Leaving iPhone for Android

Welcome to the blog post that I never thought would exist.  After many years of nothing but iPhone use, I bought a Google Pixel one month ago and can now never imagine going back.

Selfie w/ the Pixel.

Selfie w/ the Pixel.

Let me start off by saying that the iPhone is a fantastic device. I have always loved the O/S, Apple’s attention to detail, and the magic that comes with owning an Apple device. Both the iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel feature fantastic cameras, screens, and other components so hardware wasn’t at all a deciding factor for me. That said, you may be sitting here wondering what in the heck the purpose of this post is other than to praise both of these spectacular platforms, but don’t worry, we’ll get there.

The first point I want to make is that the Google Pixel is not like other Android devices. Typically when you buy an Android phone from manufacturers like Samsung, Motorola, LG, or others, they have their own “flavor” of Android installed.  This often includes changes to the look, feel, and performance of the O/S as well as a plethora of additional software on top of the O/S.  It is for that reason that I have always avoided Android because I felt like I would rather have a “pure” operating system as opposed to something that has a bunch of extra bloat. If you are a long-time geek like myself you know that buying a store bought Windows PC is a nightmare because it will come preloaded with a bunch of garbage that will ultimately degrade performance. As such I have always built my own PC’s and installed “pure” copies of Windows on them. The Google Pixel, like some of their previous models (i.e. Nexus) come with nothing but the latest version of Android installed on them. It’s the phone equivalent of having a fresh copy of Windows on your PC with nothing else installed. Because you are running the latest Android straight from Google you avoid all of the extra bloat while also getting access to the latest updates well ahead of other manufacturers.  This is great for performance, security, and the fact that you will always have the latest and greatest running on your device.

So yeah, that’s neat but why the switch, you say? It’s simple, I am and have been completely in the Google ecosystem for over a decade. I use Gmail, Google Calendar, Hangouts (I almost never send text message), Google Keep, Google Drive, Google Docs, and more. Obviously there are apps for all of these services on iOS but the fact that all of these services are the default for the O/S means that when I say “OK Google, remind me to blog about switching to Android” it automatically goes into my Google Calendar as a “reminder” and also appears in Inbox in the same fashion. Sure, I could have done a similar thing on iOS and it would have shown in the “Reminders” app but who on earth actually opens that thing and furthermore, if you aren’t using iCloud frequently the only visibility you have to those reminders is on the device. I spend the vast majority of my time on a PC and would much prefer to manage all of these things there as opposed to on the phone itself. This is honestly the biggest selling point of the device for me, it does exactly what I want, in the ecosystem where my data lives.

Extremely crisp even with odd lighting.  

I recently blogged about Apple CarPlay as I got a new deck for my car not long ago and really enjoyed that experience so I was admittedly a little worried as to whether or not the Android Auto experience would be as good.  Fortunately it is even better!  The ability to use Google Maps natively in the car is huge and as of a week ago Waze is also supported by Android Auto. The voice integration with Google Assistant is flawless and making calls, requesting directions, finding food/gas has never been easier while driving.

Rather than spending a bunch of time talking about the camera I will let you explore other posts which directly compare the two cameras but what I will say is that I have never been able to take photos that look this good with less than ideal lighting.  I would argue that the iPhone takes slightly crisper photos when the light is just right but in all other cases the Pixel wins, hands down.  The hardware is very similar but the software and post processing the Pixel does is truly something special.

All-in-all we are fortunate to live in a time where there are so many great devices on the market but after trying a few (I even had an iPhone 7 to run side-by-side with my Pixel during testing) I just find the experience on the Pixel to be the perfect combination of functional and magical.  

Apple Watch

Screenshots taken from my device.

So here we are, almost exactly 1-year from the launch of the Apple Watch and I am just putting one on my wrist for the first time.  I really wasn't excited about the watch at launch because I am not a big wearable guy and I was pretty turned off by the price. With the recent price drop (which resulted in a great opportunity for me to grab one) and my desire to start tracking my resting rate more religiously, I became very interested.

Out of the box:

In all honesty I didn't know exactly what to expect when I took it out of the box and fired it up but I was really pleased with the outcome. All notifications that come through as push notifications on the phone come through the watch by default which is great. Gone are the days of pulling my giant 6S+ out of my jeans to see who is IMing/texting/tweeting/etc. The built-in Siri capability is great, especially for reminders. I frequently set short-term reminders for things and being able to do it from my wrist is really slick.  

The weather app that ships with the watch is great and is perfect to add to your "glances" apps. Apps that you add to "glances" allow you swipe "up" on the watch and see the app right there. You can customize which apps show up here and the order in which they show up in from your iPhone.  

At this point my "glances" go like this: Heart -> Weather -> Music -> Battery -> Settings.

Apps:

The biggest complaint I have heard from Watch users is the speed of apps. Many of them will spin for a bit on start up which can be annoying.  After doing a bit of testing I cannot make a blanket statement that apps are slow. There are some that absolutely take forever while others (Music, Remove, HeartWatch for example) are wicked fast.  This tells me that developers are just now starting to get the hang of optimizing code for these devices and that we will only see things improve from here as opposed to going the other direction.

By far and away my favorite app that I have purchased so far is HeartWatch. It is an absolutely beautiful iPhone/Watch app that greatly improves upon the heart tracking provided by Health Book.  In all honesty I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Apple try to acquire this app, it's that good. If you own an Apple Watch and care about the heart tracking feature this app is a must.

The Remote app is fantastic if you have AppleTV's around the house. Being able to control them from your wrist is both a cool novelty and also really useful when you can't find your remote... and seriously who doesn't lose their AppleTV remotes all the time?

The other apps that have stood out to me as being useful are: FourSquare, Mint, Smart Things, Stocks, and Swarm. There are many others I still want to play with and if I find any particularly interesting I will do a follow-up post.

Summary:

The Apple Watch performs very well in the key areas that I was interested in (activity, heart, notifications) and has some great features that I wasn't expecting to enjoy. I have the Sport version of the watch and from what I have heard from others who have both models, the Sport is the way to go. The display is easier to read, the price is much more affordable, and the device is a lot lighter. I went ahead and bought some bands from Amazon which is definitely the way to go. Apple is charging $50 for the silicon bands which is absolutely insane. I bought them for $11.99 from Amazon and they fit just as well as the Apple one that came with the device.

If you are an iPhone user who is interested in looking at their phone less, tracking their health, and geeking out via their wrist, you won't be disappointed in the Apple Watch.

The iPhone 6 Dilemma

You may have read the title of this post and assumed I was debating whether or not I should upgrade to the iPhone 6, but that isn't the dilemma at all. I am genuinely excited about the new hardware as well as iOS 8. The dilemma is deciding which screen size to get because in all honesty, I want something in the middle. The perfect size for me would be 5.1" which happens to be the same size as the current Samsung Galaxy S5 which my wife has. I still use a wide array of Apple products so I am not ready to jump ship and convert to Android just yet... With that said I have been spending the afternoon some what (or completely) like a crazy person holding these cutouts up to my ear and manipulating them with my hands. Pretending to text, swipe, call, etc in an effort to determine which size I want. Short of going in after they are in stores and playing with one this is about the closest I can get to seeing how it would be to jump from 4" to 4.7" or 5.5".

Consumption is an obvious win for the larger device but I also think that apps like Garage Band, iMovie, Keynote, etc are going to be made infinitely better by the increased screen real estate. I am also hoping that the typing experience is enhanced with the larger screen. As far as downsides go, will the iPhone 6 Plus too big to comfortably text on with one hand? Will it fit in most cup holders? Do I need new jeans? Is Apple going to start selling larger hands if needed? So many questions!

Obviously I could answer all of the questions above by going into a store after the release date but I have a feeling that sales will sky rocket after the first day they hit stores. Because there are so many unanswered questions about the two sizes I think pre-orders will be lower than ever leaving lots of room for those who decide in the next couple of days.