It used to be that if someone wanted a decent smartphone, they purchased an iPhone. It’s easy to understand why that was. There’s no argument about whether Apple’s first iPhone kickstarted a smartphone revolution. It did, and anyone who says it didn’t would be disingenuous at best.
Fortunately for buyers, though, today there are other viable smartphones that are just as easy to use and look just as attractive as the iPhone 5s. All of this choice has led to some users switching to devices running Android or Windows Phone for their next upgrade.
It’s only then that users will notice some of the glaring inconveniences that exist in iOS and the iPhone ecosystem. To be clear, these things aren’t bugs or problems with the iPhone 5s hardware in general. Instead, they are distinct design decisions that Apple has made that impact user’s daily lives.
Being Held Hostage By Apple and iMessages
The concept that birthed iMessages, the instant messaging app that’s available on the iPhone and Apple’s Mac notebooks and desktops, is easy to understand: Apple wanted to make it easier and cheaper for users to talk to their friends using the power of the internet to avoid paying texting overages. It has done that. Unfortunately, iMessages is buggy and completely hijacks users’ accounts.
All the problems stem from Apple enabling iMessages by default. On the surface this makes life easier for the user because they don’t have to choose whether they want to send messages to friends and family with their calling plan or iMessages. The problem is that Apple does this for everyone else’s iPhone too, so that if a user switches to a different smartphone, everyone else who still has an iPhone will continue trying to message them through iMessages without realizing it. This past weekend I found 9 important text messages that I’d missed while using my Lumia 925, and the only reason I found them was because the Lumia 925 had to go back to Nokia for servicing.
If that wasn’t enough, iMessages is notoriously slow, and users report getting messages hours after they’ve originally been sent.
You Can’t Customize Control Center
When Apple first announced that iOS 7 would add a way for users to quickly and easily change basic settings no matter where they were, Apple-watchers were excited. Here Apple was, embracing the settings and notifications shade of Android and making their operating system better for everyone.
Unfortunately, Apple forgot to add any kind of customization to the Control Center settings shade that floats up when users swipe from the bottom to the top of their iPhones. To say that it negatively affects the usefulness of Control Center is an understatement. Today, the shade only lets users toggle Airplane Mode, control their Bluetooth radio, control Wi-Fi, silence all notifications and lock screen rotation. Say a user doesn’t get on an airplane that often but does use mobile tethering every day. That setting is still buried within the Settings app in iOS 7, and they have no way to quickly access it. Meanwhile, Android users can add settings to the Notification Shade on Android and choose which settings to surface in Windows Phone’s Action Center.
Until they have experienced the ease with which users are able to assign a song they already own, or are planning to purchase, as a ringtone on Android or Windows Phone, iPhone users won’t realize just how unacceptable it is that Apple makes ringtones such a pain.
To give Apple its due, choosing a song as a ringtone is easy on the iPhone as long as you’re willing to repurchase a song you already own and snip it down for around $1. If you’ve already purchased that song you’ll need to buy it again to make a ringtone out of it, and that’s true whether it’s been purchased in other music stores or the iTunes Music Store.
A process does exist to get songs you already own as ringtones on the iPhone, but it involves downloading third-party apps and emailing, which is in no way easier than just going to Settings and choosing a ringtone like on other devices.
The iTunes App Store is the biggest app store in the world, and even if Android’s Google Play Store somehow managed to surpass in tomorrow it’d still be home to the most feature-rich mobile apps on the planet. Empowered by the iTunes App Store and Apple, iPhone apps can do amazing things. They can connect with accessories that make the iPhone a great audio recorder, for example.
Unfortunately, Apple has yet to build a way for iPhone apps to talk to each other. Instead, each app is a silo, there’s no way for iPhone apps to work with other apps and content that other apps download. Android apps are a different story. They aren’t usually as feature complete as what iPhone users get, however they can connect to each other to pull off certain tasks. For example, a podcast manager can download an audio file that a separate audio player or streaming app can then access. Windows Phone takes this a bit further by allow apps submitted to its store to interface directly with the operating system. For example, apps on Windows Phone can connect directly to the people app and add information to a user’s contacts.
Chargers and Accessories
Those aforementioned accessories are the highlight of owning an iPhone. Forget about finding anything like them on other platforms, it’s simply not happening on Android or Windows Phone for whatever reason.
Part of not continuously living in the iPhone ecosystem is that you get to experience what finding accessories is like for other users, and so far I’m willing to declare it a wash. Don’t misunderstand, those iPhone accessories are amazing as Apple’s Gigantic advertisement demonstrates so perfectly. On the other hand, Google and Microsoft don’t require hardware makers to submit applications and get permission before developing accessories for devices running their operating systems, mostly because they both use plain old micro-USB.
The result is that accessories makers don’t have to pay Apple money to have their authorization to create accessories, making cables and chargers cheaper for Windows Phone and Android users. Even better, there’s no large-scale seedy market all dedicated to selling users counterfeit cables like there is for the iPhone. Is that micro-USB cable made by Nokia for their Windows Phones? No, shrug and use it anyway.
To be clear, what Apple has built and will likely continue building over the next few years is a modern marvel. The iPhones – particularly the iPhone 5s – is still a well-designed smartphone that harnesses the power of the iTunes Store.
However, it’s time to acknowledge that in some specific areas, Apple isn’t necessarily doing the right thing for iPhone owners and potential iPhone buyers. Buy an iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c if you want. Just know what you’re getting into.