An iPhone lover’s confession: I switched to the Nexus 4. Completely.

03 Jan
03/01/2013
Update: Shortly after publishing this article here, it became #1 on Y Combinator’s Hacker News, republished by GIZMODO, picked up by ReadWriteWeb’s Editor-in-Chief (Dan Lyons), commented on by CNET NewsGigaOM’s Mathew Ingram and the International Business Times. I also gave a lengthy interview in German regarding the topic, which go subsequently covered in The European (German only).

The discussion mainly takes place over on Google+.

First things first, I’d love to get in touch on Google+ and Twitter (@ralf).

Over the past few years I’ve invested a lot into Apple products and services.

My Nexus 4If you’d come by my house, you’d find four of the latest Apple TVs, two iMacs, the latest MacBook Air, a MacBook Pro, more than five AirPort Express stations and Apple’s Time Capsule. You could touch every single iPhone, from the first up to the iPhone 5, iPads ranging from first generation to fourth and we’ve lately added two iPad minis.

My iTunes Library comprises well over 8.000 songs – all purchased via the iTunes Store. No matter whom you would ask, everybody will confirm that I’m what some folks call an Apple fanboy.

The reach of Apple’s products goes beyond my personal life.

As the co-founder of Germany’s largest mobile development shop, I’m dealing with apps – predominantly iOS powered – in my daily professional life.

Driven primarily by the business I run, I tried to give Android a chance more than once.

In various self-experiments, I tried to leave my iPhone at home for the Motorola Droid, the Nexus One, the Samsung Galaxy S II and S III – and always switched straight back to the iPhone. None of those Android devices have worked for me – yet.

And then I got the Nexus 4.

When the latest Google flagship Android device shipped, I almost expected it to turn out as yet another “take-a-look-and-sell-it-on-ebay” experience. Little did I know.

It’s now almost two weeks since I switched the Nexus 4 on for the first time – and meanwhile I completely moved to it, leaving my iPhone 5 at home. Do I miss anything? Nope. Except iMessage. More to that later.

In this somewhat lengthy post, I’ll try to explain why.

My motivation is not to bash Platform A over Platform B. On the contrary: I will try to summarize my very personal findings and experience based on years of using iOS. I’ve seen the Apple platform evolve while Android was playing catch-up for so long. When iOS 6 came out, for the first time I complained about the lack of innovation in this major new release. I asked myself, whether we might see Apple beginning to lose its leading position in mobile platforms.

Before you read on, it’s important to emphasize that I’m a pro user.

I’m not the average smartphone owner, who makes just a couple of calls every now and then or runs an app once in a while. By the nature of my job and out of curiosity, I deal a lot with social media outlets, social networks and constantly try new services. With that said, my judgement might not be suitable for everyone. In case you consider yourself being a demanding power user, though, you might find this helpful.

At the time of this writing, I used Android Jelly Bean 4.2.1 on an LG Nexus 4.

Summary

Putting it into a single line: The latest version of Android outshines the latest version of iOS in almost every single aspect.

I find it to be better in terms of the performance, smoothness of the rendering engine, cross-app and OS level integration, innovation across the board, look & feel customizability and variety of the available apps.

In the following paragraphs, I try to explain why.

Performance and Smoothness of the Rendering Engine

I know there are benchmarks which measure all kinds of technical performance on a very detailed level. That’s not what I’ve done and, honestly, I’m not interested into that much. I’m talking about the performance I feel in my daily use.

Using the Nexus 4 with Android 4.2.1 is a pure pleasure when it comes to performance. I don’t exactly know what Google has done with “Project Butter” in Jelly Bean, but the result is astonishing. In the past, Android felt laggy, sometimes even slow and responses to gestures didn’t feel half as immediate as on iOS.

This has changed completely.

I’d say both platform are at least even. In some cases, Android even feels a bit ahead of iOS 6. I especially got this impression when it comes to rapidly switching between apps – which I constantly do now – and scrolling through a huge number of more complex content. (I’m not talking just tables with text here.)

While Android still doesn’t give you bouncing lists and scroll views – primarily, because Apple has a patent for this specific behavior – every transition between views has been reworked, polished and modernized. In most cases, it feels more modern, clean and up-to-date than its iOS counterpart.

Cross-app and OS level integration

One of the biggest advantages I found during my daily use is the level of cross-app and OS level integration.

Cross-app integrationThis also is the area where I got most disappointed when Apple introduced iOS 6.

In fact, I think iOS has reached a point, where usability starts to significantly decrease due to the many workarounds that Apple has introduced. All of these just to prevent exposing a paradigm like a file system or allowing apps to securely talk to each others. There is a better way of doing this. Apples knows about it but simply keeps ignoring the issues.

On Android, it’s quite the opposite. One can see the most obvious example when it comes to handling all sorts of files and sharing.

Let’s assume, I receive an email with a PDF attachment which I’d like to use in some other apps and maybe post to a social network later.

On iOS, the user is forced to think around Apple’s constraints. There is no easy way to just detach the file from the email and subsequently use it in what ever way I want. Instead, all iOS apps that want to expose some sort of sharing feature, do have to completely take care for it themselves. The result is a fairly inconsistent, unsatisfying user experience.

On iOS, you might use the somewhat odd “Open in…” feature – in case the developer was so kind to implement it – to first move the file over to Dropbox, which gives you a virtual, cloud based file system. If you’re lucky, the other app, from which you want to use the file next, offers Dropbox integration, too, so you can re-download it and start from there. All because Apple denies the necessity of basic cross-app local storage.

On Android, it’s really simple.

I can detach the file to a local folder and further work with it from there. Leveraging every single app that handles PDF files. In case I receive a bunch of mp3 files, I can do the same. And every app, that somehow can handle audio playback, can reuse those mp3 files.

Another great example: Sharing stuff on social networks. On iOS, I have to rely on the developers again. Flipboard, as one of the better examples, gives me the ability to directly share with Google+, Twitter and Facebook. On my Nexus 4, I have 20+ options. That is, because every app I install can register as a sharing provider. It’s a core feature of the Android operating system.

But it goes even further: On Android, I can change the default handlers for specific file types – much like I’m used to from desktop operating systems.

If, for example, you’re not happy with the stock Photo Gallery application, that shows up whenever an app wants you to pick an image, you can simply install one from over a hundred alternatives and tell Android to use it as its new default. The next time, you post a photo with the Facebook app – or have to pick an image from within any other app – your favorite gallery picker shows up instead of Android’s own.

All of this is entirely impossible on iOS today. I’ve stopped counting how often I felt annoyed because I clicked a link to a location in Mobile Safari and would have loved the Google Maps app to launch. Instead, Apple’s own Maps app is hardcoded into the system. And there’s no way for me to change it.

The customizability is simply stunning

Let me make this very clear: Gone are the days where home screens on Android phones almost always looked awful.

If you don’t believe me, hop over to MyColorscreen and see for yourself.

Also note that all of those are real Android home screens, not just concepts provided by designers. They are not beautifully photoshopped wallpapers, but fully functional screens with app icons and active widgets.

And all of those can be configured pretty easily just by installing a couple of apps and tweaking settings. Here is an album showing my current configuration, which I was able to achieve after just a couple of days using Android as an absolute newbie.

Getting inspired? Here are some more of my favorites:

Android Home Screen

dots&circles_dark

Android Home Screen

Now, iPhone lovers might argue, that the average Joe doesn’t want to deal with widgets, icons and custom animations.

I’ve used the same argument for years. Well, guess what, you don’t have to. The default Jelly Bean home screen looks beautiful already. But in case you want a somewhat more individual phone, the possibilities are endless.

For years, what you could do with Android, simply yielded awful looking home screens. This has changed. Significantly so.

And believe me or not, but after having configured my Nexus 4 just the way I always wanted – providing me with the fastest access to my most frequently used apps along with the most important information on a single screen – whenever I grab my iPhone for testing purposes, iOS feels pretty old, outdated and less user friendly. For me, there currently is no way of going back. Once you get used to all of these capabilities, it’s hard to live without them.

App quality and variety

Yes, there are still lots of really ugly apps on Google Play.

In my opinion, this has two primary reasons.

First, the obvious one: The lack of a centralized quality control and review. It’s great for encouraging variety, but obviously it also allows for some really cheap productions to be published to the store. Usually, you can spot those immediately from the screenshots on Google Play.

The second reason is more low-level: The way developers declare user interfaces (it’s primarily done in an XML configuration file) allows for rapidly hammering together dirty UIs. That’s what happens a lot and users can see and feel it. iOS developers tend to be more aware to involve designers and iOS UIs cannot be crapped together as easily.

However, gone are the days where the apps I use most greatly fall behind their iOS counterparts.

The Facebook app is identical in terms of the look and feel and its features. As a plus, it has better cross-app integration. The Google+ app is better on Android, but that’s to be expected. Flipboard is fantastic on Android, plus better integration. The same is true for Pulse News. The list goes on: Instagram, Path, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Quora, Pocket, Amazon Kindle, Spotify, Shazam and Google Talk. They are all great on Android. Plus better integration. Plus home screen widgets. You sense a scheme here?

And if you want to experience some real UI magic – even if you just need an argument when you’re bumping into an iPhone owner the next time – install Zime, a highly addictive calendar for Android which features a smooth 3D animation and really innovative UI.

Talking about variety. This is, where Android’s openness pays off.

On iOS, many things I always wished to see being developed, simply cannot be done because of the strict sandbox Apple enforces around apps. On Android, I use an app to block unwanted calls. To auto-respond to incoming short messages. And to lock some specific apps with an extra passcode, so my customers don’t play with my Facebook profile, when I hand over my Nexus 4 for demos.

I also have apps that give me great insight into the use of mobile data across the device and all apps. Or the battery consumption. Or which apps talk home and how frequently.

None of it is available for iOS. And possibly won’t be at any time in the near future.

What I miss

I said this earlier: The only thing I miss is iMessages. I’m not kidding. Letting go iMessages was difficult, as many of my friends are on iPhones and used to text me via iMessage. While there are perfect alternatives (Facebook Messenger, Google Talk, WhatsApp, to name only a few), from time to time I still find a couple of unread iMessages, when I switch on my iPhone 5.

My most frequently used apps

I’m an Android newbie. During the last couple of days, I had to ask many questions and received hundreds of recommendations for apps. I installed, tried and uninstalled. And kept the great ones. My sincere thanks go out to the great Nexus and Android communities over at Google+.

In case you decided to give Android a try before you read this article, or got inspired here, I’d like to save you some of my journey. Here is a list of the apps I found most useful (and beautiful, given the high standards set by years as an iPhone addict):

Note: I always use the paid / pro version of apps, if one is available. Coming from iOS, I simply cannot adjust my eyes to in-app-ads and probably never will. Google Play now offers credit cards, PayPal and some other payment alternatives. Plenty of choice. I encourage everybody to give back to the developer economy and not just go for the free versions.

In case you’re wondering why I took the burden to include all of the links to the apps above, well, here is another advantage over iOS: Google Play allows the complete remote install via the Web. If you’re logged into your account you click the install button after visting one of the links in any browser, and wherever your phone is, the respective app will be installed silently.

My Android Wish List

Let me finish this post with a couple of wishes I’ve got for the next major version of Android, hopefully made available at this year’s Google I/O:

  • More and centralized settings for notifications, or, a notification center.The rich notifications introduced in Jelly Bean and the overall usability of the notification bar and drawer are already far better than those on iOS. (On a side note, I never understood why usability masters like the Apple engineers decided to make the “clear” button so tiny, that you can hardly hit it without using a magnifying glass.)However, the level of customization you get for Android notifications is currently 100% up to the developers.This means, even though Android offers a great variety of possibilities, they are not consistently available in all apps. In fact, some apps barely let you switch notifications on and off, while others allow you to customize every aspect, from notification sound to the color of the notification LED to do-not-disturb times. These should be made available globally and enforced through the APIs.For example, I’d love to be able to receive notifications on Facebook messages, but don’t want them to show the full message preview in the notification bar.There are some apps, which let you chose whether you want a complete preview, or just a standard “you’ve got mail” message, without revealing its content. But it’s up to the developer whether you’ve got the choice or not.Or: Android has support for a notification LED that can flash in different colors. I configured the LED on my Nexus 4 to blink green on new WhatsApp messages. Incoming stuff from Facebook notifies in blue and new business mail causes the LED to flash in white. What sounds like a tiny feature is really valuable: While sitting in a meeting, you can grasp immediately whether you might want to check your phone right away or not. Unfortunately, not all apps let you customize the LED color. Again, it’s up to the developer to provide these settings as part of their application. This belongs into a centralized notification center.Options I’d like to see centralized: LED color, notification sound, content preview. They could also be exposed on app level, but the Android Notification Center should allow for overrides.
  • Support for multiple accounts in Google Now.I’d love to see Google Now taking advantage of multiple configured Google accounts. On my device, I’d like my Google Apps for Businesses account to drive the calendar based cards but my private one for everything else (location and browsing history, etc.). Currently, Google Now can only leverage a single account. I therefore had to switch browsing and location history on for the Google Apps for Business account I use professionally. This should be a no-brainer for Google and I keep wondering, why the folks at Google tend to forget these multiple-account scenarios.
  • Solving the inconsistencies grouped around the back button.I’ve actually found this on many lists and from what I’ve read it has already gotten better in Jelly Bean. However, at times I still get confused about the multiple navigation hierarchies that are caused by the native back button which is part of the OS and a second back button available within apps. Oddly enough, the mostly fantastic Google+ Android app suffers from this issue, too. Sometimes I end up on my home screen just because I “went back to far”. It’s not a big issue, but one which needs to be addressed.As a starter, how about giving the damn back button a different color if the next time you hit it, you’ll be taken out of the app.
  • Indicate whether an app uses Google Cloud Messaging or some other technology  stay connected.I believe this one to be huge: On iOS, there are essentially no long-running background processes, except for VoIP or Navigation apps. This means, all apps that notify users of incoming data while they are inactive, make use of a centralized service operated by Apple, called Push Notifications. It has a great advantage with respect to battery life, as there is only a single process on the OS level, that monitors all incoming messages and distributes them to the targeted apps, instead of potentially many apps doing whatever they want to do to stay connected.Android has a similar service, named Google Cloud Messaging.Unfortunately, there is no obvious way to differentiate apps that leverage this service from those, that constantly poll or even keep a socket connection to their home servers.I’d love to see the ones making use of Google Cloud Messaging identified in Google Play and on the OS level, maybe in the already available App Info screen. That way, I could dramatically increase battery life by stopping those that constantly talk back home and encourage developers to make use of Google’s Cloud Messaging service.

One last word

At the beginning I stated, that I tried Android many times before and it never worked for me. I figured, there are two main reasons for this. First, Android has made a major step forward with Jelly Bean. It just wasn’t on pair with iOS before. Second, and more important, I found the stock Android experience provided by Google the best you can get. After switching to the Nexus 4, I tried my Samsung S III again, and it did not work for me.

What Samsung does with its TouchWiz modifications and many of the other tiny changes – and other non Nexus vendors, too – totally ruins the experience for me. If you’re coming from iOS I highly recommend choosing one of the Nexus devices with guaranteed updates and a clean Android environment the way Google envisioned it.

Closing it off

This was rather lengthy. I figured, switching the mobile OS platform should be worth an in-depth view. Hence this post. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Will I sell my iPhone 5? No. No. No. I never sold one. I’ll keep it. Maybe it’ll manage to win me back with iOS 7.

Looking forward to your feedback in the comments. Or on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.


Tags:
131 replies
Newer Comments »
  1. Jeromy Layne says:

    Sounds like you need to go custom for now to fill in those missing gaps in usability ;)

    Reply
  2. joe says:

    A really good honest read…Thank you four taking the time for this. Very enjoyable…

    Reply
  3. Hotmann says:

    If you want to customize your led notifications I’d suggest checking out Light Flow. It allows you to customize the way the led reacts to a ton of apps: color, blink rate, how it’s cleared, etc. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rageconsulting.android.lightflow

    Reply
  4. Hotmann says:

    Also, I 100% agree that stock android is the only way. Once you go Nexus you can’t go back.

    Reply
  5. Niko says:

    Really enjoyed the read, great review.

    On the notification point: Try Light Flow:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rageconsulting.android.lightflow

    Reply
  6. Tora Mulligan says:

    Ralf, I want to say this is a GREAT article, and welcome to the Android ecosystem.
    I’m really happy to read an unbiased look at Android from someone who had been ingrained in Apple’s ecosystem since the beginning.

    I just wanted to suggest an app for you that allows you to really unlock the potential of the LED Notification Light, as well as audio notifications:

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rageconsulting.android.lightflow

    I used this heavily with my Galaxy Nexus, and it’s great to customize the LED per app, or even per person!

    Reply
  7. Sebastian says:

    Hi Ralf, I was wondering if you can say something about cloud services. I really like how my Apple Devices play nicely with iCloud. Lately I read, that google will stop exchange support for iOS devices. What is the situation like on android, how does android communicate with google services and how do you get your data in sync on your Mac?

    Reply
  8. sdf says:

    Wow…. you are pathetid android fanboy, i am in disgust.

    Reply
  9. Joe says:

    I am likely in the same boat as you.

    I love using Apple’s devices, and I will still only buy Apple computers until someone manages to create machines anywhere near as nice (or Apple spoils them by locking them down).

    I am a power-user and software developer.

    I bought my iPhone 4 when a bootrom exploit was published which made it very unlikely Apple would be able to prevent me from jailbreaking it.

    I bought it to use and create jailbreak “tweaks”. I make a modest income selling these tweaks on the Cydia store. Jailbreaking enables pretty much all of the features you list under customizability, and cross-app/OS level integration. The features I value most come from Cydia, not Apple.

    Although there is a jailbreak available for iOS 6 (on the iPhone 4), I have not updated because there really isn’t anything particularly interesting in there for me, and compatibility with the existing Cydia software is far more important.

    I will not buy another Apple phone or tablet unless there is a reliable jailbreak available. I may not buy one even if there is, as it means I can’t enjoy OS updates in a timely manner, if at all. There is an ongoing campaign to get Apple to open the OS up to more customization (very recently written about here: http://www.idigitaltimes.com/articles/14177/20130103/jailbreak-ios-6-news-absinthe-creator-resume.htm ), but I think the chance that this will succeed is minuscule.

    Fortunately although I don’t think any of the Android devices are quite as nice as Apples just yet, they’re catching up, and their customizability will likely push them over the edge for my next purchase.

    Reply
    • Ralf says:

      As to the hardware not being as nice as Apple’s. Well, that – of course – is mostly still true. Though I really like the Nexus 4 form factor and build quality. It’s not comparable with any of the latest iPhones. But then again, it’s less than half the price…

      Reply
  10. Torsten says:

    From Fanboy 2 Fanboy: The first article I ever seriously think about testing an Android Device.

    Reply
    • Ralf says:

      Thanks, very well appreciated. Give it a try. I still love most things Apple but couldn’t ignore these findings anymore…

      Reply
  11. Mitch says:

    Hi.

    I agree completely but I just don’t get why you didn’t realise these things earlier.

    You tried the sIII , you mentioned it at the beginning of the article. The whole way through I was asking myself why you didn’t see this stuff before. At the end of the article you revisited this point and it just sounds like a big advertisement.

    You just coined the term ‘android fanboy’.

    Fora guy at the forefront of mobile technology you sure are slow to realise a good thing.

    I smell a big fat pay check to you for this and good luck to you if nobody else smells it.

    Reply
    • Ralf says:

      Thanks for your honest feedback. First things first: I’m not affiliated with either Google nor Apple, nor do I sell smartphones. This is not a paid editorial. It’s an honest report of my latest experience. As to your question, why I did not realize a good thing earlier. Well, I tried to make this clear: I tried a couple of times. In the beginning Android was far behind iOS. Later, I tried some of the customized smartphones offered by Samsung, Motorola (when it was not yet owned by Google) and what those vendors did to Android simply ruined the experience for me. It might be the excellent combination of great hardware (LG Nexus 4) with the many modifications and enhancements in the latest version of Android (4.2.1) that finally could win me over. All previous combinations (smartphones + older Android versions) were not half as good as the overall user experience, iOS delivered.

      Reply
      • LeSDT says:

        Fair enough but you should say “I didn’t really enjoyed Android until Android 4.1/4.2 instead of ‘until nexus 4′” since those phones by Samsung and others can be updated to 4.2. I have an SIII, I liked it the first day but yes there was a difference between it and a flagship phone but now that it is updated to 4.1 it’s just fantastic! Enjoyed this article btw :)

        Reply
  12. David Mytton says:

    I’d be interested to learn how you sync your device with all your media (particularly music) purchases from iTunes. This is one of my favourite features of the Apple ecosystem – I can purchase media in the iTunes store and it’s available on all of my devices through iTunes Match. I can set specific devices to download automatically so if I download on my Mac then want to go out and use my iPhone to listen, my music is already there.

    Reply
    • Kiran Jonnalagadda says:

      Two options:

      1. You can have Google Play Music auto-upload all your iTunes music to Google Play, which is then auto-synced to your device (anything you play gets cached locally, the rest is available to stream/download from the cloud).

      2. You can use DoubleTwist to sync directly from iTunes, either over USB or over wifi with DoubleTwist’s AirSync plugin.

      Reply
  13. Mike Cane says:

    What about on the tablet side? Do you still use an iPad or are you now more inclined towards a Nexus 7 or 10 tablet now?

    Reply
    • Ralf says:

      I’m still 100% convinced about the iPad. Haven’t tried the Nexus 4 but am totally happy with my iPad mini.

      Reply
  14. seso says:

    Good post, I totally agree your opinion. I’ve same experience with you. : )

    Reply
  15. Olli says:

    I totally agree, within a given context: If you are a Smartphone Power User Android 4.2 is the way to go, but most of us aren’t and from my perspective Android is still too complex for the standard user, too many layers, too much flexibility, too many options to do it wrong. Yes, as a techi you love this, I do it, but my father, my wife and also my daughter hate Android, they love the simplicity of iOS…

    And from a developer perspective: I’m now an Android (hardcore) developer for 5+ years (and Java for 15 years), an iOS developer only for 3 years and I still have to admit the iOS development environment is still much superior to the slow and instable Java Eclipse environment and so are the produced applications…

    And just wait for iOS 7, you will see here two of the most missed features: Intents and Widgets, I’m sure.

    And don’t forget the hardware. There is no no no comparable hardware within the smartphone market…and if I would rather count on Nokia in the future…

    Reply
  16. Bartimaeus says:

    I suggest Solid Explorer over Astro FiIe Manager. I’ve used Astro for quite some time, then Solid arrived and I’ve never looked back. It has a gorgeous interface (close to Holo) and a high level of customizability.

    Reply
  17. shri says:

    I enjoyed reading this. Honest article. Very well written.

    Reply
  18. Julian says:

    Hi Ralf,

    your article was a good read, thank you for taking the time to write your experience down.

    As for the back button issue, in case you haven’t yet, I suggest you read the Android Design Guide page on Navigation. It outlines how the back button is intended to function as opposed to the up button in many apps.

    This is just to learn more about the topic though – Google+ as you said doesn’t incorporate these rules well enough and there’s often inconsistency when it comes to sharing or in-app links (e.g. when you open a Google Play Store link and the item is kind of opened inside the previous app).

    I too hope that we’ll see improvement on this one and the other issues, and of course lots of further innovation in May…

    Reply
  19. Andre Gironda says:

    If you like sharing, then you’ll love Andmade Share Pro even more! You’re going to flip out when you see all of the possibilities. While my primary phone isn’t rooted (because I don’t use it for development), I still use Root Explorer because of the sharing features. Some of the best combinatorials occur!

    There’s quite a few AirPlay compatible utilities for Android, but I haven’t settled on any one of them yet.

    Nothing on iOS can touch Fast Burst Camera. This is the app that I show to iPhone users.

    If you do any development, be sure to check out Terminal IDE and BotBrew. If you want to develop an Android app to get iMessage to work on your Nexus 4 or other Android device, be sure to start here — http://theiphonewiki.com/wiki/IMessage

    Reply
  20. Roman says:

    Very well written. Thanks for the inspiring post! I’m in love with Android as well.

    I’m curious what you decided to do with your iTunes collection of books, music, etc. that you’ve built over the years. Just leave it as is, or export and import into Google Play somehow?

    Reply
  21. arris says:

    Did you use your iPhone as an iPod? I use it in my car every day and manage the playlists with guess what, iTunes. Is there a way to use the playlists created in iTunes with your Nexus?

    Reply
    • Tim says:

      There are multiple apps that will sync iTunes and android music players. There’s DoubleTwist, which supports syncing over USB for free, and you can buy a plugin to sync via WiFi. There is also iSyncr, which is a little more complicated, but can also sync your music and playlists. If you use the free Rocket Player app iSyncr can also sync play counts, playtime (for podcasts, etc) in both directions (both from itunes to the phone and vice versa). Both apps also will sync photos from the phone back onto your computer if you want them to as well.

      Reply
  22. Tony says:

    Brilliant read.

    I was an iOS house until I bought a Nexus7 for the hell of it. I love Jelly Bean, it really highlights how tired the old iOS experience is. I hate the way they shoehorn bits in rather than except they need to move on in a new directrion. Sure they’re making big money selling to ‘non-power users’ , but they’re just relying on the outdated view ( at least software-wise) that they are ahead of the game!

    Money is luckily not an issue so I do have most of this stuff. I like my new iPad4, but only for slightly more grown-up apps like Nano Studio. My Mini, whilst nice to look at. is a nasty width to hold in one hand (unless you have huge hands) and the resolution is a real let down for the massive price difference over the more elegant Nexus 7.

    I’ve still not made the jump to an Android phone, but if something drastic does not happen to iOS in v7 and they just release a 5s I’ll be heading over to Google for my next phone and chucking my 5 on the iPhone pile.

    Thanks again

    Reply
  23. Gymflow says:

    Same boat as you – this was a great read. Are there any alternatives to AirPlay that work with an Apple TV or will I have to get another box?

    Jimmy

    Reply
  24. Marcus says:

    I believe MightyText would solve your iMessage problem.

    Reply
  25. El Dorko says:

    I’m in a similar boat having tried Android 2x and coming back to iPhone – also have a home full of Apple gear. Did you not use AirPlay before switching? If so, what do you use now? I stream via AirPlay all the time and its the one thing keeping me on iOS.

    Reply
  26. Giles says:

    One invaluable app if you’re coming from iOS is Honey. As a replacement music player it’s not great, but it does allow you to play any audio you have on the device over Airplay to Apple TV or to Airport Express devices.

    Reply
  27. Silellak says:

    …are we soul twins? Your experiences almost exactly mirror my own – just replace “Nexus 4″ with “One X”. Your post reads like a beautiful hybrid of a couple of posts I made on The Verge about my own adventures with Android:

    http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/13/3082261/29-days-with-android
    http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/24/3384450/breaking-the-ecosystem-shackles-the-power-of-defaults-and-intents-in

    Thanks for the great read!

    Reply
  28. Jitendra Vyas says:

    You didn’t share anything about battery life. I always found that iPhone always runs longer after a full recharge compare to any android popular android phone.

    Reply
    • Devil says:

      Because iphone is aple so you think it’s a fruit and don’t try to eat it. Instead the poor android phone with it’s android ice-cream ends on your stomach.

      Reply
  29. Dave says:

    I am in a very similar boat to yourself – I’ve been Apple for a very, very long time, the state of my computer equipment is virtually identical, and have been somewhat a fanboy for a very long time.

    I’m not sure what it is but since Jobs passed – my (older – iPhone 4, iPad 1 mainly) iDevices have felt unreliable, it’s like nothing’s tested on this hardware anymore. My 5 is fine – but 90% of the time my apps fail to update – I’ve had 6 apps waiting to update for almost as many weeks.

    Picked up a Nexus 4 (we’re doing some dev with Android – solely been iOS previously) last night, used it for a few hours before handing it over to someone else – and in those few hours, I can fully appreciate every aspect of this article. I can genuinely see myself using one.

    My only biggies are iMessage and all the contextual menus – even a lot of the standard UI confuses me – though it’s far better than previous Android incarnations I’ve used where there seems to be absolutely no standards for anything.

    That aside – you’ve pretty much convinced me that I should definitely buy one personally to have a go of. Great article!

    Reply
  30. Asloob says:

    If you loved AirDroid, then you are going to love Air Stream. Streams everything from your pc to android over wifi.
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nityaalabs.airstream

    Reply
  31. Andrei says:

    Great review, and actually tipped me over to switch on the next contract renewal date. I was a Blackberry user, now iPhone, but always jealous of what my friends with Android phones could do. But I don’t get what is the big deal with iMessages? I wouldn’t miss it. I thought I’d miss my BBM, but when I switch to iPhone I forgot about in 10 seconds.

    Reply
  32. Stefan Dierkes says:

    I am a long time iOS pro user like you and tested Android several times in the past with the same results like you. Presently I have all my music library on my iOS devices and stream it wireless with AirPlay via WLAN and an in-wall-mounted AirPort Express to my active speakers (B&O 6000). Is there any possibilty to do a similar thing with Android?

    Reply
  33. Adam K says:

    Wait, how did you get a Nexus 4?

    Reply
  34. Darwin says:

    I live in both Android and iOS worlds extensively and have from the beginning of each.
    Application interaction is a major cause of all of the security issues with Android. Malware and spyware is a major reason why large corporations won’t use Android and for the general spread of Android malware and spyware..
    I pretty much never have issues with apps opening files between each other on iOS or social services and think you have overstated this as an issue.
    Apps are still generally better quality on iOS and the latest versions with new functionality still come out on iOS first and sometimes not at all on Android. There is no way Android has a greater variety of apps than iOS.
    The Nexus 4 has had many quality control issues which are not mentioned yet well known.
    Also in the U.S. you are effectively restricted to T-Mobile for use with the Nexus 4 and no LTE. T-Mobile has very poor coverage here.
    The Google Play store is a mess full of garbage, copies, and malware. You understated this.
    This article seems more designed to get attention than to be a realistic comparison of the two devices and OS’.
    Quoting Dan Lyons who constantly goes on bizarre anti-apple diatribes does not help your case.

    Reply
  35. tz says:

    A few more apps and things:

    Astro Player (or the Nova version). Most versatile audio player, will do some videos, can be totally customized, during the trial or unlocked can play at pitch corrected rates from ultra slow to 6x. I do most podcasts at 1.75x. It can even do things like delete an entry from storage.

    File Managers. I have ES File Manager, Ghost Commander, AndroZip Pro. Each has its advantages.

    I have TuneIn Radio Pro, but that might only be in the USA. But I prefer to listen to internet radio streams since I’m sometimes outside of normal range.

    Hardware: I have a <$20 OBD2 adapter so I can use Torque. I can also like my 20Hz more precise bluetooth unit. On my motorcycle I use HarleyDroid (and have modified it to integrate external GPS). This usually costs extra under iOS. I can even plug in a USB serial port or ethernet port to my Toshiba Thrive. Oh, and I can use an SDXC with FAT32 format across my android devices with the file managers.

    The walled garden ends up being a supermax prison-farm where each app is a solitary confinement cell. Even so, the curation doesn't stop lame apps from getting through (only those that are detected to violate apples T&C).

    If you can always leave, you only stay if it is better to stay so the company has to keep innovating and providing greater value. If the policy is merely to make it too hard to switch it will fail, because eventually if it gets too annoying you will bite the bullet and not return.

    iOS is the Hare, but Android is the Tortoise. Worse, it seems Apple, when not going to court, is trying to make it a jarring experience if you stray (see Microsoft's attempt to do that to Netscape or DRDOS), instead of doing their typical leapfrog by making something unequivocally ahead of everything else.

    Reply
  36. Ralli says:

    Kann der Nova Switcher nicht Touchwiz komplett ersetzen, so dass man auch aus einem S3 ein gutes Device machen kann?

    Reply
  37. Yann says:

    The TiLed home screen looks fantastic !
    Where is it possible to load and try it ?

    Thanks

    Reply
  38. Fabian says:

    Interesting read. I’m an android fan and I’m happy you like your Nexus 4, I bought it myself.

    The only thing I don’t agree with is that Android was “playing catch up”. As you probably know, iOS has copied many features from Android like notifications bar, folders, FB, Twitter integration and many more.

    I understand what you mean, iOS has always been smoother, this is because Android is actually multitasking in the background while iOS pretends but it isn’t. It’s just focused on appearing smoother.

    I think iOS has always been playing catch up, this time it was maps… HUGE FAIL. Next time will it finally be widgets?

    The fact that for some time you preferred the smoothness of iOS (while lacking the huge functionality and endless possibilities of Android), doesn’t mean Android was playing catch up. We fans just preferred to sacrifice a bit of smoothness for tons of functionality.

    Reply
    • GM says:

      I like this real multitasking very much – this is the reason process managers exist in Android ecosystem. And you need them to extend battery life, or speed things up. I like 14% of battery in Friday evening after week of not using my Nexus7.

      Reply
  39. Ben says:

    Great article and glad to see a convert!

    By the way, have you tried installing Nova Launcher on your SGS3 in place of touch wiz? This should remove quite a bit of the touchwiz features you probably dont like.

    If you are not interested in keeping the SGS3 stock (becuase you dont really use it), why dont you try something like the current Cyanogen Mod 10.1 nightlies for it? 10.1 is Android 4.2.1 and they release a new updated rom each day. I use this on my Galaxy Nexus and it is brilliant and stable. To update the rom each day (only if you feel like it) go to settings / about / CyanogenMod updates – you download an update, the phone reboots and your done. Depending on your mobile version, its one of the d2xxx versions. http://get.cm/?device=d2att

    If you were after something like a drop down notification bar toggle app (like you would have experienced on SGS 2 /3) try MoreQuicklyPanel. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mabware.android.MoreQuicklyPanel&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5tYWJ3YXJlLmFuZHJvaWQuTW9yZVF1aWNrbHlQYW5lbCJd

    A very good file explorer I use is ES File Explorer File Manager. It allows you to easily add network folders, FTP folders, dropbox and other online sync program folders all within the same app. Just swipe left or right to go to the next type of folders. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.estrongs.android.pop&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5lc3Ryb25ncy5hbmRyb2lkLnBvcCJd

    Reply
  40. NicoJuicy says:

    Welcome to the world of Android. Glad to see you coming..

    I’ve bought the iPhone 3GS in the past, but switched for personal reasons (not a fan of the company itself, although the products looked nice :))

    Some things you might like (i know i do):

    - Tasker (automate you’re Android )
    - Secure settings (brings more settings to Tasker)
    - Benefit of rooting: installing the Secure Settings Pro helper (automate 3G and GPS activation, limited capacity on mobile networks in my country :( )
    - autobarcode (brings barcode integration to your android)
    - Google Goggles (translation through a picture, logo recognition, isn’t perfect, but machine learning is making the algorithm better every day :))
    - Google Gestures (i use this mostly instead of my contacts app)
    - Contacts CallApp – when Gestures isn’t sufficient, this helps planning appointments and much more with persons
    - SwiftKey Flow Beta – better keyboard – it’s really fast!
    - Plex – my replacement for DLNA
    - Twonky – alternative to plex, syncs photos, videos and music to my server
    - big fan of Lattitute – location sharing with friends, collegues, even use it for my job
    - Rooted the phone for installing – AdFree
    - Don’t forget, Google Maps can store maps offline – helps you with traffic and is awesome in combination with google Now

    Have fun :)

    Reply
  41. wewa says:

    This is a great example of how everyone is different.
    Just like how the PC showed us that customizability was the ‘killer app’ to superceding the Wang desktop word processor.
    Your apps list for Android is nothing like mine. I don’t use ANY of those, sans dropbox, google+, and wifi analyzer.

    So my review of Android vs iOS would probably differ a bit.

    With that said, I lean towards Android on phone, iOS on tablet.

    To each his own!

    Reply
  42. Avi Learner says:

    I am an Apple Consultant but have not used an iPhone since the 3 model and not the 3GS. Primarily I felt ripped off by first AT&T then T-Mobile outrageous practices and cost. I currently use an LG Optimus Elite. It is rooted meaning I can load whatever I want via a file browser, currently unavailable on IOS. There is “jail breaking” for IOS and some good Specialized apps available for the adventurous enthusiast. One thing I must say about Android that is flat out nicer than IOS is the SWYPE text input application, and the ability to use your voice to input text into any text field when they present themselves. I bought an iPad4 the day they were released and I love it. I don’t like having to change the keyboard screen to add punctuation or the @ symbol. It’s a minor inconvenience, but one I especially like on Android.

    I tried a third party SWYPE application, but it doesn’t fully integrate, nor have the keyboard shortcuts like the “real” SWYPE. So I think Apple is missing the boat here ignoring any improvement for text input. I have Siri but rarely use it. I’m having trouble finishing this post and have to exit the keyboard then renter to get the cursor to act right and insert where I want it to. This is an obvious inconvenience.

    Power Control app in Android lets you switch on/off WiFi, Bluetooth, 3G data, brightness and other things to make them easy to control without having to open settings. Should be a widget like that for IOS, but I’ve never seen one.

    Reply
  43. André says:

    Great Article! Was very interesting to read

    Reply
  44. Mr. M says:

    No FaceTime, No iTunes, No Deal

    Reply
  45. ChengBin Tham says:

    Hi sir,

    In my opinion(power user, jailbreaker), most of the things mentioned can be done on iPhone if it was JAILBROKEN. :)

    Example:
    Lockscreen: Cydia has lots of offering adding functions as well as customizing the whole thing. Not user customizable though but cydia has too much to offer(catering everyone’s need)

    Managing attachment in email: iFile(file explorer) in Cydia pretty much does the job very well. You can the integration between apps as it allows you to manage content in the same way Android does(store locally, handle after)

    AirBlue Sharing: Enables Bluetooth across almost all devices and even allows import to music app, picture app and more.

    iBlacklist: Enables you to block calls, send text to them while in meeting and such

    AnyAttach: Enables file attaching in mail app.

    iFile: A must have file explorer app. Allows viewing/editing almost any file types. Support dropbox too.

    Zephyr: Allows edge to edge swipe gesture like Nokia N9. Allows swipe to close an app.

    Auxo: New multitasking try allowing swipe to close(multiple swipe/close supported)

    Mobile Terminal: Similar to terminal in OSX.

    SBsettings: Allows shortcuts to phone toggles. Includes displaying vital info such as WiFi, RAM, etc etc.

    Notification center tweaks: Too much to say. From toggles to system resources to enable flash as torchlight.

    There are also tweaks from Cydia allowing you to completely change the app to open a certain extension. Lets say changing default maps to google maps.

    Of course one can argue to install all these you need to be jailbroken. But in my POV, if you would want to stay in IOS and have the benefits of Android, you must jailbreak your iphone.

    Regards.

    An iPhone lover recently had a crush on Windows Phone.

    Reply
  46. Jerome O'Flaherty says:

    Good article. I am in a similar situation, I have an iPhone 4S and the majority of the Apple eco-system but I got an Nexus 4 (couldn’t resist the price) and I have for the past month, using it instead of the 4S (though I typically carry around 2 phones for work reasons). I have been using both IOS and Android since the early days of both platforms and I have been having fun customising both platforms (IOS Jailbreaking in the early days) for a long time.

    While I complete agree with the majority of your points, I think you are possible still in the ‘I love customisation’ phase, rather than ‘settled down’ to day to day usage phase.

    I thought I would share my own personal pivots ( i.e. decisions which when I decide which I like best will make me for one way or another) and I haven’t decided 100% which will be my long term phone this year.

    My pivoting points are:
    1. Screen size versus one handed usage.
    The Nexus screen is fantastic but it simple can’t be used with one hand. While the screensize makes most / all apps ‘better’ even when they are functionally the same on both platforms, there are too many apps (even google apps like the playstore) that have functionality in the top righthand corner which are impossible to access without completely changing how you hold the phone mid usage (especially when the back button is on the bottom left).
    2. Battery Life versus ‘full’ background capability
    The battery life on the Nexus takes allot of ‘managing’. Some days I don’t have time to plug in the phone during the day and the phone dies sometime late in the afternoon. Now this is with ‘heavy’ usage so it may vary for other people, but I find this unacceptable, the phone needs to last until at least 7pm (when I should get time to charge it). Now, while its great to have this ‘full’ background capability I would like to choose (possible via some form of central control) to have the applications just suspend in the background, rather than run, but this would take ‘management’ and it takes allot of ‘care’ to pick customise apps that aren’t going to kill the battery more. Though checking the battery in settings it is still the large screen that uses most of the battery on the phone, so possible I just have to use it less during the day (as one friend suggested)!!
    3. Apple headphone controls / Docks
    This is currently the thing I miss most when using the Nexus. The best that seems to be possible with the Nexus is one button control one a headphone remote over media (so no volume control) and while I use a few different apps for different types of media, GoogleMusic, Spotify, Audiogalaxy, BeyondPod, Akimbo (for Audiobooks) and Audible, there is a strange inconsistency about which app thinks it should respond when I click the headphone’s one button, leaving the phone in my pocket. Now if I stick to one type of media (podcasts, music, audiobooks) it is sort of ok (though sometimes the app dissappears and doesn’t respond to the control) but other times it very annoying. The other major gripe is the lack of decent docks for play media. I have a few bluetooth speakers and the car works with bluetooth, but mostly I would like to ‘dock’ the phone to both play music and charge it up.

    These are the main gripes / pivoting issues, other things like missing AirVideo 3G streaming / AirPlay convience are balanced out by the superior screen while watching video and say the background downloading of podcasts with BeyondPod so they don’t really become part of the decision I have to make.

    So, I haven’t decided yet which is going to be my long term phone this year (but its much, much closer than previous years), the media control / dock issue is almost a deal breaker for me.

    I have gone past my ‘I Love customisation’ phase so it now very important for me how well the device works. I love the screensize (but the one handed usage is not problematic), I don’t really like the battery life I get but I love the sharing capability across apps, and some of the other Android capabilities are brillant (I love the centralised TTS – IVONA Amy is the best digital voice I have ever used – great with FBReader or Pocket), but the ‘full’ media experience (Remote control, Dock support) is still a great draw back to the iPhone.

    Just thought I would share my experience in a similar situation.

    Reply
  47. Cesar Santamaria says:

    A friend of mine recently posted on facebook a picture of his new Nexus 4 and that he was saying ‘bye bye to iOS’ with this. This particular friend practically ‘evangelized’ me into entering in the Apple realm(I now have a Macbook and I love it) and for many years has only used Apple products; so this was a bit of a shocker for me and many of our friends in common. I was asking to myself “OH GOD WHY?!?!” until I read your post; who knows, maybe he read this first!
    I don’t have an iOS device yet(still rocking my Nokia N8-00), but was considering jumping on the iPhone5 on 2013…now I don’t know. Can you say something more about sync(if any) with iTunes and/or iCloud, or Google drive, or anything like that? How is your experience with that so far? This thing of ecosystems now has almost become part of the contract you sign with the carrier

    Reply
  48. VA NJ says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

    I love the Happy New Year home screen shown on the Samsung. How can I get that? Which launcher do I use and how can it be configured to get that look? I have a HTC Evo V 4G running ICS 4.0.1

    Thanks

    Reply
  49. Ismail Mayat says:

    Excellent article. I too used to be an apple fanboi. Had a 3gs for 3years and loved it. Tried android pre ICS also tried windows phone but could not get into it. However ICS was a game changer and JellyBean / Google now just took it to a whole new level. I totally agree with your recommendation to go with stock android rather than touchwiz or htc sense

    Reply
  50. Jason Howlin says:

    It’s great that you’re smart enough of a power user to handle the Nexus responsibly.

    But what Apple is doing is making computing easy for the 80% of the population that can’t handle having “20+ options for sharing on social networks, or “changing the default handlers for specific file types,” or, installing a new default photo gallery app so “your favorite gallery picker shows up instead of Android’s own.”

    We went down this road before with Windows and it got so bad that people stopped using computers for fun because they stopped working. Everyone in that 80% had a Windows computer at home that took 30 minutes to boot, had 25 icons in the system tray, a browser from plug-in hell, and it was so slow and buggy it just sat in a corner and was worthless.

    So Apple said let’s reinvent this thing, get rid of the filesystem, all of the customization, sandbox everything, etc. and give people a rock-solid computer that happens to fit in your pocket. And make phone calls. And people fell in love with the Internet again.

    Reply
    • Aharon says:

      That in my opinion, was a horrible idea with repercussions that are still felt today. If Apple actually educated the masses on Computer Literacy with their iPhone by introducing an easy-to-use file system, then we wouldn’t have brain-dead teenagers that use their phones as status symbols that double as portals to Facebook, Twitter and (shudder) Instagram. If people actually knew how much potential smart devices have, then we could have innovated so much farther than Apple has gone recently. Just look at this: http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/android
      Why hasn’t Apple done this already with their iPhone? I doubt they will ever merge iOS and Mac OSX like this because people are used to the marketing drivel that Apple spoon-feeds them, like, “It just works.”

      Sure I want it to work, but I want it to be worth the money I spend on it. For 350 bucks unlocked with 16 gigabytes, the Nexus 4 is hard to pass up for an iPhone, which costs an outrageous 550 bucks for a 16GB model.

      Reply
      • Robin Thakur says:

        I respectfully disagree on the audio front. This is also what stopped me using the Samsung Galaxy 3 as my day to day phone and caused me to buy an iPhone 5. On the Galaxy 3, you can’t triple click to go back a track, double tap to go forward and all the standard audio controls I have taken for granted since 2007. Only with a paid app do these controls become available, as well as standard stuff like having the musi controls on the lock screen, and then you are still left with dragging and dropping audio files onto the device. Using iTunes and some sort of third party hacked syncing mechanism is not what I call a robust solution. What happens when Apple update iTunes so the freeloaders can’t use it? Yes I know that Google would prefer that I use Google Play, and no I would rather have the music on the device so I can play it on the London Underground where I don’t get internet. Pretending the app ecosystem on Android is better than iOS is frankly disingenuous unless things have come on vastly since christmas. Lots of the apps and games I use every day do not exist or exist in an inferior form on Android and until this gets better (and it is getting better slowly) then iOS is still the platform to own. ONce developers start being able to properly monetise Android, then this will change, no sooner.

        Reply
        • Jacob says:

          That’s weird my Nexus 4 has lockscreen music controls and headset controls such as triple click double click and pause/play. Google music also matches music you upload for free at 320kbps. Plus, Android features something called “pinning” which enables you to listen to music, read books, personal documents, magazines and websites to access your media offline. I guess you need to be spoon fed these things.

          Reply
    • Jastopher says:

      Slightly unimpressed with your choice of doubletwist since it is as yet unable to work with the N4.

      Reply
      • Benn says:

        As a matter of fact, Google Music allows you to actually download the music you’re listening to to the phone so that you can listen to it offline later. Concerning the app ecosystem, both have their exclusivities, some apps are present on Android but not on IOS, and vice versa…

        Reply
      • brian says:

        Um I’ve been using Doubletwist since day one with my n4. With air sync, of course.

        Reply

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