I've been trying to collect my thoughts on this extremely touchy subject for months. Even after all this time of refining my opinions and gathering facts, I'm sure this will still sound very much like an Apple fanboy. Nonetheless, I think posting my opinions on why I want to move back to iOS will be helpful to those among us considering moving to Android. (Looking at you Binks)
Over a year ago I remember hearing all of these fantastic things about Android being the rising star in the mobile space. I got so curious that I even splurged on a G1. It was being backed by Google and had a considerable amount of praise from Android users. I soon realized that this praise was something more akin to parents looking on in adoration as their baby took it's first shaky steps. It wasn't that Android was miraculous or special. It was just beginning to grow up and the Android community had misrepresented this sense of pride for a serious threat against iOS.
Realizing my mistake, I quickly retreated to my iPhone 3GS and continued reading news stories about the improvements that Google was making on Android. Finally, I heard of the Nexus One. Wow, a phone that Google was backing very heavily and did fantastic things as demonstrated at Google IO. Wireless tethering, music streaming (still not here!), the Android Intent API... This was going to be a huge leap forward for Android.
I bought into Android a second time. I was so excited about the N1, that I actually purchased it knowing there was an iPhone announcement coming days later. That is how insane I was. Fortunately, the N1 wasn't all that bad. The UI was much snappier, the OLED screen was gorgeous and I was really enjoying the 3G tethering to my iPad. But now that I've had almost a full year with the N1 as my only phone I've started to notice the cracks in the OS and bugs are starting to make themselves known.
- Firmware upgrades are slow to arrive after announcement (if ever depending on your phone model) as a result of the update being staged for delivery over the cell networks.
- No strict UI guidelines means some apps are insane to navigate and can't decide whether to poorly mimic iOS counterparts or not.
- The official Nexus One docks all suck and never align properly to charge.
- Google Listen has started to pause tracks at random intervals when in the car dock.
- Littered Google Marketplace with rip-off apps and malware.
- There are times that my Google Account access is suspended until I type in a CAPTCHA on the phone. This happens almost twice a month without explanation.
Of course, there are a lot of fantastic things to love about Android as well...
- Speech-to-text is incredible and extremely useful. (Unfortunately, this is almost required because the soft keyboard is awful)
- I love an environment that aims for no syncing. All my podcasts download on-demand.
- Android is hackable/customizable in a legitimate sense. Google doesn't care if you're "jailbreaking" or not.
- Google Navigate is a great free app despite the unintelligible computer voice.
- Lock screen pattern. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this feature. Drawing a pattern on screen is so simple and much more secure than 4 digits or a password.
Unfortunately, as fun as the goods are in Android, the bugs really outweigh the benefits for me. So I'm confident that I want to move back to an iPhone. I often wonder how much more frustrated I'd be with Android if I didn't have my iPad with me as a back-up.
Naturally, there are problems with iOS too. And I'll list the ones that stand out for me for posterity as I'm sure we can all see the positives for ourselves.
- It is dependent on syncing to computers for most data transfers (Podcast syncing is a hassle for me)
- iOS is a closed ecosystem and jailbreaking is not condoned and is even dangerous given previous exploits that have spread through jailbroken iPhones.
- Carriers are much more limiting with iOS (tethering plans and 3G downloads are limited on iOS, but ignored on Android)
None of these are deal-breakers for me, but they are annoyances that I'm aware of. Some people might wonder why I didn't include store approval processes and all the other major qualms that Apple is in the news for so frequently. I for one, welcome the tightly controlled iTunes App Store policies. Sometimes that means that developers have to struggle if they have some radical, cool ideas, but on the whole it helps maintain a relatively consistent experience on iOS and encourages a very high standard of quality apps. (This opinion does not apply to the Mac App Store which I will not discuss here.)
In the end, if you were to ask me what differentiated the two platforms from a consumer perspective it would be this:
Android is for power users with very specific needs and whom are willing to hack away to get them. It likely won't be pretty or even stable, but if you want to build something insane free of any restrictions, welcome to Android.
iOS, on the other hand, is for consumers that have varying interests and really enjoy having fun, playing games, video calling and so many more things.
Are there exceptions to the rule? Sure. But generally speaking, this is what the platforms are known for among consumers. As much as I often consider myself of the geek variety that enjoys to tinker and tweak bits of their electronics, I've realized that I'm more comfortable with electronics that don't require the constant reboots or experience the frequent lock-ups that I have with Android. iOS is a place away from my normal experience with computers; things just work and I don't have to think about them. I don't have to remind myself that cancelling a speech-to-text process in an area with limited connectivity is going to cause my phone to lock-up for a few minutes. (Seriously, this is a reproducible bug that happens all the time when I'm at home on WiFi and downloading something at the same time.)
I'll miss some things a great deal on Android, but I'm sure that once I have my hands on a retina display and I'm in a FaceTime call or reading my news feeds in Reeder, I'll forget all about it. Maybe in time I'll feel comfortable enough not to carry my iPad everywhere too.
So that's where I stand after a year of sincerely trying to make Android work for me. Hopefully that helps some people.