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Summary:

As someone who regularly blogs about Apple, it’s a bit surprising that the iPhone 4S is the first iPhone I’ve owned. Until now, I’ve been an Android user, so here are my thoughts about the good and bad that come with going all-in on Apple devices.

iOS vs Android

On the iPhone 4S launch day, I lined up with about 14 other people outside our Verizon store, my Motorola Droid in hand, checking the time until the store opened. I had never owned an iPhone before, which might come as a surprise from an Apple blogger. When I got the Droid in October of 2009, AT&T was the only carrier to have the 3GS, and rumors of the iPhone coming to Verizon were still just rumors. Two years later, almost to the day, the iPhone 4S came out on my network of choice, and here we are.

Since there are likely a lot of Android users who are considering making the leap thanks to Apple’s new iPhone 4S hardware and the improvements that come with iOS 5, I thought I’d list the things I miss and don’t miss about the Android experience after making the switch to help others determine if this is the right move for them.

Things I miss about Android

Customization

Android proponents are big on pointing out the degree to which the user can customize the OS. You can use different keyboards, lock screens, launchers, even install different ROMs, right from the device. The geek in me loved tinkering around with Android, and that part of me will miss it a lot. Sure, you can jailbreak iOS and get some of the same customizations, but not to the same extent, and it requires going against Apple policies.

Notification light

On nearly all Android phones, there’s an LED that blinks when you have unread notifications. This came in handy since if I got a new notification, I could tell immediately. With the iPhone, I have to press a button to make sure there aren’t any new notifications. It’s a small difference, but the added convenience of the notification light really makes its effects felt over time.

Global sharing menu

In Android, you can share something with any service that has its app installed. I could upload a picture from the Gallery app to any Twitter client, not just the official app. Apple has made headway into making sharing better by integrating Twitter into iOS, but it’s not as good as the Android share menu. I’d be happy if Apple just added Facebook integration, though.

Free turn-by-turn navigation

Google’s free navigation app is a big advantage for Android. I’ve used it often to find obscure restaurants and other destinations while I’m driving. I have yet to find any consistently reliable, free or cheap alternatives in the App Store (but feel free to suggest something in the comments).

File system and downloads

Being able to download a file to my SD card and manipulate it with a file manager was useful. The inability to do this on my iPhone annoyed me when I wanted to download a wallpaper that only came in a ZIP archive, which of course I couldn’t download or open. I ended up transferring it over from my Mac via Photo Stream.

Things I don’t miss about Android

Laggy UI

The first thing I noticed coming to iOS from Android is just how smooth and fluid iOS is in comparison. It tracks my taps and swipes without any noticeable lag, lending to the feeling that you’re actually manipulating an object. Android has never felt the same way. Scrolling isn’t as smooth; pinch to zoom lags and stutters; and sometimes, taps take longer than they should to register. This could all be attributed to the Droid’s old hardware, of course, but reviews of even current gen devices sometimes cite similar problems.

Widgets

I feel about Android widgets the same way I feel about OS X’s Dashboard widgets: They’re a neat novelty, but not very practical. If I want to read the news, I don’t want to just stare at a news widget while headlines go by, one at a time. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather just launch an app.

“Real” multitasking

In Android, apps can run in the background when you’re not using them, like on a PC. In iOS, apps are suspended when they aren’t active, but are allowed to do certain things in the background. Android’s approach uses more RAM and battery life. Apple’s uses less of both while providing nearly the same experience. I’m just fine with “fake” multitasking if it uses fewer resources to accomplish the same thing.

The Android market

There’s no arguing that iOS has a wider and better selection of apps. There isn’t a single third-party Android app I’ve used that doesn’t have a better iOS alternative. Couple that with the increased presence of malware on the Android Market, and I feel pretty good about living in a walled garden.

Google integration

With iCloud, I don’t need Google integration anymore. iCloud takes care of everything important that Google did, and does it without forcing me to use a clunky web app (except in the case of uploading documents from the Mac). This is why iCloud is such a huge deal for Apple: It takes away one of Android’s core advantages and improves on it in a way that Google can’t.

Final thoughts

One of the strongest assets Apple has is its ecosystem, and that’s more apparant to me now than ever. All my mobile devices — my computer, my tablet, and my phone — are made by Apple. The tight integration between them is all part of the design: The more Apple products I use, the better my experience becomes. With my Android phone, I couldn’t really use Apple’s ecosystem to its full potential. But with my new trifecta, I can play games on my Apple TV via mirroring, take a photo and have it appear instantly on my iPad and Mac, sync with iTunes without ever having to touch a cable, and easily locate any of my devices if I ever lose one.

Sure, I could do some of those things on Android, but the experience just wasn’t as good. Some will argue that that’s representative of Apple bullying users into buying only its devices, but for me it just represents greater convenience.

Have you recently made the switch from Android to iOS? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

  1. Brad @ The Next Web Monday, November 7, 2011

    Try Waze for GPS

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    1. Will Reynolds Young Tuesday, November 8, 2011

      I was not impressed when I tried Waze, looked like a toy. I just recently bought an iPhone 4s from a Motorola Droid too. There has been a lot left to be desired.

      Share
  2. Brad @ The Next Web Monday, November 7, 2011

    Ack. Comment posted too quickly. So, try Waze for GPS, but I’m also a BIG fan of the TeleNav GPS app. It’s worth the money.

    Having made this same jump myself a few months back, I agree wholeheartedly with everything you’ve said here. At the end of the day, Android’s full potential is yet to be realized, and it still feels like it lags behind iOS.

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    1. Elliot S. Volkman Tuesday, November 8, 2011

      Agreed. Waze is incredibly useful as it acts like a crowdsourced traffic censor. You can even alert people to accidents, cops, and construction. I just wish they had more avoidance options in the GPS.

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      1. Will Reynolds Young Tuesday, November 8, 2011

        I do love the crowd source traffic of Waze. However it looks like such a toy in navigation and the scrolling isn’t that good to see your upcoming route.

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      2. Btw, Google Traffic data is croudsourced + non-crowdsourced.

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    2. Refer to the first part of the article if you think Android lags behind iOS. The key part of the article is that both lag behind each other in some ways and not in others.

      For example, I personally I cannot go to iOS until it has the Swype keyboard. I can type 50+ words per minute one handed with just my thumb. iOS only dreams of such easy typing.

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  3. Waze is a great navigation app that’s free from the APP store.

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  4. Michial Brown Monday, November 7, 2011

    Honestly, I believe all the things you miss from Android will be met and exceeded when the next untethered jailbreak comes out. The customization and file management are much better than rooting an android. The community it much tighter and it all is integrated and made to work with the ui and apple’s excellent ecosystem. Trust me, it’s the best of both worlds. A smooth well oiled machine and all the customization to keep you addicted for the foreseeable future. It isn’t traceable and is easily reversed via a restore in iTunes. It’s amazing.

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    1. You don’t have to root an Android to do customization.

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      1. Or file management, for that matter. Seriously, a smartphone that forces you to jailbreak to manage your files? Takes the “smart” out of smartphone.

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    2. The huge problem that comes in here is that what you have just said means that Apple wont be about SIMPLICITY anymore, which is what Apple design is based on. Also what you have just admitted to is that Apple now have to COPY from Google to achieve greater success, I dunno why you Apple sheep stick to the heard, its obsurd

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  5. In the accessibility part of the settings, is there not an option to have the LED (camera) flash to inform of notifications?

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    1. Yeah, you can take notification light off of the list. It’s a setting you can turn on. To turn it on go to Settings > General > Accessibility > and turn on the ‘LED Flash for Alerts’ option.

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      1. sweet…..thank you! have been missing this feature too!

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      2. You mean your actual CAMERA FLASH blinks to let you know you have notifications? You’re kidding, right? That’s not a band-aid; that’s a tourniquet.

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      3. Dave: I guess the better solution is to design, manufacture, and install a whole other light in the phone, just for notifications? Please.

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      4. This is slightly different from Androids. Androids will continue to blink if you have an unaddress alert. So if you got a missed call or a text while you were in the bathroom, the LEDs will continue to blink periodically. The setting in iOS will only blink while the the call is still in coming or the SMS is incoming. But will stop blinking after the alert is done.

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      5. @Tom Karpik:
        idevices are suposed to be about design…it seems you are unable to admit to the possibility that it was an oversight not including a notification light so you instead jump to mocking the effort required to add one post production to your already existing (and by this definition flawed) device. classic diversion and distraction only made worse by your pathetic “please” at the end. wipe that smile off your face you smug socio some people can see what you are doing…at least i hope so because the alternative is you really are that dumb and brainwashed.

        the camera flash is WAY overkill for notification..its not a big deal…but kinda funny and slightly impracticable because you are left with making sure your device is left upside down or pushing the button.

        not far from where you started with having to push a button instead of glance at your dedicated notification led.

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      6. I didn’t know about that setting, so thanks for the tip. However, it isn’t as good as my Droid’s dedicated notification light; it only blinks when I get the notification, plus I’d have to look on the back of the phone.

        Also, let’s tone down the mean comments, yeah?

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  6. Copilot Live USA is $5 , and a full USA offline nav app, as good as any other.

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    1. Will Reynolds Young Tuesday, November 8, 2011

      I will have to try that out – so far as another recent android convert I have tried TeleNav, Waze and just plain maps to navigate and it has left lots to be desired for.

      Share
  7. Try this on iOS:
    Settings.app > General > Accessibility > LED Flash for Alerts

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  8. You do know that uploading a picture has never been a problem. I can’t think of a single App that does NOT have the ability to access the photos on my iPhone and upload them to where ever I want.

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    1. Tor Ivan Boine Tuesday, November 8, 2011

      its the other way around. In android you can for example be in the picture gallery and press share. From there you can choose whatever app to share it with. be it twitter, facebook, flickr. you Dont need to go to twitter, facebook, flickr app etc to share a picture like you have to on ios

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      1. Will Reynolds Young Tuesday, November 8, 2011

        The sharing abilities on Android are far superior. Even in the respective email apps the Gmail app just lets you attach a file. However, there are defiantly advantages to both.

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  9. If none of the budget or free navigation apps you try cut it, consider giving Tom Tom’s app a try. It is worth every penny and has a company with a hell of a background in the field supporting it.

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    1. With TomTom’s wonderful support (they sent me a software update for my unit that bricked it, and refused to do anything about it), I will never use ANYTHING from TomTom again, and I encourage everyone to do the same. If they won’t stand behind their software, why give them your money?

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      1. I cant comment on your case with the tomtom ” Gps ” but on the tomtom app for the iphone, I can tell you it is a wonderful program that does just you want from a good gps, sadly it does eat the battery. But it looks wonderful while doing it.

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    2. Will Reynolds Young Tuesday, November 8, 2011

      I’m worried I will try the Tom-Tom app and not like it and be out the $$.

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      1. mapquest?

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  10. excellent article, your writing was straight and solid. I know my iPhone is not the biggest, baddest kid in the playground, but I’m very happy. The device just works (2, 3gs, 4, 4s) and with a family of 4 people we’ve used and upgraded all of them. I used to be a iHater, but had to finally give in – the ecosystem is just solid. I now have 3 mac computers and 2 appleTV2s and 2-4′s and 2-4s’s phones. The stuff just works! Sold my 3gs for $150 after using it for over 2 years. Sold my 2 for $85 and I didn’t turn it on for over 18months. Have you tried Remote app with an AppleTV2? killer fun! Also give AirVideo if you have a bunch of avi’s and don’t want to convert them to mp4. Another killer ability to stream my content that is not natively iFriendly.

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    1. I have been using the $15 Regional version of Navigon for over a year now and love it. think it’s better than either TomTom or Garmin (IMHO, of course). I just upgraded to the entire NorthAmerican version for $50, well worth it. I only wish (along with the sharing theme) iOS would allow you to specify default apps per function…when I click an address in an email, I might want to send it to Navigon…

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