First things first, this is an unbiased review of the worlds best mobile operating system platforms. I am very much an optimistic person, but with my passion for technology, I seem to look at what’s wrong with each platform instead of what’s great. The little things bother me, therefore my intention here was to find what were the weaknesses of both platforms. I will however sprinkle a little of what I loved and couldn’t live without.
Starting at the beginning, I was an iOS user first. I’m talking about 2007, 1st gen iPhone. I watched Steve Jobs present an all touchscreen phone to a world that was completely in love with their hard keys on their Blackberries. He went on stage and tried to convince us all that there was something wrong with these devices we had grown to love. He said current phones were “dumb” and said software on current phones is like “baby software”. That keynote was filled with so many bold statements and so many bold claims, the intensity of his message seemed to die towards the end as it started to become unlikely any of his claims would become reality. One of the things he stated in that keynote that I will never forget was a quote by Allen Kay in the 70’s, which was “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware”. More on this later.
So there I was in 2007, and working for a multi-national commodity trading firm, I would sign and approve mobile phone bills of more than $200k per month in mobile phone service. This spend gave me considerable leverage with my vendors and I happen to land myself a 1st gen iPhone the very day that it launched. Yeah, the day that people around the country were lining up at stores and paying ridiculous amounts of money for. So what was my impression at the time? Meh. It was cool looking for sure, but that’s about it. There were no “apps” yet, and the ones the phone did bring, like YouTube (yes that used to come pre-installed) were unusable at the current 3g network speeds of 2007, so you had to be on Wi-Fi. Typing was weird on glass and I missed by Blackberry. I think I had the 1st generation iPhone for 3 weeks and ended up giving it to someone else that I worked with.
Forward a year and we find ourselves in July of 2008 and the launch of the Apple App Store. Launching with 500 apps, it’s the AppStore that would make the iPhone a truly revolutionary product. It’s the AppStore that would take the iPhone from phone and texting device to a piece of hardware that would change the way we look at phones. Change the way we operate and revolutionize the mobile phone industry. 2 months after the launch of the App Store, came the launch of the first Android Based phone (the HTC Dream). Once the AppStore was launched, I wanted an iPhone again so I called up my rep and I had one on my desk within the hour.
I opened the box like a kid in a candy store. Like if it was a completely different phone than the first one I had. Well it was. Apps are what made all the difference. The very first app I downloaded was the eBay app. And it was so amazing to use this little device to login to my eBay account like a computer. Steve Jobs was right. “Who wants a stylus?” Using the iPhone literally felt like I was dropped in the middle of a sci-fi movie. The more apps that hit the app store, the more blown away I was. How come Blackberry, Nokia, Motorola phones didn’t have anything like this? Sure Blackberry had some apps but they didn’t look like iPhone apps! I stayed on this iPhone for about 2 years.
In 2010 I was asked to find some areas where I could cut costs for my department. I made the decision to move my companies mobile service from AT&T to Sprint. The move would save my employer about 60k-70k per month. At the same time, it would pull iPhones out of the hands of a lot of happy iPhone users and replace it with a Blackberry or another non-apple device (remember that AT&T was the exclusive provider that carried iPhone). Around the same time, HTC announced their “iPhone killer”. A device made by HTC called the EVO. I have to admit, seeing the device in photos for the first time, it was actually beautiful. Crystal clear large(r) screen, gorgeous colors and widgets on the home screen, up-gradable memory via memory slot, and removable battery). I was intrigued enough to consider replacing my iPhone, but not immediately convinced.
I remember the transition from AT&T to Sprint being painful to our employees. I remember the looks I would get and during the transition there was a time we had both Sprint AND AT&T. My department and I would bring over a few people a day from AT&T to Sprint. And at one point there was a user standing next to my desk that looked at me and said “You made the decision to move from AT&T to Sprint, yet you are still holding onto your iPhone. He was right, I was. This comment made me immediately order my HTC EVO 4G.
As I mentioned, the EVO 4G was a gorgeous device. Being an IT Geek the customization and “add-ons” to Android were never ending! I loved the flexibility. So much that I got most of my friends and family to move over to Android. I was a little surprised by how many people I had on an HTC EVO.
I loved the EVO and Android but the EVO was far from perfect. One of the biggest issues was the horrible battery life. I remember how many articles were posted on how to “tweak” your EVO to get battery life. Turn off WiFi, Turn off 4G, Turn off Bluetooth, check email ONLY when the app is open, etc. After I got tired of turning on and off services dozens of times a day, I resorted to carrying extra batteries. Each night I would charge 3 batteries and lug them along everywhere I went. My wife also had an EVO so there was a mess of batteries in our room charging. I then ordered “extended life” batteries that would stick out of the back of the case with a modified battery lid. None of this was practical but it was already habit and I never thought twice about it. It was what it was.
The EVO and Android had so many things that were geeky. I had linked my phone to my Wii-mote and on flights for work I was able to bring up a Nintendo Emulator and play Super Mario Bros with my Wii-mote. I eventually installed CyanogenMod which was a custom OS for the device that unlocked so many more things for Android. During my time with the EVO it was swapped 2-3 times for hardware failures. I still hung in there because you can’t like both platforms! Android lovers hated iPhone users and vice versa.
One Issue With Android, still present today
The longer I had my EVO, the less I liked it. Mostly because it started becoming unreliable. The reason is one of the core issues I have with Android Devices (aside from the Pixel) is that each Android phone runs each manufactures flavor of Android. For example my EVO ran Android which had an HTC software suite baked into it. That suite was called HTC Sense. Honestly, Sense looked pretty! It gave me the nice clock on the home screen, it gave me gorgeous looking skins, but it was not reliable. It kept erroring out when I pressed “home”. Yes I had dropped the custom OS and returned to the default HTC build. And during calls, it wouldn’t let me get back to my dialer or phone app, which was unbelievably frustrating when I was on conference calls for work.
The Beginning of The End
One day during a work call, my phone started freaking out. I was on a really critical call during an outage and I couldn’t get my phone to even dial out. I restarted it and it didn’t boot. After 45 minutes I came to the realization that this was going to be the end of the road for my EVO and Android. Between lugging batteries around, having constant phone issues, my phone app freezing and now my phone not booting, I was DONE! I went back to AT&T and back to an iPhone. When people asked me why, my answer was simple. “I just need a phone that works”. This was not the best for my decision to go to Sprint!
Once I was back on iPhone I almost laughed at the fact that I was charging 3 batteries per day with my EVO. I got what I wanted, a phone that just WORKED. Always. With proper battery life, stable OS. Missing out on some of the customization of Android was the price I happily paid for a reliable, solid phone. A phone that didn’t let me down. This time around, I stayed on iPhone for another 4-5 years. And the further along on that timeline we got, the less I loved my iPhone.
My Journey Back to Android
I owned every revision of iPhone throughout the years.4, 5, 6, 6s, 7 plus. With each release I grew a little more frustrated at Apples refusal to do simple things. Wireless charging didnt come until 7. Their removal of the headphone jack really ticked me off. For work I drove very long distances, 4-6 hour drives and for a large part of those drives I was on conference calls. Not being able to charge my phone and use my headphone jack simultaneously resulted in me having to decide between having a dead phone or holding a phone up to my ear for hours at a time.
In September of 2017 I was in California for a family vacation and standing outside the Griffith Observatory on a conference call, with a phone up to my ear, my phone died. Why? Because for 2 hours before I was on a conference call using my headset. On top of that, I had been pushed an update from Apple which caused my phone to completely freeze. My frustration level was beyond where I was with my EVO at the time I switched to Apple. When Steve Jobs passed, I remember telling coworkers my theory. I said “If Steve Jobs hired the best developers and quality control teams in the world and he still had to reject so many versions and revisions of iOS before release, its clear the quality of Apple is going to diminish.” Upon my arrival back home, I went to the T-Mobile store and got a Samsung Galaxy S8.
My Galaxy Experience
Within 24 hours of owning my Galaxy I was already in love. Why? Being on iOS i failed to see how “locked down” Apple is. Not in customization but in integration. The next time I got into my wife’s Chevy Suburban, which had Apple Car Play and Android Auto, I realized that I had Waze on my screen. Yes, Waze was on the car screen instead of holding a phone in my hand to avoid having to use the car’s native navigation system which was no where near as good as Waze.
Besides Waze, instead of “Stupid Siri” (Which is what I came to call Siri) I had Google Assistant on Android Auto. This opened up a whole new world of abilities! Driving I could call commands to my Google Assistant, which was integrated with my Samsung SmartThings Home Automation System, I could turn on and off my home lighting. I could control my alarm system and I could run custom actions Using IFTTT or Strinigify.
I came to fall in love with the notification system in Android. I LOVED the phone’s OLED screen, I loved the seamless screen. Looking at my wife’s iPhone with the “notch” on the top was painful! I loved being able to set different color notification LED Lights for each app. While in meetings, I could see that a green blinking LED meant someone sent me a What’sApp Message, or Blue was a Skype for Business Message.
So all was perfect in my world, right? NOPE! What I didn’t like was the TXT or SMS issues around Android. So many times, messages don’t send. I had 3 SMS apps, and resorted to asking my family and friends to find me on What’s App. I also began to get frustrated with Samsung’s flavor of Android which was 6-8 months behind Google’s releases. So this is starting to look like my issues with HTC Sense right?
The Samsung Android OS began to get awfully slow. I would get a notification and swipe it to go into an app and 20 seconds later my message app would open. Remember, like HTC, Samsung would take Android OS and modify it to their liking. My fix for this should have been to go to Google Pixel (Google’s Phone) that runs true “naked” Android. I ordered one to my house.
While waiting for my iPhone my Galaxy continued to get bad. My wife had a iPhone X which I decided to use while I wait for my Google Pixel. I was back in the state of mind that “I just need a phone that works”. I remember my Pixel arriving at the house and thinking “This iPhone X isn’t too bad”. As I have gotten older I have gotten more “frugal”. The minute I thought to myself that keeping my wife’s iPhone and returning my unopened Google Pixel would save me nearly $900.00 I was sold. Back to iOS I went.
At the level of maturity that both OS’s are in their life, they are both very mature, very very good operating systems and saying you can’t live on one over the other is definately an overstatement. We have gotten unbelievably reliant on these devices and at the same ratio that our dependency on these devices has increased, our tolerance for these devices having a failure has decreased.
I have spent considerable time on both platforms and both platforms are very very good. Samsung and Google have Apple beat on the hardware. As far as OS, Google’s unique ability to master machine learning and artificial intelligence definitely has a leg up on Apple and this story will continue to evolve. If you haven’t seen Google Assistant call a hair salon and make an appointment, check that out here.
But I Have to admit, being back on Apple was like being normal again. Apple REALLY REALLY got it right with iMessage. Being the reason in a group chat that the message bubbles went green, or being the one that people have to get into WhatsApp to message really sucks. And just that, due to my kids being on iMessage, really gives me enough reason to suck it up and stick it through on iOS. Besides those integration pains like Waze are fixed on iOS as Apple continues to realize that not everyone will be 100% locked in on Apple.
Now the iPhone X, XS, and 11 are beautiful phones. The notch becomes invisible after a while. The faceID is shockingly smart. I still drool a little looking at my colleagues S10’s and Pixels. I know deep down inside that’s a better OS for me and for my lifestyle. But like I said, Apple really got it right with iMessage and I’ll admit I’m being held hostage, but kudos to apple for developing a strong eco system.
We are spoiled that these devices are nearly flawless. They rarely fail and the fact that they slow down after a few years is more of an issue that the manufactures need to be accountable for as there is pretty solid evidence they slow down phones on purpose. They claim its to “lengthen the life of an older phone” but I’m convinced it’s to get you frustrated enough to go in and buy a new phone.
If you have been locked into one of the platforms for an extended amount of time, you owe it to yourself to at least play with the other. Go in to your providers store and play with a Pixel or an iPhone and see if there is anything that you are missing out on that could make your life easier. Jumping from one to the other doesn’t mean you are leaving your religion! Just like you can go from Honda to Toyota with a new car purchase, you can jump from iOS to Android and not look like a trader. Even though it seems like you are leaving a cult, it might teach you a little about yourself. There is always a return period!
For now I am STILL on iPhone X (now 3 generations old). And it’s still chugging along. Some days I want to order myself a Pixel. And other’s I find myself reading Apple rumor sites on what’s coming new in iPhone 12. We are spoiled to live in a world where technology evolves at the speed that it does. That photos taken with our phones are nearing the quality of professional cameras and with the built in software are coming out like the photos were taken by a photographer. We are spoiled that there are millions of apps that make our life easier. That we can transfer money while waiting in line at the store. That we can unlock our house and open our garage at the touch of a button on our phone. That we can turn on our shower, turn off the TV, and turn on our sprinklers from this little magical device that is where it is today because of Steve Jobs.