Alright, my hands are up. I am an Apple fanboy. Their products have always fascinated me. Something about having both the hardware and software designed by the same company, allowing the tech I own to possess a seamless synergy, has really gripped me. Currently, I’ve got a MacBook and an iPad, which work very well together. But if you really want to experience all that Apple has to offer, you’ll need an iPhone also. That coveted rectangle (at least in my opinion), is the glue that holds all the other devices together. With it, you open up the possibility to make/receive phone calls and text messages on all your devices, continue drafting documents started on the phone with another device and effortlessly share just-snapped-pics using iCloud or AirDrop. (I promise, this is not a paid promotion for Apple products). Everything just works, like magic. iPhones are also renowned for their industry-leading customer satisfaction, wildly popular cameras and one size fits (almost) all software updates.
So why then, if iPhone is so great, would I even consider switching to the dark side - the fierce competition, known as Android?
In my opinion, it goes like this:
Android is the better mobile operating system, created by Google.
Apple have the better ecosystem (collection of software, hardware and accessories).
But the fact that Apple’s mobile operating system - iOS, is lacking so much in what I want from a phone, despite the overall ecosystem being pretty damn near perfect, I just had to switch.
That’s the short answer anyway - all you nerds, grab your snacks.
This is about to get wild.
The now defunct iPhone of choice was the 2015 iPhone 6s. Everyone will remember this as the last iPhone with a headphone jack. That aside, there were other decent features to behold: 3D Touch and updated cameras that brought video recording in 4K alongside Live Photos. But one thing which failed to see a major (and much needed) upgrade, was the design. Apple were still rocking a 4.7 inch display surrounded by some chunky bezels. One year later in 2016, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus launched with some brand new colours and finishes: black, matte black, jet black, night black, absolute black, total complete darkness black and “we can’t believe it’s still not black enough - blackety black black black”. But the overall look was still the same. A small screen, surrounded by big bezels.
This is where my totally vain, first world problems began.
I was tired of this old design and it was making me hate my phone. However, six months after Apple’s release, Samsung would announce its Galaxy S8 with the coined, Infinity Display: shrunken bezels on the forehead and the chin, and virtually zero bezels everywhere else. As far as hardware goes, it was beautiful. Not only that, but a host of other features made me appreciate the phone more: USB-C, a high-res screen and Bluetooth 5.0. The only problem was, this phone ran on Android.
Marques Brownlee puts it like this:
“Living inside this Apple ecosystem is sort of like what we’d call, a walled garden. Meaning, everything that’s in the garden - in these walls - is this beautiful, luscious [place, where] everything is green [and is] everything that you could ever want. But these walls on the outside are really tall, and [Apple] kinda don’t want you trying to climb out or trying to explore beyond those walls. ‘Just look at all the great stuff in here…’”
Marques Brownlee - The 🍎 Ecosystem: Explained! - YouTube
I had betrayed Apple. I had peaked at what was on the other side of those walls and it was beautiful. So I became tempted to escape. But Apple had of course preempted this with iMessage, iCloud and the rest of their iKnowYouAintGoingAnywhereBish services. Their tactic is to create (albeit, great) hardware and software that work so well together, you’ll keep buying their products - forever remaining trapped in their “garden” - making the leaving process even more difficult. Leaving iOS meant leaving behind 10000s of WhatsApp messages backed up to iCloud. It also meant saying goodbye to my favourite app, Bear - my choice for all of my writing bits. Alas, I sought a better mobile experience and would stop at nothing to achieve it.
The question is, why was Android so compelling to switch to, if switching featured so much loss?
Because there was so much to gain.
Unlike iOS, Android is open source - meaning, free to modify and redistribute. In turn, this allows multiple smartphone manufacturers to slap on whatever coat of paint they want on their Android phones. Take Samsung for example. They are well known for taking a large, colourful dump all over “Stock Android”. But we like it. Samsung phones are always talked about and most of the time with high praise. Conversely, Google’s offerings - the Pixel 2 & 2 XL - running pure, unadulterated Stock Android, are also proving to be very popular. There are loads of different manufacturers creating loads of different mobile devices for Android customers all over the world. This creates choice and drives competition in the smartphone market, often leading to better deals and greater variety for us consumers.
But the beauty of Android doesn’t stop there. It embodies the true definition of customisation, allowing you to customise way more than just your lock screen wallpaper. If you own an Android, chances are your home screen is going to vary in looks significantly, compared to someone else’s device. Literally, everything can be modified to suit your style: the system font, notifications, LED indicator light colours, the extra side buttons on your device (ahem, Samsung, ahem). If that’s not enough, you can even change the entire look of your phone by installing a new theme. Still not satisfied? You have access to even more features such as expandable storage, in-depth battery optimisation options, USB-C peripherals… The list goes on and on. For us nerds, this is the kind of stuff we want: the ability to make our phones, truly ours.
However, it’s not all digital roses and peaches with Google’s Android.
Android is the world’s most most popular mobile operating system.
This statistic is impressive and trumps Apple’s current 1 billion active devices. But if we think about it for a second: 2 billion monthly active devices, featuring tens of thousands of different hardware specifications, created by hundreds of different manufacturers, being served across hundreds of different carriers - all over the world - has created a problem Google can’t solve.
With so many variations and versions of the same operating system and so many mobile devices to choose from, Android is fragmented beyond repair. And for Google, this is a serious issue. How do you begin to ensure the over 2 billion Android devices in the world get the latest updates? You don’t. You can’t. At the time of writing, the latest version of Android is 8.1 Oreo. The iteration has been released for over 6 months but still, less than 1% of Android smartphones are currently running it. Whereas the iCompetition boasts an 81% adoption rate of their latest: iOS 11. This is another advantage Apple has because of their commitment to creating both the hardware and software of their products: updates can be delivered for a longer time to a wider range of devices. Conversely, for Android, not only does this mean that the majority of users are without the latest features on their devices, but this also poses some major security issues (exposing mad hacks). If it becomes known that an Android phone released a few years ago is susceptible to a malware attack, how certain is it that an update will get pushed to patch it? Not very. Even if it does get patched, chances are it will be a while before the affected phone receives the update.
A lot of people get it wrong: it’s not that Android phones are inherently less secure, it’s more so that in the event of a cyberattack, most Android phones will typically take longer to update and secure than iPhones. If you’re rocking a Google Pixel device, you’re probably feeling pretty smug right now.
“Enough security chat you nerd! One thing doesn’t make sense. You mentioned you didn’t like the iPhone anymore because the design was stale. Well, what about the iPhone X?”
When it finally came to upgrading my phone, the iPhone X was Apple’s final chance to keep me tied to their ecosystem. After years of the same old, same old, this was the iPhone that finally featured the drastic update I had been waiting for: an OLED screen with a mind-boggling, but high 2436x1125 resolution. Optically stabilised cameras. Animoji (because why not?) Face ID. Virtually zero bezels surrounding the beautiful new screen, with the exception of dat notch ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Notch aside, the iPhone X was still a groundbreaking phone and livened up my interest in Apple’s innovations once more. However, there was an issue:
How could I justify spending £1000 on a phone?
That’s more than half of my monthly salary.
That’s money that could go towards buying a house and moving out from my parents’ place.
My goodness, how would I explain that cost to my parents!?
They wouldn't understand.
They would kill me!
It became clear that iPhone X, wasn’t going to happen.
But then to say I “settled” for the phone I ended up going for, would be wrong.
I really had to think about what I wanted from my next phone. On the top of that list was, “a taller, high resolution, OLED display” which the iPhone X did have. But right underneath that, was “customisation”. I wanted to modify more than just a few wallpapers and the placement of some apps on my home screen. I wanted complete control over my notifications and how I receive them. I wanted expandable storage so I can store all my songs, photos and videos without worrying about running out of space - all without breaking the bank. So eventually, I plucked up the courage, said goodbye to my 10000s of WhatsApp messages (now exported to several text files) and bought the Samsung Galaxy S9.
The S9 is certainly more than enough to keep this demanding tech-enthusiast content for another 24 month contract, and beyond. Whilst I will no doubt miss iOS and all the iServices along with it (I am still yet to find a replacement for Bear), I feel as though changing phones in this way was a smart move - especially at over £200 cheaper than if I’d gone for the iPhone X.
I’m not an Android newb. I have owned phones from Motorola and HTC in the past.
And I have to say, it’s good to be back.
The grass is greener on the other side.*This article was published in 2018 and so some points may now be redundant :)