From Android to iPhone 5 – a personal journey

I’m an engineer.  I respect specifications, weighted rankings, and quantification.  So when it comes to choosing a new phone, I tend to get very analytical.  A smartphone may be one of the most important bits of computing technology we own.  It is the computer we always have with us.  For different people, it has differing priorities.

The first priority for me is how well it does as a phone.  I can’t tell any difference here between Google’s Android phones and Apple’s iOS iPhone.  The second priority is as a camera.  The third is to help me navigate in the physical world from where I am now to where I want to be next.  The fourth is to quickly answer questions that arise during the day.  These might range from “How did the Pirates do last night?” to “What is a photo-acoustic extinctiometer?”  (For most computing activities beyond that, I prefer the iPad, my MacBook Pro, or my Windows 7 desktop computer.  Each step up implies the need for greater computing power or screen real estate and less convenience and mobility.)  The fifth quality is a tie between how easy it is to read what is on the screen (primarily display size and pixel density) versus how easily I can slip my phone into my pocket.  Well, not quite a tie – if I can’t see it, I can’t use it.

So, over my first week off of Android and using an iPhone 5, I decided to jot down some notes.  When I missed something about my old Droid Incredible or felt that the iPhone 5 lacked something that my wife’s Galaxy S III enjoyed, I wrote that down.  When I observed something that the iPhone 5 did that was an improvement on the Android experience, I wrote that down, too.

What do I misss about Android?

  • micro-USB – I have these cables everywhere.  The lightning USB cable from apple is $20!  Seriously?
  • Battery life – My wife’s phone lasts for two to three days.  My iPhone was at 1% after 13 hours of light (for me) use.  It was still at 1% when I plugged it in for the night at 15 hours.
  • Integration with Google Voice, but the GV app is excellent on the iPhone
  • Google Voice Actions – faster and more powerful than Siri
  • Google Navigation – more accurate and includes mass transit, walking, and biking – but at least now iOS has voice-guided navigation.  Apple Maps has worked well here in North Carolina, but from what I’ve seen on the web, YMMV.
  • Homescreen landscape mode
  • The back button – in iOS every app moves you back a different way, if it is possible at all
  • Choosing apps from the web Play Store and having them magically install on my phone
  • Scaling the font size – in iOS font size can only be varied in a handful of native apps – no use if you use Gmail and Google Voice
  • Bluetooth that automatically connects with my Subaru without having to turn the bluetooth off then on then click on the car-media button to connect – every stinking time I go somewhere
  • Screen real estate
  • Google Now (Siri makes me ask for the info I want)
  • Google My Tracks

Clearly the Android phone is better, right?  Not so fast.  What do I like better about iPhone 5?

  • Bright screen for taking outdoor pictures
  • Much better camera (better color) – although the Galaxy S III camera is not too shabby
  • Build quality
  • Hardware design-beauty, meet function
  • Pocketability
  • Straight up iTunes integration allowing play counts and rankings across devices
  • Apps seem less buggy (but DownCast has frozen on a couple of occasions)
  • Higher pixel density
  • Brighter screen with less glare
  • Amazing color quality on the display

In the end, I don’t feel that the specifications are enough to differentiate the experience between a Galaxy S III and an iPhone 5.  Whichever phone you have, there will be sacrifices placed on the altar.  In the end, I would choose the Android operating system over iOS 6 (for phones but not for tablets).  But iPhone 5 hardware is much more impressive to me (although my wife favors her SGIII).  All of the spreadsheet specification comparisons and photo comparisons I’ve done still leave me in a quandary when it comes to picking the best phone overall.  It may well come down to a whimsical choice between sticking with the familiar or seeking out a change of pace.

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