Android, Android, Android.  That has been my smartphone life for a long time – since the very first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1, which I imported, was released to the world.

Since then, we’ve seen a lot of back and forth between fans of both iPhones and Android phones about which is better.  I’ve dabbled here and there with iOS on various devices, without really committing any real time to the endeavour.  

Well, here we are in 2022 and smartphones have well and truly matured and to be honest there really isn’t much difference between various smartphones so now seemed as good a time as ever to have a real crack at iOS and the iPhone.  I gave it four weeks and at the end of this month I certainly had a list of things I loved and things I didn’t.

After getting my hands on an iPhone 14 Pro Max and setting it up I was good to go.  Speaking of setting it up, that was fairly seamless although you are unable to transfer WhatsApp history from Android to an iPhone without a PC – I blame WhatsApp for that one, not giving you the option of where you want to back up your history to.

What I loved

Let’s face it, Apple does so many things so very well.  The integration of not just their own apps but also the vast number of high quality apps on their App Store.  These days though pretty much all the same apps are available on both iOS and Android but there is something about how smooth they run on iOS and the way all their settings are located in the same spot.

MagSafe was introduced by Apple a year or so ago and it rocks.  Although it doesn’t do that much and is basically just a magnet it is just perfect.  The iPhone, when it is attached to a MagSafe compatible wireless charger, will charge at a faster speed but why do that?  Why not just have all wireless chargers charge at the fastest speeds?  Google does the same thing with their approved accessories, but you can make what you will of these decisions.

MagSafe is great though because it does allow the phone to be placed on a charger or accessory and it aligns automatically to charge wirelessly perfectly.  I’m sure Apple has patented the hell out of MagSafe but I hope that some Android manufacturers figure out a way to do something similar – I was so impressed with MagSafe that I have another article coming up on using MagSafe on any device. 

This year Apple introduced the dynamic island (the notch that now expands and shrinks as required) to iOS 16 and although there is still a huge oval notch area it is now useful – it technically tricks people into thinking it isn’t there because notifications show up on either side of it (which is basically just an extension of the black notch using the display).  

I did like the way Apple has incorporated the black strip/notch into iOS though – after all they need the notch for all of the cameras and sensors for their face unlock security.  Although they look great and I like the way these little notifications show up, they really aren’t much different to notifications showing on the status bar on Android – and Android can show a lot more simultaneously than iOS 16.

The camera on the iPhone 14 Max Pro is good, in fact it’s really good.  With a combination of excellent hardware and some of their own computational photography software chops has produced a camera worthy of the best smartphone cameras on the market.  Let’s face it, the iPhone has always created great pictures so why should now be any different.  

They were overtaken by quite a few Android smartphones a while back and although they aren’t at the top of the list, they have once again become a force in the smartphone photography world and there are very few that can match them now.

The advanced stabilisation on video is just magical.  Using Action Mode I was able to run alongside the doggo without having to worry about the camera being steady and the combination of the gimbal hardware and the software produced some amazingly steady results.

Every day at work, all day at work, I have Wi-Fi hotspot and Bluetooth enabled and connected to the car when driving around – most of the day.  So, to say that I am a power user is a massive understatement.  The Pixel 7 Pro struggles to last half a day on this type of usage.  Even charging it using my PD car charger is a struggle to get through the day.  The iPhone 14 Max Pro though delivered quite the opposite experience.

I was able to use the iPhone the entire day, and although the hotspot turned itself off a few times during the day, even using the Bluetooth all day in the car (although I didn’t have a smart watch connected to it as I didn’t have a compatible one) the iPhone lasted from 8am until 4pm when I got home.  And I didn’t plug it in or charge it a single time.  Not even once.

Now it could be the lower resolution display, or the lower frequency refresh rate of the display or Apple’s own optimisations making the battery last and last  – whatever it is, the end result is just great.

Apple are up to the 15th generation of their Bionic system-on-chip and the optimisations they have managed to introduce are amazing.  One day other manufacturers who make their chipset will get to this level, but with Apple being this far ahead now, how much further will they be by the time the others reach this level?  Samsung is nowhere near this, with the worst battery life in an ultra-premium smartphone in my experience, and they’ve been making their own silicon for a long time.  Apple’s control over the entire silicon and software process has produced amazing results.

Apple’s Face Unlock is secure and fast, as you’d expect given how mature it now is.  I was impressed with it – when I wasn’t at work.  If you are wearing a decent sized mask you can forget about it – more on that below.

What I didn’t love

One thing I did not like about the apps (and the phone) was the inconsistency of the back button, icon etc.  Now the iPhone 14 Pro Max is a massive phone – and it is wider than any Android phone on the market.  For me to reach the back button/icon on the top left of the display required some crazy finger gymnastics.  

Some apps allowed you to swipe backwards with a swipe from the very left side of the screen but 1. I struggled to reach there – I hold and use the phone with my right hand so the thumb struggles to reach the left side of the phone, and 2. Not all apps allow this swipe backwards which is really bad design – by Apple and by the app designers.  

Android has a back gesture and after using the iPhone I can see why.  Apple needs to introduce a back gesture if they are going to continue with this back UI as it creates a poor user experience at times – especially for their bigger iPhones.

iOS has come a long way from what it was originally, but not far enough for me.  At least there are widgets now although they still lack the functionality we see in Android widgets.  I find it usable now but miss the myriad of options you get in aftermarket launchers on Android but it is not the deal breaker it once was.

Notifications though is another story – it is still a deal breaker.  Once a notification comes in, if you don’t see it you are screwed.  There is no easy way to quickly see what notifications there are without scrolling through the list which is sorted what must be the order in which they arrive.  

Notifications from the same apps are not grouped together so if you get one Gmail notification a long time after another that is two different notifications separate from each other in the large list.

I missed so many semi-important notifications because of the way iOS handles them – maybe this is why my 17yo iPhone-using daughter always forgets to get back to me?  I’m sure I’d get used to it more the more I used iOS but Apple really needs to rework the way their notifications work if they want to improve the user experience.

Apple has no fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 14 Pro Max and I hate that.  Although there is an option within settings to turn face recognition on for mask wearing it didn’t work much more than it worked.  I wear an N95/P2 mask all day long at work and it was incredibly annoying to have to put in my 6-digit code every single time I wanted to unlock the phone — a pattern unlock option would be a nice though.

iOS has very few options within the Wi-Fi hotspot setup – you can just turn it on and that’s it.  There is a setting that you can make the hotspot more compatible with other devices – this was required for my work PC and GPS phone to connect to it.  I assume this is making the hotspot dual band.  The hotspot kept turning itself off when not connected to another device for a few minutes – which is helpful for achieving excellent battery life, however it affected my ability to work efficiently through the day and there is no way to extend that time in settings.

Would I ever switch?

There are some things about the iPhone and iOS that I love but at the same time there are many things on Android that I missed while using the iPhone.  Never say never is my motto and I’m going to follow my motto here as well.

At this stage, Android suits me better than iOS but iOS has improved a lot and added a lot of polish and features since I last used it such that the experience from Android to iOS is not all that different.  

One thing that continues to bug me with iOS is the lack of a back gesture.  Apple made gestures popular with the masses but have since been surpassed by Google and Android manufacturers with their improved implementation.  Sometimes I think Apple res ton their laurels just a bit too much.

MagSafe is a huge win for Apple and the iPhone in my eyes and is something that could sway a lot of people – let’s face it, there are a lot more accessories out there for iPhones than there is for all other manufacturers combined.  In the end though I was able to get a pseudo-MagSafe functionality working with my Android phone (more on this soon).

Highlander was wrong – there can be more than one and it is great to see Android and iOS pushing each other along.  I won’t be making the switch at this stage but I am a lot closer to switching (albeit for a while only) than I have ever been with iOS addressing many of the concerns I had with it.

For now, I’ll be sticking with my Android phone (OPPO Find X5 Pro) but never say never, after all, no phone is perfect.