I had this post drafted a couple weeks ago, when the Galaxy Nexus had just been announced and I was on the fence about upgrading or getting an iPhone 4S and switching back to iOS. Since then, I chose the latter. I’m happy with the decision.
Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been sporting a Nexus One (thanks again, Fred). Coming from an iPhone, at first I hated it. While many of the core features were on parity, the third party apps plain sucked in comparison to the iPhone, and there was simply no joy derived from using the Android phone. It was very clunky and utilitarian. In fact, I often described the experience to people as “an evolved blackberry”. Not exactly a bad thing, but also not quite an iPhone.
However, as I got used to the device, I began to appreciate that utility. Google apps (gmail, contacts, calendar, docs, and the browser) were naturally super-solid, and since that’s where I spend a lot of time, that was great. After upgrading to Gingerbread, a lot of the clunky interactions were smoothed out (the biggest for me being the keyboard), and I was actually glad to not be spending many hours a day playing Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Fruit Ninja.
I liked the “idea” of a more open platform. Of multiple app marketplaces, and competition in the hardware space. But I didn’t like the fragmentation. Of how messy it was to develop for so many different screen sizes and device features. That my coworker with the latest & greatest new Android phone from Samsung was stuck on an older OS than I was. When I looked at the adoption curves of iOS 4 and iOS 5 versus the various distributions of Android in the wild, it made me want to cry.
And I missed that all of my apps felt like cheap knockoffs of their iOS counterparts or just plain didn’t exist (like Instagram). The 3rd party Sonos controller sucked, and the official app wasn’t released for quite some time after the iOS version. Same goes for exfm. The tumblr android app wasn’t great until very recently. The only 3rd party app that was superior on the Android was the Amazon MP3 app with Cloud Player, which was pretty awesome.
Really, what I wanted to see was what the next generation was going to bring. iOS 5 looked like a nice iteration, bringing in some of my favorite Android features, like the notification pulldown. Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) was shrouded with mystery, and even after being announced, it was hard to judge what it’s impact would be without seeing it in the wild. Plus a lot of the features of the OS, as well as the new phones, seemed like nothing but attempts at oneupmanship. Bigger Screen! More Memory! More Megapixels! Fingerprint scanner!
Honestly, if Apple had introduced slightly different hardware instead of the 4S, I would have ordered an iPhone immediately. The specs were all solid, but the iPhone body never appealed to me. I’m a bit of a butter-finger, who drops phones regularly, and all that glass scared me. But the Nexus Galaxy just seemed like “too much phone” for me, so I got over my fears, bought a 4S with AppleCare+ and a thick plastic case, and researched metal replacement backs should I shatter mine too often.
I’ve spent the past few weeks getting the muscle memory back for the slightly different interactions. I miss the hardware back button a lot - It’s too easy to get lost in iOS apps. And the iPhone mail application really does suck compared to gmail on Android. But, overall, the level of refinement, and the happy factor, is still leagues above my Android experience, and iOS 5 does a good job at filling in the deficiencies of the previous versions compared to Android.
A few posts that I weighed while making this decision:
- Four months with Android: reflections, grievances and some tenuous metaphors bundled up into a weighty tome
- GDGT: Why I don’t use an iPhone
- iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S II Drop Test (this one almost convinced me not to go Apple)