At the age of 16, I was the best salesman in the world.
Or that’s how my dad made me feel when I talked to customers in his phone store about the advantages of phones like the Siemens C60 over the Nokia 3595. But ever since I switched to using an Apple device, starting with the iPhone 4S in 2011, I’ve felt no need to keep up with what other phones offer. It was clear that, for the price premium I was paying, Apple was producing the best damn phones in the market.
That’s no longer true.
In the year that Apple launched the much-awaited iPhone X, Quartz’s tech reporter Mike Murphy declared that Samsung’s flagship phones were the best smartphones in 2017. So when the time came for me to buy a new phone, the main choice wasn’t between an iPhone 8 Plus and an iPhone X. Instead, I was facing a much bigger question: Is it time to give up on iOS and choose Android instead?
I spent a week weighing my options and trying out different smartphones. In the end, Samsung Galaxy S9+ seemed to have no contest for all the things I wanted: it’s fast, it still has a home button, a headphone jack, a thumbprint scanner… along with an amazing camera, face recognition, and the best smartphone screen in the world. Murphy calls the phone “pretty much perfect.”
Two weeks later, a former Apple fanboy for years, I’m now an Android convert. The switch was much easier than I imagined it would be, and perhaps some of the questions I had to answer for myself may help you jump the ship when the time comes for an upgrade.
Apple seems to have lost its competitiveness on price. There was a time when paying more for an iPhone meant you got a phone with better build quality, camera capabilities, and a gorgeous screen. It couldn’t have competed with the noisy Android market on the number of features and customizability offered. But it didn’t matter because the Apple package overall provided more value.
That successful formula has broken down in the last few years, and for me the $1,000 iPhone X was the nail in the coffin. In Samsung S9+, Google Pixel 2 XL, or OnePlus 5T, I had phones that had everything that an iPhone X did—and more—at a much lower cost. In fact, at current retail price, you can buy two OnePlus 5T for the cost of one iPhone X. And, as the star YouTube reviewer Lewis Hilsenteger says, “There is no way that the iPhone X is twice as good as the OnePlus 5T.”
My biggest fear was that I was going to hate using an Android phone. I had been in the iOS universe with a MacBook, iPad, and iPhone for so long that I thought getting used to Android would be a nightmare. As a teenage salesman of mobile phones, my best quality was that I was able to remember how to navigate each of the many different operating systems on phones of the time: Nokia, Siemens, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson (remember?). But as a grown-up adult with no knowledge of operating systems outside of iOS, I was genuinely worried.
Luckily, my colleague Murphy was able to loan me an Android to try for a couple of days. Within hours my fears dissipated. I had underestimated how useful search had become on smartphones. And it’s no surprise that Google-powered Android does a better job of integrating search in its usability than Apple’s iOS does. There isn’t a setting that I couldn’t find using the search box, and it made my life so easy as I adapted to using Android. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to easily test a phone before buying it, but most places offer helpful return policies in case you just can’t deal with using a different operating system.
Transferring data from iOS to Android is simple. As soon as you start setting up your Android phone, it will walk you through simple steps to move Photos, browser history, SMS messages, contacts, and other files from your iPhone. What you will not be able to port is iMessage, and that could be a big problem for power users. If you still decide to move to Android, you should go this setting and turn off your phone number from being associated to iMessage. This way you should continue to receive messages from your friends in the form an SMS rather than in iMessage.
As an Apple fanboy, one of the claims I made was that iOS had a better user experience than its competition. To some extent it is true, as Apple has maintained tight control over the operating system. That’s allowed it to create a system that feels uniform and more refined.
Android’s experience can feel scattered, especially if you use it on devices made by multiple manufacturers. For instance, the Samsung S9+ has its back button on the lower-right side of the screen, whereas Google Pixel 2 XL has it on the lower left. But Android’s saving grace is its amazing amount of flexibility. For instance, after using the S9+ for just one day I changed the launcher—the system that governs your home screen and the access to the phones apps—from Samsung’s default setup to one called Evie, and it made my experience of the operating system so much better.
That said, users today spend time most of their time in apps that are designed neither by Apple, Google, or any of the device makers. So your experience of the same app across operating system tends to be the same. For most users, operating systems shouldn’t make much difference today. (No guarantees that all your third-party apps will work ok. Murphy says that the Twitter app’s interface differs based on the operating system.)
This may be a bigger concern for others. I summed up the amount of money I had paid for iOS apps and the total only came up to about £70 ($100) over seven years. Luckily, most of the paid apps were games that I was unlikely to use in the future.
By buying a Samsung S9+ instead of an iPhone X, I had already saved more money than I had paid for iOS apps. Better still, because the S9+ has a headphone jack, I can continue to use my Bose noise-canceling headphones, saving me some $299 that I would’ve forked out for the Bluetooth version, or having to mess about with adapters.
- The ability to scroll to the top of a page with just a tap on the top.
- Wifi calling. In the UK, my cell provider Three allowed me to use wifi to make and receive calls when I didn’t have cell signal. Three told me that iPhones have built-in software to enable the feature. On my Samsung, which I didn’t buy from Three, I need a separate app to use that feature. And that app has to run in background all the time for the feature to work.
- I really like San Francisco, the font Apple uses in its operating system.
- The notifications tab on iOS is a mess. In Android, different app notifications are stacked together and you can easily expand the ones you want to look at.
- The lack of customization.
- No slots for external memory cards.