It’s been a while now, nearly five years in fact!
I’ve always been known for my spontaneity and mobiles phones were no exception. I could never keep one for more than about six months before I wanted the next ‘thing’. The industry was moving so quickly and it excited me.
I still remember my very first mobile — a Motorala MicroTac. Then came what was affectionately known as the ‘mars bar phone’ (Sony CM-H333) which of course I had to have. I eventually settled on Nokia and in the early days I tried everything Nokia had to throw at the world.
Eventually I could see Nokia loosing focus and churning out a bewildering array of mobile phones but not focusing on the operating system and interface of the device. After all, the device is a brick without a useful brain.
A brief foray into Blackberry then followed but all the talk of the Apple iPhone excited me. I was not an Apple fanboi but I could see something interesting developing. The initial presentation of the iPhone was staggering, unique, and exciting. I, of course, had to have one.
On day one of the iPhone launch in the UK I entered the world of the iPhone.
Five years on, it is testament perhaps to Apple, I am still on the iPhone with my 4S. The Press is currently in overdrive with speculation of the forthcoming Apple conference and the inevitable iPhone 5.
Meanwhile there is another mobile operating system running in parallel to iOS, and it’s gaining quite a following — Android. Initially developed by Android Inc., and part funded by Google, but later purchased by Google and released into the open source community.
I started to get curious about Android. Could I be missing out?
What I learned early on in my research into Android is there are an array of flavours and, more annoyingly, devices too. There’s only one iPhone ,which keeps it simple. There are many hardware manufacturers churning out their own, sometimes ugly, devices with a version of Android. The consensus seemed to be that real Android fans go for the pure O/S and not one with a ‘Disney’ layer, adding extra topping to a very capable mobile O/S.
I found myself purchasing a Samsung Galaxy Google Nexus (I’m not entirely sure on the order of these four nouns but it has a Samsung and Google logo on it but all words are used together or separately depending on what you read).
I bought it just at the time the latest version of Android was released (Jelly Bean). Since the phone was a pure Android release I received the over-the-air update within a few days, whereas others are still waiting on their manufacturer adding the ‘Disney’ layer to JB.
My initial thought — nothing special. What are my needs from a phone? I need the obvious phone/text service; email is a must, as is a decent browser, good Apps and a good camera for quick snaps is handy.
So my Nexus with JB is great and ticks all those boxes but so did the iPhone. They both have a nice (and similar interface) — a screen of square icons to touch; left-right scrolling for more pages; good browser. I honestly couldn’t think there was anything mind-blowingly different. (I’m being subjective here). Apple and Android fanbois will be rocking their heads right now, but when it comes down to the basics they are the same.
I was surprised at battery life. Much time is spent criticising the iPhone battery and I have grown accustomed to charging it every day. The Nexus was exactly the same. In fact I used it for two hours during a drive, with GPS for directions and at the end the battery was dead (and the phone very hot). I’ve used an iPhone/GPS for the same time and still had battery left. A minor observation!
I also found the Nexus had a very poor reception for both Wifi and phone signal. Often I would have no signal/connection at all where my iPhone had a service — both on the same network.
On the plus side the Nexus was faster to use and the push notification seemed much more reliable.
After two full weeks of use I decided to go back to my iPhone. Why? Well, I was not entirely sure. I missed iMessage (texting via Wifi/data rather than mobile signal). It only works between other iOS devices but 80% of my contacts have an iPhone. I also missed the quality feel of the iPhone (glass rather than plastic); it feels reliable.
So that should be the end of it? Actually, no.
I even surprised myself with my next move — after only three days back on the iPhone I slipped my SIM out and popped it back into the Nexus. I really did miss it.
Friends have asked what makes it better. I honestly have no concrete answer. It’s tiny things. A widget on my home screen for up and coming diary entries; the slightly bigger screen, which makes a huge difference for browsing; the fact that all the Google apps are well integrated; more choice on how I configure some aspects of my phone.
If I could change the design of the Nexus slightly I would put the tiny speaker on the end of the phone, not on the back. When I put my phone down the speaker is muffled and I can miss a text or not hear it ringing; I’m slowly learning to place it screen face down, which helps. The hardware buttons are in the wrong place. Volume on left, power on right. When holding the phone naturally and pressing a button you often press the opposite side too as your hand naturally contracts. It’s these little details I believe Apple get right at the design phase.
So there you go, I defected after almost five years. The imminent arrival of the iPhone 5 does not fill me with excitement as I can’t think what else a phone needs to do. It’s all in the software now.
If you ask me now which is better, iOS or Android, I honestly could not give you a firm answer. Android fans will of course not consider anything else. Apple fanbois will also swear allegiance to the fruit.
From the average consumers perspective there’s not an easy answer.