Switching from iPhone to Android: what I miss, what I don’t
A few weeks ago I jumped camp from iPhone to Android, in the form of the HTC One. It’s a move I’d been contemplating for a long while but over which I dithered, largely down to that same institutional fear that stops us switching bank accounts or broadband provider.
Now I regret not making the move sooner. Here, for those considering making a similar move, is what I miss about the iPhone and what I don’t.
What I miss
I’m one of those saddos who spends half my waking life monitoring Twitter, and the absence of a Twitter client that’s anywhere near as good as Tweetbot for iOS pains me. I’ve tried several: HootSuite, TweetCaster, Seesmic, Echofon, and my current Android favourite, Plume – but none can hold a candle to Tweetbot.
The Tweetbot feature I miss the most is its wonderful, mind-reading ability to anticipate who you’re trying to message. When you type the @ sign in Tweetbot, you can type the user’s real name or Twitter handle, and nine times out of ten it will find the person you’re looking for. The only Android client I’ve found that comes close to matching that ability is the official Twitter app, but I can’t get on with it otherwise.
If it was legal to marry to an app, I would have whipped TomTom down the registry office and slipped a ring on its finger years ago. I can’t count the number of times it’s saved me from sitting in a monstrous traffic jam by diverting me around snarl-ups. I trust its directions implicitly. I spend a good portion of my life driving to non-league football grounds and it hasn’t let me down once (unlike the eleven sods I follow).
There is a TomTom for Android, but it’s more expensive than the iOS version and not as good
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying Google Maps instead. For a free app, you really can’t complain: the voice directions are much clearer than the TomTom’s, and the built-in power of Google search means you can normally just enter a venue’s name rather than a postcode to receive accurate instructions. However, I find its onscreen maps more difficult to read than those of TomTom, and there’s already been a couple of occasions where it’s told me to leave a roundabout at the wrong exit or a voice instruction has arrived too late. Worse still, without live traffic rerouting, I live in constant fear that I’m going to be parked on the M25 of a Saturday afternoon, instead of behind the goal at Billericay Town, or wherever I’m meant to be.
There is a TomTom for Android, but it’s more expensive than the iOS version and not as good. Instead, I’m going to pop the SIM out of my HTC One and take my iPhone with me on long journeys.
Being told what to do
Android is a bit too democratic for my liking. Almost every action requires a decision. Click on a link in a Twitter client: how would you like me to open this? With Internet or Chrome? Repeat ad nauseum for almost anything you can think of. Yes, you normally have to set that default only once, but right now, in this honeymoon period, I feel like I’m being pestered. The iPhone, for better or worse, makes most of those decisions on your behalf, and I don’t remember ever resenting it for doing so.
What I don’t miss
The iPhone keyboard is years out of date. There’s no swipe text entry, the autosuggest facility is Neanderthal, and – crucially – there’s no choice. You can take Apple’s keyboard – now in weirdly random dark or light colour schemes – or you can take a hike. Which I did.
I estimate my typing speed has improved by around 50% to what it was on the iPhone
It’s taken me a while to find an Android keyboard I can get along with (this will almost certainly be the topic of a future blog post), but after flirting with the default keyboard, Google Keyboard and Swype, I’ve finally moved in with SwiftKey. It’s much better than the others at predicting what I’m going to type next – largely because it’s scanned my Twitter and Gmail output, and so knows that the word I’m most likely to type after “Burgess” is “Hill” (my home town), and so forth. I’ve settled into a speedy pattern of tapping out short words and swiping the longer ones, and tapping on SwiftKey’s well-sized suggestions when they appear. I estimate my typing speed has improved by around 50% to what it was on the iPhone, and I feel there’s plenty of room for improvement yet.
Apps in general
Aside from the specific Twitter client and satnav apps I mentioned above, Android has many more of my favourite apps than I thought it would. Zite, Flipboard, Spotify, LinkedIn, National Rail, 500px, Snapseed, The Times, Scrabble, Sky+, Evernote… almost all of the apps I’d use on a daily basis are on Android, and unlike a couple of years ago, they’re not substandard versions compared to iOS, either. Even my favourite game – the achingly niche Orbital – is in the Play Store. I do slightly resent paying for some apps again, but I’m largely over it.
Android handles notifications with much greater elegance than the iOS Notification Centre. Maybe it’s because I have fewer apps installed on my HTC One, but the notifications seem less of a chore to deal with and genuinely convey useful information. They’re easier to dismiss with a single swipe than the awkward double-tap it takes to dismiss individual iOS notifications, and you can wipe them all away in one shot. The only thing I do miss notification-wise from Apple is the single menu that allows you to alter notification settings for all your apps; with Android you have to deal with each app’s notifications setting individually.