Switching from Android to iOS: What I’ll miss and what I won’t

123 Comments

On the iPhone 4S (s aapl) launch day, I lined up with about 14 other people outside our Verizon (s vz) store, my Motorola Droid (s mmi) 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 (s 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 (s goog) 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.

123 Comments

Joeuser

Well written article. Think you have valid points for all but the lag. Consider the droid you were using was two year old hardware, could it be possible that the equivalent Android hardware not lag either? I have a older android phone that lags but all of my compadres have dual core phones. The difference is really noticable.

Daniel Wesley

Sorry, but Apple’s walled garden approach inhibits freedom. I happily exchange a slightly less smooth UI for freedom to do what I want with what I own.

Tom Karpik

As an end-user, do explain, with specific cases, how Apple is inhibiting your freedom. I hear this argument all the time.

skybishop

I’ll jump in here. I had the original iPhone a week or so after launch, and then the 3G after that. And I was inhibited because I couldn’t install 3rd party non-appstore apps when I wanted to. I couldn’t modify parts of the system that I desired to (springboard, lockscreen being two), and I couldn’t access it as a disk to use storage that I paid for in the way I wanted. The excuse of “I love the way it works – don’t want to change” doesn’t fly. I paid for the device. I should get to modify parts of the OS that could reasonably be allowed to be modified without affecting the safety or security of the device.

skybishop

OH! And I forgot the one thing that really was such a pleasant surprise on Android for me – being abe to download a new keyboard! Swiftkey X is simply amazing. It learns my writing style based on texts, tweets, etc I’ve done and changes its prediction accordingly. It’s absolutely amazing – check it out. :)

Alex Layne

You can’t tinker with the software on game consoles like the XBox either. Just because you bought the device doesn’t mean you have the right to the software’s source code. Should Apple really be required to make it easy and safe to modify iOS when it’ll only benefit a minority of users?

skybishop

@Alex – I don’t care to modify source, nor to do anything source-related. I’m talking about modifying how I interact with my device. The fact that jailbreakers have easily modified the underlings of iOS speak to the fact that if Apple wished to it could presumably easily allow these changes, but therein lies the challenge. Apple is, by its own admission, a control freak about its products. That control has unquestionably brought it success by the level of polish Apple has massaged into the products and their software. However, I’ll trade polish for using it how I want to use a device every day.

I also suspect Android 4.0 aka ICS will further shift the paradigm. From what I’ve read about, Google has added tremendous polish and all the things I love about honeycomb to the OS. They’re really embracing gestures all across the OS, which is huge.

Remember one thing specifically about gestures. It wasn’t until after the Nexus One was released where Google supported multitouch. It wasn’t that the hardware couldn’t support it (seeing how it was added to Maps, etc via a software update) but that Google was, by my outsider’s view, worried about how Apple would react.

Another great point of the difference is in “built-in” apps that can be iterated and updated via a market update vs a full OS update. I’ve wondered for a long time now why Apple insists on pushing those with an OS update rather than incrementally via the market.

elounva

Another thing I miss about the android system is the ability to have a fully funtional slide-out keyboard available on the mobile device of your choice. I will note that the apple touch pad is incredibly effeciant, bit it still can’t compare to the actual keystone of typing with buttons.

Wiber

Swype, swipepad and widget locker for starters..

Wake me up when I can add a gtask to a list with a gesture from anywhere. Even the lock screen.

Call me me an android (though o also rock two ipads from time to time) but as far as I’m concerned the race is over. And android is getting more solid by the second. I get how many might like the smaller box of ios, I’m just not able to accept restricts I guess ^^

Kostas

I did the switch from iOS to Android and I totally disagree with you on widgets and battery life (multitasking).

Widgets are very useful as you can control settings, rather that digging into the menus (see wifi, plane mode etc) also they can provide a summary of setting at a glance.

As for multitasking it might work the way you describe it but the single fact that on most Android phones you can change the battery is a huge plus. I had the iPhone 3G and 3GS which both are now dead due to the battery. I know I can change the battery but why do I have to pay for a so basic service??!! I am a Mac user since 1991 and I love my macbook pro but for a piece of technology that is considered ‘disposable’ I don’t want to have to pay £450+ every 1-2 years ;)

not_me

I just can’t stand Apple. That’s a good enough reason to side with Google. Apple is like a little North Korea, and Google is the land of the free.

snapjack

HTC is South Korea, is that better for you? Google land of the free, really!

Wiber

I think your confusing them with the North Koreans? As opposed to China made iDi vices? Sorry, started as a swype error but can’t bear to correct it ;)

By the way when politics moves people this much we’ll have a democracy in this country.

Rex Ralph

Good luck with iTunes – as an iPhone4 user, I dispise it. Everytime I upgrade my phone, it takes me 3-8 hours to rebuild because of that piece of &**#$&*@*$*&@#$&* … You’ll want to go back to Android :)

BackInAction

You don’t need iTunes with iOS5. I would have not bought my iPhone 4s if I needed iTunes.

Tom Karpik

Is that why Android phones need more RAM to do basically the same thing as their iOS counterparts? Or why there’s a limit on how many apps one can install, even though there’s plenty of free storage? Is that an example of an efficient model too?

skybishop

I think you need to be more specific, because I’ve never had either of the problems you mention. First with a Droid X, now a Droid Charge, soon to be a Galaxy Nexus. I’ve never hit a limit and I currently have tens of apps installed. Also of note – the amount of RAM that most handsets had until the recent spat of superphones was the same as the 4, 4S and iPad2 – 512MB.

eduboris

well since I don’t own or plan to own any apple products I would say this ‘trifecta’ is for you and you alone. I will never have the money to afford all the apple devices and having a smartphone with android that is capable of much better things than the iphone alone could ever do is a better deal for me and many more people around the world (android is gaining over half the market in most of the world)

Alex Layne

It’s good that Android is making smartphones more accessible to the poor, but I’d also point out that Apple is giving away the 3GS for free.

McTunes

In the end, it’s the “Apple Experience” that will never be copied by others. They can always duplicate all the Apps & it’s function, all the specifications of their devices, but they will never be able to replicate how smooth things are in iOS. :)

Cory

What about flash? iOs can’t do flash and that’s what a majority of the Internet used for many things. Sure you can view it with an app but you can’t use it really. Some one ask siri about that.

jason

“…a majority of the Internet used for many things.”

I haven’t missed flash one bit on my iPad. In fact I can only thing of a couple of sites that primarily uses flash that I can’t access via safari, but they each have free apps – so no worries.

Sonia D Webb

My favorite GPS app right now is waze. All of my friends are using it and we are on different platform devices. Copied directly from their site:

Looking to download free GPS to your smartphone? Then you’ve come to the right place – waze is a free GPS navigation app geared towards everyday driving that actually makes commuting fun!

Our free GPS features:

Voice guided turn-by-turn navigation on your mobile
Real-time, user-generated traffic and road reports
Alternative routes option
Twitter, Facebook & Foursquare integration
Cool social elements that connect you to other drivers on the road
Download GPS for free to your cellphone (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia, Windows Mobile) with waze and join the community of drivers in your area today. Click the button below to get going, then get out on the road, and get wazing! http://www.waze.com/download/
________________________________________________________
Here are some more but I don’t know how good they are:

MapQuest says it is the #1 provider of FREE voice-guided, turn-by-turn, GPS navigation for iPhone. FREE app

Skobbler is Free Turn-By-Turn GPS Navigation Solution

Navmii’s Navfree Offers Free iPhone Turn-by-turn Navigation

Mitch Steiner

I agree 100% with the observations of this article as I have done exactly the same , purchased a Moto Droid the day they came out and have now switched to 4gs – while my droid was rooted I had free tethering – since I have not decided if I would jailbreak i would add that ( im paying for hotspot) also I changed to AT&T and have had more dropped calls in one month than 6 mos on VZW – I live in a VZ EDGE omly area so simultanous V&D is a great addition ( when I have service)

Torry Clark

Mapquest 4 Mobile is the BEST free, VOICE navigation app. Completely replaced my Garmin because of ease of use and accuracy. I run it through my radio via GoFlex and get both music and navigation simultaneously. Highly recommend.

Adjeff8

I haven’t tried Waze for free voice turn by turn navigation, but I use the Mapquest app. Free voice turn by turn, and she hasn’t been wrong yet.

BackInAction

I work with Android phones everyday, but bought an iPhone 4S 2 weeks ago. The three things I miss on iOS that I have on Android are the back button, the context button and “better” long touch.

Many apps have implemented their own back button, but not all. Having a single back button for all apps is real nice.

The context button for app settings and/or currently selected item is very natural. The process for doing similar tasks on iOS always seems a bit awkward. Not impossible, just not as obvious.

The same can be said for “long touch” behavior. Android seems to make better use of “long touch” than iOS. At least from what I can tell over the past 2 weeks.

Overall, I’m glad I went with iOS over Android. If I was 5-10 years younger, I would have “put up” (and maybe embraced) Android’s “flexibility” and quirks. But, now, I just don’t want to be bothered.

Drew Sanocki

as commented above when the unteathed jailbrake comes out the phone goes from fairly nice to just awesome. The app you would like to pick up is called activtor it allows you to use gesters and such for commands while using programs and different things. Very good program.

Monsoon

On the 4 & 4S there’s an option which allows the LED flash to blink when you have a new
notification.

Nav Free is a good turn-by-turn app.

Lee Gaupp

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.

Jason Melquist

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…

Starsman

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.

Mark Hartman

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?

Drew Sanocki

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.

Will Reynolds Young

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

ericdano

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.

Tor Ivan Boine

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

Will Reynolds Young

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.

Ryan

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

Jeff Harris

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

Will Reynolds Young

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.

Matt

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

hyde

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.

Dave Freeman

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.

Tom Karpik

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

skim32

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.

John

@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.

Alex Layne

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?

Michial Brown

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.

redpoint73

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

Nate

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

Brad @ The Next Web

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.

Elliot S. Volkman

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.

Will Reynolds Young

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.

Patrick

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.

Will Reynolds Young

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.

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