I am not an Apple “fanboy” but have been buying their mobile products since the release of the original iPhone. Every one of their products has excellent design wrapped in art. Their devices are as beautiful to look at as they are to use.
But over the last year, there have been little irritants that motivated me to explore other options (Apple’s demand for absolute control, lack of innovation with the iPhone 5, Apple rejecting interesting hardware for vague reasons, etc). Windows Phone 8 was dead on arrival because it lacks the ecosystem required to make a Smartphone smart. This left me with Android, a platform I knew little about.
Over the holiday period, I decided to pick up a Nexus 7 tablet. It isn’t perfect and the platform has some irritants of its own but overall a good experience.
Here are some of the positives I discovered while playing with my Nexus 7 (compared to an iPhone or iPad).
In Keyboard we trust
Ability to change the device’s default keyboard - After reading about the various options, I chose to install Swiftkey Flow beta and Swype. Typing on mobile keyboards has never been a great experience but with these alternatives, it becomes much easier and faster. These alternative keyboards actually improve my productivity with the device.
Some IOS apps try to implement similar text entry mechanisms but they are stand alone apps and usually not as good as the field tested Android version.
Tasker allows you to perform cool automation
Tasker is cool little app that allows you to automate tasks on your Android device. It allows you to start/stop apps, change app/device settings depending on time, date, location, etc.
Widgets are special programs that you can add straight on your main screen. These provide information you want without having to open any apps. I setup a weather widget which beautifully shows me the time, date, current temperature and the forecast for the next 4 days.
I added a widget for Any.Do that shows my to do list directly on my home screen which means it is always there screaming at me to be productive.
If you jailbreak your iphone, you can add widgets to the lock screen but that’s about it. Once you start using widgets intelligently, you will wonder how you ever lived without them.
Apple makes shopping for new apps painful. You can browse on the phone’s small screen or using Apple’s inefficient itunes. Once you connect an Android device to your Google account, you can brose for apps on your computer. When you want to install an app on your device, you choose install (from the Google Play web page) and minutes later the magically appears on your device.
I was amazed at how well this worked. Now that I have done this a couple times, I can’t imagine going back to Apple’s archaic and ugly app store.
Some things iPhone does better than Android
I love the fact the Android OS is so customizable but this also means manufacturers tend to bastardize it. I chose the Nexus 7 because it is a "pure Google experience" which means it comes with a clean stock version of Android and receives the OS updates very quickly. Go to another brand's devices and you may end up with crapware, weird interfaces that slow down the device or you may never get the latest OS update because the manufacturer doesn't want to provide it.
Regardless of where you buy an iphone, it comes clean (without crapware) and the updates are available to all as soon as Apple releases them.
As nice as the Nexus 4 or 7 are, Apple's products are prettier when it comes to design. They feel solid, well made and are just plain beautiful. I love the Nexus 7 but it has a plastic back, a huge bezel on each side and is considerably thicker/heavier than the iPad.
Various tests show that a Nexus 4's battery lasts 4.5 hours when performing internet browsing on 3G/4G, video/audio playback and playing games. An iPhone 5 doing the same provides over 7 hours of life.
The only Android phone that outlasted an the iPhone was the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx (providing over 8 hours).
Compare the camera quality of any Android phone and it likely comes well short of the benchmark set by the iPhone 5. the iPhone 5 camera default app may not have all the bell's and whistles (time, burst, etc) but it provides the quality users expect.
2013 may be the year Android competitors best the iPhone's camera performance but they are not there yet. Here's hoping we see come friendly competition between the big names.
Siri is better... sometimes
I've had a chance to compare the voice capabilities of each phone and they both fall short of what I expect them to do. In my tests, Google has a wider knowledgebase and is able to answer more questions, more accurately. Siri is better at understanding your request in natural language. Siri is still missing tones of information Google already has but it is easier to use.
Accessories and apps galore
iPhone's are all made by Apple which means there is little device fragmentation. This means more companies are willing to build accessories for iPhone. Walk into any store and you will see rows and rows of accessories for the iPhone.
On the Android side, you are lucky to find a couple of cases and maybe a handful of accessories.
Same thing goes for apps. You will be hard-pressed to find a missing app on the itunes store. Anything you can think of is probably already available (many in iPhone and iPad optimized versions). The Android market does have a tone of apps and the Google Play market is getting bigger but there are still a bunch of very popular IOS apps I found myself missing. I was also disappointed by the small number of tablet optimized apps (Flipboard finally became tablet optimized last week on Android).
Ease of use
iPhone wins hands down. As an example, I use DoggCatcher to download and manage my Android podcasts. The artwork associated with each podcast kept showing in the Android picture Gallery. I couldn't find how to exclude it (the .nomedia trick doesn't work) and the answer I received from the Google+ Android communities is to use another app that allows me to manually exclude directories from indexing. Why? This shouldn't be an issue in 2012.
Another example : I uninstalled an app I didn't like but it's directory and many of its files stayed behind. I had to use a file manager to manually delete them.
Since most of my family has IOS devices, sharing with them is super easy with an iphone. Android to iphone sharing is complicated and a pain.
These are examples but there are dozens mores. Apple is easier to use.