Leaving the iPhone- How Android Stacks Up

by Patrick Moorhead   |   January 15th, 2013

About a month ago, I made the decision to stop using my iPhone 4s with the possible outcome of leaving the iPhone for an Android or motorola-razriWindows phone for an extended period of time.  I don’t want to use the term “never”, because that’s limiting.  As promised, I wanted to share with you my experiences with Android so that you may get a deeper insight into how other users may feel and respond to their next phone purchase and experience.  I want to reinforce that this is, at best, a qualitative research study of one individual; me. I possibly represent a market segment of U.S. mid 40-something males that is technically savvy and enthusiastic about technology.  I will talk about the pros, cons, and things that just didn’t matter one way or the other when comparing my iPhone 4s to Android phones.

I used three Android phones, bouncing back and forth between them to experience  Android.  The three phones were: Samsung Nexus, Motorola Razr HD i, and the HTC One X+ which were provided to me to use.  Let’s start out with the Android phone plusses.

Android Phone Plusses

Instant access to info and controls via Widgets: With Android Widgets I can look at my most often accessed information without even opening up an app.  My most often used app widgets were Mail, Calendar, sports scores, weather, social media updates, and TripIt.  The neat part is that you can actually manipulate the data in the app and there more often than not, don’t need to open the app. This is a big time saver.  My Android control widgets were display settings and hotspot, so instead of three clicks, it takes one.

Free hotspot: This one is very straight-forward.  On AT&T and my iPhone, I needed to pay extra for a Wi-Fi hotspot and with my Android phones I did not.

Easier content sharing: Sharing content like photos to multiple social media sites is very easy.  With my iPhone I need to open the app then I can pull in content like a photo or video with the exceptions of Facebook and Twitter.  With my Android phones I can share a photo or web link to Instagram, Dropbox, Evernote, Sugarsync, Foursquare, Google+, Google Drive, Flickr, HootSuite, Messenger, Picasa, Skitch, SkyDrive, Skype, WordPress, and HTC_One_X_Plusmany more.

Google Voice: As I said in my earlier post, I drive a lot and need speech to text for notes and texts that works really well.  Google Voice just works where Siri does not work well for me.

Flawless sync with Google Services: Google Services like Mail, Calendar, Tasks and maps work flawlessly. They don’t work well or aren’t as feature rich with my iPhone.  Contacts are a great example as my iPhone contacts would not sync with my Google contacts without the need of another app.  We don’t need to talk about Google maps.

Cool tools: I really like some of the very cool tools that come with the phones.  Motorola Smart Actions makes suggestions to automate task like personalizing context aware situations like while sleeping, at home and at work.  HTC has a power saver toggle that really did save power and a very detailed “usage” tab that showed me exactly how much data each app used and would send me warnings based on my pre-set conditions.

Multitasking control: Android lets the user control everything about multitasking, more like a PC or Mac.  This came in real handy when uploading photos in the background to cloud storage or social media sites.  It also works great to have a fully refreshed phone with the latest data from Pulse, Podcasts, and Evernote.  To not kill power, many of the apps give you a choice to only upload during WiFi connection or when plugged in.  Sugarsync is smart enough to stop uploading photos when the battery gets to 25%. My iPhone just doesn’t do this.

Chrome browser: This isn’t the WebKit browser in iOS, it’s the real thing, and I can sync my PCs bookmarks, passwords, and tabs from other Chrome browsers.  Yes, I could do this with Safari, but I preferred Chrome for my PC and Mac browser.

Google Now: I am very impressed with Google Now, primarily the search based cards. It is very helpful to be on a trip out of town and Google Now displays when my plane leaves, the gate, the weather there, hotel details without entering any data.  It’s indexing my emails which a bit creepy, but adds value so I let it do it.

Now let’s move onto the areas that didn’t make a difference one way or another.

Android Phone Neutrals

Same “Page 1” apps: Unlike Android of yesterday, Jelly Bean offer the most popular and trendy apps, they aren’t “ugly” anymore and have very similar feature sets. One exception, Evernote, is still very ugly compared to iOS, but that’s about it.  All my other “page 1″ apps look and run just fine.

Feel and flow: I’ve used every version of Android since inception and none ever “felt” as good as iOS… until Jelly Bean.  Project Butter made a very big experiential difference.

Battery life: I didn’t feel and more or less battery life with any of the phones, except the Motorola Razr HD i, which seemed to last longer.  There are a 100 review web sites that can give you exact figures, so I will stop there.

Android Phone Minuses

Camera: However many people told me about the great Android cameras, they all felt short to my iPhone, except in some flash circumstances, where images were white-washed.  All my Android cameras took photos quicker, had more settings, but the pictures never looked as good as the iPhone 4s.

Mail: This is a tough one, one that I waffle on, because I spent the last few years on an iPhone.  I prefer iOS email to Android for reasons that are hard to explain.  Android mail doesn’t look or feel right to me and it’s too hard to find a new folder.  This may have something to do with the fact I have four email accounts, but that’s the way I operate.  The only exceptions are swipes, which you can customize in Android to do what you want, like delete.

Courtesy links: This isn’t the official name in iOS, but I dearly miss the “courtesy links”.  These are the links to addresses, phone numbers in mail, calendar, and web pages that allow you to do something.  Adding a name embedded in an email is torture in Android and pure bliss in iOS.

Copy-Paste: This, like mail, I am a bit torn.  Copying and pasting, a very basic function, and is more challenging for me on Android.  I don’t know if it’s because I spent most of my time on the iPhone the last few years but I get frustrated with Android.

Group text: Unlike the iPhone that presents group texts in order and in-context, Android presented texts to me in an out of order, jumbled way.  We’re 4 years into Android and I don’t understand how this can be.  Android can do better than this.

Next Stop, Windows Phone 8

I really did like the Android phones and none of the minuses turned me off enough to run immediately back to my iPhone.  After using Android phones for the last few weeks, I can see very much why so many people gravitate to it.  It’s more than low price; many of the experiences I found much more enjoyable than my iPhone.  Android felt so more empowering, too, as I am in control of the phone, not the manufacturer.  As my iPhone 4s is sitting in my drawer collecting dust for a while, I’ll be taking the Nokia Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8 for a deeper spin.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Patrick Moorhead

Patrick Moorhead was ranked the #1 technology industry analyst by Apollo Research for the U.S. and EMEA in May, 2013.. He is President and Principal Analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, a high tech analyst firm focused on the ecosystem intersections of the phone, tablet, PC, TV, datacenter and cloud. Moorhead departed AMD in 2011 where he served as Corporate Vice President and Corporate Fellow in the strategy group. There, he developed long-term strategies for mobile computing devices and personal computers. In his 11 years at AMD he also led product management, business planning, product marketing, regional marketing, channel marketing, and corporate marketing. Moorhead worked at Compaq Computer Corp. during their run to the #1 market share leader position in personal computers. Moorhead also served as an executive at AltaVista E-commerce during their peak and pioneered cost per click e-commerce models.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1573495479 Rene Stein

    Looking to offload your iPhone 4s? I know somebody who might be interested.

  • Ed Cheung

    Nice review article. Needed a nice subjective review like this. Was seriously thinking of switching back to Android from iPhone 4s but prior experience with Andoid was frustrating.

  • http://www.facebook.com/szmik Miklós Szarka

    “and I can sync my PCs bookmarks, passwords, and tabs from other Chrome browsers” – the Chrome app, downloaded from the App Store, does all that. You just have to sign in with your Google Account, and it synchronizes everything, bookmarks, history, passwords. Except for open tabs, but i personally don’t find that very important, I never used it in Safari neither.

  • tz

    Anybody care to assuage my discomfort with Google’s whole business model of tracking/spying on me for advertiser’s purposes?
    How much does having and using an Android device sell my soul to Google , so to speak.

  • FalKirk

    Nice review, Patrick. I’ll look forward to seeing your thoughts on Windows phones.

  • Hikoki

    Hi. Great comparison review ! Thanks a lot. But, what’s frustrating about copy/paste on android? I’m truly interested as someone using a Windows Mobile device with no Copy/Paste issues whatsoever, thinking of a major upgrade.

  • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

    Very informative and balanced.

    Android is indeed very empowering as long as you are willing to allow Google to have unfettered access to all of your personal information including location. Google Now is downright scary it works so well.

    However, Android is not a platform for privacy advocates. The cost of having a phone that is almost prescient is allowing Google to track everything you do. It’s likely going to do it anyway, but I’m not crazy about it. So, if you want to tailor the phone to your comfort level re: privacy, that’s when things get sticky. Have some aspirin handy if you want to tackle the settings on an Android phone … they are comprehensive to say the least and not particularly intuitive. And the level of access even trivial apps have to your phone is ridiculous.

    If you value privacy, Android is definitely not the platform for you.

    • Kyrke

      James, this is very relevant. I have already read a number of blog posts that “discover” that Android is as good as iOS in most things and better in others. Okay, Android OS is a very workable mobile computer OS for phone or tablet. But Google’s first interest is not selling Android to me but selling me to advertisers. This is difficult for me to wrap my mind around as I like Google. But something seems to be whispering that our privacy is worth more than Google is paying us.

  • pawhite524

    This article delves into the Android user experience better than any other reviews I can recall.
    But, as others have noted, the Android model of making the user the product and privacy issues are not addressed in this informative article.
    Patrick, please address why this is no concern to you. The Android user is also the Android “usee” and there is no option for this from what I understand.
    Thank you for this article.

  • Slambusher

    I left the iPhone for Android 2 years ago and it was a complete nightmare. I read reviews etc before I switched and at no point did a single reviewer ever mention the force close problem.
    I went through 4 phones in the last 2 years the last one was the Razr Maxx running 4.0 and no matter what the phone ran great for awhile and then slowly devolved into everything would force close. I only use about 5-6 apps and they are all from major corporations. Text messages? Couldn’t even open it would force close. I’m just curious why this issue is never brought up in these reviews. Is it because of short time you use phones? After doing a search of force close its obvious this is a widespread problem yet I never read about it.
    I liked a lot of things about Android but in the end what good was the phone if it wouldn’t even work.

    • Nisse

      Isn’t there a option, don’t remember any more, something about then the Android boots up, that could be selected “off”, then the problem disapperas.
      It was something like fastboot or similar.

      • Slambusher

        Not sure i was given 2 options do a master reset and lose everything or take battery out and restart the phone and hope it works.

  • Grwisher

    IMHO, you are trying to get readership with these articles. I predict that at some time in the future you will again try to get readership when you try surprise us with your decision to return to the iPhone. My reaction will be “surprise, surprise”.

  • Tj

    Paying for hotspot? Its free now if you do not have an unlimited plan. This is an at&t problem, not an iPhone problem.

  • Sorlan

    I recently got rid of my old 3GS in favor of the Galaxy S III. The only thing for which I would have chosen to remain with the iPhone is the rather clumsy transfer of data from my iPhone to my Android.

    CopyTrans Contacts (screenshot) saved the day, but trust me, transferring contacts, notes, even bookmarks from iOS to Android is not as easy as doing that to another iOS device via the iCloud.

    • Nisse

      Hmm, I don’t find this strange. If you transfor from iPhone ti iPhone, it’s the same system. From iPhone ti Android, as I understand two very different systems.