Friday, October 5, 2012

iPhone 5 - Owners Impressions After Android

I got an iPhone 5 two weeks ago and thought I'd share my impression after being an Android user for a year.

First some background: I used to be an iPhone owner who, a year ago, was seduced by the impressive hardware specs of the Samsung Galaxy S2 - see my initial, agonizing decision making here and my impressions after one month of ownership here.  My main gripes with the Galaxy S2 were its poor battery life and the poor operating system support by the telecom (it took months for AT&T to make operating system updates available - presumably they need the time so that their crap-ware stays compatible with the new O/S :-(

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I was so fed up with constantly "managing" my battery usage (by turning off wifi, bluetooth, and GPS whenever not needed, lowering screen brightness, exiting apps so they wouldn't try to talk to their backend server, disallowing all sorts of pushed notifications, etc.), I broke my contract to get the new iPhone 5.  What follows are my impressions after two weeks of use:

First the good news: the phone is beautiful.  It's difficult to explain - it simply feels luxurious!  Perhaps it's the feel of the cold metal after the phone has been sitting on my desk for awhile.  Maybe it's the tight fit and finish.  Better still: the phone manages to keep a charge much better than the Galaxy S2 - in the two weeks I've had it, it never once got below 20% by bed time.  And that's with the screen at default brightness and with wifi, bluetooth, GPS always on.  The Galaxy S2 would always get into "battery critically low" before 10pm unless I took the above-mentioned battery conservation measures - despite it having a higher-capacity battery!

Less important but also worth mentioning is how easy it is to operate the iPhone 5 with one hand - something I used to do all the time with my iPhone 3GS, but which I had to abandon when I moved to the Samsung Galaxy S2 with its 4.3" screen and the ill-conceived placement of buttons in many Android applications.  Let me be clear - the iPhone 5 is not as easy to operate one-handed as the 3GS due to its 4" screen (my thumb can no longer easily reach the "back" button in the top left of the screen), but is still much better in this regard than the Samsung Galaxy S2 (I imagine single-handed use is impossible with the newer Galaxy S3 and other 4.8"+ phones).  Similarly, the phone's onscreen keyboard is much better (at least for me) than any of the Android keyboards I've tried.  I can't explain it easily, but I simply don't make nearly as many mistakes on it as I did on the Galaxy S2.

Finally, I want to mention that our cable provider's iPhone/iPad app is much more capable than the Android version.  The OptimumOnline iPhone app lets me remote-control all aspects of the cable box as well as stream channels directly to my device.  The Android version just had a channel guide! (to be fair, supposedly, it could also manage the DVR functionality of cable boxes - but since I didn't have a DVR function on mine, I could not try that).

But the move back to iPhone land wasn't entirely positive.

As was reported prominently, Apple Maps just can't hold a candle to Google Maps.  I often search for business locations in maps.  It seems like 1/4  of the time, Apple Maps doesn't have the answer.  Google Maps always does.  I put a shortcut to the web version of Google Maps on my home page, but obviously that's not a perfect workaround.

Related to Apple Maps, I should mention that I was really disappointed with Siri, Apple's much hyped voice assistant.  I tried, on several occasions to initiate navigation using Siri.  Alas, half the time Siri remained silent.  Initially I thought the problem was network connectivity, but Siri was also often silent when I was at home, using wifi.  Eventually I figured it out: sometimes Siri wasn't actually silent - I just didn't have enough patience waiting for her - if I waited half a minute or more, she would eventually come back with her interpretation of what I said and do her job.  I began to suspect that Apple's servers were just getting overloaded - they seemingly weren't ready for all the traffic!  This was confirmed when on a couple occasions, after I waited several minutes, Siri would come back with the apologetic "Sorry, I can't fulfill your request at the moment." :-(  Although Android doesn't sport a fancy voice assistant, Google voice searches never gave me any trouble and were always answered promptly.  I.e. they were reliable, unlike Siri.

I also miss Android's physical "Back" button.  Aside from being in a good location for my thumb to reach, it also works universally - not just within applications.  The Apple "Back" button is, as mentioned before, on the top-left of the phone and, thus, harder to reach by thumb now with the new 4" screen.

Finally, I wish they iPhone 5 came with a micro SD slot like the Samsung.  The 16GB card I stuffed in into my S2 prior to a recent vacation came in very handy.  Friends traveling with us used an iPhone 4s and had to upload pictures to the Web to free up some space for more pics/videos.

The iPhone 5 is supposed to have a great display - Apple even gave it the "Retina" designator.  But in reality, the screen wasn't really noticeably better than my Galaxy S2.  But since I had to keep the Galaxy's screen on minimum brightness all the time to save energy, the iPhone's display wins :-)

Did I make the right choice?  Definitely.  We have a few other Apple devices in our family and aside from the above-mentioned benefits, my new iPhone integrates much better with these devices (e.g. AirPlay to our Apple TV).

1 comment:

Thomas Wolf said...

I just wanted to follow up on a couple of negatives since moving to the iPhone 5:

Now that Google Maps are on the iPhone, I can always use it when Apple's map app disappoints (which "seems" to happen less frequently now) - so I essentially have the best of both worlds.

Siri has gotten better at responding. Apple must have upgraded their servers to better handle demand. So, if looked at in isolation, Siri is now fine. But if you compare it to the Google search app - which has voice input - you can see that Siri has a long way to go - Google search is MUCH faster than Siri in recognizing your voice query. If there was a way to replace Siri with Google Search, I would do it. With Siri so easily accessible from the HOME button, I use it most of the time - even if it's not as fast as Google Search.