Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Switched to Android for a Week and Almost Didn't Switch Back

A year ago, I did an experiment where I completely switched to Windows Phone for a week. Overall it was a good experience, but it was lacking in enough areas that it made switching back to my iPhone was a no brainer. Also, tellingly, there wasn't anything that I missed when I switched back. I recently got an invite to buy Google Glass, so I went ahead and got one to test out and hopefully make some apps for. (I'll talk more about Google Glass in a separate post). I also got an HTC One Developer edition to use alongside it.

For a little over a week now, my 4.3 Android HTC One has been my only phone. I haven't touched my iPhone 5s at all except to look up a few apps someone was telling me about (that were only on iPhone). Overall my experience with it has been great, and I could probably switch and not be too sad. Most tellingly, unlike the Windows Phone experiment, there will be things about Android that I will miss on my iPhone. 

Pros

1. Widgets. Widgets are great. I love having the weather and sports information just always on on the desktop. It's handy. This is one of the things I will miss.

2. Google Now. While they have it available in app form on iPhone (which I may start using) it is more integrated into Android. Also, going back to #1, I can have it in widget form on my desktop. (Is it weird that I call the home screen of my smartphone "desktop").

Google Now is pretty great though, as long as you can get past the creepy privacy implications. I'm mostly over it, and the service is pretty handy.

3. Apps - I mentioned that the only time I picked up my iPhone this week was to check out some new apps. That being said, all of the apps I use on a regular basis are available on Android except one. This is close enough for me to list it as a pro. 

4. Google integration - I use gmail, google calendar, and chrome so the integration with them is nice. I was amazed that Google chrome auto-completed a website I had recently visited on my Desktop that I had never been to on the phone. I suspect this is something Safari could do for me as well, but I don't like Safari on Desktop as much. Perhaps I should switch to using Chrome on iPhone, but the lack of ability for it to be the default action is problematic.

Cons

1. Battery - So frustrating. Perhaps it's the awesome new widgets that I love, but the battery life is not comparable to my iPhone at all. Normal days for me I don't go below 50% on my iPhone. Heavy use days I usually don't go under 20%, and I honestly can't ever remember it dying completely. With this phone, I finished almost everyday under 10%, and it died 2 of the days. This is a problem. Perhaps another Android phone would be better, but I suspect at least part of it is software related.

2. Bluetooth - The bluetooth on this is absolute crap. In general, bluetooth isn't great. I know that. But this was beyond "not great" into completely unusable territory. The internets tell me the HTC One has issues in this area. I don't think this is an Android thing, just an HTC One thing. 

3. Crashing - I'm certain this has happened on someone's iPhone, I don't need you to tell me about it. That being said, I had the phone completely crash and restart (not just drop call) while on a business call this week. I've had my iPhone drop calls, but never had the phone just crash. That was a bizarre experience, and really frustrating. 

4. Email - This one I couldn't believe. I like the default iPhone app for gmail far more than the gmail app in Android. WTF. I didn't expect this, but there are several things about it I find really annoying. The biggest is the swipe to archive. On iPhone, I swipe, it gives archive button, I click, it goes away. On Android, I swipe and it archives. It then leaves the blank area with an undo option. If it just went away completely I'd be fine with that, in fact would probably be better. Leaving the blank area just sucks though, especially when try to go through multiple emails quickly. Sometimes it stays, sometimes it goes. I don't know how many times I accidentally clicked on an email I didn't mean to click on. 

5. Keyboard - This is a minor nitpick, and could probably be solved with a third party, but I didn't like the keyboard. Perhaps this is just getting used to something different, but I had more typos consistently all week than I normally do. 

6. UI/Screen issues/screen responsiveness - This one is still frustrating for me. When I click something on my iPhone it almost always does what I expect it to, and it does it instantly. I had repeated issues of clicking things in apps (mostly chrome) where it wouldn't register, it would be delayed, etc. This has recently been benchmarked. I find it amazing that the iPhone 4 that is 3 generations old is more responsive than the newest Android phones. I don't know why this is the case, but I do know that it is a quality of life thing. It makes the phone more pleasant to use. 

7. Find my friends - perhaps it is silly, but I use find my friends on a regular basis, and most of my friends and family have iPhones. Sometimes you can't get ahold of someone for whatever reason (loud environment etc.), it's nice to see if my wife is on her way home or still out wherever she went.  This is another mostly minor thing that I could probably live without, but it is the 1 app I use regularly that doesn't have an Android equivalent (perhaps there is for Android, but not to find my iPhone using friends).

8. I assume this is not Android problem, but rather HTC One problem, but the dialer sucks. I can't seem to default to favorites instead of the dialer, and clicking on the person doesn't dial but instead goes to a contact page even after I set the default action to be call mobile. It appears this is a bug from my online reading. Hopefully it gets fixed at some point. For now it is frustrating. 

iPhone call - Click phone button, click person.
HTC One call - Click phone button, swipe to favorites, click person, click number. 

Why is the dialer hard? The dialer on Windows phone sucked in similar ways, and I don't know why. This seems easy. 

Conclusion

Unlike the Windows Phone, I could actually switch to this phone. I really could. That being said, I'm going back to my iPhone. The main reason? It's better at being a phone. The fit and finish is better. It's more responsive. The battery lasts longer. I didn't list the camera as being a pro or con, as it's fine, but the iPhone is better. 

I listed more cons than pros, but that's just because I'm comparing it to what I already know and like. I could list plenty of cons about the iPhone too, but that isn't what this post is about. The fact that there are things I will miss about the Android phone is pretty big IMO. The fact that I could actually switch is pretty big. When I started a week ago I didn't think that was even a remote possibility. If I could buy and Apple made Android phone, I might actually take that over iOS. Or perhaps I can just convince Apple to add widgets and intents into iOS. That would probably be enough.

If someone asked me what I would recommend, before my answer would simply be iPhone. Now, I'd have to at least get more information from them. My answer would still be iPhone most of the time, but there are definitely people I'd suggest Android to.

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If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my book on how I make money on the mobile app stores called Building an App Business.