Moving from Android to iOS

I recently caved in and got an iPhone after years of being a non-conformist hater 😬. The biggest takeaway (other than popular ≠ inherently bad) was that many of the features I bought into Android for (like widgets, app-to-app content sharing) have been available in iOS for years. I was just anchored on an earlier model that’s now pretty dated.

Good

💬 Messages 

The killer app on iOS. It just feels frictionless to communicate with people and I’ve started chatting more regularly with friends because of it. I have a few friends not on there and the green bubbles make it very noticeable when I’m communicating with them. I’m a big fan of Messenger and thought that with its user base and excellent UX (sans ads) it could fill the gap. Anecdotally, only about 1/3 of Messenger users have the app installed or check it as frequently as text which makes it less useful. 

Additionally, seamless message syncing in OS X - even for SMS - works so much better than all the hacky workflows you can set up with third-party Android apps. 

🎛 Control

I was surprised by the granularity of control baked into the OS. You cannot install a launcher, add your own gestures, etc. like you can on Android but you have controls for things that actually count, particularly:

  • Fine-grained app permissions
  • Fine-grained notifications permissions and styles
  • Customizable extensions (including ad blockers)

🔕 Focus

Though there are still challenges with being tethered to a smartphone, iOS has some great features around avoiding distractions. Again, with fine-grained notifications permissions you can choose where notifications are shown - if at all - by app. Not having notifications in the icon bar makes it possible to actually not check for notifications (or run a background process in your mind to figure out what could be behind that icon) while doing something else. For the first time I can let those red badges populate and not need to act on them as immediately.

I make use of Do Not Disturb constantly, both when powering off and when focusing on deep work. I pair this with automated Night Mode as before bed.

🔋 Battery 

Sadly, I am still blown away by my ability to stay out all day and into the night, using my phone pretty heavily and not thinking once about my charge. An added benefit of the iPhone network is that whoever I’m with is bound to have a charger on them if I don’t.

Bad

🔐 Passwords and access

I have a lot of trouble with the front-facing fingerprint scanner on a regular basis, but especially when my hands are sweaty or if I’m cooking. I’m still not sure what the flow is when I’m pressing it and what stage of I’m at, but it’s usually in the locked out one. Never had that issue on my Nexus 5X or 6P.

It’s challenging to enter forms and login to apps. Unlike on Android, password manager apps can’t paste your credentials in for you. There are a growing number of apps that support password managers, but this needs to be built into the app and most don’t have it. I use Brave as a browser, which supports password management extensions, but any login flow that uses a webview (logging in via Google, Facebook, Twitter) defaults to Safari and doesn’t access cookies from main Safari app.

🔍 Searching

Searching with Google is intentionally difficult on the iPhone. It’s a small thing, but something so core to how we use the internet. There is no way to search Google without an extra tap either on the spotlight screen (Search the web) or via the Google App. A foil to the ease of Messages, the tiniest bit of friction here adds up when you use something over and over again.

📝Edit/Delete

It’s clunky to edit and delete lists of items. Using cross-platform apps that support this, like Inbox and Todoist, and the general Android OS, I’m accustomed to swiping everything left or right to perform actions or just get rid of them. It takes me a long time to edit things like playlists, alarm clocks and bulk edit seems slow to me.

🛎 Notifications 

As I mentioned, notifications are excellent in a number of ways but are weak on clearing them or acting on them. It takes multiple taps to remove a notification.

👇Force Touch

This feature wowed me with simulated depth and clicking and there are lots of great uses for it, like quick actions on homescreen icons. But almost all force touch actions lack a cue that lets you know they’re available. I am the type of person that force clicks on everything to see what will happen and sometimes get these half-states that zoom in on image or notification and don’t seem to do much else. 

Takeaways

While both sides are shipping excellent new features and presentation concepts, they are mostly equivalent in my mind. The thing that really makes a device (or any product) stand out is the holistic user experience. 

If you strip away all of the above features, what actually makes the iPhone superior in experience are:

  • Better physical design to nearly all Android handsets. It is the first one that fits in my skinny jeans pocket naturally and feels good in my hands.
  • Network effects of having my friends and family on it. (Though this would be different in other parts of the world where Android reigns supreme).