Androidyssey! A Die-Hard Apple Fan Switches Sides

  • iTunes finally got to be too much
  • iPhone 5 was missing something
  • Total Control: thrilling, but not without a downside

I've been with Apple since the first Australian release of the iPhone, the iPhone 3G. I've fernagled a means to get every upgrade, contract be damned (working in telecomms helps - you know just which buttons to press to wiggle out of a contract). I tried Android once, for several weeks, when my mother got a Galaxy Note. It was cool. It was nowhere near as good as iOS. It was stuttery, ugly and boring. iOS was smooth, polished and offered a 'wayfaring' that was missing on Android - an intuitive way of guiding you to your result. Even iTunes, which I hated, could be circumvented with basic tools like Jailbreaking, iFunbox, DiskAID and other desktop bits and pieces that allowed you to roam around inside iOS and do as you please.

 

              love iphone

Ok, settle down


But the iPhone 5...it wasn't UNDERwhelming. But it was just barely...whelming. The bigger screen was the first "...AND???" feature I ever experienced on an Apple product. It was pointless. The lighter design was also a bit of a letdown, and I was in that camp that felt it was a negative rather than a minus (if it had been lighter but somehow more rugged, then maybe...)

But the camera was excellent, iOS was still beautiful and rock solid, and the big bump in processor speed was enough to make me happy.

Until Apple killed Podcasts.

I LOVE podcasts. iTunes had always been particularly podcast friendly, which was one of the few reasons I continued to put up with it at all. But then they intriduced a dedicated podcast app in iOS 6 that took all the podcasts on your device and shuttled them into the app. That was annoying. But a further update made it so that if a particular podcast was no longer hosted on iTunes, you just couldn't get to them. It seemed like iTunes was deleting the podcasts off my device, putting them into iCloud, and then if iCloud couldn't recognize the server details...poof. gone.

No problems, I thought. I'll use iFunbox and rip all my music out, podcasts and all. But somehow, every single track on my phone came off, but the podcasts (which were showing up as being on the device) were unreachable. I thought I'd gone mad. And at that point, I said Screw. It. Let's try something else.

trade iphone

Your highness, it's Bluetooth 4.0 enabled...

Trading an iPhone 5

An iPhone 5, in white with 64GB storage is basically the pinnacle in desirable mobile gadgetry. I had no problem getting a trade within 48 hours, using Gumtree. I got the HTC Butterfly, a monster-specced Android phone not released in Australia. it sits between HTC's One X and One, boasting a polycarbonate body (unlike the aluminium on the One) and otherwise similar internals. It doesn't have 4G, but I use Kogan and don't bother with 4G. I also got a Samsung Galaxy Tav 2.0 7 inch tablet from the deal.

htc butterfly

HTC Butterfly

The Butterfly has a 5 inch screen, and is the first major release with a full 1080p HD display. The colors are eye-popping, and the text and images look painted on the screen. Inside is a quad-core 2.0 GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, Android JellyBean 4.1.2, an 8MP camera...the works, basically. The only missing thing I'd have liked to play with is an IR blaster (allowing me to program any remote controlled devices into the phone, available on the HTC One).

tape measure

 

5 inches

Too much. I liked the Samsung Galaxy Note and it's follow up, but day-to-day, a 5 inch screen is a pain. I have moderately large hands, and couldn't use it one handed. The power button was a slim, almost fully recessed toggle at the top of the phone, making it difficult to turn on quickly. First World Problem, to be sure, but when the competition is better, why bother with this little annoyance?

android jelly bean

Jelly Bean

Android is good now. Still not iOS levels of uniformity and intuitivesness, but on the right phone, it's buttery smooth and is indistinguishable from the best elements of iOS. There's a slight dull overcast quality to anything running Android that iOS doesn't seem to have, and even with the brilliant display, Jelly Bean still suffers from this. It's hard to describe precisely, but it doesn't feel 'friendly'. Too many dark colours. Too much green.

Camera

Despite the better controls, wider lens and better specs, I still preferred iOS' one-size-fits-all approach to happysnaps. They got the mix right, and don't really give you much control to adjust it. It won't focus well when getting in close. The iPhone 5 seems to pull this off with a supposedly 'lesser' camera.

GOOD!

I can download BitTorrents right onto the phone. If I was into that sort of thing.

I can drop a folder full of music right into the phone from Finder or Windows Explorer. And it will just find it.

I can substitute any app for the default apps. So going to a Camera shortcut will open whatever I've selected as the default Camera App.

Swype Keyboard! This allows you to run your finger over a keyboard, and it will magically understand what word you mean with astonishing accuracy. And it learns your preferances. And it can be applied across the entire system as the default keyboard. Try it, then go back to iOS with its keyboard. It's a dealbreaker.

Google Now is good, but spooky. It knows EVERYTHING.

BAD!

The ONLY thing that would get me going back to iOS at this stage is the iPod and music controls. The Apple Earpods have a 3 button mic that allow you to Pause, Play, Rewind, Fast Forward, Skip track, Go Back a Track, Change Volume, Answer Calls, Launch Siri...and it all just works really, really well.

All 3rd party alternatives seem to have taken on Apple's proprietary and screwy headphone configuration, because the iPhone is the biggest single handset. So finding a compatible 3rd party headset that does the same within Android is difficult. The earpods will allow you to skip a track, but not change volumes. Others reverse that. Nothing seems to give you the same fine level of control when working out, driving, riding a bike, or any other number of highly UNrecommended activities to be doing while listening to music. But for me and my recklessness, the iPhone makes for a much better music player. If only they could have babies and combine! Imagine a world with no iTunes...it's easy if you can...

I found both the native Android Mail app and the Gmail app a big disappointment. They're ugly. iOS still does this better.

Stage 2

I decided the Butterfly was a too-specific handset for testing, all of its strengths geared towards people who watch videos on their phone. So I swapped it out, this time for the Motorola RAZR HD. Much, MUCH better- great battery life, easily handled 4.7 inch screen, 4G capable, rugged kevlar body...MUCH better complete package. it also runs a much more unefttered version of Jelly Bean 4.1.2, with very few intrusions by the good folks at Motorola (not surprisingly, since they're now a part of Google). HTC's 'skin' for android, HTC Sense, is still pretty good, but a tad bloated with unnecessary features.

Conclusion

If the next iPhone (likely to be released in the next 90 days) is a proper departure, then I'll probably get it. If iOS 7 brings some changes, I'll get it. If iTunes starts to change, I'll probably get it.

But Apple feels...smug. Even with the departure of villain Scott Forstall (who killed podcasts and masterminded the woeful Apple Maps) and with superman Jony Ive tapped to overhaul the mature ecosystem, it's doubtful they'll do anything big. They've lost their mojo. They'e the best, but on a decline.Still writing them off completely is idiotic; they're the masters of turning things around.

Google, on the other hand, seems to be trying REALLY hard to get better with every step. If they can fix fragmentation, updates and convince better 3rd party accesory makers to step up, they are most definitely going to crack the Apple enigma wide open, and find the sweet spot that converts more and more Apple fans.

All that's left to try now is Windows Phone 8, but it seems a little early for that. The Lumia 920 is less than a year old, and already there's talk that Nokia and Microsoft are going to stop supporting updates for it, with their eyes on the future. No thanks; wake me when it's matured a little.