Till very recently, I didn’t like the Apple iPhone. In fact, I hadn’t even used an iPhone. On the rare occasion that I’ve been handed an iPhone, I’ve usually stared at it blankly and promptly handed it back. It’s been particularly embarrassing when I’ve been approached to fix something on an iPhone. And given how glued in to Android I’ve been, quite a few of them have wondered what I really do for a living.
To set context, just because I’ve not owned an iPhone, it doesn’t mean I’ve not used iOS. The Apple iPad 2 which I owned got me initiated into the world of iOS. I realized that it was usually just lying around home, so I gave it to my mother. Over the years, my mobile world was Android, and that’s the only world I knew. Recently, I was given an iPhone 8 to use, and I found myself having to re-learn the entire OS all over again. Some things felt familiar, but I still needed to spend a few hours to figure things out.
Android’s my first love, and…
Having used Android for many years, I’ve played around with all kinds of Android. I’ve used every version from Froyo 2.2 onwards, played around with the custom interfaces of practically every manufacturer around and actively propagated those that are closer to Google’s stock Android. Yes, I am what you would call an Android fan.
Naturally then, an iPhone to me is everything I am not used to. But I’ve been using it for a few weeks now, and I’ve slowly grown to like it. I use it as a second smartphone, and the smaller size of the iPhone 8 usually means it’s the one I reach for most of the time to check notifications on most apps including email, and the usual social media and team collaboration tools. In fact, I’ve found that certain apps such as Telegram and Slack actually work better on iOS than on Android, so those are the times I find myself specifically going for the iPhone instead of the Android smartphone.
…I’m dependent on Google
My primary contact number is on my Android smartphone for a number of reasons, including the ease of using Whatsapp on an Android phone, the variety and capability of the on-screen keyboard, and the larger screen. I also have my smart wearables paired to my Android phone for this reason. While you do get the benefits of the larger screen on the Apple iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X, the lack of keyboard variety on iOS is bothersome. Yes, you can install third-party keyboards, but there isn’t a lot of customization possible, and typing is still noticeably slower than on Android.
Other departments where I prefer Android are the handling of notifications, better control center, better widgets, easier multi-tasking and general ease in moving files back and forth between the phone and a PC. My general comfort with Android has also meant that I’m particularly dependent on the Google suite of apps. One of the first things I found when I started using the iPhone, is that the default mail app simply doesn’t serve me as well as the Gmail app. The same goes for Apple Maps, Apple Photos and Apple’s native calendar app; they’re all fine, but the Google alternatives are just better.
Fortunately, the entire Google suite of apps is available for iOS, and that’s exactly what I did. I have deactivated the default mail app, sync my photos and data on Google Drive, and use the Google Calendar app to keep track of my schedule. My contacts also sync to Google, and I admit it feels like I’m trying to turn the iPhone 8 into an Android smartphone, but that’s the beauty of it. I can if I want to, and I can still get the other benefits of iOS as well.
The iPhone is definitely more ‘laid back’
Depending on what Android smartphone you’re using, the focus is definitely on speed and efficiency. A top-end flagship smartphone will have all the power you need when it’s new, and navigating is definitely quicker and can be completed in fewer steps. On the Apple iPhone 8, I get the impression that things are more ‘laid back’. From the one second or so that it takes to wake and unlock the phone using Touch ID and its impression of a physical button, to the multiple swipes and steps to access and toggle most basic settings, the iPhone feels a bit more calculated in its approach.
Let’s be clear, the iPhone 8 isn’t slow, and it’s certainly inaccurate to call it slower than the current fastest Android phone I’ve used, the OnePlus 5T. When it comes to actual, functional capability, the Apple iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X are no slouches. This includes loading web pages, playing games, switching between apps, downloading and synchronizing data, and more. The speed and efficiency exist where they matter. However, the iPhone tends to take just a fraction of a second longer to get everything running at optimum efficiency. It’s all effectively masked with transition animations, giving it the impression of being laid back. And the additional steps it takes to get anywhere lets the phone effectively predict where you’re going or what you’re planning to do, thereby efficiently getting itself ready for it.
Because of this, I tended to once again choose which phone to use depending on what I needed to do and how I needed to do it. Of course, if I needed to use WhatsApp or quickly refer to Google Keep or my calendar, I would automatically go for the Android smartphone. But if I was expecting a short texting session on Telegram or Slack, a bit of web browsing or social media, I tended to prefer the iPhone. This was also for the smaller form factor, and ease of handling. However, when it came to photography, I usually went for the dual-camera powered Android device, over the iPhone 8. Perhaps an iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X may have negated this tendency, but even the speed of the Android’s camera and additional controls made it the preferred choice for me.
Apps are nicer
This is one department where Apple has always been the winner. Apple’s close control over the app ecosystem and the level of permissions and capabilities of the apps themselves means that the likelihood of an app malfunctioning on you or causing trouble on your phone is much less. While most apps tend to resemble their Android counterparts, others are designed better and work fantastically on the phone. I particularly preferred the way the Slack and Telegram app function on iOS against Android, while some gems such as Euclidean Lands aren’t even available on Android yet.
The App Store itself is immensely better than the Google Play Store. The sections are better laid out, and the particular segmentation for augmented reality apps is excellent in order to take full advantage of Apple’s ARKit. Additionally, you’ll find a special section for apps that already work well on the Apple iPhone X, which matters a lot considering that the newest iPhone has different screen dimensions and ratios.
App updates on the app store are less frequent, the app curation and recommendations are excellent and help you discover great new ways to use your phone, and the magazine-like ‘Today’ section is sometimes worth looking at purely for the enthusiasm in apps that it generates. My personal favorite apps on the iPhone are Facetime, the Quartz news app and Apple Music. Speaking of which…
If you ask me for just one reason why I’ve loved my time with the Apple iPhone, it’s because of Apple Music. Sure, you can install the Apple Music app on your Android smartphone and it works. But let me be honest here – it isn’t as good on an Android as it is on an iPhone. The experience is better, and if you have other Apple products such as an iPad or Macbook, the inter-connectivity is impressive. I could easily have used Apple Music all this time, but I didn’t actually sign up for it till I used the iPhone. And for that, I’ll give it credit.
Apple Music has changed the way I listen to music entirely. I listen to most of my music in my car, although my job does need me to also use headphones and listen at work. While the Apple iPhone 8’s lack of a 3.5mm jack means that I can’t use wired headphones with the device, I do test Bluetooth headphones using the phone. The audio system in my car also wirelessly connects to the iPhone as soon as I step in, firing up music without any action on my end. Sound quality is arguably better on the iPhone as well, and streaming music is flawless on the Apple Music app on iOS, assuming you have a half-decent data connection.
Where Apple Music has made a difference in in discovery. Thanks to Apple Music, I’m finding tracks I’m unlikely to have found before, and discovering artists and albums that I didn’t even know existed. Apple’s curated playlists are a great way to find new music according to genres and themes that might appeal to you, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the changes to my music listening over the past few weeks that I’ve been using the Apple iPhone 8.
Did I dislike the Apple iPhone before I had a chance to properly use one? Yes. I did so because I felt that the Apple iPhone is needlessly overpriced, and this is something I still feel. The reason why I would still recommend an Android smartphone is a function of value for money. An Apple iPhone X is undoubtedly a better device than a OnePlus 5T, and arguably, even a Google Pixel 2 XL. But is it so much better that you would pay such a huge premium for it? Maybe, maybe not.
And that’s just when you consider the Apple iPhone X. When you’re talking about the Apple iPhone 8 or 8 Plus, it’s an even harder argument to sell. The Apple iPhone 8 that I’ve been using starts at Rs 64,000, and it’s very hard to justify spending that kind of money when you could get a top-level Android smartphone for about half the price. There’s no questioning or denying the capability of the Rs 64,000 Apple iPhone 8; just the desirability and idea of getting your money’s worth. However, it might also have something to do with this, as elaborated by my friend Rohan.
College: iPhone sucks
First job: 50 reasons why Android is better
Promotion: iPhone ain't so bad
3rd Promotion: Gimme 64GB, Space Gray
— Rohan Naravane (@r0han) January 27, 2016
But the point I’d like to make here is that even though I’m still an Android user by choice, I’m not against the iPhone anymore. Apple fans have for long spoken of the benefits of using an iPhone, and I’m finally beginning to understand it all. And the older I get, softer grows my opinion of Apple. Maybe one day in the future I might even buy one. Maybe.
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