About a year ago, one of our cats decided to take a drink of water. She did this from a glass that was on my desk, and in so doing she tipped it over and gave my iPhone a bit of a bath. Thankfully, the water was shallow and my phone wasn’t destroyed, but it was damaged and the home button hasn’t worked right since.
If you’re not familiar with the iPhone 4, there are four physical buttons: home, power, and two volume buttons. To wake the phone from sleeping, you use either the home or power button, and most of the menus and other features are accessed using the home button, such as switching between applications, or closing applications.
With the need for a new phone driving me, I’ve been trying to decide between waiting for the next iPhone and upgrading to an Android phone now. After a lot of research, I decided to get a Galaxy Nexus because it wouldn’t require using my upgrade through AT&T and because it seemed like an all-around good device. Worst-case-scenario, if I hate it I can sell it in October and get an iPhone 5. If I like it, I’ve got one of the best devices out and will get updates directly from Google.
After three days with the Galaxy Nexus, though, I find that I’m really liking it. It does almost everything I need better than the iPhone, and for the few things it doesn’t do as well, I can overlook that.
I had planned to take screenshots on the two devices and compare app by app, but I’m not quite that dedicated, and instead will just write briefly about the differences between iOS and Android.
OK, maybe just a few pictures.
One of the things for which Android is known is the ability to customize your phone. Often, it is compared with iPhone’s iOS in this way: if you want a phone that Just Works, get an iPhone, and if you want to fiddle and tinker with your phone, get an Android.
Generally speaking, I don’t want to spend a ton of time tinkering with my phone to get it to work. I want wireless, email, etc. to work flawlessly, but at the same time, I do like playing with tech toys.
To that end, I have installed around 40 apps, including WidgetLocker. This app lets me customize my lock screen with different buttons and widgets, and I really like how it turned out. I can access the apps I use most directly from the lock screen, and also see the time and weather/temperature really easily.
I can also change the brightness and volume or pull down the notifications window.
A staple of Android is the ability to add widgets to the home screen. I dislike that it is limited by default to 5 home screens, but once I realized all the apps are stored in a separate app drawer, I came to really like not having every single app cluttering up my home screens.
Instead, I’ve only added the apps I use a lot to my home screens, and I’ve added a variety of widgets around them. My calendar, RememberTheMilk, power settings, and Google Music all have places on my home screens, and on the main home screen is another nice time and weather widget.
The forecast app is a lot better than what was on the iPhone too.
In iPhone, email is managed through the Mail app, and I really liked the unified mail setup it had. I saw both Exchange and Gmail in the same app, and it was very quick and easy to check and reply to email.
The email app on Android can do that, but I don’t like it as much as the Mail app on iPhone. Subsequently, I have been using the separate Email and Gmail apps on Android and I find myself liking having my email separated. And now that I am getting used to the apps, I’m beginning to like them alright. I miss being able to swipe to delete mail, but other than that it’s pretty good.
Both the Galaxy Nexus and the iPhone use a software keyboard, but you can install other keyboards on Android through the app store, and the one I found to be the best rated is SwiftKey.
I was pretty comfortable with the keyboard on the iPhone and I was generally an accurate typist with it. Its autocorrect was generally just fine for me, and I was quick writing emails or texts.
SwiftKey is definitely a step up, though. It has some nice themes, and its predictive abilities are impressive. If the user wants, it can scan email and text messages to learn the words you use most, and there are some messages where I only need to type a few words and then just keep hitting autocomplete to finish out the message. It’s fast, accurate, and I particularly like being able to hold down a key to go to the other options for that key really quickly.
There’s no double-space-bar for periods, though, which I miss, and its number pad and layout beyond the QWERTY keyboard is weird and I don’t really like that. But I still think it is better than the stock keyboard, and I’m getting used to it.
I haven’t used it on a regular work day yet, but it looks like I’ll get 12-14 hours of regular use out of the phone before I need to charge it, and that’s pretty much exactly what I got on my iPhone. Android phones generally have poor battery life, but the Galaxy Nexus seems to be pretty good.
Storage and Music
Something that’s really different for me is that I’m not storing a ton of stuff on this phone. Normally I transfer 10-15gb of music, another 10gb of photos, some other stuff… I just store a bunch on the device. But the Galaxy Nexus is built on the premise that you’re uploading stuff to Google’s cloud and then streaming it.
I’ve been using Google Music for a while now at work and I really like it, and having that integrated so well with the phone is nice. Other than installing apps, I have been surprised to find myself not needing to transfer anything to the device. Instead, I just stream stuff, and it works great. (Also of note is that the speakers on the Galaxy Nexus are better than what any iPhone has.)
I had anticipated this being the biggest challenge in converting from the Apple iPhone to Android on the Galaxy Nexus: configuring everything and getting all my data transferred. But setting up things like email and logging into apps wasn’t that big a deal, and I didn’t transfer any data at all, so moving from one device to the other was pretty painless.
Oh, and on that note, all I had to do to switch from the iPhone to the Galaxy Nexus was to move the SIM card from one to the other. I haven’t changed anything on my plan with AT&T and everything has Just Worked.
OS and Screen
Part of the impetus for me to switch to Android are the rumours about iOS 6. I like Google apps quite a bit, and Apple is looking to distance themselves even more from Google with their next OS release. Having full integration with Maps, G+, Gmail, etc. on Android is really nice.
And it is all displayed beautifully on the Nexus’s screen. I don’t think anything can really compare with Apple’s Retina Display, and I’ll admit that the Retina Display is far better. But the Nexus screen is still very good, and the UI is so much better than Apple’s that it more than makes up for the screen’s quality. There’s no good way to show the UI unless you play with it yourself, but I’m really liking it. I’d heard that Android can be faster than iOS for completing tasks, but I was really familiar with iOS and quite fast with it… Despite that, after just a few days I’m getting quick with Android and finding it to be superior for a number of tasks. And I just think Jelly Bean (the current version of the Android OS) is pretty. It looks so much better than iOS 5.
At the final count, I’ll definitely be keeping the Galaxy Nexus. It’s a great phone (I didn’t mention anything about phone functionality, but its call quality is way better than the iPhone’s), and I love Android’s customizability, UI, and integration with Google apps and the Google Play store (being able to install apps from a web browser is really neat).
The Apple iPhone was definitely superior to Android in the not-too-distant past. I’ve had an iPhone for around 3 years now, and I don’t think it was until the last version of Android that it really surpassed iOS. But now, I have trouble seeing why someone would choose iOS over Android.
Of course, iOS 6 may change that, but I worry that it will be more of the same, and just another incremental improvement. So far, the only big, new features I’ve seen in iOS is more Facebook integration (and I dislike Facebook and deleted my account some time ago), and getting rid of Google Maps in favour of a new mapping app from Apple (which, by all reports so far, has a lot less data than Google and isn’t nearly as good… and Maps on Android is even better than Google Maps on the iPhone!). If they maintain their UI and layout the same as the last 4 versions of iOS, and we haven’t seen anything to suggest they’re not, it will be a shame.
iPhones are great devices, and I liked mine quite a bit. I still think they’re solid. But for me, and I think for most people, Android is better because it is the result of several years of improvements while iOS has remained largely the same despite years of opportunity to learn what isn’t working and how to make things better.
And with the Galaxy Nexus, I’ll get updates directly from Google and subsequently have the most recent OS. All-in-all, the Galaxy Nexus is hard to beat right now.