Introduction

I had an iPhone for ages, then I flipped over to using Android. Why? Smartphones of both hues seem to do all the things we need, so why not just pick one, learn all its quirks and foibles, and stick with it?

This brief article explores my experience of using both platforms. I stuck with each one in turn for several years and used my phone every day, so picked up a few thoughts about their performance in my hands.

Why I left the iPhone

Firstly, I should say that my experience was of iPhone 4 and then 5. Apple are currently on iPhone 7 and have introduced variants, including the bigger screen ‘phablet’ format in the iPhone 7 Plus. As a result, my thoughts may be a little out of date regarding the Apple products. However, they were relevant when I decided to change over.

Here are the reasons I fell out of love with the iPhone 5:

  • I was limited to 16Gb of storage, with no option to expand. I was forever deleting photos. Downloading long video for offline viewing wasn’t really an option. I couldn’t have my music collection on the phone and consequently carried around my iPod as well as my iPhone (although maybe I should have moved to Spotify premium sooner…)
  • The Wi-Fi range was surprisingly short. Two stories above the router in our house, I couldn’t get onto the Wi-Fi.
  • 3G didn’t degrade well. It was fine in cities where there was either 3G coverage or Wi-Fi hotspots. Once out in the sticks, falling back to Edge or GPRS meant that none of my apps would work at all and I was effectively without data coverage.
  • Battery life. It’s notoriously bad on all smartphones (compared with, say, the heights that Nokia reached with its 6310 which would last for weeks on one charge), but it seemed very bad on my iPhone 5, especially after my phone became a year or so old – I could barely get through the working day without having to recharge.

Good things about Android and my handsets

So, I decided to change my habit and move to an Android device. Firstly, I had a Sony Xperia M2, then more recently I switched to a Samsung Galaxy S7. Doing so fixed some of my major gripes!

  • Storage was much, much better. I made sure my new handsets had slots for MicroSD, I bought 128Gb card, and all my storage issues were solved. Now I never have to worry about hitting the buffers and running out of space.
  • 3/4G degrades smoothly to Edge or 2G. Some apps which aren’t too data heavy can still function.
  • Wi-Fi range is better – I can still surf two stories up from our router.
  • The battery life is better (but still not amazing). I keep the ‘power saving’ mode on the S7 permanently on and that makes a big difference to the battery life whilst having also no noticeable effect on performance. Also, the S7 detects apps which are sucking power and asks you if you want to turn them off.

Bad things about Android

Things were generally better, but the move to Android meant losing out in a few areas:

  • The Xperia had quite a slow-to-start video player
  • For both the Xperia and the S7, you can’t have unlimited numbers of pages for the home screen with your apps on them; consequently, it’s sometimes difficult to find an app you haven’t put on one of these pages.
  • The UI, whilst it’s improved with successive versions of Android, isn’t as slick or responsive as Apple’s.

Good things about Apple that I miss

  • The general quality of Apple apps is better than Android. I’m not 100% sure why that’s the case, but I know that Apple approve all the apps on the Apple Store, whereas no such quality control exists for Google Play.
  • As mentioned above, the Apple interface is still better. The touchscreen is more responsive, transitions are smoother, apps respond faster.
  • The iCloud / Mac integration was better – seamless almost, as you would expect from Apple products. Data would be backed up into the cloud without any intervention from me, and then synced down to the Mac. Whilst it’s possible to do those things using third party apps, it’s not totally seamless and fool proof.

Where have I ended up?

Firstly, despite the issues I described above, both Apple and Android (especially Samsung) high-end smartphones are very similar these days. My iPhone experience is two generations and three years out of date now, so it would be very interesting to compare the iPhone 7 with the S7 (or even generation 8 of both products, once released).

But for now, I’m sticking with my S7.

 

Neil Tubman, Terzo Digital, June 2017

 

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