14 Days With the iPhone 4S: An Android Switcher
For the past 14 days, I have been using an iPhone 4S as my primary phone.
Up until October 14th, I was a very happy Android user, one that appreciated the iPhone as a competitor, but didn’t really see myself using an iPhone as my primary device.
Update: 6 Months With the iPhone 4S
I outlined my major concerns of switching from Android to iPhone before the iPhone 4S launch, so I felt it was only right to share what I discovered after spending some time with the iPhone 4S.
Since picking it up on October 14th, I have used the iPhone 4S for all my smartphone needs, bringing my HTC ThunderBolt and the Droid Bionic along in my backpack for comparisons.
5 Things the iPhone 4S Does Better
The iPhone 4S, combined with iOS 5 delivers a solid user experience, and beats Android in a few key areas.
While I am not often left wanting for the basic apps on Android, I have enjoyed the iPhone App experience for the past 2 weeks. While using the same sets of apps, such as Facebook and Yammer, the iPhone versions looked more polished and worked better.
There are a number of games on the iPhone that aren’t yet on Android, which has also made the experience pleasant. My current favorite is the 99 cent Bike Baron, which is loads of fun. You can also get the new Modern Combat 3 on the iPhone 4S today, but it isn’t yet available for Android. The iPhone version also supports AirPlay to take your action to the big screen.
It’s also great to get access to media apps without the need to root or look for a hacked version. This has gotten better on Android, specifically with Netflix, but Hulu Plus is still limited to a select number of devices.
The base user experience with Voice is much better on the iPhone 4S than on Android thanks to Siri. While you can install third party apps to bring some of Siri’s features to Android devices, the inclusion of Siri gives the iPhone a lead.
You may laugh, but I am using Siri to check the weather, set alarms, Tweet, post to Facebook and much more.
The dictation, or voice to text on the iPhone 4S is also light years ahead of what I have experienced on Android. Also, correcting one word is easier than on Android, which loves to delete entire sentences.
I was very worried that the 3.5″ display wouldn’t be a good fit for me, but after two weeks, I really enjoy the Retina display. The higher resolution allows me to see a decent amount. The Reader functionality allows me to turn almost any webpage into an even more readable format as well. An added bonus is the easy pocketability of the iPhone 4S.
The iPhone still isn’t perfect, but when it comes to performance, it handles basic functions much better. Too often on Android I have to wait for apps or the system to catch up. While dual-core phones like the Droid Bionic help with this, there are still more times on Android where things don’t just work.
The battery life on the iPhone 4S has been a big win over Android devices. Granted I am comparing 4G Android devices to the 3G iPhone, but I have used all of these Android smartphones in 3G coverage, and still haven’t been pleased with the battery life on Android. I had to purchase an extended HTC ThunderBolt battery just to get to the end of the day on 3G.
With the iPhone 4S, I can go to the end of the day without any issues. I picked up a Mophie Juice Pack Air to use at conferences, but for day to day use I don’t need to carry a charger.
5 Things Android Does Better
Android isn’t beat by the iPhone, in fact there are a number of key areas that Android handles better than the iPhone.
Gmail and Google Voice
On the iPhone I am syncing my Gmail account, but without Priority Inbox support, I have to use the webmail client. The unexpected benefit of this is a life without email notifications, but the web app cannot compare to the Gmail app for Android.
Google Voice is also lackluster on the iPhone, unless you are on Sprint. Unless you add extra contact information, you can forget about using Siri to interact with people through your Google Voice number. In order to get a full Google Voice experience, I will have to jailbreak the iPhone 4S.
Google Navigation brings turn by turn GPS navigation to every Android phone, free of charge. On the iPhone you get Maps, but no turn by turn directions. Let’s face it, without turn by turn directions I may as well go back to printing out Yahoo Maps like I did in 2003.
Yes, you can purchase navigation apps like Navigon for $59.99, but that’s a major expense compared to the price of Google Navigation.
Another thing I miss on the iPhone is the ability to get access to all of my files with an explorer app. Something as easy as figuring how big a video file is on Android requires a cable and a computer. Especially since it was too big to upload with Dropbox.
While I don’t like the need to root just to get access to a new app, I do enjoy installing new ROMs on Android, for a new look or streamlined OS.
I’m hoping that the ability to jailbreak will fill this need in time, but for now, point to Android.
I love the Android buttons for search, menu and back.
There are so many times when I want to go back one screen or have to figure out where this app has hidden the settings menu. As for search, there is spotlight, but it takes more taps to get there and to search than it does on Android.
I don’t see Apple adding buttons to the iPhone, so it will be interesting to see how I adapt to this over the long term.
Could I Switch Completely?
Unlike many readers who will have to make a full switch, I have added a line to my account so that I can go back and forth between iPhone and Android.
For the short term, I am still going to keep my iPhone 4S in my pocket and have whichever Android device I have as a secondary device. I’ll be bouncing back and forth as I review new phones to see which one I would pick.
Since smartphones are such a personal choice, I won’t presume to tell you what phone you should use a primary device, but the iPhone has certainly gained several recommendations to friends and family whose needs and habits I know.
Stay tuned for more thoughts on switching from Android to iPhone.