I have recently made a major life change: I left the halo of Apple, and moved back to the halo of Google.
These days, you are not just picking a phone OS, you are choosing an ecosystem. You are slaving yourself to a system of devices, accessories brands, and apps that will hold you. This is exactly by design – the halo effect in action – but it can leave you in a bind. Whether you go to the land of Apple, inhabited by the likes of The Omni Group, hot social photo sharing startups everywhere, and Belkin, or choose the path of Android, with Samsung and Motorola putting their own twist on that lovable little robot, and apps that make you hopeful for the future of the tribe, you are choosing a side.
Sure, you can use both – an Android phone with an iPad – but you are missing out on something big. In fact, it goes back to something I’ve written about before – ubiquity. When you are fully in the halo, sporting a PC, tablet, phone, and set-top device from companies that are playing nice, something clicks. The feeling that data is just data, and the devices are just dumb screens that have access to it. This is a concept that sci-fi writers have write en about forever – the idea of people using multiple clients to access centralized data and computing resources, with very little friction between them.
This makes switching sides hard. It is often more expensive than just the device, and it can get tricky to end up with your data in the correct places. When I was in Best Buy, setting up the new phone line, I made a list of the apps that I would need to replace, what had Android options, and how much it would roughly cost. I ended up having to switch back to LassPass from 1Password, since they don’t have an Android client, and I’m a sucker for generated passwords. Aside from that, I had done a good enough job choosing ubiquitous services that for my other apps, and I just needed to get the Android client. I am about $20 deep in apps, but I have achieved parity in functionality.
It is important to note that this is not my first switch – I had a Motorola Droid before the iPhone. This meant that I still had access to apps in my account, and was at least familiar with the system.
Having now spent a bunch of time in both worlds, here is where I landed:
Top 5 Things I Like Better About Android:
- Intents. These are a killer feature, and Apple needs to address this in the next major iOS release. The ability for apps to arbitrarily pass data around, and define default handlers for these is amazing. It is the biggest thing I missed with iOS. When you are able to easily send stuff to Evernote, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest, explicitly define defaults at a granular level, and have things automatically take place based on other things happening, your phone feels like it bumped a few steps in power.
- Widgets. I grew up on various flavors of Windows Mobile (the Treo 700w remains one of my favorite devices to this day), and having an information-dense screen makes me happy. I get what Apple is going for with their choice, but the ability to throw stuff on your homescreen makes my life simpler.
- Google Now. This is one of the best things I have ever used. It is like Siri, but if Siri was smart enough to know what you were doing, and what you would be likely to care about knowing right then. When my phone pings me that I need to leave earlier for a meeting because there is traffic, and it KNEW that so it TOLD me, I legitimately feel like I am on the USS Enterprise.
- Lack of Bullshit. It is so nice not having to leave the Kindle app to buy a book, or leave the Amazon Prime app to get a video. I like being able to easily install betas. I like that I can replace stock stuff, remove it, and do basically whatever I want to it. I can easily share things with webapps, allowing me to text from my browser. I can easily install an app from my desktop browser (Apple’s landing pages do NOT count)
- Size. I went into this thinking it was going to be just too big of a phone. That screen was massive. However, after about a week I had this weird feeling – it didn’t feel too big anymore. It felt right. My old iPhone felt like a phone for ants. And the SuperAMOLED is just amazing. Having the pure-black is nice for the battery as well.
Top 5 Things I Miss About iOS
- Polish. While Android is getting there with Project Butter and the HoloUI, there are still a bunch of shitty looking apps. My experience tells me that even the shittiest, oldest iOS app still looks a lot better than the worst Android apps.
- Hardware. The glass and metal is miles ahead of the plastic my SGSIII is rocking.
- Software. I do still miss some of the iOS – only apps that I was using, and still feel a bit of a twinge when a new one is release that I can’t run.
My next tablet will be a Nexus device, as will my next phone.