Moving From iOS to Android – Temporarily..?

I’ve been using an iPhone since the 3G [so about 5 years], right up to my 4S’ encounter with the washing machine. While there are many opinion pieces out there comparing the two ecosystems – just like pictures of cats – there’s always room for one more. I’m sure there are plenty of people looking at yesterday’s announcement from Apple and wondering where they are going next.

The point of no return for my moving to Android was the drop in price of the Nexus 4 to £159 a few weeks back. It is an absolute bargain for a phone that most benchmarks – I looked at GeekBench – put on a par with the iPhone 5. The additional real estate on the screen is a joy, and one which I think would be the single toughest aspect of a move back to the iPhone. The battery life is hard to compare with a handset that was nearly two years old and because of adapting usage patterns [more on this later], but it’s certainly very good. It’s only paranoia that has stopped me from charging more than once a day – and even then only on a couple of occasions.

The actual mechanics of my move were simple: for instance, I’ve used Google Contacts and Calendar for years. The first app that I bought was Tasker, which epitomises the flexibility of the platform. It can be a little bit tricky to navigate, especially as the majority of the documentation predates the current UI, but I’m getting there, with various functions set for when I hit / leave my home wifi, when I plug in headphones, and so on.

So on to some of the stuff that’s not so hot. I have a side-by-side comparison with one very specific iPhone app which I used every day for years on my early morning walk to the station: TuneIn Radio. It is now completely unusable: I get about 10 seconds of radio followed by 40 seconds of buffering. This could be specific to the carrier [I haven’t changed, it’s just what the handset offers], but on paper HSPDA should be faster than the 3g service I was using. Stuck in the back corner of our house – again a side by side comparison – the wifi reception is also not as good as on my 4S.

The various views that the Nexus desktop provides: the home screens versus the All Apps view that runs flows into the unkempt wilderness that is pages and pages of widgets – I mean who thought that was a good idea? I know why it’s there, it’s just messy.

A few more mini-gripes. I’m not that keen on the music app, and haven’t really found a podcast app that I’m sure is a keeper [BeyondPod seems to be popular but the full version for £4.49 strikes me as pretty expensive]. In the interest of balance, it has to be said that the podcast app on the iPhone had morphed into a real frustration. It was a dark day when it was carved out of warm embrace of the iPod app: the cost of not synching podcasts by wire was something that was borderline unusable. Maybe iOS 7 will bless us [and I still cradle my iPad every day] with something that actually works.

One of my biggest gripes is with the permissions list that apps are looking for – the double edged sword of flexibility seems to be that developers throw everything at the wall on the off chance that something will stick. I am absolutely prepared to embrace this for Tasker – it needs permissions to do what it says on the tin – and the liberty of life outside Apple’s walled garden is, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, a breath of fresh air. However, the list of perms that that the LinkedIn app [an example of one of many that I’ve passed on] is faintly terrifying. The ability to go in with a pair of tweezers, and toggle perms on a per app basis, is something that iOS does very well. It is coming apparently in 4.3, as a quick google of ‘app ops android’ will show.

The opinion I’ve been fomenting over the last couple of weeks extends what I already knew about the flexibility of the platform, pre-adoption. Fair enough, it is it there for you in Android, but I think that what’s left behind for the average person who couldn’t be bothered is not as polished or well considered. I think the ‘average person’ in this instance subdivides into two: people who either skim across the surface, or just install software with impunity.

Apple has a very accessible platform, and one that protects you from potentially poor decision making. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there wondering why their phone is glowing at night, when it’s churning through a dozen fat processes in parallel in the background. [Apple have been particularly conservative here, and the whole background process functionality was something of a hobby for me – right up until Washing Machine Day :(. It will be interesting to see how the new background functionality continues to develop from iOS 7 onwards.]

I’m only a few weeks into Android so I’m sure my opinion will refine, if not change. Was the move off the iPhone one-way? I’m not sure. Would I ever consider buying a ‘premium’ Android phone? No, I really can’t see it. That takes you into OS fragmentation territory, and an experience that is still predicated on good old Android.

One other thing I’m pretty sure about: I’m not going to develop for it. I have spent the last couple of years teaching myself Objective C and I can’t face Java!