Article  |  Development

Observations of an Android to iPhone convert

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I bought a Motorola Droid in the summer of 2010. I wanted a smartphone so I could check my email on the go, replace my aging GPS, and browse the internet occasionally. I bought a Droid because Amazon had a great deal (it was basically free), and I wanted to be able to do whatever I wanted with it. I rooted it within a week of getting it since that was the easiest way to get the updated version of the Android OS at the time.

I was really happy with the extremely easy and tight integration with all of the Google services I used (email and calendar mostly). But my wife really wanted a smartphone as well, specifically an iPhone. I was against the idea because I knew she’d have questions about how to use it, and without one of my own I’d be in the position of supporting two kinds of devices. When I started working for Planet Argon where everyone has an iPhone, I encountered my first small disadvantage: there’s no Campfire app on Android, at least not that I could find, and we use Campfire for much of our work (and non-work) related communication during the day.

Since my contract wouldn’t be up for a while, I bought my wife the iPhone 4 that she wanted and figured that I’d change as well when my contract expired. The first thing I noticed while showing her how to use her phone was the difference in internet browsing. The stock browser on my Droid didn’t seem that bad until I used the stock browser on her iPhone. It made it hard to go back, and I pretty much quit using my Droid to browse anything unless I really needed it. Email still worked great and that was an important function for me.

I figured it wasn’t a fair comparison due to my phone being older and having a slower processor. I thought this until someone at work asked about the accuracy of a video comparison on YouTube of someone browsing the internet with a new iPhone compared to a new Android device. I noticed it didn’t appear to be any better than my original Droid, and I started to envy the iPhone 4.

When I started to have serious problems with my Droid’s touchscreen while on a vacation, I decided to just get a new phone when I got home. I’ve had the iPhone 4S for about a month or so now and I’ve been really happy. It was slightly more difficult to get my various gmail accounts synced, but nothing I couldn’t handle within a few minutes. Finding the apps I wanted to install and figuring out how they worked was also pretty easy.

First, the things that I like about the iPhone compared to Android:

  • I’ve already talked about the internet browsing. It is much better even though I’m on the same service, so it bears repeating. Maybe a different app would have improved it on my Droid, but I think it is important that the default apps are great apps since that’s the first impression people get of your device.
  • Selection of apps. There are a ton of apps for Android, but the iPhone has even more.
  • Quality of apps. The average app on iPhone seems to be a little bit better on the iPhone, but speaking of functionality, I’d say the two are pretty close. I’d give a slight edge to the iPhone, and a noticeable edge in visual design considering the average apps I’ve used though it is a tiny fraction of the total apps on both services.
  • On-screen keyboard. On my Droid I got into a beta for the swype keyboard and really liked it. But on my iPhone I don’t feel like I need it. The default keyboard is easier to use overall, and I don’t mistype as much. It isn’t perfect, but it is noticeably better in my opinion.

But there are a few things I miss from my days of using an Android device:

  • The menu button. I liked having a defined place to access functions like delete, edit, etc. I’ve heard people say that wasn’t handled properly by many apps on Android, but I never ran into those. It always seemed to do what I’d expect, and if there were actions I wasn’t sure how to perform, they were almost always under the menu button.
  • Press and hold. In most places where you’d expect to double-click on something in a traditional desktop app, on Android you’d probably touch that spot for a couple of seconds to get access to functions specific to an item. I’m starting to get used to right-swiping items to delete them on the iPhone, but I personally don’t like it as much and it doesn’t work everywhere I’d expect.
  • Spelling correction. When I’m typing, being able to see a few spelling corrections is really nice. Sometimes I want the past tense of a word, the plural form, etc.
  • iTunes. I really, really don’t like iTunes. The interface doesn’t work the way I’d expect, and either I can’t do things I want to do from the mobile interface or I just haven’t figured it out. Specifically, subscribing to a podcast. Seeing a list of everything I’ve downloaded by type. Where is the list of podcasts I’ve downloaded? Not where I’d expect, and it just seems to bounce me around to different areas and none of them show me what I’d expect, unless I search for the exact name of the podcast. So I used something like stitcher instead, but my comment about default apps applies here.
So far those are the only complaints I have, and in some cases they may have more to do with built-up reflexes than any important user experience issues (except for iTunes).

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