missing ever since the iPhone 4 design overhaul: a fucking curved back!)
Ultimately, there are a few things I miss about iOS (the iMessage desktop app, for one) but mostly, I knew it was time. A week in, I’m glad I made the change and am looking forward to familiarizing with it’s features as time goes on.