At the time of writing I've used Android almost exclusively as my primary phone OS since around the iPhone 5 / Samsung Galaxy S4 / Nexus 5 era. I'd like to chronicle both for myself and others, my experiences of switching to iOS from Android in 2019.
The timing for a switch is interesting as iOS 13 was just released last month. This was accompanied by the iPhone 11 and Apple Watch Series 5. The latter being my driver for switching. I have one primary use case which I've just not been able to fulfill properly on the Android side which on the face of it seems simple.
I want to go for a run or bike ride without my phone in my pocket. However I want a GPS trace at the end, ideally married with heart rates and the ability to listen to podcasts or music via bluetooth headphones.
I purchased an iPhone 11 and an Apple Watch Series 5 from an Apple store so that I can perform this 'switch' with the safety net of going back to my comfy Android if this doesn't work out. In all I spent $1,358 for the phone and watch ($550 on the watch, $40 on a case and $700 on the iPhone 11 64gb product red edition). Whilst this is a significant amount of money it's actually on par with my Android brand of choice these days, OnePlus. The OnePlus 7T starts at $600, a mere $100 difference to the iPhone 11 I purchased. This post won't be a comparison but I'm coming from an 18 month old OnePlus 6 (the last of the headphone jack touting wonders) which is beginning to exhibit battery issues and the usb-c charging port is getting a bit loose.
Wow. iOS has come a long way since 2013. And damn if those animations aren't just silky smooth all the time, no matter what. This is a joyful object to hold and interact with. Even on a powerful phone like a Pixel 3 (which my wife has) Android's scrolling still stutters and skips on occasion which might not seem like a big deal to you but to me it's jarring and I hate it. Win for iPhone.
Hmm, I don't think I like the iOS keyboard anywhere near as much as Androids for a couple of reasons. Firstly, swipe was added to iOS 13. I'm a heavy swiper on Android so I thought this would make the keyboard a non issue but maybe the algorithm needs to learn me as well as Google's keyboard has over the last half decade because I'm missing words constantly. The typing experience is quite frustrating for another reason too, punctuation. In Android I have key punctuation right there, on the keyboard but with iOS I have to switch to the 'character mode' just for a simple comma. It's infuriating. Win for Android.
Notifications are a disaster. I think this might be the worst part of iOS. Period. I have missed several Telegram notifications already in a few hours and I just don't really understand how they are grouped. And why can't I act on the from the notification drawer? Swipe left or right with some options is all I get? This is a clear win for Android.
FaceID is pretty fun and I got used to the gesture based, home-buttonless navigation almost immediately. The multi-tasking is fine, although I preferred the older Android style of vertical scrolling through open apps versus the now ubiquitous horizontal. Meh, this is a tie in a world of under glass fingerprint sensors and other nonsense.
Oh yeah. That app grid life. I'd forgotten that the iOS 'launcher' thing about iOS. Given the amount of time you spend swiping left, right, left right, pull down, nope, left, left, right is also infuriating. Another win for Android - novalauncher is just so great.
The Apple Watch is incredible, though. Easily years ahead of anything any other wearables company is making. There's a bit of a learning curve with the new interface and some of the paradigms Apple wants you to adopt for syncing music / podcasts or what have you even with the cellular version. They've really done an amazing job with this device and I tried a couple of Android Wear devices such as the Ticwatch but the Apple Watch is just in a different league. It's the first tech product I've purchased in some time that has me excited to use it, that feels fresh and worth the price of entry ($550 for mine).
I fulfilled my magical use case of a phoneless run last night and enjoyed podcasts and music all the way round the lake. Siri was able to recognise what I said on the run, but she couldn't "play me songs by Foo Fighters" unless I'd added them to my library in Apple Music first - despite the active cellular connection. This is weird to me. Apple Music is like Spotify in that you can stream almost any song you can think of without curating a library, I assumed that this would be the case on the watch too. Alas. I get that battery life overrules all on the Watch but if I'm out for a run without my phone the Watch needs to step up and accept that if I ask Siri to play a podcast or some music that it's OK to burn that battery and stream via LTE. I'm OK with that because I asked it to do it. So that's a bit frustrating but I can live with it once I understand the constraints of the system, maybe my expectations were just out of whack.
While I'm trying out the Apple ecosystem I'll pick up an iPad Pro for our upcoming Florida trip and see how well the whole ecosystem plays together. This is something I've been considering for a while now but if I buy it from the Apple Store again, I can return it in 14 days no questions asked.
1 week later
Ok, I'm out. This was a much tougher decision than I expected. I really enjoyed my time with iOS but there were several niggles which added up to frustrate me enough in the end, to end up right back where I started.
Let's address first the largest elephant in the room, price. To equip myself with an Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad Pro and their various accessories I spent almost $3000. This is just outrageous no matter how good the Apple Watch or the iPad are.
In an alternate reality where I haven't ever used Android I could see myself actually using the iPhone 11. Battery life is stellar, the cameras are fantastic and there's just something about the way iOS feels to use that is great. So why return the iPhone?
Firstly, the keyboard drove me bonkers. In Android, there is a comma visible at all times without having to switch to characters mode or press and swipe. This sounds like a small detail but it really drove me crazy. And yes, I tried dozens of 3rd party keyboards but they didn't cut it either.
A small, but very annoying bug that I ran into was music playback just kept pausing randomly. I'd press play and the music would play for 1 sec or less and then just stop. Only a reboot of the phone would fix this.
Next is that the OnePlus 7T was just released. I've used every single OnePlus device ever made except for the 6T and the 7T release is pretty tasty looking. A 90hz screen, triple cameras (not double like the iPhone 11) and in-screen fingerprint reader. I know from trying out a OP7pro earlier this year that 90hz screen is going to give me the fresh feels I'm after. Just like the iPad Pro with pro motion display, it makes everything feel like it's connected directly to the tips of your fingers.
Finally is app availability / flexibility. The reality is that Apple moderates content to the point where it both simultaneously encourages and discourages innovation for app developers. There are several apps on Android that I use daily which are at the more esoteric end of the spectrum such as quasseldroid, quiet for gmail and nzb360 which have no direct replacements on iOS. Does anyone actually like the app grid interface of iOS? It's like that one relative who keeps everything on the desktop and it's just gross. Yes pull down to search is a great feature but you know what? I can do that with novalauncher and have only my most used apps on the home screen.
Oh boy. This is the one product out of all of them that I'm actually really sad to see go. As I said above, what Apple are doing here is years ahead of anyone else but ultimately I just can't see myself switching to iOS for my phone and thus the Apple Watch is a hard sell. Maybe I'll get a $200 used iPhone, leave it in a drawer and a 3rd gen Apple watch for $199 new and still be ahead of buying this 5th gen brand new.
That said just being able to strap the thing on when going for a run, bike ride, walk or whatever and have a relatively accurate GPS trace with heartrate AND be able to leave my phone at home is game changing. I didn't particularly enjoy the smartwatch aspect of the device - I don't need yet another thing buzzing when Telegram goes off (yes I know you can manage notifications, this is just an example).
The always on display of this watch meant that battery life needed a little thought but I never ended a day with less than 15% remaining. Then again, the always on display is what made this device so joyful to use. I really, genuinely loved this product and I was a bit sad to return it earlier today.
The iPad Pro is in a weird place at around $1000 it costs as much as some laptops and way more than a decent used Thinkpad. It feels magical. I know that's just marketing BS most of the time but the iPad Pro with its high refresh rate, slim bezels and endless battery life feels exceptionally futuristic. Always ready, always fast and always the device you want to reach for first, it deserves the word "magical" more than any other computing device manufactured today.
As a drone pilot and keen photographer I have watched countless Youtube videos extolling the virtues of the iPad only workflow. Keen to leave my laptop at home on a trip as it's heavy! With iOS 13, sorry iPadOS, it's now more laptop killer than ever, allegedly. Except that it's not really, is it? This update to iOS was supposed to fix file management but in my experiences this week it's slow, buggy and difficult to understand. Where's the Apple intuitiveness and magic? I want to take an SD card from my camera and plug it into the iPad and then edit the photos in Lightroom. How hard can it be?
OK well first you need an SD adapter. I opted for the Hyperdrive usb-c dock from BestBuy that was $90 or so - ouch. Using the adapter was simple enough, plug it in, shove the SD card in and... nothing. Hmm. Do I go to Lightroom to import files? Or Files? Or... It's just odd that nothing happens. Now, go watch this video and see how ludicrous the process of importing from an SD card into Lightroom really is.
And that's IF it works. The Files app kept crashing constantly and got even worse when I tried the new 'connect to server' option to move files via SMB to my NAS.
I edited a video using Lumafusion and it was a joy, except for the SD card import process. Exporting 4k footage was almost realtime and I felt almost as productive in about 10 minutes on Lumafusion as I am Final Cut Pro.
I also edited some photos of my new car using nothing but the iPad Pro. So it is possible but I found it significantly more work to manage the flow of files. What's the answer? A Gnarbox 2.0? No. A newer, faster laptop, is the answer. But Apple haven't made a good laptop in 4 years.
Now what about coding or infrastructure development of any kind (my day job)? Surely by now there's something of vscode quality on iOS? That isn't hamstrung by the iOS subsystem? You know what? There isn't. I'm not against paying for software but $20 for an editor with no trial option is just too steep of a risk to take. SSH worked fine via Panic's Prompt (I bought this years ago) but then I often want a small terminal window and big coding one like I have on my laptop easily with a proper window management system. There is an argument to be made that the iPads current windowing system promotes focus but I guess I've just leared to be more productive with a standard paradigm of multiple windows overlapping slightly. I found the new gestures of dragging and swiping too unpredictable. If you make a slightly too short of a press or long of a press the iPad does unpredictable things and now Telegram is in a slide over menu and is also the full screen app too? What? It's just weird.
Despite window management and my development workflow being incompatible with this device, I really loved using it. But did I love it $1000? Sadly, no. I might keep an eye out for a used 10.5" iPad Pro though as the 4 way speakers sound great in a hotel room!
If you've made it this far, gosh. As a guy that lives and breathes highly technical stuff for a living I feel that iOS is not targeted at me. I'm also deeply concerned about the direction of Apple's laptop and MacOS lines which remain the only way to run Adobe and a decent terminal on a laptop that meets my exacting standards. The Catalina launch has not been smooth, especially given the deprecation of 32-bit apps so for the first time ever I'm going to sit out a MacOS release - possibly completely. We'll see.
I'm still running a 4 year old MacBook Pro 13" Retina as my daily driver. It's dual core CPU laughes at 4k drone footage and timelapses of raw images. But it's got a fantastic keyboard, with an escape key, good enough performance and has never missed a beat throughout its life.
This is all so frustrating. Apple are so close and a few relatively small tweaks would fix the majority of my complaints. Fix notification centre, it's utter garbage. Remove the un-needed swipe on the lock screen once FaceID has recognised me. Allow me to rearrange apps on the home screen just like Android does. Add a comma to the default keyboard. Lower the prices by about 30% or so and then I'm yours.
I just got back from the Apple Store where I returned $2781.72 worth of merchandise.