From Android to Apple – why, oh why?

For those who know me, I made what seemed like a big move this week – from Android to iOS.  In the past six years, I’ve been lucky to own and use as my main phone, at various times: Blackberry, Android, iPhone 4, back to Android (HTC One S, HTC One, and Moto X), and just this week, iPhone 5s.  My Android stint lasted over two years.  I came to love many things about the platform, which made it tough to leave but I felt that the move was necessary.

Mobile phones have relatively distinct parts: 1. Software, 2. Hardware.  Apple makes the best hardware, bar none. It’s software (iOS) leaves a lot to be desired.

Apple’s hardware is beautifully crafted using the best materials and technology available.  However, some Android makers (notably HTC, followed creatively by Motorola) have figured out how to make nice hardware.  It’s still not Apple quality but it’s close.  For me, this matters.  Unfortunately for Apple, a large number of people beautiful hardware does not matter.  ~90% of people put a case on their phone, which makes it just a screen.  I cringe every time I see a case on an iPhone but I digress.

Since a majority of people have a case on their phone that makes the phone just a screen.  For many users, if it’s just a screen and you have either big pockets, a purse, or your smartphone is your computer and iPad rolled into one, bigger is better.  Android has followed that market, which means, for my tastes, flagship Android hardware has become too big.  5 inches or more is the new norm (although Motorola did a perfect sizing job with the Moto X at 4.7inches and I would bet Apple will do the same with the iPhone 6).

When you have cases + screens, the only way to differentiate is through software. On that front, Apple has lost its way. iOS 7.1.1 is seemingly identical to the original iOS Steve Jobs debuted.  Sure, the colors are different. Skeumorphism is dramatically reduced. I can add apps but, in the end, I still have a big list of separate apps that stop running when I close them.  For battery life, this is good but for usability, this is embarrassing and messy.  It’s as if beautiful hardware can’t mate with beautiful software.  On Android, I had widgets for my most important information at a glance. No need to open apps. I loved playing with different launchers (Themer is the most fun semi-launcher). Android could automatically sort my apps so I could avoid the hour I spent just doing it on my iPhone. Quality search on both iPhone and Android reduce the need for a list of apps in the first place. Finally, on iPhone, why am I still required to use one keyboard? The security risk of using third party keyboards is one reason but Apple has billions of dollars saved up and a few thousand engineers.  They could buy Swype or SwiftKey or, like Google, develop their own knockoff.

Finally, Android makers have gone one step further – gestures.  Apple developed (or popularized at least) pinch & zoom, etc. However, that’s it and that was a long time ago in the mobile world. On my Moto X, I could shake my wrist to turn on the camera. Using Themer, I could do different gestures to launch my top apps or do an activity. All of this saved time. It seems as if Apple is caught in an Innovator’s Dilemma – changing up iOS may hurt their core user base so they are afraid of making any big changes.

So given that a) some Android makers have decent hardware, and, b) iOS has near zero new innovation (and a lot of catching up to do), why would I ever switch?

Android’s open world, widgets, and customizations make it wonderful.  However, those same customizations drain battery, open up security holes, and potentially break critical functions of the phone.  Second, my one big luxury item is buying the best new phone (I sell my old one on eBay for, generally, a very small loss so it works out cash-wise).  The best new Android phones are now too big for me, which relegates me to buying their mid-range phones.  My Moto X was only 6 months old so I could have kept using it.  However, for reasons I still cannot figure out, it started having issues with its clock.  This meant that, twice, my alarm simply did not go off.  Google Hangouts, which became my default SMS client, took forever to load each message.  My final reason: I took a job at the best Apple accessory maker – Henge Docks.  Since we build the beautiful Gravitas iPhone & iPad docks and I believe in eating one’s own dogfood, not being able to use a Gravitas was frustrating.

So here I am, staunch Android user making more mobile compromises by buying an iPhone. Amazing hardware with the iPhone combined with old, non-innovative software on iOS. The mobile world is still filled with tradeoffs.  I’m hoping someone – Apple, HTC, Samsung, Motorola or even Nokia (I actually love Windows phone but that’s for another post) will create the perfect device but I have yet to see it.

 

 

Blackberry vs Android

Android vs Blackberry

I used a Blackberry exclusively for two and a half years. It was my phone, my mobile office, and my mobile connection to the web.

As a person who loves mobile tech and pushing to see what it can do, I tried to push my blackberry (tour btw). Within the confines of its small app store and underpowered browser, it did well. As an email platform, it was terrific and its keyboard, to no one’s shock is the best out there. Auto text is still one of the best and simplest tools in the market. Why no one has copied it is beyond me but i miss it. Blackberry messenger is a great little app – so long as your friends also have blackberries (it is also a sticky social app). My old company required that, if we wanted mobile access to our email, we had to use a blackberry (and it was the only mobile system they would pay for their employees to use).

Despite all of the above, I couldn’t wait to start my new job where i could have a new mobile platform. Clearwell, in true silicon valley fashion (I.e. Where keeping your employees happy is considered a virtue and recruiting tool), said i could chose any phone or platform i wanted. Clearwell has a corporate account with verizon although i could have chosen any carrier (but then would have had to submit my bills each month).

On verizon, there are two smartphone operating systems – android and blackberry (and supposedly coming in 2011, iOs from apple). Unfortunately for rim (maker of blackberry), their os is brilliant at a few things (ie email) but cannot fully compete in any other smartphone manner (such as breadth of apps, interesting hardware, and functionality). Hence, my choice was easy – buy an android phone.

I chose the Droid 2, which has now been switched out for the Droid 2 Global (and I tested the Droid Pro – a potential “blackberry killer”) but stuck with the Droid 2 Global. After two months on android, generally I could not be happier. There are some major issues (such as battery life) but I can do so much more. I slightly miss blackberry messenger but threaded text messages do nearly the same thing. Touch screens are the future (or maybe now the present?). Rim, you should be embarrassed that it took you so long to launch the Blackberry Torch (on AT&T). Why was Palm the first one in the “modern” times to pul this off with the Pre (and Motorola following shortly thereafter with the Droid Pro)? What have you been developing with all those nearly free corporate dollars you pull in? Did you fail to see, years ago, how much people loved their treos (I.e. Touch screen plus keyboard  = great combo albeit one whose strength is fading.  Handspring figured this out before touchscreens were even in vogue)?

Anyways, rim, you are in a predicament. I think you know it. I hope you fix it. A quote from my very non-tech friend sums it up simply: “all of my bbm (blackberry messenger) friends are disappearing. I need a new phone. Should I buy one of those android things?” how do you think I answered?

P.s. Rim, your new tablet looks pretty sweet but the iPad is already well ensconced in corporate America. There is still a huge, untapped consumer market but they are no longer buying your phones so why would they buy your tablet?
P.p.s. Sorry for pouring more fuel on this fire. You guys have a great platform in some ways and i truly do hope that you can fix the issues before it is too late. Competition is good.