Follow-up: Why I switched to Android from iOS

This is a follow-up to my original article I posted on why I switched from iOS to Android. I was not planning on writing anymore on the topic, but because I received so much feedback both on reddit and the original article, I wanted to follow-up and post a few things I have learned since my original post and some of the tweaks I have made.

CM10 vs stock JB

cm10 OTA updater

I just wanted to point out that many people responded to the original article stating that many of the features I outlined as being Jelly Bean features are actually features from cm10 and not stock Jelly Bean. A number of people also pointed out many other custom ROMs that may be work checking out, including SuperNexusand Codename Android. I have also since  updated my cm10 to a more recent nightly update and they have added their own custom OTA updater built into the OS.

Nova Launcher

In my original article I spoke briefly about launchers and that I was satisfied with the stock android launcher. As it turns out, the launcher included with cm10 is not the stock JB launcher, although I was still satisfied with it. A number of people pointed out different launchers, and being that Nova Launcher went on sale for 25 cents this week I figured I would try it out. My main reason for wanting a new launcher was the ability to save my launcher settings and my home screen icons and folders. So far I am satisfied with Nova launcher overall. I like the ability to change the app drawer to scroll vertically, and also the ability to uninstall apps straight from the home screen. I was actually annoyed originally when I found out I had to go to the app manager to uninstall an app. Nova launcher also allows you to set up custom gestures like pinching or swiping on the home screen. I assigned the ability to double tap the home screen to open the recent apps list, which is much easier than pressing the GS3 home button twice. While I wish the custom gestures would work anywhere in the OS, they only work on the home screen, although this limitation makes sense.

Nova delete from home screenNova settings

WidgetLocker

I originally complained about the lack of any lock screen organizer app similar to Intelliscreen X of Lockinfo from iOS. A number of people suggested WidgetLocker and also Executive Assistant. I tried both out and while I feel neither come nearly close to Intelliscreen X, I decided to stick with WidgetLocker. Executive assistant did seem like a good solution, but I found it difficult to set up and was unable to find a way to integrate it with the JB lock screen.

I was really unsure about Widgetlocker, especially the $2.99 price tag. It seemed like it would suit my needs, although all the screen shots made it look like it would change my nice looking JB lockscreen to an older version of Android. After installing the app and going through the settings I was able to get it set up in a way I was happy with. My main goal was to get my calendar on my lockscreen while keeping the sleek look of stock JB. By using WidgetLocker, Simple Calendar Widget and ClockQ I was able to find something I was happy with.

Unified inbox

Unified inbox

While I still think the stock Gmail app should include a unified inbox, it turns out the stock Email app does contain a unified inbox for your accounts. Also, if you set up your Google accounts as exchange accounts you will still get push notifications. Just be sure to disable the email syncing in your gmail apps so you don’t have 2 apps running in the background checking for emails.

Final Note

A lot of people pointed out that most users do not root their phones and stick with a stock Android experience. Many people read the article and found that it was not helpful because the whole article was based off of rooting your phone and installing custom ROMs. Well, I originally wrote the article to explain my personal opinions and observations when switching to Android. I know myself well enough to know that I will never be satisfied knowing there are more tweaks and customizations I can do with my device. That is why I went straight to a custom ROM on my GS3. While a stock Android experience will not include as many options for customization as I was highlighting, there are still numerous ways to customize your Android experience through launchers and apps available on the Play Store that makes everyone’s experience much more customizable than what you can achieve with iOS. After 5 years on iOS I hit a brick wall with my ability to customize my device and was waiting every day for the next jailbreak tweak to try out. With Android your options are almost limitless because depending on how devoted you are, you are able to find or make your own custom solution to whatever you want.

Why I switched from iOS to Android and why I am never going back…

Introduction

Like many people, when I first watched the original iPhone announcement in 2007 I was awestruck. I was one of the many people who shelled out $599 for an 8GB model and it really was groundbreaking. Flash forward 5 years later and I am still an iPhone user. I had upgraded to the iPhone 3G and then the iPhone 4 and I found myself happy with my purchases. I also remember jailbreaking my first iPhone before official apps were even released. I ran the first emulators and games that became available and had fun doing it. I continued to jailbreak all my devices after every update and eventually found myself dissatisfied with the stock iOS experience. Jailbreak apps like Intelliscreen X and Bite SMS made it mandatory that I still had my jailbreak before I updated to the latest iOS update.

My favorite iOS jailbreak tweak

I had never really given Android even a chance in my mind. I was always interested in the OS and kept up on articles and events in the cellphone world, but from the few times I had used it there was always something that turned me away. My first experience playing with a Morotola Droid left me with a dull taste in my mouth. At that time no other company had come close to the perfection of the iPhone’s touch screen. Even simple things like scrolling and pinch to zoom felt awful. A year or two later I remember messing with my brother’s HTC Droid Incredible. The Android experience was better this time, but I still remember seeing an incoming call and that awful 96 x 96 pixel contact image come up on the screen. I thought to myself, how could such a low resolution be used on a phone and OS with such higher potential (a problem that is still occurring to this day I hear). This, along with Android fragmentation and manufacturer “skins” were another huge turn off for me. So years went by and myself, like many others, lavished in the iPhone experience. Everything was just so polished and worked perfectly. Yes, we had to wait for a few key features like copy and paste, airplay and a notification center, but everything that Apple included, for the most part, always worked and was extremely polished.

Then, a few months ago the buzz for the iPhone 5 started emerging. Also, new high end phones were starting emerging like the Samsung Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note and the HTC One X. On top of the new phones there was quite a buzz surrounding the new Android Jelly Bean OS. When the leaks for the iPhone 5 started emerging I was not very impressed. I, like many others, was hoping for a much larger screen, but also, many of us realized that Apple would never produce a larger screen because it would potentially scare away many average users that the iPhone has extended its reach to.

Galaxy S3 and the One X

In my great hatred towards AT&T (I could write a whole other article on why) I decided I was going to switch providers when my wife’s contract was up. I decided to go the pre-paid route and order SIM cards from Straight Talk. Then, suddenly I thought since I am going prepaid; why not just try out an Android phone? If I went and bought an unlocked Android phone, I could try it for a few months on Straight Talk and if I didn’t like it, I could purchase a new iPhone 5 unlocked or go join Verizon since they have a good LTE connection in my neighborhood. The thought stayed in my head for a few days and I began to do research on some newer Android phones and even Jelly Bean. I was initially waiting for the iPhone 5 announcement before making my decision, but in the end I decided I wanted to get the most money for my iPhone 4 and get it on the market before it was flooded with potential upgraders. So before I knew it I had ordered my Samsung Galaxy S 3 with 16GB of storage. So here we begin the main part of the article, not only my experiences with Android and Jelly bean, but from the point of view of a 5 year iPhone user with almost no Android experience at all.

StraightTalk activation kit

Research

I hope you are good at researching topics on the internet, because you are going to be using it. I don’t think I have spent this much time reading forums since I decided to build a Ghostbusters proton pack for Halloween. Of course, with my Galaxy S3 in hand I could always go with a stock Samsung experience, but I already knew that this would not enough for me. My main reason for switching to Android was customization, and to get real customization requires installing a custom ROM on your device. Now I already knew what rooting was, but I had no idea about anything else. Lauchers, ROMS and kernels were all unknown to me at the time and I had no experience or even able to ask a friend for advice. Nearly all my friends were iPhone users and I had no one to turn to for advice. It was hours of research deciding which ROM I wanted to install and how to root my device.

Stock Touchwiz

My rooted S3

This is where my first point comes into play. Since we are dealing with Android and a plethora of devices, you have to search for specific models and versions of everything. Unlike with the iPhone where you only really need to know which iPhone you had and what firmware you are running (not getting into bootloaders). I pretty quickly decided I wanted to install CM10 on my device. With all the wonderful things I have heard about Jelly Bean, I did not want to start out my first Android experience with anything other than the newest version of Android. So the day came when I received my S3 and luckily it was already rooted. A quick install later and I had CM10 running Jelly bean on my S3 and I was excited to play around all the new setting and experiences.

Oh the settings!

                As I said, customization was one of the main reasons I wanted to try out Android, and boy did I get what I asked for. Even after spending two weeks with Jelly bean I am still finding more settings and adjustments to make. While the iOS settings app has grown over the years, as many know, it does not even come close to the adjustments you can make on Android. From adjusting the lock screen, status bar, power menu, themes and anything else you can think of. You can spend hours adjusting and fine tuning your Android experience to your liking.

  

NOTE: As I said I do not have any prior experience with Android so any of my observations are with the 20120911 nightly version of CM10 I am running and many not be a representation of a typical Android experience.

settings- system- notification drawer- widget buttons

I quickly fell in love with the Android “menu” button on my device. The ability to call up advanced menu option at any time is something I had always wanted in iOS. On the iPhone I hated having to quit an app, open the settings app, and scroll to the bottom just to make an adjustment in an app. But in Android, this sometimes causes confusion. While in most circumstances you can easily bring up options or settings for whatever you are doing simply by pressing that button. What you’re looking for isn’t always there. Also, sometimes even within settings you can press the menu button again for even more settings! This can quickly get confusing and I often find myself spending time trying to find where I saw a certain setting I want to adjust. For example, I wanted to add the brightness button to the widget in the JB (Jelly Bean from now on) notification bar. While for seasoned Android users this may be second nature, but it took me a while to remember settings- system- notification drawer- widget buttons.

3….2….1….LAUNCHER!

               

Stock JB launcher

I honestly did not even know what the Android launcher was a few weeks ago. Some more research later quickly showed it was the initial screen you see when your phone is unlocked. This concept seemed foreign to me as the iPhone doesn’t have a launcher per say, it kind of does, and it doesn’t. Most Android users tend to fill their launcher with their most used apps and widgets. Need to get to an app not on your launcher? No problem, just search for it or open up the app drawer where it conveniently lists all your installed applications. I find this very helpful coming from iOS. On the iPhone, if you downloaded an app, you were stuck with it on your homescreen forever. Yes, you could hide it away in a folder, but for someone like me who obsesses with organization, I found it difficult to manage between the apps I used the most and having a nice and organized homescreen. While I did not want to delete a bunch of apps just because I may only use them once in a blue moon, I also did not want to have to search through a dozen folders to find it. That is why I love the idea of the Android Launcher so much. I can easily put my most used apps and widgets on my homscreen, while easily able to get to apps I may only use a few times. While there are a dozen launchers to choose from and everyone has their preference, I find the stock JB launcher to work just fine.

Widgets are one of crown jewels of Android users. While there are a few iOS jailbreak apps that include widgets, these don’t even come close to the widget implementation in JB. I love being able to put my calendar or RSS feed anywhere on my homescreen. It really makes the Android experience a true customization for the user. One of the new features in JB is the ability to move the widgets around the home screen and have the icons auto move around the widget and is a really a convenient feature.

What do you mean that is not built in, and more research too?

So here I have my new S3 playing around with it for a few days. So far everything is going well and I am easily finding most apps I used on my iPhone on the Google Play store. Speaking of the Google Play store, I will say that I am impressed with it so far. There are a number of free apps and even most apps seem reasonably priced. I really like the idea of being able to install apps from my laptop and look over and get that satisfying notification that the app was automatically download. While I believe iOS can do this also, the Apple app store from a browser is not the same experience at all.

Anyways, here I am on my laptop doing more research on apps to install on my fancy new phone when I start to run into some issues. First, I needed to print a pdf from my phone to my wireless printer. This was cake on my iPhone so I figured it shouldn’t be too difficult. First I attempted to open the pdf to find out reading pdfs is not built into Android. Easy enough, some research later I find out adobe reader is available and one of the better apps. Install, launch and try to print…..no option to print. Now that I think about it, no settings to print anywhere. Some more research about printing with Android. OK, it is not built in and I need to install an app. Easy enough….except that the most recommended app is $12.95, for a feature that is built into iOS. Luckily for me, my Epson printer had a free Android app that let me do the same thing (even though the app is ugly).

SD card….now why can’t I use it?

Next thing up was installing my new SD card. Since my S3 only has 16GB of built in memory, I ordered a 32GB SD card to give me some extra space. This was one of the reasons I picked the S3 over the HTC One X because it has an SD slot. So I got my new SD card, popped it in and found that it was recognized by JB. OK, now to move some larger apps and photos to the SD card. So I go looking through the settings and I can’t find this anywhere. I knew for a fact that some Android phones can move certain apps to the SD card and set the camera photos to save to the SD card. So why can’t I find this? Time for more research! Hours of research later and some trial and error I find out that I pretty much can not do this with my phone. They have plenty of apps that help move apps to the SD card, but apparently they are not compatible with my S3, and from what I have read this is a Samsung issue and not an Android issue. Researching more and more gives me a bunch of options for different ROMS and apps for moving apps to the SD card, but most of them did not work with my specific model of phone or they are overly complicated, even for me.

NOTE: I have the AT&T version of the Galaxy S3 (d2att) which is different from the quad-core i9300 international version which is also popular.

Resizing images should be built in!

Another feature built into iOS that I ran into problems with on Android is resizing of images when sending an email. They recently added this feature into iOS where anytime you email an image in iOS it pops up with options to resize the image (or images) before it attaches them. When I first noticed that I was about to email an 8MB image I was surprised that this feature was not built into JB. I had to do some more research to find a solution. While I was easily able to find an app to fill this void, the implementation is not perfect and I am still unable to batch resize photos before I email them. This is something simple that really should be added into the OS soon.

Not that I mind doing some research every now and then, and it is hard to completely learn a new operating system in a few weeks, but that is one nice  thing about iOS is its ease of use. Almost anyone can pick it up and figure out how to use it without too much difficulty. While Android is not overly difficult, and JB has made strides in usability, there is a line between ease of use and customization where you are going to lose some people. I guess that is where the manufactures believe they can fill that void, but we all know more times than not they only cause more problems for users.

Oh the notifications!

Background downloads

Everyone knows Apple stole the notification bar from android. While the iOS implementation of the notification bar is nice, Google has really perfected it in JB. Not only the notification bar, but also the status bar, which will display notification icons in real time. Everything that happens in Android has the option to be displayed the notification bar. The notification bar feels like a central hub for the OS. Not only do you get the nice widgets that are completely adjustable, but every action that happens in the OS has the ability to send updates to the notification bar. Downloading a file to the SD card from Chrome and want to switch to another app? No problem, it shows up in the notification center. I still meet iOS users that never use the notification center, or even know it exists on their phone.

My new favorite podcast app.

I am a huge fan of podcasts and have certain podcasts set to automatically download when they are available. I get a cool little icon in the status bar that the download started and a list of all the episodes currently available. Now this may now sound like a big deal, but from a heavy iPhone user I can tell you that the notification center is not perfect in iOS. I would find plenty of times when apps were not getting notifications on time, or skipping certain events. This also plays into the fact that iOS does not have true multitasking. In Android if I set my podcasts to automatically download, I don’t have to think twice about the app being open or not, it just works. In iOS I would often find myself opening my apps often just to make sure it would be running and I would get my notifications. While I am not sure the technical specifications of push notifications in iOS, I can tell you that the Android implementation is much better. Even things like Titanium and Nandroid backups can be easily run in the background without any hiccup.

The likes and dislikes of Android

Like- Google Maps and Integration

This seems like an obvious factor here, but being an iOS user I forgot how much I enjoy all my Google services being truly integrated into the Android experience. I had slowly been inching towards more Google integration over the years even with iOS and it is only natural that going to Android would bring that all together. The Google maps experience on Android is very nice and the ability to save maps offline with JB is a real plus. I had no issues saving my whole city onto offline maps. My only wish is that I could save the maps on the SD card, but that may be available in the future. The whole Google maps experience is all there along with traffic, street view, local places and more and it all comes to together nicely in JB. This is all integrated in Google Now, which has the potential to be really great. Google Now is kind of a Siri competitor, but does a whole lot more than Siri does and is more widely integrated into the OS.  Google Now will show you movie times nearby you along with restaurants and a whole slew of other things that I do not use. Also, from what I hear, Google Now will keep track of your meetings and their location and tell you if you need to take a different route to where you are going. This may be very helpful for people in a large city and commute, but for me none of these are very useful to me.

Dislike- Google Maps and Navigation

How can I dislike Google Maps when I just praised it? Well mainly two issues, which for me are huge problems with maps and navigation for Android. My first issue is a huge headache for me since I switched from iOS. In Google Maps for iOS if I open up maps and go to the search bar and type in a contact’s name, the name comes up on a list and I select it and it automatically shows me their listed address on the maps. This seems like a simple and logical process for maps and I have been doing this for 5 years on my iPhones. So I was very disappointed when I opened up Google Maps on my S3, typed in a contact name and nothing was listed. I was baffled. I thought something must be broken. I guess I could go to my contacts information and then click on their address, but why should I have to do this?  What if I want to find the closest library near my friend’s house? I have to go to their contact info, click their address and then search, or memorize their address and type it in. The whole experience just seems backwards.  I just don’t understand why this would be built into iOS Google Maps app for 5 years and not on cream of the crop JB.

So some more research later I find out that Google apparently wants you to use their Google Navigation app to search for contacts. While the Navigation app is sort-of the same as Google Maps, it is not. Navigation is built to be just like a standalone GPS, which is great, except that there is no reason to take a feature away from the maps program to push your Navigation app. Even the Navigation app itself is not perfect. The maps on Navigation look a little different and are not as sleek as Maps and even the icons are from an older version of Android, which can be visually annoying. Now I am not complaining about the built in Navigation, I am just saying it needs to be integrated better into Maps and features should not be cannibalized from Maps to put them in Navigation.

Like- JB Lock Screen

I was worried about the lock screen on JB coming from my jailbroken iPhone. I really enjoyed Intellisceen X on iOS 5. I could view my entire week calendar, all my emails, notifications, RSS feed and Facebook updates straight from my lockscreen. I had it set up just the way I wanted it and I was worried about how that experience would translate to JB. I am happy to say that while I have yet to find the exact same experience with JB, I am happy with the compromise. I love the JB unlock system with being able to assign up to 5 shortcuts to apps from the lock screen. While I have not been able to figure out a way to get my full week calendar on the lock screen, it is not as important because I just have a calendar widget set up on my homescreen. Also, notifications do not appear directly on the homescreen, but the notification center can easily be accessed and used.

Dislike- No Google Authenticator built in

A few months ago I made the switch to dual-authentication on almost all my accounts, most specifically my Google accounts. If you are unaware, dual-authentication is a way to add an extra layer of security to your accounts by requiring you to enter a passcode, on top of your password, whenever you access your account from an untrusted computer or device. This is typically done with an app or SMS message sent to your phone. I mainly use the Google Authenticator app, which is nice, but it is unfortunate that this is not built into Android. Whenever I am setting up my phone it always requires me to close whatever I am doing and open up the authenticator. With Google being one of the main companies pushing dual-authentication, it would be nice to see this built into Android.

Like- SwiftKey 3 and the Android Keyboard

Day one with Android it took some getting used to using the keyboard. I have heard of everyone praising Swiftkey as one of the best Android keyboards so I went ahead and purchased it. While I do think Swiftkey if far from perfect, I found myself typing quickly without thinking too much about my mistakes very quickly. The main revelation came when, a week later, I went to my iPad to access my favorite social app, Share, and began to type. I immediately realized how stupid the iOS keyboard is. When I say stupid I mean the ability of the OS to auto correct my words and predict my words while I type. I never even thought this was an issue with iOS, and I even thought I could type pretty fast in iOS, but it wasn’t until I went back to my iPad a week after I started using JB that I realized how often I had to back space and change my text. Both stock JB keyboard and Swiftkey do such a great job of predictive text that I am really enjoying the experience on Android.

Dislike- No unified Inbox

Really? No unified inbox?

Really Google, really? No unified inbox, not even for my Google accounts? Like most people I do not simply have one email account. I actually have half a dozen accounts that I use for a variety of purposes, although I only use 3 for everyday use.  For email, JB offers 2 email apps, one just for your Gmail accounts, and another generic “Email” app that can be set up for IMAP or POP accounts. While I do like the programs offered, I am baffled at why there is no unified inbox option. Even with the stock Gmail app I have to manually select which account I am looking at. Looking at the apps themselves, some small things are annoying like the differences between the Gmail and Email app. For example, the delete buttons are in different locations on each app so by habit, when I use the Email app my thumb is so used to pressing the spot for delete button in the Gmail app I constantly find myself looking for the right button to press. They offer apps in the Play Store that can fill this unified inbox void, but with K-9 mail being the most popular, I honestly find it ugly and lacking compared to the Gmail app. Most of my complaints are mitigated by the excellent Notification center which easily directs me to the right app whenever I get an email. It works so well I almost don’t even mind the complaints I had, although that does not excuse the fact that this functionality really should be built into JB, at least on the Gmail app. An app like Sparrow on iOS would be appreciated, and seeing that Google bought Sparrow a few months ago something similar might be happening.

Like- Notification Light

Notification light settings

Spending 5 years with an iPhone, something as simple as a notification light never even crossed my mind. I am sure this feature has been around for years and has often been overlooked, but in JB there is this amazing feature that, while simple, has easily become one of my favorite Android features. My S3 has a LED notification light on the front of the phone that blinks whenever you have a pending notification. In JB you have the option of changing the LED color depending on which app has a pending notification. While this may not seem like much, I find it so convenient that just by a glance at my phone on the counter I can see by the color of the LED if I missed a phone call, have a waiting text message or simply have a Facebook notification waiting for me. JB lets you select the LED color depending on which app has a pending notification. For example for Facebook I have it set to a satisfying blue that is easily seen from a distance. While JB lets you select from a large range of colors, you will have to play around with the color selection, as the single RGB LED can only reproduce limited color options. Also, with CM10 it does seem a little buggy, but for the most part it works quite well and I am sure this will be fixed with future versions.

Like- Google Voice Integration

All or none GV calls

I am a big Google Voice fan and I have been using it for years. In iOS I used an awesome jailbreak tweak called SMS GV Extension which let me integrate my Google Voice number as my default SMS texting service and it was fully integrated into iOS. This was a lifesaver for me as I refused to pay AT&T’s outrageous texting fees and did not have a text message plan. With Android the Google Voice app can be integrated into the OS. If you wish you can select to use your GV number for all outbound calls, or select if you want to use your GV number or your default number each time you place a phone call. You can even select to integrate the GV texting into your stock Messaging app if you wish, all without any extra tweaks or plugins. My only complaint is that you cannot dial numbers from the GV app in Android like you could in iOS. While I mainly use GV for text messaging, a majority of the time I want to use my default phone number for outgoing calls. As I stated, the only options in JB right now  is to dial all outbound calls with you GV number, or manually select before every call which number to use. I would prefer to be able to open up the GV app and dial a number with my GV number for the few times I want to use it. Also, it is confusing why the GV app on Android is called simply “voice,” but then  all you can do is send text messages.

Conclusion

Let me be clear that I am not saying that the iPhone or iOS is at all inferior to Android. I think we all can agree that when the original iPhone came out in 2007 it was truly revolutionary. When I recently looked back at the 2007 iPhone unveiling that Steve Jobs announced, I still felt the excitement come back up watching it 5 years later. We also cannot deny that Apple makes some amazing hardware. The iPhone 5 is a beautiful phone and there is a huge consumer base that the iPhone is perfect for. Although things have also evolved since 2007 and other companies like Google and Microsoft have come a long way with both hardware and software in the cellphone market. There are a variety of choices now and everyone is going to have a preference as to what suites them best. For me personally, after 5 years I got bored with iOS. The hardware was something that I could live with, although I was dying to get a larger screen (even larger than 4 inches), but personally, even though as polished as iOS is, it has become boring and uninnovative for me.  That is why I decided to take the plunge to Android when I did. Google has made so many strides since Android’s early days and I really think it is time for Android to shine. Android has become a great option for power users and consumers looking for that level of customization that iOS has never offered. That is why I decided to write this and maybe show some people that making the “switch” isn’t all that bad. Yes, Android still has some definite hurdles to overcome such as fragmentation and ridding itself of the image from much older versions of the OS, but with the arrival of JB I can truly say that I am happy with my decision to switch from iOS and I honestly don’t see myself turning back anytime soon.

Update: Read the follow-up article here