This week I made the switch from iOS to Android. My decision was heavily influenced by two technologists whose opinions on these matters I deeply trust, and one former NFL quarterback.
John Gore is the Deputy CTO at Table XI, the consulting firm where I worked for six years. We spent a week together with our wives at Disney World where his Nexus 5 styled all over my iPhone. In particular, Google’s voice activation beat the ever living shit out of Siri which, in my experience, is only been useful for answering questions like “Siri, where are you from?” Google, on the other hand, nailed questions like “What is the name of the small lizard in Florida that starts with an A?”
Rob Spectre runs our Twilio Developer Evangelist team. He made the switch to Android after Apple Maps directed him to the bad part of town in Barcelona, before Google Maps was an option on iOS 7. Rob told me, “The iPhone is the phone my grandmother uses, and I realized that I don’t want to use the same phone as my grandma.” He blew my mind with Google Now — how his Nexus 5 just knew that he was in San Francisco and that it’d take 25 minutes to walk to his favorite Italian restaurant. Is that creepy? Yes. But I’ve come to embrace the fact that Google knows more about me than I do, and I might as well milk that for all its worth.
The third man, of course, is Tim Tebow.
My wife and I are on AT&T service contracts that expire eleven months apart, incentivizing us to stay on AT&T for roughly forever. On the AT&T Family Plan, we pay on average of $180 per month. Our T-Mobile bill will come out to about $120 all-in with no-contract and 2GB more data. We paid $350 for each Nexus 51, and T-Mobile will reimburse us for our early termination fees and give us $425 total trade-in on our two iPhones2. Tax, trade-in and all, we’ll break even around six months, hit +$360 by the end of the year, and be up +$1000 in eighteen months when Rachel’s AT&T contract was set to expire.
I believe that Android is going to win out over the next five years. Android already has more mobile users than Apple, and as a technologist, I’d rather place bets on open technologies than closed. If I were going to learn to develop apps for either platform, it’d be Android, and I hope to do that by the end of the year.
That said, I’ve had an iPhone for the last five years, and as my friend Andy likes to say, “Familiarity breeds affinity.” This decision wasn’t a slam dunk. It wasn’t “OMG I’m so frustrated with iPhone.” It was more like “It’s good to step outside of my comfort zone, and there’s value in the freedom of a fully unlocked device with no contract.”
Here are my first impressions, 48 hours in. All opinions are subject to change:
- Google integration is really, really nice. Google already runs my life, and it’s great having a phone on which those apps run natively. Gmail is faster. It’s where my contacts already live. The last two weeks I’ve had problems with iOS syncing to my Google Calendar, and Google Calendar natively is better than iOS as an intermediary.
- Photo backups. I’ve always preferred Picasa to iPhoto, especially when it comes to photo sharing. Because I don’t use iCloud to backup my photos, my iPhone was continually running out of space. I’ve deleted so many pictures over the last few months trying to make room for “just a few more.” Every picture I take on my Nexus 5 is automatically backed up to Google+ (privately), exactly where I want them to be.
- Chrome on Android fully supports WebRTC, which will transform the way we communicate over the Internet. I’m growing tired of Apple being stubborn to adopt Internet standards because, Apple.
- File system access. I can download a file and go to a Download folder. Mind blown.
- Dictation that works. I can dictate emails. We’ve been promised voice-to-speech for thirty years, and it seems like we’ve finally got it.
- Swipe to type. I’m not yet proficient in it, but I suspect that I’m going to eventually be a faster typer on Android.
- It’s a two handed device. The iPhone fit so nicely in my hand. My thumb could reach all corners of the screen. Not so much with the Nexus 5. I’m sure I’ll become accustomed to the benefits larger screen, but right now I miss the familiar comfort of the old form factor.
- Hidden Notifications. I missed an important text message this morning because I’m used to them showing up on my lockscreen. Looks like Peep might resolve this.
- iMessage hijacked my text messages. This one’s on Apple. It’s a big problem, and another symptom of Apple doing what it wants because it’s Apple.
- That said, iMessage across devices was really convenient. The Google equivalent is Hangouts (gChat). To view my messages on my laptop, Gmail has to be open, and it’s not as easy to pull up the message history. There’s probably an OSX app for that (Adium?).
- Shorter Battery life. After its first overnight charge, my battery was at 42% by midday. This was in no small part due to Google Now constantly running GPS. I’ve since switched to the slightly less accurate method of using WiFi and cell towers for Google Now location tracking. Should make a big difference.
All in all, I miss my iPhone, but I’m glad I switched. Ask me again in three months.
Bought in-store, the Nexus 5 is $50 more than directly from Google. The store manager was nice enough to price-match, which he didn’t need to do, as you’re only eligible for early termination reimbursement if you buy a device in store. So the real cost of early termination, at least for the Nexus 5, is the $50 markup. (This is based on what he told me, I haven’t confirmed online.)↩
I suspect that we could get non-trivially more resell value by selling our iPhones on Craigslist. However, I believe that we are only eligible for early termination reimbursement if we trade-in our device (also based on what he told me). Also, Craigslist. ↩