Brandwhoring: Achievement Unlocked

Best friends forever.

Friends, you will recall about a year ago when I was in the market for a new phone, I was (A) pretty certain I wanted to be as far away from Bell as possible and (B) happily ensconced in the world of Android.

How then, to explain the shiny black box in the picture above? A shiny black box provided by Bell, even?  As it happens, and what I already knew from past experience, is that when you’re legally clear to walk and threaten to do so, cell phone providers actually act like human beings.  Holding them over the bucket got me basically the deal I had before plus 6GB/month for pretty much what I was already paying.  I dropped the portion that gives me unlimited everything with ten numbers [MyFun Whatever the Hell They Call It] because I don’t think I know ten people I want to talk to that frequently and I can use Skype or some other service for long distance.

So why jump to iPhone now?  I admit, down to the wire I was still hemming and hawing, as new Android handsets were released [the HTC One series being the last device that had a shot].  But the decision to do so was twofold:

  • I’m an app whore. Right now, unless it’s coming from Google, most apps are designed for iOS with Android as an afterthought.  This might not be the case a year from now, but it’s the case now.
  • The woman I live with got one, and I had to watch her play with it for the better part of six months, all the while my HTC Wildfire S seemed to get wheezier and wheezier, after less than a year.

Look at this footage I took from the HHK Anniversary show back in March [turn your speakers down].

Now watch the footage she took with her 4S the same night, at the same time from farther away.

Come on now, son.  You can say I was justifying, but I immediately started thinking of all the things I could do with it from a content creation standpoint.  Buying the MacBook changed the way I can produce content for PFG, the iPhone has made the way I collect the raw materials for that content creation so, so much easier.

But lest the more militant of you whip out your flaming swords prepared to lance me as another slobbering fanboy to the House of Jobs, calm yourself a moment.  After playing with the phone for a few days, while I don’t regret my decision to go with the iPhone in the least, I can admit there are some things that Android does better than iOS.  I’ll break down some of them after the cut.

I admit I don’t have  my full iOS Genius certification so some of these things might be moot points, but they’re just the ones I’ve noticed in my travels.

THINGS I’LL MISS ABOUT ANDROID

Quick Settings: The ‘swipe from the top’ notification tray was an Android idea, and Apple did a satisfactory job borrowing it for things like notifications, making for a user experience more focused on communication than using the actual phone.  The Android tray not only kept the six last used apps along the top, it also included a ‘Quick Settings’ tab you could tap to turn on WiFi, Bluetooth, tethering and others.  For a user like me that tends to turn WiFi on and off frequently to speed up accessibility, I found this a more elegant interface than the iPhone’s startling, CHOOSE A CONNECTION! pop-up that hits when you’re near a WiFi connection.

Remembered WiFi connections: Again, I suspect this is something the iPhone does, it just might not do it as cleanly.  My Android phone would remember WiFi networks, so that if I walked into the house, it detected the home network and connected automatically.  This is a pretty essential functionality for people looking to make the most of their data plans.  The iPhone does the same, it says right in the settings that known networks are joined automatically, but it still seems like I have to tell it to connect. This may be stricken from the record in a month.

Address Bar Searching: When Chrome first hit, the big selling point for a lot of people was the ability to use the search bar as a direct line to Google.  Type in what you want, blam, it’ll find it.  I remember thinking that was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard of. I mean, all browsers have search fields in their toolbars anymore, stop being lazy.

Listen.  You have no idea how much you use that feature until you don’t have it anymore.  Such a silly, dumb little feature, but sometimes the best ideas are just that.  The one screwup I pull more than anything else on the iPhone is going to some ridiculous site when I instinctively go for a spacebar when typing in Safari’s address bar.  A small complaint, but a complant nonetheless.

Free Apps and Widgets: One of the strongest thing Android has going for it is the fact that most things that cost money on iOS are free on Android.  Mind you, you still have to deal with advertisements, but they can be a small thing to endure for people who don’t want to drop a dollar to play Angry Birds.  I bought a $50 credit for iTunes after I bought the phone on Sunday. I’ve burned through $30 of it already, and a lot of that cost went towards games and apps I had for free on Android.

My favourite part of the overall customization options of Android was the inclusion of widgets, something that Apple’s kind of worked around to an extent with the iPhone’s multitasking functionality and notifications tray, but there was something easy and fun about swiping to another homescreen and checking email or my calendar at a glance. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

Storage: Probably the biggest win Android will always have over Apple in the current state of things is how storage can be manipulated.  Not only can you add to the phone’s internal memory using SD cards, you can selectively assign which applications go where, maximizing your phone’s internal memory. The iPhone, in keeping with Apple’s closed policy, gives you three storage options and when that’s filled that’s it. I’m certain they have their reasons be they aesthetic, technical or practical, but it’s a little disheartening when you consider signing up with a 32GB iPhone would have cost me $90 more, but a $12 micro-SD card could have gotten me just as much as space.

THINGS I WILL NOT MISS ABOUT ANDROID

Granted, some of these issues could have been remedied if I’d opted to go with a superior Android handset than the baby version I’d already been using.  The Android Experience on a Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0 is vastly superior to that on a $200 device running 2.3.3.  But some of the same hiccups still would have been turned up.

Immovable Apps: What, pray tell, is the point of having the option to transfer Apps to the SD card to save space, if some of the most popular and useful Apps can’t be moved over?  Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Dropbox and others all required storage on the phone’s internal memory, and as some of these programs bloated in size with every update [looking at you, Facebook] they ate more and more space.  Now, my own investigations into this suggest it has something to do with any App using a widget needing to run off the phone itself.  Apps like Evernote got around this by splitting the widget from the main App and offering it as a separate download, but most other couldn’t or wouldn’t. This is called being a pain in the ass.

“Your request could not be completed because your internal storage is low. Would you like to make more room?”: The dreaded pop-up.  Maybe this would go away completely on a newer handset, but it was the bane of my existence on my last one.  I had to manually go through and clear caches and user data at least three times a week, just so I could, I don’t know, listen to music or look at my photos.  This is unacceptable, and if this is what I have to deal with to enjoy the ‘open’ nature of the Android system, no thank you.  I agree, there are things to find fault with in iOS5 and Apple’s overall closed nature, but I can’t see any circumstance where I will ever be maddened by it.

So how can I be so happy with my decision when clearly there are more things I will miss than won’t?  Call me fanboy, but it really comes down to the aesthetics.  Apple demands approval on every app for sale for a reason, and you can bitch about the Orwellian-fascistic nature of that approach, but I think it pushes developers to up their game.  From the sheen on the icons, to the menu bars at the bottom of the screens, to speed of multitasking, Apple values experience over customization, and to my surprise, that’s an approach I prefer.

Plus, once Mountain Lion launches this summer, I’ll be able to link-up my phone and laptop in all sorts of new and wonderful ways that send me into the sort of fanboy paroxysms deserving of scorn. I won’t be able to hear you though, I’ll be too busy playing Scribblenauts.

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