Switching from Android to iOS - What I love and hate about both platforms

About three weeks ago I received an iPhone 6 from my employer. At first I was a little sceptical and wondered if I should keep the iPhone. I have owned an iPhone in the past, but I've been using Android for nearly three years now. I decided to give it a try, use the phone for a couple of weeks and decide whether or not I should continue to use it.

In this blog post I'll talk about the things I love and hate about both platforms.

History

My first smartphone was an iPhone 3G back in 2008. I upgraded to new phone almost every year: I bought the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4. But then I stopped buying new phones and used the iPhone 4 as my main driver for almost 4 years. After these years it really started to show it's age: it got slower after every update. Instead of going for the newest iPhone I decided to jump to the dark side and buy an Android device instead. They where much cheaper and (on paper) more powerful. I chose to buy the Samsung Galaxy S3, upgraded to the S4 and because I was not so happy with all the bloatware ended up buying the OnePlus One.

Since buying the OnePlus One I was really happy with my smartphone. I got used to the big screen and loved the performance. Android Lollipop was treating me great also. I liked the vibrant colors, the playful animations and the overall design of the OS. So yes, I was sceptical to return to iOS.

Hardware

After using the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4 and the OnePlus One I can say that the build quality of the iPhone is lightyears ahead of that of my previous phones. The S3 and S4 are made of plastic and feel cheap compared to the iPhone. The OnePlus One is better, it feels rugged and even a little premium with the nice metal band around the phone. Still, these phones are no match to the iPhone 6. For example: the buttons on the iPhone 6 are very tactile and don't wobble at all. It feels more premium (even though it can bend, hah) than the previous phones I've owned.

Specification wise it's the other way around. On paper the iPhone 6 is much less powerful than the OnePlus One. The One has a quad-core CPU running at 2.5GHz and 2GB of RAM. The iPhone on the other hand has a dual-core CPU running at 1.4GHz and 1GB RAM. On paper the iPhone would be no match, but in reality it actually feels a bit more responsive than the One!

Home button, TouchID & other buttons

Before buying the OnePlus One I was used to having a physical homebutton on my Samsung devices. After I bought the One I got used to the touch sensitive buttons really fast and actually enjoyed it more. Because they don't require you to actually press down, I found that I could double tap faster on a touch button than on a physical one.

On the iPhone you have a physical home button with TouchID. At first I really didn't want to use the fingerprint reader. I hadn't used a PIN code or unlock pattern on any of my previous phones anyway. But I changed my mind when my employer required me to put a 8 digit long PIN code on the phone. Do you know how long it takes to enter a 8 digit PIN code? TouchID takes the pain out of this. I press the homebutton to wake the phone from sleep and simply hold my finger on the button for half a second. TouchID is pretty fast and usually works at the first try (I hear it's even faster on the 6S). I can also use it to make purchases from the App Store so I don't have to enter my long AppleID password. Another nice time saver! One issue I have with TouchID is that it can only recognise a maximum of five fingers. I know that that's more than enough but I sometimes share my phone with my girlfriend. I have 3 fingerprints in the system (both my thumbs and one index finger) while she has both her thumbs recognised.

TouchID is pretty fast and secures my phone.

One thing I really really miss about my OnePlus One is the double tap to wake feature. It was so convenient that I used it almost every time I had to wake up my phone. Sadly the iPhone doesn't have this feature and so I ended up being frustrated the first few times I tried to double tap the screen to wake it. On the other hand, double tapping the screen would be kind of pointless since my finger needs to be on the homebutton for TouchID anyway. So yeah, I adapted quickly.

I also miss Android's back button. Nearly all Android phones have a physical (or touch-sensitive) back button that can be used throughout the system. It's located conveniently at the bottom left or bottom right of the screen. The iPhone doesn't have a physical back button. Instead, the back button is usually located at the top left of the screen and requires me to stretch my thumb to reach it (yes, I have small hands). It's annoying for me as an Android user. To easy the pain Apple added a swipe gesture. I can swipe from left to right to trigger the back button in most apps. Frustrating for a while but I got used to this pretty fast as well.

Signal quality

This might seem as a very weird point in this post, but I would like to discuss the signal quality of my Android phones compared to the iPhone. I'm raising this point because I was really disappointed by the mobile reception on the train. I spend a little over 2 hours commuting every day and my Samsung devices and the OnePlus would struggle to keep a 3G or 4G connection on the train. They often display a "No service" message and switch very slowly between Edge, 3G and 4G. I hate it! While I'm using Twitter, reading my email or visiting webpages I often get an error message saying I have no internet connection.

You might argue that it's the fault of my carrier, not my phone. But as I got my iPhone I noticed that it was very fast at switching between network modes (3G & 4G). Fetching tweets, reading email and surfing the web is doable again on the train. There are still places where mobile data is really slow or drops out completely, but I have never seen a "No service" message on my iPhone (yet). This lead me to the conclusion that Android manufactures have some tweaking to do on their basebands? Or maybe they deliberately don't do this to prevent the battery from draining quickly.

Software

Hardware isn't everything. Software is even more important these days. I'll be very careful when discussing iOS vs Android to prevent a fanboy war in the comments. Both platforms have stuff I love and hate. So let's go!

In this section I'll talk about the notification system of both platforms, the integration between iOS and Google services, customisation, battery life, Android Wear support for iOS and app availability.

Notifications

The notification system of both platforms is very alike and yet has small differences. On iOS an incoming notification wakes the screen. This is particularly useful when the phone is laying besides me on my desk. It's a feature that I didn't have on Android and come to love in iOS.

Another difference is that Android groups multiple notifications of an app together into just 1 notification. This way you can swipe once to dismiss all notifications of that app. I liked that feature a lot, but it limits the amount of information you can see in your notification. What I do miss about Android's notification system is the fact that it showed icons in the status bar. On iOS you have to swipe down to see unopened notifications in Notification Center.

Android shows unread notifications in the statusbar, reminding you to check your notifications.

On iOS each notification is separate and ordered by the date that they where received. I configured it to group notifications on a per app basis so it comes closer to Android's behaviour.

Both platforms allow you to perform simple actions on your notifications. These rich notifications are almost identical on both platforms. Sadly though, not many third-party developers have integrated this into their apps. These actions could be so powerful if everyone would embrace them.

You can perform actions on certain notifications.

App deep linking

After I switched to Android I noticed that it sometimes asked me how I wanted to open a particular URL. For example: if I tap a search result on Google that leads to Twitter, Android will ask me if I want to open that tweet or profile with the Twitter app. Ofcourse I do! Apps usually provide a way better experience compared to a website.

This feature is called deep linking and it wasn’t available on iOS when I was using it a couple of years ago. I’m not exactly sure when Apple added this feature to iOS, but they did a great job with it! To give a simple example: when I click a Quora link in an email, it opens it opens it up in the Quora app where I get a great experience!

Clicking on a Quora search result in Safari opens up the app to give you a better experience.

Note that iOS changes the topbar to include a link to the app which redirected you. It also allows you to visit the actual mobile website if you’re into that. On Android deeplinking works the same way, although it asks you if you want to allow this behaviour once or always.

Integration with Google services

I'm a heavy user of Google's services: I use Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, Google Drive, Google Play Music, Google Play Books, Google Now, Google Analytics, ... Needless to say all these services integrate very well with Android. They're baked into the OS and allow for seamless usage.

Luckily most of these service work very well with the iPhone as well. It only took a minute to configure my Gmail account to grab my emails, contacts and calendars. iOS has built-in integration for all three and this makes the setup really easy. Sadly though, you can't receive push notifications for Gmail if you use the stock Mail application. Google dropped Exchange support for Gmail and now uses IMAP on the iPhone. To get push notifications for Gmail you are forced to get their inferior Gmail app! Bleh!

Some of the Google apps that I use

So yeah, let's talk about the Gmail app: it's OK but not that great. It takes a while to load and has very limited configuration options. Every now and then it crashes on me and sometimes it displays a message saying that an unexpected error occurred (which is very helpful). I would love it if Google would align their Android and iOS apps of Gmail. I miss the profile pictures next to every email, different swipe actions and overall polish. Using the default Mail application as an alternative is a no-go for me as it doesn't have push notifications and relies on fetching your emails every X minutes. The only alternative I could find was Boxer. It supports multiple e-mail accounts (costs $4,99) and sends push notifications for Gmail! It has been my goto e-mail app since I started using it!

When configuring Gmail in Apple Mail you can't get push notifications.

Another thing that's really annoying me is the fact that using your Google account to login into other apps takes ages. We probably have to thank the war between Google and Apple for this. When I use my Google account to signup for a service/app on Android I simply select my account and tap "OK". On iOS you can also use your Google account but it requires you to type your e-mail address and password every single time. And to make it even worse: you have to enter your PIN code if you've enabled 2-step authentication. This process doesn't take an enormous amount of time but it's silly and unnecessary. So can you fix this Google and allow me to login through one of your other native apps?

Using your Google account to sign into other apps takes a lot of time on iOS!

The other Google apps I use are better. Google Analytics is nicer to use on iOS than on Android (but it's not optimised for the iPhone 6 yet). Google Play Books, Google Translate and Google Maps are terrific apps.

I’m a heavy user of Google’s Music service. I was tired of syncronizing my music library across my devices. I usually keep my entire music library on my computers and keep a smaller selection on my phone and tablet. After a while I got really tired of this because I wanted access to all my music whenever I felt like it. Uploading all my music to Google Play Music was one of the best things I did. Suddenly I got access to my entire music collection on all my devices. I can stream any song from my library when I have a WiFi connection and keep an offline copy of certain albums just in case. It works in pretty much the same way on iOS as it does on Android. I’ve used it for a couple of days and then switched to Apple Music to give that a try.

I also use Google Photo's on my iPhone to make a backup of my pictures and to view them on all my devices. This is probably one of the best and most "magical" Google service I have every used. It uploads all your pictures to the cloud, performs some magic voodoo on it and then makes them searchable. I've uploaded all my photo's to the service and I can ask it retrieve all pictures that have a car in it (for example). It may sound stupid but it's amazing that they pulled this off and I use it more then I thought I would. Only one remark: the iOS app starts uploading photo's the moment it has a WiFi connection and doesn't care if your phone is charging or not. This can drain the battery really quickly if you took a lot of photos in between being connected to WiFi. I realise this might have something to do with Apple's restrictions (limited multitasking support) but it would be great if it could only backup when my phone is charging (just like on Android).

Customisation

When you're looking online for reasons why Android is better than iOS you'll find that customisability almost always pops up. Every reviewer on the planet somehow thinks that this is super important and that it's something Apple really should adres in iOS.

For me it’s not that important. I didn’t customise my Android devices much. I did play around with different roms but that usually led to instability. The thing I miss most about my Android setup is my nearly empty homescreen with the Today Calendar widget. When unlocking my phone I got an overview of all my appointments for the coming days. Widgets are obviously not available in iOS so I searched for an alternative. The "Today" section in Notification Center is a solution but I have to swipe down every time I want to see it. I really miss this one widget!

So yeah, I miss one widget on iOS and the ability to place app icons all over the place. But that’s it. I don’t miss other customisation features of Android because I didn’t (or rarely) used them anyway.

Battery life

When you compare the iPhone's battery size to other smartphones you'll find that the iPhone comes with a really tiny battery. The iPhone 6 has a battery capacity of only 1810mAh while my OnePlus One has a capacity of 3100mAh. That's 1.7 times bigger than the iPhone but I found that this doesn't translate to 1.7 times more battery life.

When I first switched to Android I experienced pretty bad battery life with my Samsung phones. They drained fast and I had to use apps like Greenify to prevent apps from running in the background. I like to be in control of everything and so I liked the fact that Android allows me to freeze apps when they’re eating my battery. After a couple of months though I was sick of it. Freezing apps usually yielded better battery life but made the app malfunction. Apps suddenly didn’t get push notifications or didn’t remember the state I left them it.

The OnePlus solved (almost) all my battery problems and I didn’t have to use Greenify at all. I was suddenly ending the day with almost 30% battery left! I didn’t need similar tools on iOS as the battery management is way better.

Still, after I switched to the iPhone I was disappointed. The first few days I struggled to get through the day, but I figured that was normal because I was setting everything up and playing with different settings. After a few weeks, I still noticed that the battery was draining rather quickly. When I checked out the battery stats I was surprised: the phone indicated that I had been actively using it for 6 hours. I’m not sure if that means screen-on time.

The iPhone excels at preserving battery life when idle. My OnePlus would easily lose 20% of its charge when left untouched for a day. This should be resolved in Android M, so I’ll have to check that in the future.

Compared to the OnePlus I felt that the iPhone runs out of juice faster. I have to be careful to not completely drain the battery before the end of the day! I’m considering to keep a power bank in my backpack just in case…

Android Wear

In August, I bought a Moto360. This Android Wear-powered device worked beautifully with my OnePlus One. Notifications and Google Now cards where pushed straight to my wrist and I could initiate a Google search straight from my wrist.

Just before I got the iPhone 6, Google announced that Android Wear gained support for iOS devices. After getting my iPhone, I paired it to my moto360 and took a look at what is supported (and what isn’t).

My moto360 connects without issues to my iPhone.

At first glance: everything works exactly the same as on Android. But after using it a few days I noticed that the support for iOS is rather limited. The most important feature is notifications and all my notifications are pushed to the moto360 just as on Android. The only difference is that on iOS you can't do anything with most notifications. You can't reply to text messages like you can on Android. I found that only Gmail offers an interactive notification on my watch. It allows me to archive and delete an email or reply to it with your voice. I have yet to find a non-Google app for iOS that uses these rich notifications for Android Wear.

All my Google Now cards are pushed to the watch and are just as useful as on Android. I did miss the integration between Wear and Google Maps. On Android you can start navigation on your phone and view the route on your watch. I've used this a couple of times when I was walking to my destination. Sadly this feature doesn't work with Google Maps for iOS (yet?).

And finally, there are far less watch faces and watch apps that you can install through iOS. I couldn't install my favourite Bits watchface with iOS... I can’t use the watchapp for Google Keep either, so I can’t view my notes on the go. There are some third-party watchfaces that you can install through the iOS companion app, but not many. Sad! My moto360 has lost a lot of it’s appeal for me!

App availability

The final thing I want to discuss is app availability on iOS. When I switched from Android to iOS I wanted to keep all my apps. Luckily, nearly all the apps that I used on Android are also available on iOS (with two exceptions).

I really miss aCalendar and it's super useful week view. I also miss the ability to send text messages from my Mac through MySMS. There are iOS alternatives for both of these apps. I tried replacing aCalendar with EasyCalendar but it doesn’t support Exchange calendars so I’m stuck with the default calendar app for now.

I also couldn't find a solution for texting from my Mac. I can't use iOS's Continuity feature because my MacBook Pro is too old (Late 2008, only bluetooth 2.1). I don’t feel like buying a new computer just to use this feature so I might upgrade the AirPort card in my machine at some point.

Personal conclusion

After this (quite long) blog post it's time to reach a conclusion. Switching back to iOS required some time to get adjusted and find my way through the system. I miss certain parts of Android (widgets in particular) but it's not holding me back. Android Wear integration is limited on iOS but might get extended in the future.

In my opinion iOS is generally more polished and a little more stable compared to Android. That being said, I do miss the vibrant material design colors and nice animations that Google introduced in Android Lollipop. Apple is slowly opening up iOS for more customisations but compared to Android it's still limited. I'll keep using the iPhone for the coming months and I might review this post when Android M is available for my OnePlus One. Might take a few months though…

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