Analysis of Andy Ihnatko’s Switch to an Android Phone

| John Martellaro's Blog

Recently, Andy Ihnatko announced that he had switched from an iPhone 4S to a Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone. He wrote a multi-part article about his experiences, "Why I switched from iPhone to Android.." It's great reading - an assessment of the competing technologies and why the Galaxy S3 suited him better. What does his decision mean for those of us using iPhones?

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First and foremost, Andy is absolutely right in that he did what was best for his own technical needs. Recently, I have also been heavily exposed to some Android products, and I couldn't have written such an article better myself -- if my needs were the same as his. His multi-part series is balanced, insightful and written with seasoned passion, honesty and integrity. And so we must resist the simple notion that this is treason. Rather, it is selecting what's right for one person. Every Apple customer should read it.

Friction

What stood out for me is that what an expert user needs and wants and what Apple elects to deliver to its average user are two entirely different things. Let me say that again. The technical needs of seasoned technical observers is not necessarily the best thing for the vast majority of Apple customers. Anyone who's ever spoken in front of a user group, written how-to articles or done tech support is painfully aware of the gulf between experts who live and breathe Apple and those typical, casual customers who just want to get something done, from young students to busy executives to grandmas.

That creates friction between tech writers and Apple if they believe that their needs should hold sway in the design of Apple products. Good writers should focus on what the readers need, not what they want. But perhaps with a taste of charming expertise to challenge and inspire the reader.

In that sense, what Andy wrote is a personal, technical travelogue, brimming with insights, not a call for action to the Apple community.

Another factor here is the personality of the two corporations, Google and Apple. Google's design philosophy is more open, more aggressively geeky and more focused on OEMs. By choosing that path, Android will naturally appeal to a different market segment, including many technical writers. Apple wants to make sure that everything just works, and that requires both finesse and a more conservative approach.

Why I'm Still in the Apple Camp

Given that there's room in the world for both philosophies, some of you may be wondering why yours truly, the ultimate geek, hasn't also switched to an Android phone. I think the reasons will be helpful.

  1. Before 2007, all mobile phones were terrible, even my Motorola RAZR from 2006. I have a particular affection for iOS, an original creation, derived from OS X. The fact that a lot of competing smartphone designs have been lifted from Apple, subject to the assessment of the courts, doesn't sit well with me. It has generated extreme loyalty to Apple.
  2. I believe that Apple is more fanatic about my privacy and security than Google, at the expense of some geekier capabilities.
  3. I write for an Apple focused publication, and I have to know the iPhone well. To do that, it has to be my daily smartphone.
  4. I love the industrial design of my iPhone 5, its look and the feel in my hand. I've seen videos of what happens to a Samsung phone when dropped on a hard surface, and it isn't pretty. The iPhone is a crisp, awesomely beautiful device whose display size is, so far, perfect for me.
  5. When I enter an important contact or calendar item at home into my iPhone, in a few minutes, it propagates to my wife's iPhone, via iCloud, where she works. That's important to us as a family, and if I used a Samsung phone as my everyday phone, I couldn't do that. Yes, for the glass half-full crowd, iCloud does indeed provide lock-in. I've chosen my poison.
  6. I appreciate refinement, elegance, and reliability in a smartphone more than I appreciate tinkerability. On the other hand, it's the exact opposite for me with OS X.
  7. Perhaps most important, as the leader in modern smartphones, Apple has been particularly wise in its implementation of technology. The company makes sure that everything just works. Other companies, eager to play catchup may rush half-baked features into their smartphones for competitive reasons, and I'm not interested in playing along with that game.

My Own Android Testing

That said, I have been keen to evaluate Android devices without adopting them full-time. In August of 2012, I asked Samsung if I could review a Galaxy Note, but they never responded. Three other American companies were much smarter. Confident in the quality and design of their products, I was sent a Barnes & Noble Nook HD, an Amazon Kindle Fire HD, and a Google Nexus. I was pleasantly surprised with these devices and wrote about them:

  1. Google Nexus 10 Tablet: First Impressions
  2. An iPad Veteran Evaluates an Amazon Kindle Fire HD
  3. A six part (so far) series on eBook readers and tablets that had considerable discussion of those three products compared to the iPad.

What I learned is that Android 4.x, from a purely technical standpoint, is a very good mobile OS. I especially liked its look and feel, flexibility and keyboard. If our timeline had been altered in some twisted way, and my only choice were the Google Nexus 10 as my primary tablet, I could live with it, be happy and have fun. It's a good product.

What Swayed Mr. Ihnatko

The #2 article cited just above, I had similar thoughts on the Android keyboard. It is indeed superior to that in iOS as Mr. Ihnatko noted. I am also, in principle, behind the idea of Mr. Ihnatko's insistence on "collaboration between apps," but I don't need it so much on a smartphone. Someday soon, when iOS devices with large displays are involved in heavy-duty content creation, that will be a necessity, and so I've ranted about it. It'll be something for Apple to deal with. But not today.

As for customization, Mr. Ihnatko has a great point:

At times, however, the iPhone and iOS feel like the clothing styles available to me at Walmart. They’re designed to be Good, or even just Acceptable, for a very wide range of consumers. I want something that’s going to be Excellent, for me.

Android has a consistent core philosophy that I find instinctively compelling: why wouldn’t a phone give its sole user a vote on how their device works?"

Again, I agree with Mr. Ihnatko. Some of the design decisions Apple has made don't suit me. However, I think I see why they were made that way. On the whole, I wish Apple sometimes took a more technical, geekier approach, but I also realize the benefits of simplicity for Apple's vast audience. I don't always want to feel that the device challenges me to understand it and tune it. Rather, I'd rather have it serve me out of the box.  It's a trade-off.

The verdict is still out with me on larger smartphone displays. I think Apple's move to the iPhone 5's 4.0-inch display was smart, but I need to play with a smartphone with a larger display -- or a phablet --to see how I feel. I doubt that a larger display, say, 4.7-inches, would sway me from the fundamental reasons I use an iPhone listed above.

In the final analysis, Andy Ihnatko did exactly what was right for him and articulated it beautifully. It's a great story telling experience. It's also a sign that there is much competition out there, and there are many different kinds of people with different needs. Neither camp seems to be going wrong with its current approach.

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30 Comments Leave Your Own

FlipFriddle

Nice article John. I know when my iPhone contract is up, I may look around at an Android phone. I wasn’t too impressed when I looked last time (Android 3.x days) but why not. Still I would have to see a significant benefit to me to switch and ignore all of the money I’ve spent on apps for iOS (though to be fair about half of them are universal ones that will still work on my iPad). For instance if a Nexus or Galaxy offered me seamless integration with my iMac’s Aperture library, would work well with my Apple Mail/iCloud accounts, and be as small as (or smaller) than my 4S, then cool, maybe it’s worth looking at; for me. It’s always a good idea to frame these things with the caveat of it being a personal choice with lots of reasons behind it.

A coworker of mine has a phablet, and her fingers aren’t long enough to use one handed and it would never fit in a pocket. I guess it’s ok if you have a purse, but for me I want something smaller than an iPhone, not bigger. If it isn’t comfortable & portable, then it’s less likely to always have it, in which case it’s failed one its most basic design requirements.

FlipFriddle

Ugh. Lots of grammar errors in my second paragraph. Sorry. Can you not edit posts any longer?

John Martellaro

FlipFriddle.  When we completely redesigned The Mac Observer and changed the publishing engine, a few things had to be dropped.  One was user editing of comments.  I don’t know where that is on the new ToDo list.

Your comment above is fine, and there’s no need to worry about small mistakes, but if something really irks you, I can fix it on the back end.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

John, there is one thing I disagree with here:

I write for an Apple focused publication, and I have to know the iPhone well. To do that, it has to be my daily smartphone.

With that approach, you’d still be publishing on eWorld rather than the big, bad Internet. It’s way more typical for Apple customers to mix in some Apple things with their other things than to be all-Apple all the time.

Or put another way… On an Android focussed blog, no writer would get any crap at all for having a Mac, an iPad, or even an iPhone in the mix.

John Martellaro

Brad: I do have Android devices sitting on my desk, and as I mentioned in the article, it has been an illuminating experience.  But one has to decide where all that personal data, contacts, ToDos, notes, calendars are going to reside.  It’s a real PITA to keep all that on multiple devices from multiple vendors.  So you pick your #1 horse and test the rest.

skipaq

I read Andy’s series and didn’t have a knee jerk “he’s a traitor” reaction. Good for him. His reasons for switching don’t apply for me. Don’t want a larger screen; but might consider something smaller. Don’t have a problem with the iPhone keyboard; even if there are better ones out there. I am not much interested in customizing my phone; I’d rather use my time for other things. I have not made one personal ringtone.

All of the reasons you listed, John, are valid for me except writing for an Apple centered publication. The two big issues that keep Droids away from my use are: 1) I enjoy Apple’s way of making my life simpler. 2) I would not buy something that has the potential of making profits for a company when it sells information about me to make that profit. I know that it isn’t completely possible to prevent the second reason. But I choose not to knowingly help them do so.

Lee Dronick

“Yes, for the glass half-full crowd, iCloud does indeed provide lock-in. I’ve chosen my poison.”

There is a flyer up in the local park. Someone lost their iPhone and they are interested more in getting their contacts, their Address Book, back. If they had enabled iCloud then the lost Address Book wouldn’t be such of a problem.

“Ugh. Lots of grammar errors in my second paragraph. Sorry. Can you not edit posts any longer?”

I have taken to typing up my responses in TextEdit or Pages where I can proof read them before posting. Then just copy and past. This is very handy when posting here from an iPad because in landscape mode the top line of the comment box is covered by text from the page; Some sort of CSS coding I am thinking. If the iPad is in portrait mode then there is no problem.

While we are on a tangent about the new design. Can we use BB Code and/or HTML in our posts?

John Martellaro

Lee.  Sure. We use BBCode.  If you want to quote someone, wrap their text inside these key words:

  [ quote ] ... [ /quote ]

(I had to insert spaces around the inner key word to keep the BBCode from being interpreted. You shouldn’t use them.)

if you want to create a link, put it inside this, again WITHOUT the spaces inside the brackets.

  [ url ] ... [ /url ]

You can also use:  [ b ] for bold and [ i ] for italic.  We’re working to bring back the editing controls as they were before.

Lee Dronick

Thanks John. I just need to make sure that I close the tags smile

A link to a list of the codes http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/misc.php?do=bbcode

Lee Dronick

Thanks John, I just need to remember to use closing tags

Jimmy Pasha

I started with a used iPhone 3 and since August, 2010 have been using a 4. In the midst of researching which OS to use I read a review which stated: “the iPhone is the smartphone for dummies”. All I had to do was reflect back on 1979 and how an Apple II replaced junk dos and hardware for me on a series of 8080 and Z-80 systems.

Although I’m an agnostic as regards which phone today is the best to use (and use is the acid test!), I doubt that any other phone that I might have purchased in 2010 would have held like the iPhone both as hardware and software. I look forward to replacing it with the iPhone 8!

ibuck

Well thought out and written, JM. I appreciate your reasons and your conciseness, particularly…

The technical needs of seasoned technical observers is not necessarily the best thing for the vast majority of Apple customers….That creates friction between tech writers and Apple if they believe that their needs should hold sway in the design of Apple products. Good writers should focus on what the readers need, not what they want. But perhaps with a taste of charming expertise to challenge and inspire the reader.

While I don’t think of Bosco as charming, his comments on TMO seem almost invariably to focus on his desires rather than the typical user, or even above-average ones.

Privacy, security, easy usability (it just works), and sharing between devices are all important to me as well.  However, i would like to see Apple keep improving their devices’ capabilities, even if sometimes that means Apple saying “me too.” I wish there were a way to petition Apple for changes/improvements like you can at https://petitions.whitehouse.gov so that Apple could know how many users want a particular capability.

Thanks also for the BB code tips. Being able to edit our TMO comments is highly desirable, even before using BB code, because if we mess up, we cannot correct it.  (Comment typed in TextEdit and pasted, Lee.)

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

While I don’t think of Bosco as charming, his comments on TMO seem almost invariably to focus on his desires rather than the typical user, or even above-average ones.

I’m just not pretentious. If you prefer a style of conversation that claims universal truths rather than personal observations, there is probably a Chrome plugin for that.

But that aside, on the Android/iOS question, about 60% of the market agrees with the position I laid out 3 years ago. I’ll take that as appropriate validation.

-Brad

John Martellaro

iBuck: You can:    feedback@apple.com

or

http://www.apple.com/feedback/

Lee Dronick

In the midst of researching which OS to use I read a review which stated: “the iPhone is the smartphone for dummies.”


Just because someone isn’t a technical geek doesn’t make them a dummy. I want a phone that is easy to use and easy to synch. On the other hand I do a lot of cooking from scratch, bread, sauces, and such.

Note to Jimmy, I am quoting your quote and I know that you did not make the original dummy comment.

RonMacGuy

But that aside, on the Android/iOS question, about 60% of the market agrees with the position I laid out 3 years ago. I’ll take that as appropriate validation.

No Bosco, if it was the 90% you predicted, that may have validated your position.  At 60% the only thing you validated is basic economic theory, which has been around for hundreds of years.  Congratulations, genius.  But it is adorable that you actually think your Bosco Model ‘stands’ are in any way validated.  Especially the “declining and mostly irrelevant iPad” comment - how validated is that one?  Luckily for my holding you accountable, most people on TMO now know better.

 

lrd555

I think these guys are being paid by Google and/or Samsung to publicly make these announcements. Because, from my own observations, I count in the last year alone now 11 people who’ve done just the opposite. Yes, 11 people who’ve switched from Android phones to iPhones in one year! And I no of no one who’s done the opposite.

This trend must be alarming the Google camp and I’m sure they’re working their underhanded propaganda machine to try stall or reverse this trend.

Lee Dronick

“I think these guys are being paid by Google and/or Samsung to publicly make these announcements”

Disinformation and propaganda are a factor in the winning of wars. A few years ago I was having some fun taking graphics of old military recruiting posters, movie posters too, and turning them into pro Apple posters. Perhaps I will dig them out and repost them. Hmmmm, maybe some old Soviet and Spanish Civil War posters.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I enjoy the irony of an article decrying ad hominem attacks on Apple bloggers eventually degenerating in the comments section to ad hominem attacks on anyone who disagrees with them. That’s not on John though. He’s really too good for most of you.

Webb

Nice, thoughtful rebuttal to Andy’s 3-parter.  A couple of exceptions, however, with your comments.

“I love the industrial design of my iPhone 5, its look and the feel in my hand. I’ve seen videos of what happens to a Samsung phone when dropped on a hard surface, and it isn’t pretty.”

Hmm… let’s see what happens when an iPhone 5 is dropped onto that same surface!  Especially screen side down.  That’s not going to be very pretty either!  grin

I’m not convinced that geekiness vs. ease of use is necessarily a “trade-off”.  Not, at least, in the sense that Andy meant it—giving the user more options, e.g., of optional keyboards—or, my desire—system wide color themes (e.g., a night mode) or home screen skinning (alternatives just as tabbed interfaces).  Apple could certainly provide both.

And it could, finally, add snoozing to alerts—and more flexible repeating event functions.  Those would be helpful to everyone.

Finally, let’s stop with the “cracks” about grandmas.  In the 21st century, grandmas are no longer the doddering old stereotype—or the wonderful caring or stern matriarchs of old.  They are Ph.D. holding researchers, nuclear physicists, astronomers, college and high school math instructors, award-winning writers, novelists, tech writers, tech enthusiasts, skilled iPhone, Facebook, and e-mail users, and even geeks!

ViewRoyal

John Martellaro: “The technical needs of seasoned technical observers is not necessarily the best thing for the vast majority of Apple customers.”

Exactly! And a minor paraphrasing would be: “The technical needs of Android fans are not necessarily the best thing for the vast majority of Apple customers.”

This is the sentiment that I express in response to “fandroids” exclaiming how their X-model Android phone is “better” than the iPhone.

They don’t seem to understand: “what works for you, doesn’t work for me (or for the hundreds of millions of iPhone owners wink”.

ViewRoyal

@Webb: “Hmm… let’s see what happens when an iPhone 5 is dropped onto that same surface!  Especially screen side down.  That’s not going to be very pretty either! “

Actually it was VERY PRETTY compared to what happened to the Samsung phone.

Watch this “iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S3 Drop Test” done by AndroidAuthority (so you know that they are not Apple ‘fanboys” doing the test!). The video is on YouTube, here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6M5q5TRuAsY

Spoiler: Although the plastic Samsung phone got broken and non-functional very quickly, AndroidAuthority had a difficult time getting any significant damage done to the iPhone 5!

RonMacGuy

I enjoy the irony of an article decrying ad hominem attacks on Apple bloggers eventually degenerating in the comments section to ad hominem attacks on anyone who disagrees with them.

Don’t play the part of offended victim, Bosco.  It really doesn’t suit you.

The great irony is that you would actually write that.  Frankly, for me, I have absolutely no issue with people who don’t like Apple, and enjoy honest and open debate on any topic, like most regulars on TMO.  What I have issue with is you for years being degrading and insulting while at the same time making outrageously incorrect predictions without taking any accountability of them, and think that it is perfectly acceptable behavior.  Well, you’re wrong.  And I will continue to preach how wrong you are for as long as you continue to act like you do.

Oh, and Tim Cook is still running Apple, even though you predicted he wouldn’t be by the end of March.  Wrong again.  Accept it and embrace it.  Oh, and try acknowledging it.

 

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Egads Ron. I wasn’t even talking about you. You really have a complex, pal. See lrd555’s comment suggesting that Andy was paid off. I mean, ferchrisakes, that’s so over the top.

Although I am happy to see that you have invested in a bottle of Mother’s Polish and the special ball attachment for your drill. Cookie’s undercarriage will be as shiny as the glossiest black-rimmed MBP screen!

RonMacGuy

Well, you did use plural (degenerating in the comments section to ad hominem attack*s* on anyone who disagrees with them).  But what humored me the most was your generalizing about attacks “on anyone who disagrees with them.”  Basically nonsense for most of us here, except for, huh, you.  That’s where I saw the irony, and enjoyed your whiny victim approach.  And I do so love to remind you and anyone else reading of how little you know about what you are talking about.

Paul Gorski

I’m sorry, I’m not an iPhone fan, don’t like the phone, but like iOS. Just got through a 2 month test with Android 4.0 and 4.1 and the default Android keyboard is pretty bad. Other that the upper/lower case options, the “center” of the keys on two different Android devices was off, typically high on the characters, which meant a lot of misspelled words. Maybe that’s more a function of the screens on the phones, but on two different models?

And the default mail apps are even worse. Problems connecting to Exchange accounts, mail synching with subfolders, and meeting invites not showing date and time of invite until you look at the invite on the calendar, what’s up with that? And the calendar, couldn’t get much less functional or viewable than the default Android 4.1 calendar.

Texting, that’s another area where iOS wins. Lousy options for free Android texting apps, although there are nice paid options.

Pluses for Android: scalable fonts, very flexible tethering options, and some very nice hardware options.

But since all I use the phone for is business email, calendar and actual phone calls, the Android apps let me down. Now the rest of you may use other apps, and those apps run best for you on Android, and that’s great, but my main two apps run best on iOS. But I’m likely not to upgrade to an iPhone 5. I think I’m getting a plain vanilla phone and an iPad or iPad Mini.

 

Webb

Unlike many commenters on articles around the net (none here, of course!), it’s important to be “fair and balanced”—for real!—and to correct one’s own comments. John remarked that a dropped Samsung didn’t look pretty.  I politely (!) observed that a dropped iPhone wouldn’t look too hot, either.

Well, the Mashable testing showed differences in damage—and like the Timex watches of yore—the iPhone kept on ticking!  grin

http://mashable.com/2012/09/21/iphone-5-drop-test/

OTOH, my comment was about what would happen if you drop the phones, screen face down!

(Hmm… although Mashable referred to an iPhone 5 vs. an S3, the link was for a Square Trade iPhone 4s vs. S3, which isn’t the same as an IP5 vs. a GS4, and the IP4S did suffer damage.)

I still can’t get over that 5” screen, however!

Steve

I have had every iPhone since the first one, so I can say that I have some experience here as well, and I have to question the following statement just a bit - you can’t say it with such certainty:

Perhaps most important, as the leader in modern smartphones, Apple has been particularly wise in its implementation of technology. The company makes sure that everything just works. Other companies, eager to play catchup may rush half-baked features into their smartphones for competitive reasons, and I’m not interested in playing along with that game.

If everything just works, what happened to Apple Maps?  They should have called it a beta like SIRI.  And speaking of SIRI, that’s still a work in progress as well.  And what about Mobile me, or iCloud?  Apple can’t seem to do anything right in the cloud.  And as an iPad user too, I’m a bit frustrated that Apple has about $130b in the bank but can’t hire enough help to make the simple Apple Store app a full iPad app and not just descended for the iPhone. 

I hate the fact that Apple thinks we all need to navigate our phone with 1 hand.  Not true.  I mostly use my phone for other things than phone calls, which means screen real estate is more important.  And when I make calls, it’s mostly through Bluetooth anyhow. 

The iPhone interface is really starting to feel stale after five years.  I really like some of the features of the Windows phone (live tiles, swipe right and have all apps in alphabetical order vertically, etc), and I could see a lot of interesting features in the new Galaxy S4.  Here’s to hoping Apple feels some pressure and comes out with some MAJOR improvements and not simply a 5s with fingerprint reader and NFC.  BORING.

 

David Wilson

>I write for an Apple focused publication, and I have to know the iPhone well. To do that, it has to be my daily smartphone.

I actually appreciate this reason very much. I don’t want to read Mac/iOS articles written by people who aren’t using the products on a daily basis. There are plenty of brand-agnostic tech sites I can go to if I just want to read about general technology. If I am reading an Apple-focused publication I want the writers to be fans of the products and know them intimately. When I started working for a major cosmetics/skin care company a couple of years ago, I made it a point to start using their men’s line of products as much as possible. Shaving cream, etc. Why? I need to be familiar with the products of the company I work for.

Kirk

John well written article as was Andy’s. I would like to give you a viewpoint of the phones from a developer’s standpoint. I have to use both platforms and understand them at a technical level as well as a business level. The user interface of IOS is vastly superior to Android and while this might not be obvious to the tech heavy power user, it is obvious to people who are new users or those of us who study user interface.

The vast majority of my app income is from IOS and I believe this to be the case for most developers. This means my apps will always be designed for IOS and adapted to Android. I have found the Android OS, although improving, to be significantly less stable than IOS and the fact that, if I should choose, I could write a pice of malware for Android in less than a day and put it into the Google Play store should be disturbing for everyone.

I disagree that the larger screen size is a plus for anyone other than the niche user. The name of the phone game is portability. Prior to the smartphone the phone trend was to make the device smaller not bigger. While the bigger screen is nice, I have an iPad mini and Nexus 7, when I want to carry them, I would hate to carry either device with me everywhere. If I want the bigger screen I’ll carry my tablet. If I want to go on a boat or my motorcycle, I DON’T want a hunk of metal that big hanging off me.

The customization aspect is non sequitur. You have a steering wheel in your car. This reduces the learning curve from car to car. You might think a joystick would be a better interface but the consistency of the single interface adds to both the expertise of the driver and the safety of the community. I am sure many people could drive with a joystick but I still don’t want cars to be UI customizable. Phones with customizable interfaces will lose functionality. This is obvious when one sees the dearth of apps Android users actually USE compared to IOS devices.

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