From Android to iPhone 4S – My Review

iPhone 4S unboxing

I recently made the big switch from Android to iPhone. I’ve wanted one since it first came out five years ago, so needless to say I’ve had a long time case of iPhone envy as a Verizon customer.

Maybe it was the hype, or maybe it was the years of anticipation, but at first I was let down. My first impression was that it was nice, but lacked some features that Android excelled in (most notably: Google Maps Navigation, and lightening quick Gmail integration). I knew to hold off judgments until I truly got to know the phone…as a self proclaimed Android power-user, I knew it would take time to learn the ins-and-outs of the iPhone as well as I did on Android.

After about a month – it clicked. It was strange really, I was ranting a few days earlier about how much I missed my Android, and still second guessing my decision of leaving. Then just like that, I fell in love with the iPhone.

Here’s why:

That intuitive thing…

I didn’t find the iPhone intuitive at all based on my first impression. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, and needed to ask a lot of noobie questions on how to do basic functions. It was no worse than learning to use an Android, but I didn’t feel that iOS was an innate skill I was born with either. The big “ah-ha” moment occurred about a month later when everything clicked & came together. The Apps are tightly monitored by Apple, so the navigation and options for the apps all work the same. The way you change settings on Angry Birds is the same way that you’d change settings on the alarm clock. All Apps follow a uniform user interface, whereas for Android every app is designed in whatever format the developer wants to. For most functions, there is only one way to make a change to the app behavior, and that interface, as well as the way of accessing it, is always the same. Once you learn the ins and outs of even just one app, it’s the same experience across the entire phone.

The Apps…

Sure, Android may have more apps, but Apple has BETTER apps. They’re quicker, they’ve got more features, they don’t crash, they’re just simply better. The apps are better supported by developers and have more frequent updates since they’re all built for a specific device (rather than fragmented across various screen sizes & manufacturers), so they are easier to update by developers. Apple users get the cream of the crop when it comes to app quality.

The Stability…

The iPhone is ridiculously quick and stable, always dependable when you need it. My Android phone crashed at least once a week, usually more. Ironically, my Android phone most frequently crashed when using the Google Search app or Google Maps. Everything works, and works well together, in the iPhone.

 The Attention to Details…

Android is sloppy when it comes to the details – Apple is obsessed. A representative detail of this is the default ringers & sounds of the two OSs’. The Motorola Droid line of Android phones (owned by Google) has a default ringer that sounds like a techno rave party and might induce a seizure to the average user it is so obnoxiously terrible. At the very least, it’s horribly unprofessional and would be embarrassing in front of a business colleague or client. Apple, on the other hand, scrutinized every default ringtone & sound notification to be soothing, simple, and pleasing. This attention to detail permeates to things like the design of icons, the homescreen, the phone’s appearance itself, and most importantly the settings menu.

The Graphics…

The iPhone blows any Android phone out of the water when it comes to HD display. The colors are vibrant and jaw dropping. I have yet to see an Android phone with anything nearly as impressive when it comes to graphics. If you play games or view photos on your phone, iPhone has the best display on the market IMO. And rumor has it the iPhone5 will only get better.

The Games…

I don’t play games and have never been interested. In fact, my laptop doesn’t have a single one installed other than the Windows defaults. But on the iPhone, the games are really good, and oddly addictive. I’ve spent way too many nights since getting my iPhone playing Monopoly or Temple Runner since getting the iPhone, and still finding new games that are fun to play. The above mentioned graphics make the games that much better, and the App Store makes it much easier to find games.

The App Store…

The Android Market, while vastly improved, is still light years behind Apple’s App Store. The App Store is easy to use, has better recommendations, and is easier to casually surf and stumble upon awesome apps you never knew you needed, until you install them and wondered how you lived without them. In just over a month on the iPhone, I think I might have twice as many apps as I ever did in my 2+ years of Android use, and that’s mostly thanks to an incredibly easy to use App Store that Apple provides (although I’m still not sure why I need to enter a password to download a free app).

Siri…

Siri is way cool, and the most popularly cited reason of why users love their iPhone 4S over the previous model. I use Siri all the time, most notably to call or text someone, as it’s way quicker than trying to find them in my contacts directory (which has over 400 people in it). This technology extends beyond Siri, as it’s really superior voice recognition software which can be used for dictating texts, emails, and notes. Android, on the other hand, had laughably bad voice recognition.

Email…

If you use Gmail (and only Gmail), then Android is great, and the Gmail app on Android is far superior than that of iOS. But if you use any other email provider, from Yahoo! to your work email, then the interface on Android is nothing short of terrible. On iPhone, the native email client is excellent. It’s easy to use and super easy to read. It took me a while, but Gmail is actually pretty good on the iPhone too, you just have to install it as an “Exchange” account type rather than a “Gmail” account type – if you specify the account as a “Gmail” account type the alerts are slow and the contacts won’t sync.

…to be fair, here are the things Android bests Apple at:

Not everything in iPhone-land is superior. While iPhone used to be such a clear-cut winner in the “which phone is best” competition, I believe Android has come a long way and excels in some areas the iPhone lacks. Here’s my two cents as to where the Android phone is superior to the iPhone.

Google Maps Navigation…

The Google Navigation feature in Android phones is amazing, and something I sorely miss. While I could download a paid app for turn-by-turn navigation on my iPhone, the native Google Maps navigation app was fantastic (despite being somewhat unstable at times, likely due to Google’s “always in beta” development style).

4G LTE Capabilities…

I demo’d a co-workers RAZR with 4G and holy crap was it fast. Fast, if not faster, than when I have Wi-Fi enabled on my iPhone. I’d love for that technology on my iPhone, although I think that will be coming soon in the iPhone5. Still, I was jealous.

Gmail Integration…

The Gmail integration on Android can’t be beat. This is logical, as obviously Google cares more about making Google products work well on Android phones than it would a competitor’s phone. Still, the Gmail integration was incredible on Android, getting push notifications on emails quicker than a desktop web browser would, and syncing everything effortlessly. Gmail isn’t bad on the iPhone, just not as good as it was on Android.

iTunes/Device Syncing…

Android is great for syncing – you just plug it in to your computer, and the phone becomes an external hard drive. You don’t need any special software, and you can easily copy files to your computer or drag & drop files on your Android phone with no issue. Apple requires that you install iTunes software, and personally I’m not a fan of iTunes. While it’s a great marketplace, the software itself is slow & cumbersome, and I’d rather just control my phone directly rather than have to go through iTunes. Additionally, if you pirate media, the Android is much easier to bootleg music & videos whereas iTunes requires a few extra steps to import. I understand why iTunes is a requirement for the iPhone, and how it contributes to many of the advantages listed above, but it’s still a negative compared to the Android system that doesn’t require any software on your computer to be able to connect with (other than drivers, of course).

The TL;DR

The iPhone still eats Androids lunch. If you switch from Android to iPhone, you might not feel that way immediately, but give it time and you’ll see the apps, OS, and hardware itself is far superior to that of Android’s offerings.

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  • Comments (9)
    • Blake Ferguson
    • January 2nd, 2012

    Good write-up NIck! I made the switch a few weeks ago as well (evo 4g to 4s) and my thoughts are on-par with yours. I keep learning new things about the phone as well. One thing I’ll add is the camera functionality of the iPhone vs. Android (specifically evo 4g in this instance), and the evo isn’t even on the same planet as the 4s… You can snap pics as fast as you can press the shutter, the light sensor is fantastic, and the mic is phenomenal for video recording.

    Needless to say, my rooted/modded evo will be up on ebay shortly…no looking back 🙂

    • That is a good point Blake. The camera on my first gen Droid, and my DroidX after that, were both terribly slow and clunky. I assumed that was a hardware issue particular to my phone, but it seems pretty common across a variety of Android phones so perhaps an OS issue as well.

      The iPhone’s camera is awesome, and I love the HDR effect built in as an option, and I’m obsessed with Instragram too (which is still iPhone only, surprisingly).

  1. Minor nits…

    The reason why iOS is so much more consistent between apps isn’t necessary that Apple is controlling every developer, it’s that the iOS SDK provides a much better range of standard controls and an easy way to get them laid out with Interface Builder. Also, Apple clearly defines best practices in their Human Interface Guidelines. Any developer worth a salt heeds that document well. The result is a consistent environment that is easy to develop for.

    iTunes isn’t really required any more with iOS 5. You can have it completely untethered all the time, right out of the box. Backing up via iCloud will give you all the benefits. You only really need iTunes still if you want to get existing media onto it. This can be more or less bypassed as well now with iTunes Match and/or redownloading already purchased videos.

    Next iPhone won’t be called a “5”. It’ll be the 6th generation, they’ll likely go with different name like “iPhone 4G” though that’d be mighty confusing with the 4 and 4S monikers already used. My bet is that it won’t be called “4G”, “5” or “6”… Maybe ‘iPhone LTE’?

    • Thanks Matt 🙂 I’m only 1 month into being an Apple owner, still learning…interesting notes on the Apple SDK and the next gen phone’s name. I was purely speculating as to iPhone5 being the next name.

      I understand your points on iTunes and a friend raised a similar point on Twitter. I guess as a new user, the initial setup of your iPhone requires a lot of interaction with iTunes, which didn’t make for the best first impression. In my particular case, I had to activate the phone via iTunes, which required me to download iTunes, try to remember the password I set years ago, fail at that and reset the password, etc, etc. Then I already had 5 computers registered, so I had to deregister all and then re-register my current machines. After everything is setup with iCloud however, the iTunes interaction is minimal, other than typing in my password every time I want to update an app or download a new one. It’s a very trivial and minor complaint, I just wanted to try to be fair and note any downsides I experienced in switching 🙂

      • Didn’t know initial setup pushed you towards iTunes. It’s been a long time since I haven’t been just upgrading.

        I know about the naming, it’s what everyone is expecting just because of all the pre-4S rumors.

        Good write up though, hope you continue to enjoy it!

    • Sarah Kuntsal
    • January 3rd, 2012

    welcome to the cool club! 🙂

    • lol, thanks! My hipster cred is up ~20% since November.

    • Mary Callahan
    • January 4th, 2012

    Hi Nick,

    Great write up! Very thorough analysis, but I hoped you would expand on the iPhone having better apps because developers provide better support to their production by building apps for the iOS in specific, rather than creating fragmented versions for various screen sizes & manufacturers. Do you think that developers will tire of building multiple native applications for every operating system out there – from Android to iOS to Windows Phones and etc. and seek a more universal solution? With the growing popularity of HTML5 and it’s ability to offer developers the flexibility to build apps once and have it – with minor adjustments – function across all major OS, do you believe that the quality that iPhone native apps currently have will diminish as developers create universally functional apps? Or will developers still primarily build for the iOS and add wrappers to the code to make them accessible for all the rest as secondary outlets?

    Thanks
    Mary

    • Thats a good question and some very good points. I think HTML5 will make developing apps easier, but I guess it remains to be seen if those become web apps that are universally accessible by any mobile OS via their native browser, or if we’ll continue to see OS specific apps available through the various App stores. Assuming 4G LTE speeds become avaiable, and Mobile Browsers support HTML5, I think it’s a definite possibility that we’ll start to see web apps accessible outside of the App Store that are universal to all platforms.

      However, as long as there are different App stores for each mobile OS, and those App Stores are monitored by the various OS makers, I think we’ll always have slightly different versions of each app since each Mobile OS/App Store has different rules & guidelines on how to develop apps for each platform…

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