For Christmas in 2008, I received an iPhone 3G. By then, the app store existed. It was my first steps into a brave new world of smart phones. At the time, Apple owned the entire market. All was well.
But the iPhone 3G wasn’t necessarily designed to run apps. After all, it was little more than the original iPhone with a new design and a 3G antenna. With the release of the 3GS and its speed upgrades, many apps quickly began to take advantage of the added processing power. The iPhone and iPhone 3G were quickly being left in the dust.
This subtly affected the ways I wanted and expected to use my phone. The GPS app I bought, Navigon, barely ran at all on the phone. Trying to play music at the same time was a disaster. The lack of multitasking was becoming remarkable frustrating.
Then Google released Android.
Android was the first true competitor to Apple’s iOS. Here was a mobile OS that promised to fix many of the problems iOS had. Android featured full multitasking, subtle notifications, more open development, and a feature that really intrigued me. Google Maps Navigation offered full, voice guided GPS directions streamed through Google Maps. Wrap it all together with a voice command system, and I was sold. I wanted an Android phone. And not just any Android phone. I wanted a Google Nexus One.
Since I wasn’t due for an upgrade for nearly a year, the fact that the Nexus One was sold out of contract no matter what did not deter me. It also helped that I had no trouble selling my iPhone 3G for $300 on eBay. The day that phone arrived, I shed the mortal trappings of iOS and completely adopted Google’s new system. And for a time, it was good.
Then I bought an iPad.
Like the iPhone before it, there was no competitor to the iPad. If you wanted a tablet, this was it. And I wanted a tablet.
So now I was in a weird position. I had a MacBook, an iPad, and an Android phone. My digital ecosystem seemed at odds with itself, but I always found hacks and workarounds to get everything working together.
Before long, the Nexus One, like the iPhone 3G before it, started feeling behind the curve. Not only that, but the battery life was getting pretty bad. So when my AT&T contract expired, I decided that switch to Sprint (unlimited data for life and 4G being my draws), and got my Google Nexus S 4G.
Also around this time, Apple announced iOS 5. A new notifications system (seemingly ripped from Android, but improved), iCloud, and more exciting features. iOS 4 on my iPad demonstrated Apple’s multitasking system to me. iOS was filling in a lot of the gaps I complained about.
Meanwhile, I was becoming increasingly disenchanted with Android. My battery life, even on the new phone, paled in comparison to what my brother was achieving with his iPhone 4. The camera was nowhere near as good. The system was sluggish and the best of times and downright unresponsive at the worst of times. Something as simple as opening an email would cause the system to hang. Force closes on Android is a common vernacular. And I was still fighting to get my Nexus S 4G to work in my increasingly closing Apple ecosystem. iCloud would likely be the final nail in that coffin.
So when rumors began to ramp up of a new iPhone that would be coming to Sprint, I decided to come back to the walled yet comfortable Apple garden.
It’s nice in here.
With my new iPhone 4S, I’ve noticed improvements in every category. Battery life is great. Not only does it last longer, but it charges remarkably fast. I can go from 50% battery to full in nearly an hour!
iOS shows the strength of Apple’s closed systems. The OS and the phone work so well together. There’s never any of the sluggishness I had experienced with Android. iOS’s dominance and near developer ubiquity assure that just about any mobile app I’d ever want is on the App Store, a luxury I never really enjoyed on Android.
The list goes on. Siri blows Google Voice actions out of the water (as I’ve previously shown), the camera is amazing, the number of available accessories dwarfs what you find on a typical Android handset, and my MacBook, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV all work together in perfect harmony thanks to iCloud, iTunes Match, and more.
But I hear the Android defense force and what they would say to me. “But wait! Android is open. You can mod it with custom firmware and features.” Don’t care. I used to, but I realized that the reason I did this was to make up for deficiencies in the phone itself. It was a hassle to have to root, flash, install, update, backup, tweak, and adjust everything. I was in constant fear of bricking my phone or breaking it somehow. It became less of a fun thing and more like work. I got to the point where I just wanted my phone to work.
Additionally, the fragmentation of the Android install base really bothers me. It’s the reason I always stayed with Nexus phones. But even this became an issue. Nexus phones were always released on different carriers at different times. The upcoming Galaxy Nexus is coming to Verizon, with a model that would work on T Mobile and AT&T available for import. Nothing has even been announced for Sprint.
When you see that only about 50% of Android phones in the wild today operate on the latest version, Gingerbread, I’d risk falling behind the OS curve. Unless of course I root and mod the phone. So why am I and a large group of dedicated hobbyists making up for the carriers’ and handset manufacturers’ deficiencies? An iOS update comes out, and I download and install it. Easy peasy.
Is there a market for Android? Of course there is. If you want a smart phone for under $100 that came out within the last year, it’s not a bad choice. If you don’t want to do too much with it, or conversely if you want to be able to hack and customize your phone like there’s no tomorrow, go for it. That’s what I wanted to do when I was in grad school. But today, I don’t have the time or desire to bother with it. I want my devices to just work. Apple gives me that.