Android from an iOS user perspective

I did it. I got my new Moto x. I officially switched to Android. I got it from Fido at 100$ (doh, it’s now 50$!) with a two year Smart plan (60$ + 4$ for unlimited everything in Canada and 3gb of data).

The past few weeks has been exciting. I was bored by iOS. Needed something new. Now I’m a happy camper. It’s easy to be impressed when your new phone is a billion times faster than your previous one, so I tried to factor that in. Read on.

The OS

My First Impressions

Everything seems a bit more integrated. For example, I have the option to set an image from the Facebook app to a contact in my address book. I can open a video with a choice of different apps. I can share content with a lot more apps. And the definition of sharing is quite larger than on iOS. For instance I can “share” a video using the Android Airplay app and watch it on my TV through  Apple TV. It feels more like a real OS where you have files and apps to open them.

Welcome to Google World

I live in the Google’s world: email, calendar, contacts, docs. Apple strengths have never been in web services. That’s why I never committed to iCloud. I can now leverage Google’s full power of apps: Google Now is cool, it lives on my home screen. Google Keep is simple and useful. Google + Location will replace Find my Friends once Google add it to their iOS app. Google + Photos is feature rich. On the downside you also experience the confusing coexistence of stock Android apps vs. Google branded apps. You get 2 maps apps, 2 calendar apps, 2 photos apps, 2 email apps. If Google wants to take Android back, I say go for it and end this nonsense.

Settings that Makes Sense

Sorry but iOS settings are a mess. After 4 years I was still searching my way through. Settings in Android are way simpler and app settings are actually in apps which is a godsend.

Apps: Feeling just like Home

The most common fear of iOS users are “I don’t want to loose my apps”. My experience to this point is that the Google Play store is fully stocked. All major apps are there. The only important app I’ve yet to find is an app to control my Apple TV (wish I had an IR blaster on my phone like the S4!). So Strava, Airbnb, Scotia Bank, Songza, Flipboard, RDS Hockey, LaPresse, it’s all there. I found an app to control my iTunes library and my airplay speakers and a visual voicemail app from Fido (although I need to go see a Fido store to make it work!). Hell, I even have a uTorrent app that downloads tv shows in minutes to my phone and a recorder app that can record my phone calls.

And when you find yourself looking at an app a lot, you can try the widgets which display dynamic information (I have Google Now and my calendar) or enable actions (identify music with Shazam or open your flashlight) right on your home screen.  I also like the fact that an app doesn’t need to live on the home screen and take precious space, it can only live in what is called the launcher, a list of all apps and widgets.

The Play store is also way faster than Apple’s App Store. The “top new free and paid” app sections are nice additions.

Keyboard…

I have trouble getting use to the Google keyboard. I quickly disabled auto-complete which is impossible to use in my franglish world of Quebec. It seems more cramped even though my screen is larger. Might be just a question of getting used to it. Or may have something to do with the touchscreen sensitivity? Or with the bigger screen and the new way I need to hold the phone (more on that later). I can’t say exactly but it doesn’t feel as good at this point.

The Back Button

One major UI difference with iOS is the built-in back button. On iOS, the back function si almost always a button located top left. On Android, the top left button act more like a breadcrumb. So let’s say you go to LaPresse app and from the home screen you click on a sport news. The top left button won’t get you back to the home screen of LaPresse but rather on the Sports home section. I’m not quite used to it yet but I guess it makes sense. Where I think the back button shines is the ability to go back to the previous app. Let’s say your reading your emails and you click on a YouTube link. First Android will ask you with what app you want to open that link (ex: Chrome, Youtube). You also have the option of using this setting always or just once. You then click on Youtube and once you’re done with the video, the back button brings you back to your email. It’s great but I found the behavior inconsistent. Sometimes it will bring you back to your previous app, sometimes it goes back within the second app you just opened. Maybe I’m missing something?

Notifications Done Right

Notifications are just plain better. You have the feeling like they nailed it quite a long time before the iOS 7 update. Notifications are well grouped (makes a huge difference), you find actions in them (ex: play/pause when music is on), you get a constant reminder of the latest notifications in the top bar next  your mobile provider and battery indicator. When background apps are running, you get a sticky notification (ex: when uTorrent is running).

The Dialer

The dialer is just OK. I find the search button awkwardly located, it should be an always visible input field, weird from Google. Can’t wait to have the new Kit Kat dialer.

Messages?

My biggest complaint yet. First it appear sending a video by text is rocket science. It’s funny how android user responds to complaints about this: “take a shorter video”, “compress your video”, “change your MMS settings”, “upload your video on dropbox on send the link”. What? See iOS users never have to do anything like that, it just works. Apple automatically compress your video and sends it through iMessages. On Android? Well hangouts can’t send video… MMS quality is abominable. The only easy solution I found is with third party app What’s App. What is it so complicated?

Secondly, Google released a new hangouts version that combined SMS and Google Chat, a bit like iMessages (but the hangout and sms thread are not integrated). But guess what? Activating the SMS feature actually breaks MMS. A pure bug.  I expect more from you Google!

Update: A new version of hangouts has been released explicitly solving this problem. Thank god.

 

The Device

To add to the Google vs. Android confusion, Motorola adds another layer of apps. I’m not about to complain because they are all great but it’s important for iOS users to understand that your experience will vary depending on the device.

Motorola connect

Surprisingly, this may be my favorite app. It’s a Chrome extension notifying you of SMS and calls. You see who’s calling, you see SMS content and you can even reply to SMS. For those more focused on their laptop than on their phone during the day, it’s a great way to never miss a phone call.

Active Notifications

Active notifications display notification on your screen every few seconds or when you pick it up. The benefit is letting you know what is going on without opening the phone, (and entering your pin). It’s possible by the AMOLED screen which only opens the required pixels and saves battery life. It wouldn’t be possible on LCD screens like the iPhones.

Touchless Control

Being able to talk to your phone even when it’s shut; I originally though this was going to be a killer feature. But I haven’t used it much. And I’m not the only one. I’ve read this is many reviews. We’re just not at a point where talking to your phone is more productive than touching it. A lot of back and forth is needed just to send a SMS, you need to confirm the recipient, confirm the message, etc. The only place where productivity don’t matter as much is in your car. But I’m realizing that if Google Voice (or Siri) is not integrated with your car’s Bluetooth system, the experience fails because you need to deal with ambient noise and still need to look at your phone more than you should.

Hardware in general

The speakerphone is super loud (better than iPhone) and call quality has a warmer tone which I’m starting to like.

The device in itself doesn’t have the top premium feel you get with iPhones and it could be a little thinner but overall, it’s a nice phone.

Battery life if very good, I’m ending the day with an average of 40% left.

Screen

No it’s not a 1080 screen like the Nexus 5. And yes, I’m pretty sure I would see the difference. But no it’s not a big deal and if it means better battery and performance, I think it’s a smart compromise.

Size

Another big change with Android is screen size. Moto x is 4.7 inch, smaller than the Nexus 5 (5 inch) but bigger than the iPhone 4.3 inch. I realize now that the iPhone is the perfect size for me for one handed operation. At 4.7 inch, I’m not able to hold the Moto x the same way. With the iPhone I have my little finger underneath. But with the Moto x, if I do that I can’t easily click top left or bottom left buttons. The phone need to stay in my open hand and thus need to stay a lot more parallel to the floor. I’m only starting getting use to the new grip and wonder if at that point, I should have gone all the way with a 5 inch phone. Because I have to say that a bigger screen is more enjoyable.

Before with the 4.3 inch screen iPhone 4

Now with the 4.7 inch screen Moto x

Switching from iOS, The recap

I don’t see myself going back to Apple anytime soon. Android offers a sense of freedom compared to iOS. More options, more possibilities. It’s also a market leading OS (hey it got a better rating on TheVerge than iOS 7).

Where I might miss Apple is in the hardware. They’re still the best. I’m starting to notice  little things like the proximity sensor that’s less precise (it’s the sensor that opens and closes your screen when you talk) or big things like the camera that isn’t fast enough to capture a focused picture of my daughter in low light (or can this be fixed with an update?).

From a software perspective the switch is not without hurdles too, even if you live in Google’s world for your docs, contacts, calendar and emails. I haven’t found a good iTunes replacement for syncing music (Google Music locker is not yet available in Canada!) and integration with Apple’s products is a lot less reliable: Android Airplay is cool but only when it works. That’s about it. As a switching cost, it’s small change in my book.

Ultimately when you really take a step back you realize the parity between the two platforms. It might be a bit like choosing between a PS4 and the Xbox One (but with an even bigger price difference), in the end it’s a matter of personal preference.

 

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2 Comments

  1. jef
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    Salut!

    J’ai récemment pris la même décision que toi (et un peu pour les même raisons), de passé d’un iPhone au Moto X et je me demandais si tu avais résolu le problème de Visual Voice Mail app qui ne fonctionne pas (en fait, dans mon cas, auquel je n’ai même pas accès)? Si oui, quel à été ta solution?

    Merci!

  2. admin
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Le Visual Voice Mail de Fido n’est plus supporté depuis plusieurs mois (ce qui est surprenant c’est que l’app était toujours disponible dans le Play Store). Mais Fido a une option qui te permet de recevoir un MMS audio avec le message. Donc le voicemail apparaît comme un message text de la personne qui a laissé le message. Je trouve ça encore mieux car tu gardes un historique de la personne dans le thread incluant les messages vocaux. En plus, j’ai l’option voice to text qui écrit le message. Voilà!

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