As you may know, I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with Windows and Android. However, for one of these two partners, it’s time to break up.
I love Windows, as it’s what I grew up with, it has the biggest app library ever made, and gives users vastly more options. Additionally, the most innovative PC’s, the Surface line, also struck a chord with me for their amazing design, as well as their great hardware-software integration. Apple lost the PC race, and in terms of software library at least, it still hasn’t regained it. I still can’t see myself switching to Mac OS any time soon, if ever.
On the other hand, I’ve always loved Android. I was never a fan of Apple and how they locked down their hardware, and was under the illusion that because Android phones had higher specs, they would always be better.
While I continue to love Windows, I’ve had a bit of a falling out with Android as of late, and I’m finally going to say what I never thought I’d say before:
I’m switching to iPhone.
My Love Affair with Android
I’ve always loved Android, because I disagreed with some of Apple’s early policies on their tightly controlled and hardly customizable OS, the lack of a back button (near the home button), and the difficulty of using it to transfer media from your Windows PC.
While I admit Apple did have some great OS features Android lacked, Android began adding in many of these in later updates, including the latest update.
Additionally, I coveted Android’s Windows-like experience, where you could purchase bigger screen sizes and more powerful components to go along with your phone.
But, as I later realized, Android, like Windows PC’s, have their drawbacks. My first Android phone was a cheap Red Samsung Android phone. The screen was 3.5″, and there was hardly any internal storage, but I was upgrading from a flip phone. This was heaven. Eventually, I got fed up with the lack of storage space, the small screen, and subpar camera and performance of the phone. It was time for an upgrade.
Then came along the Moto X. The Moto X was, under new owner ownership of Google, Motorola’s great attempt at changing the way Android could look. It combined a near-stock Android experience with great, useful additions that anyone would love, and good hardware (not top of the line, but good enough for most). The result was a fantastic Android phone that was more affordable than the Galaxy S’ of the day, and arguably better.
Eventually, Lenovo bought Motorola, and changed the Moto X. We got the last great Moto X phone, the Moto X (3rd gen, my current phone). After two years of having my original Moto X, it was a fantastic upgrade. Bigger 5.7″ screen, stereo speakers, faster processor, better camera, better battery, etc. I’m still enjoying these features, especially the stereo speakers (as I’m kind of an audiophile), and camera (the best video quality Gamer Splash has gotten so far). It came with Android Lollipop installed, stock. It worked great and the phone was as snappy as can be. However, I’m also a software aficionado, and love upgrading to get the latest software features. I upgraded to the latest Android, Marshmallow, and was in for a surprise.
My Falling Out with Android
Sure, I appreciated the new features and battery modes. What I wasn’t prepared for were the drawbacks. After upgrading, my once snappy phone instantly became more sluggish. It was instantly recognizable, as the animations on the home screen seemed more sluggish and apps like Snapchat and Instagram took longer to open than before. It was still a big improvement over my original Moto X, but the latest update made the whole phone slower. Apparently, the new version of Android used more system resources, or the new version wasn’t optimized for the phone as much as it could have been. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the battery problems.
Ever since the first Moto X, Motorola has always advertised an “all day” battery for the handset. This was true to some extent, but in my experience, it never lasted all day. The original Moto X, like the Moto X (3rd Gen), had the same issues after upgrading to the latest version of Android (Kit Kat for that one). Kit Kat and Marshmallow offered improvements to system efficiency, more OS features like a built-in flashlight, and an improved battery saver. However, after updating my handset to the latest version, the system tended to become more sluggish and run out of battery quicker. Not faster, as was promised. Frequently, now my battery will be dead before the end of the day. Especially if I’m doing something important like using GPS and looking at other apps while out and about. In other words, using my phone.
Read how my day with my phone ended up in my previous blog post:
Now I don’t mean to say Google was lying when they advertised these new features. I’m sure on the reference phones Google tested, Android did perform better in all these areas. However, as for Motorola’s optimization, on old hardware, the results don’t fare so well.
Sure, the new features of Android were great to have, but these came at the cost of decreased performance and battery life. At first, I thought, “Oh, I prefer the new features”. But at this point, I’ve realized that in reality and practice, it’s more important to have better performance and battery life than extra features, and I didn’t end up using the new features so much anyways.
This is the Windows drawback I was talking about earlier. While I prefer Windows and Android for their openness of the OS (and because I’m used to them), they come with notable drawbacks, as well:
The Open Platform Drawback
The first drawback:
The licensed platform. Android, like Windows, is able to be used on any machine, provided the hardware has the proper interface to use the OS. This means you can build a powerful beast of a system, and have it run without bounds, but what this also means is that you can build a very weak system, and have the OS run very sluggishly. On a cheap build, an Android phone or Windows PC will indeed run, but not very well at that. Games may just be playable, but have low framerates and bad graphics. Apps like Snapchat will run, but may take 30 seconds to open. And you can bet they will crash and lag too. The Windows PC would have the same issues. The benefit of the open platform is that a company can build an expensive PC for the aficionado, and a cheap PC for the more economically-compromised. And you can build your own. However, this results in an experience for each user that varies vastly from person to person, with the worst being a terrible, unusable experience. And it’s not so fair to the person who buys a cheap computer or phone.
Optimization and efficiency. While Android and Windows are great operating systems with robust sets of features like their competitors, they simply can’t be optimized. Microsoft and Google make the operating systems, and allow them to scale between devices that have more or less power. This allows you to buy an Android or Windows device from any manufacturer you want. But no matter what device you buy, the experience won’t be optimized for it. Inevitably, the OS’ end up using more system resources from each system in order to run properly, and if you buy a cheap device, you’re stuck with poor performance and a bad user experience. Unless you buy a Microsoft Surface PC or a Google Nexus phone (the reference models for Windows and Android), you can be sure the OS you’re running on won’t be fully optimized for your device. Sure, throw enough powerful hardware at it, and it will do just fine. But don’t, and you’re stuck with a bad user experience.
There is the difference with regard to form factors. It’s no secret that some phone designs are better than others. And what may be good for you, may bad bad for someone else. Yet Android and Windows are still meant to be used on similar devices. Similar looking and similar performing. But the further a device strays from the expected specifications, the worse the OS will accommodate it. Furthermore, the OS can only be fully optimized for one device, and if you buy a device from any manufacturer other than Google or Microsoft, you can be sure that something may not fit quite right. No wonder Samsung modifies Android to work better for its handset (but at the cost of performance – leading them to put in bigger specs and batteries; we all know how that’s been going recently).
Now granted, the experience won’t vary too much between phones in this regard, because most phones are similar in form factor. But again, a cheap Android phone with a 3-inch screen, or an expensive phone with a mirrored-edge display pushes Android to limits it wasn’t absolutely designed for, sometimes taking a toll on performance, which leads to the need for bigger batteries and faster processors, whereas on a unified hardware-software system, this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem.
On iPhone, None of These Problems Exist
Why? Because of something called hardware-software integration. Put simply, Apple can avoid all these problems with sluggish performance, subpar battery life, and buggy/poor user experience by creating and molding its operating system specifically for its own hardware. Unlike Android and Windows, which can be used on nearly any degree of hardware from different manufacturers, only Apple makes the hardware for the iPhone. They then proceed to design the operating system specifically for the device’s exact specifications and form factor, resulting in a fully optimized experience.
This results in the user experience being faster, less buggy, and more fluid, because the system software is created specifically for the hardware. It’s built for the hardware not only in its specs, but to accommodate its physical design, as well.
Not only does this allow Apple to make the iPhone as fast as the hardware will let it, but also to design things in the user interface that will correspond 1:1 with the specific iPhone hardware (the taptic engine and home button with Touch ID are good examples of this).
Additionally, it allows Apple to eliminate anything that is unnecessary from the experience. Whereas Android must include all of the features in the OS in a one-size-fits-all approach to function on all devices, Apple can choose to only include features that the hardware will accommodate, resulting in the most fast and efficient operating system, perfectly tailored for the device it is running on. Due to this, you can be sure your iPhone will make the most out of the battery, the camera, and the processor it is equipped with.
The software is optimized for the hardware, and vice versa.
The Marriage of Hardware and Software
With a marriage of software and hardware, comes the user experience intended by the creator.
As with films and music, the experience will always be better if you watch the movie or listen to the album in its original format. If you listen to Coldplay on a portable speaker, it will sound good, but not as good as if you were in the studio the band recorded in. If you watch Star Wars on your iPod, it will still be a great movie, but it won’t be as good of an experience as if you were sitting in LucasArts’ studio on premiere day.
Getting an Android is like seeing Star Wars at a decent theater with possibly better popcorn, or listening to Coldplay on your own earbuds. It’s good and has some extra convenience or features, but the core experience isn’t as the director or band intended.
Getting an iPhone is like sitting next to George Lucas at the theater where the film was made, or like sitting next to Coldplay in the studio where they made the album. You will be getting the optimal experience, exactly as the director or band intended.
Sure, with the previous options, you can choose what theater has good popcorn, the speaker that has the most bass, or the phone that has the biggest camera. But with these choices, you lose part of the rest of the experience, because a film, an album, or an OS cannot be optimized for every medium or device. Thus, the experience will lack in other areas, such as lighting, sound quality, or phone performance. You get the extra convenience or features you want, but you never have an experience perfectly optimized for the medium at hand.
With the iPhone, I may not be getting Moto Mods or a Galaxy S Pen, but I will be getting a software experience perfectly tailored to the hardware I buy. Apps will open instantly and run without a hitch. The battery will last longer than the same battery on an Android phone. And the processor and memory will do more than on an Android device. All due to the OS and apps being specifically optimized for the hardware at hand (no pun intended).
Because of this, I can be sure that if I buy an iPhone, I am buying the most tailored experience for a phone. If I buy the latest iPhone, I can be sure that I am receiving the user experience that Apple has intended, without compromise.
It’s no wonder Nintendo are now choosing to launch their software on iOS first, along with so many other brands. And it’s no wonder there are just 4 Moto Mods announced so far, while the iPhone has hundreds of attachable accessories tailor-made for it by different manufacturers. Companies don’t like making one-size-fits-all products. And in many cases, it’s impossible. Companies and individuals would rather make something custom-tailored, because, well it works better. It’s more natural. It’s like one-size-fits-all clothing. It fits okay, but it’s always better if you buy one in your size, or better yet, one made specifically for you.
The same applies to iPhones. As explained by Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo can better optimize Super Mario Run for iPhone, because every recent iPhone’s hardware and OS is the same. It’s coming to iPhone first, and later for Android, because it’s a lot easier to make it work on all iPhones (largely identical), rather than all Android phones (in which everyone’s is different). Additionally, the Android phones have issues with fragmentation – a problem where most of the user-base is split by the version of their software, making consumers unable to get the latest version of Android unless they have a phone made in the last year or two. This is another headache for developers, as they have to optimize apps for all different, and now obsolete versions of Android. The latest iOS goes further back, and everyone’s running similar hardware, so it’s not so much of an issue on iPhones.
And that brings me to another point. Since I don’t have the latest version of Android, I still can’t use, or even see, the latest emojis. Years later, I still can’t do it. You’d think a simple update to Google Keyboard would fix it, but no, absolutely not. You have to wait until the whole OS gets updated (in Moto X’s case, sometimes up to a year later). And unless you’ve got a recent device, you shouldn’t count on it.
So with the iPhone, I won’t be getting a device with extra features, but taking away from the experience elsewhere. I’ll be confident that the features I do get will be as good as they can be, without compromise. And I can be sure I’ll get my emojis. Emojis are not too surprisingly, another “Apple First” thing.
And that brings me to my last point.
Why Switch Now?
I’ve been (relatively) satisfied with Android phones for a few years. The main reasons I hadn’t switched to iPhone were because of the features iPhone didn’t have. One benefit of different manufacturers making their own Android phones is that they can choose to add cool hardware features like stereo speakers, AMOLED displays, and bigger screens. And the Android OS worked better with Windows. Until recent years, iPhones had 4-inch screens, a single speaker, a standard RGB display, and were not so easy to pair with Windows. I know I would have missed some of these features if I switched to iPhone earlier.
However, it’s now turned a near 180 degrees. My favorite phone, the Moto series, has changed its plans. The new Moto Z packs a more powerful processor and Moto Mods, but it loses something more important to me – stereo speakers. And as the possible successor to the Moto X, it isn’t so affordable anymore. The price, previously $400, has jumped to over double that, competing directly with the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7 of today. And all for what?
The new Moto Z is beautiful, and the Moto Mods are really cool, but there’s what, like, 4 mods announced for it so far? Even when (if?) more are made, how many companies are going to support it? While the Moto Z has a few new expensive accessories, Apple’s iPhone has garnered hundreds of attachable accessories on its iPhone line. Motorola is trying to attack the iPhone with its Moto Mods this year, and while its ads are cleverly written, in reality, they forget the myriad of accessories Apple’s iPhones already have. They just attach to the lightning port instead of the back of the phone (sometimes better for that too).
iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have, on the other hand, finally added in all the features I enjoyed on an Android phone. The iPhone has slowly been checking off the list of features it missed from Android. The iPhone 7 finally has stereo speakers, an OIS image sensor (not to mention the best phone camera now, with tons of accessories already on the market), quad LED flash, and a bigger screen with wide color gamut. Some of the best things it didn’t have, it now has. And as Android manufacturers continue to try out new technologies, Apple will continue to incorporate the best of these technologies with each new iPhone, as well as introducing their own innovative features, as well.
For me, my favorite line of phones has taken a step back, removing the stereo speakers and increasing the price, while the phone I thought I’d never get has taken tremendous leaps forward, finally becoming the phone I’ve always wanted. And it’s going to continue to do that each and every year.
As a matter of fact, both phones remove the headphone jack. And if I’m going to buy a phone with that, I’ll at least take the better phone.
I’m Moving on From Android
No more home screen lag. No more apps responding poorly. No more battery problems “fixed” by a one-size-fits-all battery saver. No more updates making my phone slower. No more not seeing my friends’ emoticons. And no more being second priority.
No more subpar Star Wars with good popcorn. No more Coldplay on some old earbuds.
I’m switching to iPhone. And it’s for the best.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think Android is very important. No company with a monopoly turns out well, so it is good that the iPhone has competition to help push it forward, as well. Both platforms are still great, and there is still other innovation on different Android hardware that you won’t find on an iPhone, simply due to the nature of there being so many different companies who make hardware for the OS. If you’re fine sacrificing a bit for some of those extra bells and whistles, that’s great. I was for several years – but I’m not anymore. If you, like me, want the best and most custom-tailored user experience for the hardware you buy, iPhone is where it’s at.
Did you like this blog? Do you agree? Have something amazing to say about Android to stop me from switching? If so, let me know in the comments.
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-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash