Farewell, Android

(image courtesy ThinkG33k)

As regular readers of Gear Diary may know, I used an original Droid for almost two years. In fact, up until a few months ago, I was totally convinced my next phone would be an Android device. But Android and I had a falling out, and I picked up an iPhone 4s on Friday. Why? And is the learning curve tough? Read on for my thoughts!

First, there’s the “why”. A few things dragged me away from my little robot friends. One, Android is becoming increasingly fractured. It seems as though the only way to guarantee timely updates and continued support is to pick up a Nexus device. Otherwise it’s a crapshoot if your carrier, manufacturer, proprietary Android skin (Motoblur, Sense, Touchwiz), and Google can all line up with a full moon and high tide to bless an official Android update for your device. My original Droid was literally being held together with scotch tape, and I couldn’t sit around and wait for a Nexus Prime!

The second major reason is more practical. I firmly believe that if I’m buying a phone on a 2-year contract, I want to buy a phone with the horsepower to be “future proofed”. By that, I mean I want a phone that is reasonably likely to still be current in 18 months and hopefully running a recent version of my chosen OS. Despite my griping above about the slow rate of Android updates, it’s likely that the Droid Bionic, for example, will still see updates for a while. On the other hand, with something like the HTC Incredible 2, I have to wonder how much love a mid-range Android device will really receive. So in order to reasonably future-proof on an Android phone, I’d need to go high-end…which means getting a huge phone. I take my phone everywhere, running, to work, walking the dog, hiking, etc. The Bionic is a nice phone, but the OG Droid barely fits in my suit pockets at work; it bounced around like crazy if I ran with it in a SPIbelt, and it definitely tends to slide out of my jeans sometimes. I really don’t want to go huge with my phone, and Verizon’s lineup wasn’t leaving me much choice.

Finally, my OG Droid just really aged poorly. Starting this summer, it became more and more unstable, to the point where I nearly threw it out the window more than once while Sarah and I were on our epic road trip week. The homescreen had awful redraws; basically, I’d hit the home button, and be greeted with a lovely view of my phone’s wallpaper, and that’s it. If I hit the app drawer, it was empty. At times it would take upwards of 2-3 minutes for my apps to reappear and the widgets to return. Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe it! Cutting down on apps, clearing caches, formatting SD cards, nothing seemed to permanently fix the issue.   At the same time, we switched cable companies and received a free iPod Touch as part of the new package. I had forgotten that iOS just works, with so much less effort than my aging Droid, and so I drifted back to the Apple fold (back in the day I stood in line for the original iPhone!).

iOS has changed a great deal, and after years of not using it I had a slight learning curve. Eventually I’ll stop groping by the home button for  a back key! I also keep forgetting that iOS is very “What you see is what you get”, and a few times have tried long pressing and poking around for non-existent contextual menus. On the upside, I love, love, love the notification center. It’s everything I liked about the Android notification shade, but better! I don’t miss the icons stacking up in the top bar, since they combined into a number and arrow once email, twitter, Gtalk, etc all hit. What I really like is that iOS gives me a preview of 5 emails, instead of just a line telling me I have X number of unread emails. I also really like that I can clear individual alerts instead of all the alerts at once. Push notifications and those silly boxes popping up everywhere drove me nuts on the original iPhone, so everything stacking up neatly is a huge win for me. I also love the widgets, especially the weather feed. I admit, I’m lazy sometimes, and when I wake up to run I like being able to check my nightly notifications AND determine whether it’s a shorts or pants day. Necessary? Nope. Convenient? Yep. And yes, I know Android had similar options, but given my homescreen issues I had a hard time keeping usable widgets for very long.

I’m still scratching the surface of the app world, but it seems like some apps are far more developed in iOS over Android. A perfect example is CNBC Real-Time. On Android it’s barely more developed than a website, but on iOS it has notifications for breaking news as well as access to blogs, articles, and videos. And it’s been discussed ad nauseam here and elsewhere, but Siri and voice to text on the iPhone blow Android’s offerings way out of the water. There’s just no comparison. Finally, it’s a stupid, little usability feature, but I forgot how much easier the iOS phone app is. In Android, going from viewing a contact to dialing can be a multi-tap process. Yes, I could have set favorites on the homescreen, but that wouldn’t have helped since half the time my homescreen was unusable. Even going into the call log and clicking a number brought me to more stats on that call; I needed a SECOND tap to actually dial the number. In iOS it’s one tap, and I love it. (Bear in mind this was all on stock Android, and I don’t know if BlurSenseWiz does it differently.)

There are a few things I miss from Android. I really miss a notification LED. My Droid trained me to look for the flashing green light, and I feel a little lost without it. And as I said above, I keep hitting the non-existent back button. The hardest part, by far, has been giving up the tight Google integration. Yes, it’s easy to set up Google Sync, but I had to do some searching to find out how to bring over my shared calendars. Luckily I found some excellent step-by-steps here. I also had a hard time giving up Google Talk. Sarah and I use GTalk far more often than we use texting, and I needed a rock-solid GTalk client. After giving Trillian a try, I settled for now on Beejive GT. It only does GTalk, and (so far) it’s been excellent. Look for a full review shortly!

Overall, I’m very, very pleased with my switch. Siri, voice recognition and iOS 5 have all made it a very smooth transition, the form factor is the perfect size, and I have no regrets. Android is a great platform, but it just hasn’t grown with me. When I first bought my Droid it was new, exciting, and top of the line, but over time Android and I just weren’t clicking. It was time to move onwards and upwards!

Did you switch from Android to iOS? Or do you have a foot in both worlds? Share your experiences below!

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17 replies

  1. IM+ also works well with GTalk texting.

  2. Good for you! I hope that you’re pleased with it.

    I was pretty much in the same boat: I bought an Eris early on, it was definitely laggy (though still very usable after I rooted it), I was *sure* that I would upgrade to an iPhone – but I decided to stick with Android. I have an iPod Touch 4G, now updated with iOS5, so I am pretty familiar with the all but the phone and messaging apps (though I now have iMessage). As somebody who chose an Eris over an OG Droid, perhaps it should be understood that I prefer smaller over bigger,  too. Anyway, here is why I did choose to stay with Android:

    – Gmail. iOS5 mail with Gmail just doesn’t work all that well. With a minimum of fuss, on Android I get push mail for my gmail account, I can easily archive and delete messages, mark messages as SPAM, unmark messages as SPAM, assign messages to labels very easily. In iOS5, I either set up GMail to poll and get to choose between archiving and deleting messages when I hit delete, or get push by setting up Exchange sync – but then every message that I delete gets archived, not moved to trash. (That took me a while to figure out, leading to a lost afternoon of “All mail” cleanup.) Labeling messages, marking as SPAM – not all that easy on iOS4 or iOS5.

    – Two fantastic apps on Android: SMS Backup+ and CallTrack. The first copies every sms and mms message that I receive or send to archived conversations on my gmail account, making them easy to search later on, plus allows them to be easily restored from gmail later on. CallTrack puts a calendar entry for all of my phone calls automatically. I couldn’t find anything like either app on iOS5.

    – Twitter. I have found zero iOS5 apps that notify my on a set schedule (I use every 15 minutes) of new tweets on my twitter stream. Sure, they let me know about mentions and direct messages, but nothing like what Tweetdeck can do with my stream, twitter lists, and saved twitter searches.

    – Notifications. I still like Android’s way more.  I just want to know how many messages I have, not one for every message I get. If it’s going to show me 5 mail messages, I don’t want it to show me the most recent 5 unread – I want it to show the oldest unread 5 messages. There is no setting for that in iOS5. I originally was also having problems with the banners when new messages come in – they cover up controls for apps that are at the top of the screen, which is a strangely awkward UI for an Apple product. I had to wait for the banners to disappear to touch those controls. I finally just turned off the banners, though, so that’s not so bad.

    – Unlike you, I’ve found some nice, light weather widgets for Android that don’t make the launcher redraw. With a phone with 512 MB RAM, on a dual core CPU, though, that’s probably less of an issue – if my launcher is redrawing, I hardly notice it.

    – This is less of a reason, but I like the idea that I can replace the battery if I need to.

    – I dislike the glass back of the iPhone 4. I know several people who have shattered theirs.

    I originally chose a Bionic, but it was too big for my taste, and I had all sorts of strange data drops in areas I knew had strong 3G signals.

    So, I exchanged it for a Droid 3, of all things. Unlike the Eris, it has a great radio, so no more stuttering calls or dropped calls or worry about holding it wrong. It’s a dual-core CPU at 1 GHz with 512 MB of RAM, a 960 x 540 display on a bright, very readable in the outdoors 4″ display – so at least a reasonable size, though, of course, still a little bigger than your OG Droid and quite a bit bigger than my old Eris. Like the 4S, it’s a world phone, so I can travel and still use the same handset, instead of renting one or using my old unlocked GSM Moto Razr. It has a keyboard (though I actually wasn’t looking for that…)

    Anyway, that’s why I stayed Android, I could have lived with an iPhone had I switched, but I think Android just works better for me, especially using Gmail and Google Calendar. Though I have to say that if Android continues to come out with bigger high-end phones, pretty soon every good phone will be a Maxwell Smart shoe phones, and this could be my last Android phone. Please, Android OEMs – give us smaller phone lovers some up-to-date spec love. And, thanks. Moto, for doing that with the D3.

  3. Carly, iOS5 allows you to use the led flash for notifications. Your phone has to be in silent mode (and flipped one to see it), but I’ve been using it the past week and I like it.

  4. your decision sucks.

    • Now there is a comment that represents someone who is open-minded, has depth and really adds to the conversation. Lol
      Written with Siri

    • Wow. You have convinced me! The months of careful pros and cons and flipping back and forth, and you summed it up so well in just two words.

      Off to pick up a bionic instead….

      Oh wait. I just asked Siri and she said I have the best phone. Then she scheduled several appointments for me, sent a few texts and looked up traffic nearby. And in a week of using my phone I have not once been left staring at a blank home screen that takes so long to refresh you could paint and dry my entire house. Twice. Never mind, I am good with my “sucky” decision.

  5. Good post, Carly. Spot-on assessment. I can’t give up on Android, but yet I like iOS. I personally think the notifications aren’t as good, but that’s me. (At least give me _some_ indicator that I have notifications, or I miss them!)

    BeeJiveIM is what I use on iOS for GTalk support, and the version you have is free. VerbsIM is another up-and-comer.

    One thing that irritates me on iOS is how terrible the Google Voice app is. It’s not as usable as on Android (slow to update/refresh from network connection, etc.). They just released an updated version which fixed some of this, but it still isn’t great.

    I also miss the excellent Gmail app. I personally use my Google accounts on iOS via Exchange protocol, which also can handle shared calendars. However, when I need to do heavy-duty email handling and my Android isn’t available, I use the mobile web version of Gmail, which is very well-done (HTML5) – it looks like the Android app!

  6. Also, the instructions that explained how you can use shared calendars is a bit convoluted. There are great instructions (though not easy to navigate to) by Google:


    There is a link to the right on iPhone setup instructions:


    At the bottom of that page, there is a link that explains how to handle which calendars sync to what devices:


  7. I have my iPhone and my android. Yes, I like to have one of each. I like the larger screen of the android but love my iPhone and all the apps that go with it!

  8. I’ve been thinking about Carly’s article for a while.  I’m itching to try an iPhone, but I’m hesitant given the smaller screen size (though it does have good hi-res/PPI), lack of onscreen widgets, not 4G capable.  I’m still waiting to succumb to peer pressure but I’m still enamored of Android.  However, in my work capacity we are designing apps to work with mobile platforms, including iOS, so the scientist part of my brain is saying “Why not try it out…you’ve tested Windows (phone) 6.x, 7, Blackberry, various Android flavors which I DO like, fiddled with an iPod Touch for a while (and liked it)…that only leaves the iPhone that you could use to test apps.”

    Hmmmm….decisions, decisions.  When was the iPhone 5 supposed to arrive?

    • (said with my best darth voice…)

      Come to the darkside breley…Come to the darkside breley…

      Written with Siri

    • “When was the iPhone 5 supposed to arrive?”

      Within 30 days of you buying the iPhone 4S !  😀

    • Breley-

      If it helps, I don’t miss Android at all. The smaller screen doesn’t bug me one bit (probably due to the higher resolution) and the drop in Google integration is more than offset by the quality of the apps, the stability of the phone, and the fact that everything really does just seem to flow together better.
      You could always do what I did and fiddle with an iPod touch for a month or two. That sealed it for me. Though we were lucky and I got one for free from the cable company when we switched providers.


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