I’ve been a huge supporter of Android over the past year. Ever since I purchased my Droid X, things have been okay. I’m checking my email, staying on top of social networks, and flinging Angry Birds around. But asking any more of my Android device is far too much, and that’s a big problem.
What am I doing with an Android device, you ask? I didn’t have a choice in the matter. AT&T’s service was practically non-existent where I lived, which is amazing considering AT&T’s bold claims of their impressive network. And in 2010, the possibility of the iPhone on Verizon was only a rumor. Owning an iPhone was a dream.
No worries, though: the Motorola Droid X, at that time, was recently released and was dubbed Verizon’s best smartphone ever by a bevy of tech journalists. I had my replacement!
At first, things were great. I was impressed by how easy it was to integrate all my Google services with Android. I was also impressed with the widgets, at least for the first few days. That deep, robotic “Droid” voice was also fun to hear. And, finally, did I mention those Angry Birds?
I shared my excitement on Facebook: “Who needs an iPhone? I have my Droid X. That’s all I’m going to need.”
The iOS experience
You remember how I said owning an iPhone was just a dream? I didn’t really believe that. I actually went ahead and purchased an iPhone a few months before my owned my Droid X, even though I was certain I wouldn’t have service. I walked out of the AT&T store with a 32 GB iPhone 3GS. I couldn’t have been happier. Not only was this my first iPhone, but it was also my first smartphone. (I had never really viewed a smartphone as an essential device up until that point.)
The experience was completely new to me: the interface was incredibly fluid, the browser was snappy and rendered things beautifully (I had never seen a good working mobile browser until this point), and I was fascinated with Maps application — it’s almost like I had never used a GPS before.
But there was one thing that stood out above the rest: the App Store.
Every App that I installed on that iPhone I enjoyed. I had actually spent money on Apps even before I made it home from the AT&T store! Considering that I had just spent $300 of my hard earned cash on an iPhone, that was quite an achievement. Apple certainly knows how to get people to open their wallets.
Admittedly, there were a few things I didn’t enjoy. I didn’t like how alerts were always popping up and distracting me. I didn’t appreciate the fact that iOS had actually crashed a few times on me for some reason. Then there was also the fact that I was emptying my wallet on all these cool looking Apps. That being said, the overall experience was amazing. I had a computer in the palm of my hand, and it felt really good.
But it wasn’t meant to be. AT&T’s service didn’t work where I lived. Most of the time there was a constant back and forth between no service and a single bar. It was unreliable; unacceptable for someone like me who is constantly talking on the phone.
So back to the AT&T store my iPhone went. It was a sad and frustrating moment — sad because I knew Verizon wouldn’t offer a phone that could compete and frustrating because Verizon and I have had a rough history. But off to the Verizon store I went.
The Android experience
The Droid branding really did sell me on the Droid X. I’m not sure, but there is something special about a phone that has the name “Droid,” has a kick-ass red eye as part of the branding, and can take a tiny piece of Star Wars history with it and cram it all together into a single package. It also helped that the phone was one of the largest available at that time: a 4.3-inch form factor.
I immediately ordered one at the store and waited for the phone to arrive at my house (as the Droid X was selling very well and was hard to get a hold of).
When it arrived, I was surprised with how big the phone actually was. It’s difficult to judge how a phone feels while strapped to a security contraption at a store. I was happy with it. It felt just right. Granted, it felt awkward in my pocket, especially while walking up steps, but the usability of the screen, particularly for my chunky fingers, was superb.
The inclusion of Swype was also interesting to me. It felt like a much better system for entering text than the iPhone’s keyboard. Not to mention that it was just plain cool at the time.
Furthermore, the ability to multitask on Android was one of the biggest selling points at the time. I loved being able to play music from Pandora, upload video to YouTube, and then browse my Twitter feed all at the same time. This wasn’t possible on iOS, and that made Apple’s mobile OS feel older and less usable when compared with the up-and-coming Android.
The same could be said about the notification system. How nice is it to be doing something and not be interrupted? That wasn’t possible on iOS. It was always a matter of time before something would pop up and completely ruin the experience. But with Android, you saw a message appear on the top, and you could either act on it or deal with it later. This is the way it should be.
But even though the allure of Android lasted quite awhile, I eventually became frustrated with some of the inferior complexities of Android. The longer I used it, the less those cool features could keep me from being enthusiastic. It became clear to me that the things that I thought mattered didn’t really matter much at all.
It’s almost unfortunate that I experienced an iOS device before Android. If I hadn’t, Android might be, at least in my mind, an incredible experience. It most certainly is a better experience compared to a few years before, when Windows Mobile and Blackberry were the only competition. I had an LG Chocolate — I had to return it for repairs three times, and I am typically very careful with my gadgets.
But when you add Apple’s iOS into the mix, you quickly open your eyes and realize some things.
For example, most people don’t care if X phone has more processing power than Y phone. They don’t care if X has twice the amount of RAM over Y. Most consumers won’t ever notice. I don’t think that I really care either.
Consumers will, however, notice battery life. Apple has always done an astounding job with maximizing battery performance on their devices. The fact that an iPhone could go all day long without a single charge is remarkable. And when I hear that, I can’t help but cringe — I feel incredibly fortunate when my Droid X gets three hours of battery life with heavy usage.
Consumers notice stability too. That is something you don’t exactly have when you are on an Android device. Things go wrong. Things crash. Things malfunction. Unfortunately, the accompanying hardware also leaves much to be desired — from tiny problems like a GPS that is unable to find a signal to serious issues where the phone locks up entirely and requires the battery to be pulled, it’s a constant battle to maintain stability with an Android device. It wasn’t perfect with iOS either, but it was a far more enjoyable experience.
The most important factor, without question, is third-party developer support. Unfortunately for Android, iOS is killing it in this department. Whenever there is a hot new mobile application that has just been released, more often than not it is coming out for iOS first. Maybe it will find its way onto Android in the future, if we are lucky.
Not only is application availability a problem, but the quality of iOS apps is also significantly higher than Android’s. I don’t know if this is because Apple provides a better software development kit, has a better developer program, or has earned the respect of more kick-ass UI designers, but there is no denying that iOS apps are, in general, better looking and better functioning than their Android counterparts.
(It’s also worth mentioning that I have never purchased an app for any Android device. I didn’t even own an iPhone but for less than a week and I still managed to purchase more Apps for iOS than I have for Android, which I’ve owned for nearly a year now.)
All of these issues add up to create a huge problem that needs to get sorted out. But until then, I will always lust for an iPhone. Unfortunately for me, though, I have until late next year when my contract expires. That’s like, what, iPhone 6 territory? Perfect.
The lesson here for everyone: don’t settle for second best. It’s not worth it.