For more than a month now, I’ve been using an iPhone as my main phone and I feel like I’ve developed a deeper understanding with regards to why people enjoy iOS. I certainly have a newly found appreciation for the quality of the software Apple produces. However, even after a month or so on iOS, I still feel like I can comfortably go back to Android.
My first thoughts on iOS were the amazing fluidity of the operating system – and I get the impression that it has been continually refined, so that there are no hiccups (in terms of UI). It feels incredibly responsive and a common trait within Apple’s software is the focus on responsiveness this has been a key feature for most users. Even though I am using a two year old device, it is very snappy and comfortable to use. It is rare that I encounter a stutter, and when I do, it seems completely unexpected. Its not like my Nexus 4, which I know will start to slow if I’m installing updates in the background, and this is something I’ve come to expect.
The camera has really been the standout feature to me. I’m amazed at the speed of it, and how easy Apple make it to take a good picture without the need to fine tune the settings. It feels like I can take a picture without having to worry about changing the white balance for example which is essentially what I want from a phone camera. I feel a phone camera should enable you to take quick pictures of your life in reasonable quality without having to worry about focusing times. Very few phones seem to latch on to this idea, but the iPhone camera has enough impressive post processing on images to really make the experience worry free. This does come at a price of occasionally too much post processing in low light but I’m happy with the speed at which it takes pictures in low light, even if it’s a bit grainy, it still looks great on Instagram. It’s something I’m desperate for on Android and I’m yet to see an Android camera that comes close to the iPhone. I admit this may not fit everyone’s needs as some people like to adjust the ISO themselves and all that but there are OEM camera apps and third party apps that handle this.
The app ecosystem is something which is often contended as the place to go for polished apps. In my month on iOS I definitely found that the large majority of apps were designed in the iOS 7 design, and it was hard to find an app which is developed using an old iOS 6 like design paradigm. It also felt like the apps looked nicer and felt more responsive, apps like Spotify or even my banking app. I also noticed that the O2 Priorities app had a lot more care put into it in the iOS version to the point where it had a completely different and more fluid design whereas the Android version still felt stuck in the Android 2.x days. I find that this is the case for more commercial apps which may not have a team of developers continually iterating on the app. Often it seems that apps are anchored by the support libraries in Android which may not allow the full functionality of the newer features in Android. Hopefully once the 2.3.3 devices drop in numbers, we will see more companies developing smoother apps which do not require the support libraries and can take advantage of newer api’s that aren’t in older versions of Android. However I found it odd that I still couldn’t find a good replacement for my TV tracking application SeriesGuide which allowed me to track my TV shows using Trakt.tv and TvTag. I also found that I enjoyed using Reddit Sync more than Alien Blue as I could dismiss an image faster and move on to the next link. Reddit Sync also features better GIF loading somehow but this may be due to the fact that the developer is constantly iterating the app and listening to the users in a dedicated sub reddit. I’m sure that there are iOS developers who are just as dedicated, but in my usage I couldn’t find replacements which were on par. I should mention that the games ecosystem was much better on iOS where I could find DS games officially ported to iOS like Phoenix Wright and 999. This is mainly due to the limited number of devices to test and I don’t think this will change anytime soon.
I was however disappointed by the voice system on iOS and I completely understand that this is more due to the processing power being on the phone rather than the Google Borg cluster searching through various neural nets for information but its something that I’ve really been missing whilst I was on iOS. Google Now felt much more immediate in its response and I felt like I could ask those dumb questions you ask Google and it would tell you accurately. I could ask “when is evolve going to be released” and it will read out the related bit in Wikipedia about when its going to be released as well as what platforms its going to be released on. Siri would just return what it found on the web. You can get Google now on iOS but I found myself using it less just because i couldn’t swipe up to use it and for the time I was using it, I couldn’t do tasks like play a song or set reminders which I used quite frequently on android. Siri did a good job of reminders and timers however. Siri could also give more snarky responses which is a nice gimmick but Google Now felt more useful, and I feel like that won’t change anytime soon since Google is building Now to be a core feature of their platform.
One of my biggest issues however is the feeling that everything is defined by Apple and if you feel like a third party (such as VSCO Cam) do a better job you are locked down to the Apple way of doing things and this can be fine for some. I like that on Android, I can use something like Aviate as my home screen and that I can share things between apps easily. I also like that when I clicked a link to an IMDB page in Google, it will open the give me the option to open the IMDB app, instead of loading it in the browser. This really improves the feeling of a smartphone where everything is connected. Right now it really feels like each app is completely separate, though I do understand that this is by design and it does enhance security. Others might not find this to be as major of a gripe as it is for me, and I’ve seen other people happily continue to use the browser rather than the dedicated apps.