From iOS, to Android, and back again?


5 min read

Anyone that knows me, knows mobile has been my passion for years. Even before what we now know as the smart phone, I was fascinated with mobile devices and what they could achieve.

I remember the first phone I owned, during the dawn of the camera age, it was a cheap Motorola with a VGA quality phone that didn't do much at all. I wanted more and so I convinced myself that I needed a used Motorola MPx220 running Windows Smartphone 2003 which I bought and paid for with student loan! This thing had SyncML on it and I even paid the extra $10 / month for about 10mb of data just so I could have my calendar, contacts, and email syncing from my Google account.

Best of all, I could WRITE MY OWN FREAKING APPS for this device. I toyed around with it for some time, and though I never did write any terribly useful apps, it did help to fan the flames of my mobile addiction, and I attribute my current career path, at least partially to these early mobile experiences.

iOS in the early days

When the iPhone hit, I was in awe. This was a game changer (and of course, it really was). Unfortunately, there was no iPhone in Canada. Some folks were putting up big $ and after some trickery could use the iPhone 2G on Rogers in Canada, but without Apple coercing the carriers in Canada to offer bigger data plans for less, owning one was too rich for my blood.

Finally when the iPhone 3G went up for sale, I had to have one. And I did. I was in love, and it was around the same time MonoTouch entered early previews. My two worlds were converging: .NET and Mobile. Life was great!

I upgraded to the iPhone 4, and eventually the 4S as well...

Enter: Android

As MonoTouch chugged along, the tight knit-community was invited to preview Mono for Android. It was at this time I JUMPED at the opportunity to co-author a book on the subject.

There was one small problem though: I didn't actually own an Android device, hadn't used Android, and certainly didn't know how to develop for it in java, let alone C#.

The book publisher gave us all a small advance with which I bought a Samsung Galaxy S. This was my very first Android device, and I decided to dive right in, using it as my main phone, learning everything I could about it, while trying to sound authoritative in the book we were writing.

My experience didn't go so well. Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) at the time was just not ready. There were a lot of rough edges compared to iOS, even if it wielded more customizability power.

I switched back to iOS with the iPhone 5 temporarily (oh yeah I also tried a Windows Phone 7 device somewhere in there too), before deciding to give the Nexus 4 a try when it was released to the world. I wrote a couple of blog posts about why I was looking forward to trying Android again as well as a retrospective month after post.

All the devices!

My trajectory was set to Android after the Nexus 4. I loved it, it was different, it was more open, more customizable, and I could still write apps for it.

My Android device lineage is fairly complete:

  • Galaxy S
  • Nexus 4
  • Nexus 5
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
  • Nexus 5X
  • Pixel
  • Pixel XL 2

Fixing what's not broken

You might wonder as a happy Android user, why I might want to try iOS again at all... My best reason is that, it's kinda my job. As a Mobile Software Engineer, working on tools that are very intentionally cross platform, I realized more recently that I don't know iOS very well at all anymore. I've been asked too many iOS questions lately from friends and family that I simply don't know the answer to anymore.

I decided about a month ago I might give an iOS device another try just as a research exercise. I took my wife's old iPhone 6 with a broken screen and decided I'd try it for a week. Unfortunately that lasted about 8 hours. The device was old and slow by iOS11 standards, and had been dunked enough times that the Wifi didn't seem to work reliably anymore, which was sort of a deal breaker.

iPhone X, first impressions

Now, I've got an iPhone X in my posession and I've decided it's the perfect time to try iOS again. This device is beautiful. The hardware feels amazing, the display is gorgeous, and the form factor is lovely.

Having spent a few weeks with a Pixel 2 XL, I just wasn't wowed like I was with my original Pixel. It's a fine device, the problems are hugely overblown, and the battery life is incredible, but it just doesn't scream high end luxurious like the iPhone X does.

Face ID so far is actually pretty incredible, and this is coming from someone who vehemently opposed the idea initially. I always thought it would take too long for the simple reason that with a fingerprint sensor I can be unlocking the device while I'm taking it out of my pocket, and then having to swipe up yet would be even more tedious. This isn't completely untrue, but as an iPhone user, if I change my usage mindset a bit, I actually want to look at my lock screen to see notifications before swiping up. Also, Face ID is incredibly fast, to the point where I already feel this is a non-issue. Face ID is really nice for things like slightly wet fingers (which fail miserably on the fingerprint sensors).

The experiment continues

I have a lot of thoughts after just one half day of use. This certainly isn't enough time to justify an opinion either way. I've made it my goal to give this experiment at least two weeks before I make up my mind either way.

I'll be posting more as I go along... stay tuned!