Apocalypse Now! Android User Switches to the iPhone

4 minute read

In June Apple announced OS X Yosemite and iOS 8. With them came Continuity and Swift. In September they announced the iPhone 6, Apple Pay and the Apple Watch.

Then Google announced the Nexus 6, a giant phone priced like a premium one. Clearly, Google was trying to steer the Nexus line away from “decent phones at modest prices”. Recent rumors that the Nexus program might disappear altogether, and the recent cancellation of “Play Store Edition” devices from third party manufacturers 1, convinced me to look elsewhere for alternatives. I didn’t want to spend 600€ for a plastic-y Samsung phone, nor buy a Moto X (too large) or Moto G (good, but not exciting) either.

Suddenly, I had more than one reason for desiring an iPhone. Swift looked like an interesting programming language. Continuity freeing me from having to think where my stuff is. The prospect of being able to securely complete a credit card transaction with a tap, with Apple Pay, was the proverbial icing on the cake.

I decided to bite the bullet and buy an iPhone 6, sacrificing my own freedom in the process.

I had to order the damn thing from the website because there was no way I could get the model I wanted by going to the Apple Store.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely.

Nowadays, if you are looking for a phone with decent build quality, good camera, nice assortment of apps and great ecosystem you will be spending money. Sure, the iPhone is a tad more expensive than the competition, but a Samsung Galaxy, an HTC One or a Moto X isn’t cheap either.

Here’s a laundry list of the thinks I like:

  • Full disk encryption, by default!
  • The camera is great! Miles ahead of any Android phone I’ve ever had.
  • TouchID is amazing and it works without a hitch. Unlike Samsung’s crappy implementation.
  • The Mail app automatically proposes you to create a new contact based on information included in the signature and the email’s “From” field.
  • I can squeeze two days of battery life with moderate use. The surprising thing is that the iPhone 6 manages to do so with a battery smaller than most Android phones and with the motion coprocessor constantly recording my steps, all whilst keeping both Bluetooth and WiFi on.
  • Reachability is useful. I wish that all Android phones larger than 4.5 inches would come with something similar. I use it all the time.
  • I rarely, if ever, have to lock the orientation of the phone. I don’t know what kind of dark magic is involved, but the phone never goes to landscape mode unless I want it to do so. All my other Android devices, however, have a tendency to change orientation without reason.
  • When it works, Continuity blows my mind. I seamlessly transfer phone calls from my Mac to the iPhone and I can read and reply to SMSes directly from the Mac. Without having to install or configure anything.
  • Spotlight is good. I miss a couple of features from its OS X counterpart but it fast and gets the job done.

Then there’s the promise of Apple Pay to deliver a safe experience when dealing with credit card transactions. Once it comes to Italy, I’ll give a strong preference to all venues that allow me to use it. The nicest thing is that the technology isn’t even specific to Apple. I will be able to use Apple Pay anywhere EMV contactless payments are accepted 2.

Thanks to the iPhone, I was naturally drawn to develop applications for it. Swift isn’t a mature programming language by any stretch, but there are already tons and tons of resources readily available. Sure, Xcode crashes a lot but this is to be expected for a brand-new toolchain 3.

I’m also worried by the fact that this phone is a black box. I cannot unlock it, I cannot downgrade iOS 4, I cannot install my own apps on it without acquiring a “Developer Certificate” that costs 80€ per year. It’s a tightly controlled platform but the benefits I’m having by using it counterweight this lack of freedom, for now. As soon as Apple starts pissing me off, though, I think I will switch back to CyanogenMod 5 or Firefox OS.

I’m also bothered by the amount of bugs I found in the latest crop of iOS and OS X updates. Blatant UI problems and rendering glitches that I managed to systematically reproduce in the first five minutes I spent with both operating systems. But this is an argument for another post.

In the end, would I recommend the iPhone to someone else? If you already have a Mac (or an iPad) and are going to spend 6-700€ on a phone anyway, then buy it. I believe there’s no competition in the “high-end phone” space. If you don’t want to spend too much though, then go for a Nexus 5, a Moto G or the latest crop of Huawei phones: they are a big bang for the buck and good enough in most cases.

Footnotes

  1. http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/01/dont-cry-for-the-google-play-edition-program-it-was-already-dead/ 

  2. “Apple Pay does not require Apple-specific contactless payment terminals and will work with Visa’s PayWave, MasterCard’s PayPass, and American Express’s ExpressPay terminals.” Wikipedia 

  3. Even though, given the current state of Apple’s software quality, I worry that it will never improve. I prefer to draw conclusions on this matter next year. 

  4. The “Secure Element” in the phone prevents it. The rationale is to disallow users from installing a vulnerable version of iOS once a security hole has been patched. 

  5. Android proper, the one made by Google (not AOSP), is slowly becoming as closed and proprietary as iOS. I see no big advantage going back to that.