Why I probably will switch back to iOS

Roughly six weeks ago I switched my iPhone5 with iOS6 on it for a spanking brand-new Nexus4. I was getting way too bored with the iOS of yesterday and neither Blackberry10 nor Windows Phone have proven themselves to be realistic alternatives. After doing some research for a low end price, high end specs Android device I found only praise for the Nexus4. What finally got me was the promise of not having to deal with any bloatware at all due to getting the “Vanilla Android” as Google has envisioned it. I also thought that getting intimate user knowledge of Android would help me professionally. Finally my company recently switched to Google Apps, so I had lots of my stuff already within Googles services anyway.

First days were a blast: Customizing home screens, fiddling with launchers, being awed by the share dialog, unzipping zips, playing Pokemon with a Game Boy emulator, surfing .onion sites, having my Bitcoin wallet with me and last, but not least, playing Ingress.

Now, why am I considering switching back?

The hardware
The hardware just feels very different between the two. One might say that this is insignificant, not important. For me though it is: My phone is one of the things I touch most often per each given day (There is a joke in here, I leave it to you to find it). It has to just feel good. I can live with an external hard drive that does not feel or look good from the outside, but not my phone.

And the iPhone is just one very beautiful piece of hardware. Without turning it on it feels just very good, very solid and worthy. The Nexus4 on the other hand has a very plastic feel to it. It does not creak or feels cheap, but its definitely not as much as a “Handschmeichler” as the iPhone. Maybe the HTC One Google Edition will be my phone, but there is still the screen size: the Nexus4 is slightly to big for me. Might be that my hands are just trained for the iPhone size, but I often have the problem that my palm would touch the bottom right of the screen while I try to reach the top left with my thumb and therefor make the thumb input not register. I might have the same problem with HTC One.

Long story short: It looks like the iPhone form factor better fits my need and the look & feel of it are more important then I would´ve guessed.

 

Battery life
I´m a power user Smartphone addict. There is rarely half an hour in which I haven’t fiddled somehow with my phone. I was never pleased with the battery life of the iPhone, it´s easy enough to empty it within 2-3 hours. I was not prepared that the battery life on Android would be so much worse. With the same kind of use (Flipboard, Feedly, Social Networks, …) that would last on iPhone at least 4-5 hours I can suck the Nexus4 dry within half that time. Easily. I even bought an external battery to carry with me. Sure, one has chargers in the office and at home, but its supposed to be a wireless phone, right?

 

Battery_graph

I am fully aware that I could´ve switched off the Wifi while commuting. But I don´t want to constantly micro manage my phone. I am fully aware that I could probably use Tasker to do that for me. But I don´t want to think about automation routines for my phone.

 

Widgets
Huh? There are no widgets on iOS! How can widgets be a reason for switching back? Well, I´m a design person. I adore good and consistent design. And its impossible to reach that as soon as more than one widget is involved, as every app brings its own style and appearance. And suddenly ones carefully crafted home screen gets ripped apart by round corners next to rectangular ones, transparent backgrounds, gradients and solid colors and ten types of buttons. I tried to soften the blow with the help of custom widgets such as UCCW, but you can access only so much with them. App specific data is just not reachable via a UCCW widget.

So I had two options: a) Live with a fugly inconsistent clutter home screen or b) just use the good, handmade widgets that fit and access app specific options via the apps.

Homescreen

Well, as I said, I´m a design person. So I want to go with option b). But doing so would only replicate the static icon desert of iOS, just worse.

 

Snappyness
Now it really gets subjective: But even after “Project Butter” Android feels laggy sometimes. E.g. tapping the search bar on my current home screen brings up the Google Now app, the cards fly in and then the keyboard pops up: Way longer then 1 second. Long enough that my brain registers that I´m waiting for the keyboard. To long.

Sure, just one example. But from my impression iOS on a newer device just feels faster, more responsive. I´m sure there are measurements out there that could prove me wrong, but subjectively Android feels not as snappy.

 

The apps

Everyone knows that the total amount of apps in each store does not say anything about the platforms quality. I don´t even know if there are more Android apps or more iOS apps in the stores as of today. And I could not care less. What I do care about is the quality of the apps. And sure, the big brands such as Facebook, Flipboard and LinkedIn are pretty much equal on both plattforms. What I am missing though are these nice little gems; apps that are not vital, maybe not even used often, but nevertheless loved by their users. Example one, a weight tracker. My use case is that I´d like to track my weight and get a nice graph out of it. Easy, simple, definitely not vital. But its something that I do. On iOS I used Weightbot, on Android I use Libra. Below is a screenshot from both apps weight entry screen.

 

weighttracker

Where Weightbot is carefully crafted and has some personality, Libra just looks like it was made without any love. Both apps have the same feature set, both accomplish the same goal. But Weightbot is actually fun to use, whereas Libra is not. This starts with the visual design and ends with the satisfying mechanical  “click” sound that the weight picker from Weightbot produces while scrolling (In case you´re laughing right now, I suggest that you read into “emotional design” and its impact.).

Example two could be “Analytiks” opposed to Googles very own Google Analytics app. Once again both apps do the same, but the iOS version is really pleasant to the eye, the Android version just looks like a boring graph (which it is, but you get my point).

Analytics

And, believe me, as soon as you leave the paths of the app/service/online giants, its way easier to find a well designed app on iOS then on Android.

 

Bottom Line

Obviously these are very personal nitpickings. Or to say it another way: The margins between iOS and Android are super slim and nowadays just defined by personal preference. If you´re OK with the cognitive load that Android puts on its users and can live with some design shortcomings, you´ve found your mobile OS. If you get easily annoyed by “off-by-one-pixel” errors and do not want to fiddle with the inner parts of your phone, but want it just to work (with all of its limitations), choose iOS. This is not a qualitative distinction, but really just personal preference. I feel that I´m not as happy with my current phone then I was with my iPhone. If I decide to switch back, what would I miss?

In no particular order:

Gameboy Emulators, Ingress, Custom home screen, halfway useful notifications, Google Now on home screen, Airdroid, Ingress, Latitude location history, share-whatever-to-whichever-app, Google Keep app.

Up to you if I´m stoopid for changing all that for nitpickings. Or not…

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