After using the original Motorola Droid for two years, I just ordered a new phone. I snickered for those couple of years about the limits of iOS and the many purposeful ones Apple imposed. But I ordered an iPhone 4S.
I never would have considered the move if I hadn’t won an iPad. (Thanks, Patch of suburban Virginia!) It quickly replaced my laptop for many of my daily personal computing tasks and got me comfortable with iOS. (iPads and iPod Touches are both great gateways to iOS that Android, Windows Phone 7 and webOS have never been able to replicate or complete effectively with.)
The original iPad (running iOS 4.whatever) and the original Droid (updated to 2.2.something) are the only two real data points playing into my decision. I’ve been mostly happy with my phone; most of the disappointments are related to the fact that it’s a two-year-old phone in area seeing rapid progress. Nowadays, its single slow core and a minuscule amount of RAM feel ancient.
So here’s one Android user’s pro-and-con list.
Things I think I’ll miss
The seamless Google integration. Turn on an Android phone, plug in your Google credentials and you’ve just set up Gmail, Google Calendars, Google Talk, Google Maps and any other Google service whose app you install. iOS isn’t too bad, but if you want to set up, say, Google Voice, you need to give it credentials there, too, even after you’ve plugged then in for Mail and Calendar. And God help you if you want to use multiple Google calendars or sync contacts magically with an iOS device. Now you have to set up the same account as an Exchange account and manage it through Google’s Sync We app.
Google’s built-in apps. Gmail on Android is heads and shoulders above Gmail in Apple’s built-in Mail app (threading, labels, marking as spam or important are all easy and well done on Android). Google Calendars on Android is heads and shoulders above Google Calendars in Apple’s built-in Calendar app (sure hope you didn’t have more than a single calendar to display on your iPhone). Google Maps on Android is heads and shoulders above Google Maps in Apple’s built-in Mail app (turn-by-turn and public transit information on Android are great). Google Voice on Android is heads and shoulders above Google Voice on iOS.
The blinking notification light. Without having to wake the phone up, I know at a glance if I’ve got a new e-mail, Twitter mention or something else waiting for me. Simple, but really nice to have.
Swype. I’ve been using the alternative keyboard for something like a year and it really does work like magic. I can type long messages with a single thumb in bright daylight. iOS’s multitouch keyboard and autocorrect are pretty good, but not magical, and they’ll never be available on iOS.
Single browser field for search and URLs. The single field is my favorite feature of desktop Chrome, and I really like having in on my Android browser as well. Safari and Mobile Safari should adopt it.
No LTE option. I get the tradeoff. 4G LTE eats battery. But I’m not buying a new $200 or $300 phone every six or 12 months. Verizon has been aggressive in rolling out LTE coverage and has it in Iowa City and elsewhere. I worry that I’ll feel stupid when I’m still poking along on 3G in a year.
Things that might be better, might be worse
Notifications. On iOS 4.whatever on my iPad, the notifications suck. They interfere, they pop up and get knocked into oblivion when another comes in immediately after. They aren’t collected in one place, only as little red dots with white numbers scattered across app icons on various home screens. Perhaps the Android-like notifications in iOS 5 will be an improvement. I sure hope so.
The file system. iOS doesn’t have one that’s visible to its users, which I think would be great when I’m poking around, seeing all the cruft from old apps on my Android phone. But other times, when I’m moving a podcast’s audio file from my downloads folder to a special folder for my podcast app, I know that won’t be possible on iOS. (Idea: a podcast player that integrates with Dropbox to allow you to add one-offs and other audio files to a podcast playlist.)
Background tasks. It’s great being able to set my Android podcast app to download new episodes every day at 10 p.m. when I’m home, on Wi-Fi and charging. iOS won’t allow that, so I have to manually open then app to get it downloading. Same with Instapaper. The tradeoff, of course, is random apps aren’t sucking down battery throughout the day.
Design. The iPhone 4S is a sexy piece of hardware, but that glass back scares me.
Things that I’m looking forward to
A better e-mail client. In addition to Gmail and Google Apps accounts, I have my Exchange account for work. While I like having a completely separate app for my work e-mail, Android’s non-Gmail client is atrocious: it can’t be searched, it forwards e-mail as attachments, it occasionally forgets my credentials all together. (I have never gotten the well-regarded K9 mail app to work.)
Better apps. The best apps available for iOS are, without a doubt, better than the best apps for Android. And Google doesn’t seem to be pushing for better itself. Example: on my iPad, I use Reeder all the time to access my Google Reader subscriptions, but on Android, despite the existence of an official Google Reader app, I continue to use the Web app because I find the native app annoying, particularly the way it continues to not indent blockquotes.
Universal apps. I’m looking forward to being able to buy single copies of most apps that will work on my phone and on what has become my primary personal computer.
Better networking. Whether the problem is my employer’s network or Android itself, I’ve never been able to reliably connect to the Wi-Fi there. The same is true of the network at the university. My iPad hasn’t had issues connecting or getting data in either place.
Faster, better camera. I’ve never been the type to carry around a point-and-shoot or a DSLR camera, but I do like having pictures to look at later. Since having a decent camera in my pocket at all times, I’ve started taking many more pictures. The iPhone 4S’s camera takes great looking pictures pretty quick. (Having them show up on my iPad automatically will be great, too.)
Twitter integration. My iPad has had problems with the Twitter for iPad (formerly known as Tweetie) bookmarklet not sending links to the app from Mobile Safari. It seems like a problem only for a small number of users and my complaints were answered with “we’re working on it,” by which Twitter meant the deep integration with iOS 5. Being able to post links to Twitter easily is nice and I do it a lot. Android allows users to share links directly to an installed Twitter client, but only copies over the URL, not the page’s title or other helpful information.
Remote wipe. As far as I know, there is no way to locate, lock or wipe an Android device remotely. I don’t think I’ll need it, but that it’s there on iOS is a relief.
Things I don’t really care about
Siri. Maybe it will be really slick, but I rarely use Android’s built-in voice search for much more than basic queries every few weeks. I really don’t want to be the dork carrying on a conversation with my phone.