I wasn’t terribly vocal about this fact but since June I have been using an Android phone exclusively as my smartphone. Which has been by far the longest I have ever used an Android smartphone for any length of time. I get sent a lot of Android devices and often I pop my SIM into them to use them as my primary phone. This is the only way I feel I can get a true sense of a product and form an opinion, by fully integrating it into my life. Most Android devices I try never last a full week before I have to go back to the iPhone.
The device I used was the Galaxy Nexus running the latest Android OS Jelly Bean. I tried the Galaxy Note 5.3 and the Galaxy SIII for a short time as well but both only lasted a week or so. I much preferred Jelly Bean over the customized versions Samsung put on the Note and the SIII. I was surprised at a number of things I thought were pretty good about Jelly Bean. One I wrote about here, where I talked about Google Now and how Google is building an anticipation engine.
I was also drawn to the larger screen which is probably the strongest feature keeping me from going back to the iPhone. The Galaxy Nexus screen is 4.65 inches and after using it even for a short while, my iPhone 4S felt small. Email was the hardest thing for me to handle with Android. The email client that supports Microsoft Exchange server (which is what my company uses for corporate email) is tolerable at best—at BEST. Email is essential to my work flow because it is my day to day communication with clients. Not only did I dislike the Android email UI, it had weak Exchange support, often failed miserably, and would fail to make a connection to the server several times a week. Leaving me without access to my email while mobile for hours at a time. I am convinced that if Microsoft made a rock solid Outlook client for Android, they would have a healthy revenue stream
The temptation was always there to go back to the iPhone but I committed to trying Android until the iPhone 5 came out and I am glad I did, if for nothing else but to be able to speak more intelligently about that platform’s strengths and weaknesses.
Feels like Home
Then I got my iPhone 5, synced it, got it set up with all my stuff and all of a sudden it felt like I just came home from a long trip. There is just something about iOS that makes me feel comfortable. Part of that is most certainly because I had been using the iPhone since day one, but I also did so out of personal preference and choice. I had concluded that the iPhone was the best product for the needs, wants, and desires that mattered most to me.
Interestingly, I have run into a number of people in my social circles who had the same experience. They took the opportunity to take a break from the iPhone to try some of more popular Android devices. Just about everyone of them switched back to the iPhone 5 and had the same comfortable return and have not looked back.
Often I heard the battle cry from the Android community complaining that the iPhone 5 was just not innovative enough and lacked many of the cutting edge features common on Android smartphones. Many with that sentiment miss an important perspective, one that I truly didn’t fully grasp before using Android for a length of time. This perspective is that comfort and familiarity are actually features. And I would argue that for many consumers comfort and familiarity are just as valuable as a cutting edge spec is to others. The simple truth is that many consumers aren’t interested in going through the hassle to learn a new mobile OS, invest in new applications, and try to set up and get comfortable with a new ecosystem. For many comfort, convenience, and familiarity matter and Apple delivers this plus a great experience, tight integration with other products, amazing industrial design, and a host of other things as well. When you add it all up, it is easy to understand why millions of consumers are staying loyal to the iPhone.
This is why it is important for Apple to cater to their customers, not the customers of other platforms. I believe Apple is perfectly aware that there are groups of consumers out there who simply won’t buy an iPhone. I’m also sure they are ok with that since everyone is free to chose what is best for them. But there are many millions of people who will continue to buy Apple products and it is important that Apple bring them the key features they need and want.
Apple didn’t need to make the iPhone 5 have the largest screen on the market. Rather they needed to make the screen size that is relevant and usable for their customer base. Apple didn’t need to pack every feature and latest spec under the sun. They simply needed to include the ones relevant to their customers.
Related Column: Apple’s 4″ iPhone vs. Android 4″ Plus devices
As I pointed out in my TIME column Monday, personal preference is personal preference. What consumers choose is their business frankly and not the business of others who feel the desire to criticize the choices of those who choose differently than them.
My preference is the iPhone and my own personal experience with the iPhone 5 is that it is practically perfect in every way—for me.