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

casey

agree completely with the article. i totally miss the android navi, sharing options, customization and even the widgets. i don’t miss the horrible battery life. had the samsung charge and spare battery w/ docking station. Even being mindful of battery draining functions, i was always have to charge and charge and charge. i don’t even know if I would call the phone mobile b/c you could only be away from a power source for a few hours. Miss a a lot about my android phones but enjoy the freedom of an actual battery that lasts the entire day…also digging Siri

Alex Layne

Battery life wasn’t that big an issue on the Droid, so I didn’t mention it. Glad you’re enjoying your iPhone.

SUN

I agree at all. I have used android for over an year usin iPad, it was not comparable on store. But customization is always catch my mind. So I would like to recommand my friends that if one would study on OS, buy android phone but if one would like to use App comfortly, buy iPhone.

Woody

Switched to iOS in July. The number one reason that I jumped ship was the Android’s lack of a unified OS, and carrier-controlled updates. Google can sell all the cheap phones they want to take market share, but if they ever want to get serious about being a LEADER in the industry, they have got to get the user experience consistent from one phone to another.

John Burke

1st off, comparing a 2 year old Droid with an iPhone 4S isn’t fair.

Now on to where I disagree:
1) Laggy UI: Get a better Android phone than the Droid
2) Widgets: Widgets are awesome!
3) “Real” multitasking: iOS only “really” multitasks fora maximum of 6 items, so I don’t see the big difference
4) Android Market: By comparison, there also isn’t a single iOS App I needed that doesn’t have a counter-part for Android

Where I agree:
1) iCloud: Yeah, it is pretty awesome but I’m sure Google has something in the works

Now, if the writer switched from a good device such as the Nexus S, or even the Nexus One I’d take their opinion more seriously. As-is though, no thanks.

Alex Layne

I’m not directly comparing the iPhone to the Droid. I’m mostly talking about software, so it is fair.

Where you disagree:
1. I’m not rich enough to go around buying Android phones willy-nilly.
2. That’s not an argument.
3. Six items? You’ll need to elaborate on that.
4. There’s still malware in the Market, and just because there’s an alternative doesn’t make it better.

Where you agree:
1. Unless Google’s rolling out their own desktop OS with native apps, I don’t see how they’re going to compete fully with iCloud.

I did have a good device. Even so, my second-generation iPod touch ran better, and it has half the RAM and a slower processor. You can’t tell me the hardware is to blame there.

Happy-Bear Chalet

I’ll jump in and state that I went from ios to android and prefer my Android, not because of the os, but because of the hardware…bigger screen, better colors, 4g/lte, sd card slot, mini usb. I had a 2,3 and 4 iPhone and now have a Samsung Galaxy 2 Skyrocket. The 4.5 screen is the deal maker for me.

Matt Wolfe

I just made the same switch – and don’t regret it at all. Honestly, I’m very surprised by how smooth the device really operated. Very fluid usage in and between apps. Even in-app processes like the browser in Twitter are just so much cleaner than Android. There are things I may miss slightly – but overall, this differences are that iOS is a 5-star OS, and Android is 4.5 stars. Just that little but of attention to detail puts Apple ahead.

Michael W. Perry

Great article! As someone who migrated from a dumb Nokia to a iPhone 3G/3GS, it tells me what I’m missing.

Personally, the only Android feature that I’ll like to see would be a much smarter version of that flashing LED, one with multiple colors and flash rates whose meaning users could set in great detail. Messages from a specific person, for instance, might trigger a rapidly flashing red. All others might flash green slowly.

LanceW

I’m not sure you’d feel as strongly about the switch if you came from a recent Android phone like the Galaxy S II. It’s not fair comparing the iPhone 4S to a two year old Droid.

Alex Layne

It is fair because I’m not comparing the two phones, I’m comparing the software. I did mention that the lag could be because of the Droid’s hardware, but many reviewers have noticed lag with newer Android phones.

claire

i can’t really stand all of the iphone/android haters. that being said, i recently made the switch from android to iphone and i’m loving it. i file bugs for work and i don’t want to deal with a buggy phone on my free time. the iphone works, with a minimum of tinkering. android is great too, but it just doesn’t run as smoothly..

Karl Zimmerman

laggy UI? I get no noticeable lag with my EVO 3D, are you sure that is an Android issue and not just an issue you’re seeing because of the major hardware upgrade?

I don’t see the iCloud as a replacement for many of the Google tasks. With the iCloud I have to pay extra to store all my music, it is free with Google Music. Google Docs is still superior to anything I’ve seen from Apple as well.

As far as the widgets, I agree, most of the widgets are useless, but I have gotten some that I now think I’d have trouble living without, very quick access to certain contacts and settings, etc. Even just being able to control Pandora and/or Google Music without needing to open the app is nice and saves me time.

Alex Layne

Re laggy UI: I’ve seen this on numerous Android phones.

Re iCloud: I didn’t say it does everything Google’s services do, just everything *I* do with them. Google Music is only free while it’s in beta. The extra cost is only for iTunes Match; you can download any music previously purchase through iTunes for free, to all of your devices. And what does Google docs do better than Pages, exactly?

MK

The Mapquest app actually works pretty well from all of my uses. I have used it in upwards of 20 states with no real issues.

Brian

“In iOS, apps are suspended when they aren’t active, but are allowed to do certain things in the background”

Android Apps are run in a dalvik virtual machine and are frozen when not being used. Unless the app has a service running, it is not draining battery or hanging on to any of your RAM. It is real multitasking without the conventional multitasking drawbacks.

Jeb Baxley

great article and truly insightful, but what google web app did you find clunky?

FacePalmedHard

All I just read was “I needed a change, so I swapped from Android to iPhone” and then it was followed with “OMG iPhone with other Apple products is amazing!”
I’ve read this identical article before in the reverse direction.
It’s the perspective of something new, that you have fallen in love with. Not that iPhone is better then Android, or Android is better then iPhone. The speed and performance is mostly identical, at least in the more current flagship devices.

Mimi

I regret the switch. iphone is uncapable of too many things. I feel more limited than ever. The iphone is a “pretty” phone. I have an ipad2, and macbook pro, and yes its convenient in that sense… but the lack of functionality and limitation leave me to say that the ipohne is tremendously overrated.

Grace Cunningham

An interesting read, I’ve actually been considering the opposite, going from an (outdated) iPhone to Android. The things you mention that you’ll miss (or not) are the reasons I’m considering Android. That, and making the OS switch will allow me to switch to Credo Mobile and not be dependent on a big evil telco.

Apple’s united ecosystem is great, but super-frustrating when you can’t use software updates due to old hardware, which render the benefits useless unless you can afford to buy new computers and phones every couple years.

Tom Karpik

If supported software updates are important to you, STAY WITH APPLE. Android handset manufacturers and carriers have an absolutely atrocious history of support. Think “The phone I bought last year is not getting any more software updates”.

Norbert

I had iPhone 2/3 and 3GS and since 2 years also an Xperia X10 Android. The iPhone is the one who works best with my MacBookPro and is the eyasiest to handle. I will stay with iPhone and will buy this week the 4S

mmathieum

I disagree with the ‘Widgets’ and ‘Real multi-tasking’.
I don’t know how you were using your Android phone but I just can’t do w/o widgets (clock/weather/calendar/tasks) and there are things you can’t do with push notifications or the limited Apple multi-task features.
I don’t know how you can compare iCloud vs. Google integration.

And you forgot always-on GTalk. I can’t do w/o it either.

Will Heineman

Android’s Version of AirVideo = Emit. Android’s version of AppleTV Remote = GoogleTV Remote.

Using a camera flash to notify you is NOT the same as the LED…Having an array of colors to signify different notifications types was huge. If I saw blue, I knew I had a Twitter notification, if I saw Green, I knew it was Gmail. The camera flash does not fill this gap.

Also, about the “tight community”, you have clearly never spent any time on the proper Android forums. That community is as tight as any. Android simply offers more customization options, it is inherent to the OS. I have never seen multiple iOS Launchers, but you can do ANYTHING you could imagine with Android (even emulate WP7). Can you change your keyboard on you iOS Device? I can even tell my phone which keyboard to use depending on the specific application I open. I challenge you to do this!

And finally…Why would you want to leave the Google Cloud? Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Reader, +, Latitude, Maps, Bookmarks, News, Books…It’s all there. And most of these services are the best in class!

Alex Layne

“Why would you want to leave the Google Cloud? Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Reader, +, Latitude, Maps, Bookmarks, News, Books…It’s all there. And most of these services are the best in class!”

The only listed services I use now are Gmail, Reader, and Maps, and I use them through native apps, not the web interfaces. I don’t like web apps. I’ll take native any day, and iCloud provides that.

kevin

Design
No plastic
Well Seasoned OS
One “flag ship” model
No fragmentation
Comfortable Size
iTunes
App selection
Resale value
Battery life (I’m getting 15hrs+ on my Verizon 4S)

Dave Freeman

iCloud is a nice idea, but the biggest issue is that anything you didn’t get from iTunes doesn’t really like iCloud. Try moving a ebook in epub that you didn’t get from iTunes onto an iPad from any computer. And if you’ve figured it out, please let me know how.

Matt Braynard

How can a “technology blogger” get so many things wrong.

“With iCloud, I don’t need Google integration anymore.”

There were several alternatives to Google’s cloud that are similar to iCloud on Android.

“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.

There are many widgets that provide a list of headlines that are updated regularly. This has been the case on WinMo and Android for years. How can you not figure this out?

Alex Layne

Re iCloud: I doubt those alternatives (which you fail to name) are as good or comprehensive as Google or Apple’s.

Re Widgets: That was just an example. I’m aware there are better news widgets, but you still have to open the browser to read the full articles. If I were to use that news widget instead of an app, I’d be going back and forth between it and the browser. I don’t see how that’s practical.

Kashif

I would agree to most being Android user on phone and iOS user on iPad. However, I am still not convinced on the iCloud part since it is only useful if you are in full Apple eco system i.e. phone, mac, iPad etc. I have iPod, iPad but windows PC & Android phone. For me to have my information sync and available, I need to go out of Apple walled garden, which means either use google docs or dropbox for instance to have accessibility on all devices. After using both, I can say iOS looks smooth and beautiful while Android is laggy but powerful. After even more than a year of use of iOS, I am still not used to of iTunes. I just cant get it working for me the way I want. SD-Card option and windows compatibility in Android just makes is much easier for me to transfer whatever I want and wherever I want. However, I am planning to switch to iPhone to try iOS on mobile.

Amy

MotionX GPS is one I used on a cross-country trip this summer. It’s not free, but very inexpensive compared to some of the more well-known brands’ navigation apps.

Jeve Stobs

Yeah, nothing says convenience like having to spend $3,000+ to get devices that work together, not to mention all the content you are required to buy through them…

Driv3r

Wow! $3000+? I must have gotten the best deal in history! $200 iPhone 4S, $100 Apple TV, $900 MacBook Air. That’s $1200; less than half of your “$3000+”! Another Apple-hating troll. I would call you an Android-lover; but that’s not what you are. I’m an Android-lover. I’m also an iOS-lover. I have an iPhone and an Android tablet. They’re both great! You’re just an idiot making a baseless and exaggerated argument. Buy whatever you want, and let others do the same!!

Steve Tannuzzo

The Mapquest app is free and the turn-by-turn directions are excellent. The interface is not great, but it will get you to where you need to go every time.

ninformant

i swithced from android to iOS5 and honestly the only thing i miss about the droid was the ability to take any song in my library and set it as my ringtone. i had to find an online audio converter to get around paying for ringtones of songs that i already had in my music library, but still i’m happy to have made the switch.

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