Every time a new smartphone comes out, I’m lucky enough to get to try it out. Since moving from Blackberry to iPhone some years ago the iPhone was my main device, and while each and every year several devices tempt me away, I always found myself quickly going back to the iPhone. This year was different.
Over 3 months ago now the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8) were launched. Having looked closely at the Android ecosystem in the months prior, I was pretty confident I could live with Android without losing out on any of my favourite apps.
This year, for perhaps the first time – everything on my iPhone that I used day-to-day, was available on Android.
I even moved my music library into the Google Play Music app so I could be platform agnostic (it works on iPhone also).
With two flagship phones at my disposal, I got rid of the iPhone. I didn’t keep it in a drawer to tempt me, I got rid of it.
Over the last three months I’ve happily travelled around the world and gone about my normal business using devices like the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One (M8), Sony Xperia Z2 and Z1 compact, and the Moto X from Motorola.
I learned that I prefer the smaller phones – the Z1 compact and Moto X are perfect. Bigger phones have great screens but are clunky to use at times – but that’s a very personal thing.
This week though, I’m going back. Back to iPhone.
What I’ll miss about Android
Customisation – I’ve been using the Yahoo Aviate “launcher” which is basically a whole new “look”, and while the look is good it’s the smarts around it and the way it helps me categorise apps, while still providing a quick list of apps alphabetically and a few other tricky features which make this a great looking interface.
Widgets – Kinda in the same bucket as Customisation, Widgets allow me to access information from apps without going into apps. My Favourite is Racing Elements, a photo based weather app which shows on my home screen, then there is Twitter or Facebook which allow you to scroll through your feed or post without even opening the app.
Facebook Chat Heads – Ok I know, it’s lame, but it’s very very cool. When someone sends me a message on Facebook, a little circle appears – on top of anything (in any app) I’m doing, and it’s the face/profile of the person sending the message.
I click it to view the conversation, and drag it around if it’s in the way, or drag it away to close it. It’s great and true multi-tasking which iPhone users would absolutely love.
Favourite Contacts – I don’t call that many people, but the few I do, well – accessing them fast is great. From widgets on your home screen to frequent contacts in the dialer, it makes life super easy. (* Frequent contacts is coming to iOS in September with iOS8 – and is already within the dialler of iOS)
Smart Watch connectivity – I was really loving the Samsung Gear 2 – just a great device, but sadly, works only with Samsung phones. We’ve got to move to an open system here – sadly, I think we’ll have two ecosystems here also, but Android vs iOS is better than just Samsung to Samsung
NB: I will update this list over the weeks ahead as I discover more things that I miss – perhaps it will drag me back?
Where Google needs to improve Android
Pop Up’s – Ok, you want to add a photo to a tweet, or share it – which app would you like to use? Gallery? Photos? WHAT? GO AWAY – just show me the photos! I get asked time and time again when I click a link – which browser should I use, when I click a video – do I want to use YouTube or a Browser? Seriously, this is Windows-like annoying and Google has to stop it. It’s terrible.
Responsiveness – There are times when even the best device just seems to get sluggish. From the unlock screen to streaming Bluetooth music while using Google Maps for navigation – it’s just not perfect at all times and has frustrated me
Gallery – Google, don’t let the device makers add their own software. Please. They are ruining your operating system. The Gallery from one phone to another is different, they have multiple gallery apps, some sort by date some by album, all are hard to navigate. KIIS – Keep it simple stupid.
Play Store – It’s good, but not great. Curate, Curate, Curate. Get rid of the crap – it’s boosting your numbers, but ruins the experience.
App Design – I don’t know why – but I suspect it’s the million combinations of screen resolutions that developers need to cater for that means they can’t make apps look as good as they do on iOS – either that, or they are just lazy – but at times you find apps which are simply beautiful on iOS and are just “ok” on Android. It’s frustrating.
There is no doubt that Android has a higher total device penetration than iOS, that’s what happens when you have hundreds of phones compared to two or three running the operating system. There is also no doubt that the switch from iPhone to Android is now easier and better than ever before.
What Android needs is consistency – one user needs to be able to help another, and when a HTC user can’t quickly help a Samsung user it’s not a consistent experience.
More than anything though, the ecosystem of Apple is pulling me back – and with my wife and kids using iOS it’s hard to be the odd one out.
I can’t wait to review more Android phones, the experience has gone from being a “quick week” to several months without any concern – this is a very good thing for the Android platform.
Post Updates: Added “(in any app) to Facebook Chat Heads, Changed phone favourites screenshot to show widget contacts not dialler favourites.