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Tuesday
Oct212014

Android vs iOS in 2014 (Lollipop vs iOS 8.1)

Circumstances have made me consider choosing a side.  After been in both camps for a while, I still had a hard time doing it.  I guess I should give you a rundown of devices that got me here. 


Apple

My first Apple product was an iPod Touch.  That started me down the road to the iPhone 3GS/4, iPad 2/3/4/Air, and MacBook (as a curiosity - I still rarely touch the damn thing).

It was around the time where the iPhone 4S took it's sweet time being announced that I got bored of iOS.  Remember this was the time when the white version was delayed and then Verizon finally got the iPhone.  These two events extended the iPhone 4's life so the 4S was pushed 6 months out of the normal yearly refresh.  This stagnant period made me look at the other side.  Android.


Android

I played with the EVO 4G, but I didn't like it.  At the time, the phone was just way too big (actually too wide).  It was also on Sprint, and I dislike CDMA networks for the lack of easily swappable SIM cards.  It wasn't until I tried out T-Mobile's Samsung Galaxy S variant (Vibrant) that I saw the Android way.  Maybe it was iOS-inspired TouchWiz interface.

The Vibrant started me down the road to the Galaxy S II (unlocked international version), Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S3/S4/Tab, and Nexus 5/7 (both 2012 and 2013 versions).  I still had an iPad (today I have the Air) along the way to keep a foot in the Apple camp, as well as a MacBook Pro.  But my main go-to devices were Android and Windows (Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro as we speak).

At the time, I choose Android because I could do more with it.  You have full access to the file system.  You can share data easily between apps.  You can even root to do more crazy things.  And finally, the community seems to have your back whenever there's an update or upgrade.  Unlike the Apple camp where most of these things were locked down.  You're always a couple versions behind because you're waiting on a jailbreak.


Today

The landscape has changed.  I don't jailbreak or root anymore.  I decided I want stability and timely updates.  More importantly I need access to my company's email which now enforced a no jailbroken or rooted device policy.

Access to the file system is not as important anymore thanks to Apple iDrive.  This is Apple's solution to a shared and structured storage.  On Google's part, you have Google Drive.  Now that iOS has extensibility, both iOS and Android can use 3rd party cloud storage as well.

I did a pros and cons for both, and the differences between Android and iOS is closing.

There are a few things that swings in Apple's favor though.


Pros and Cons Talk-Through:
Backup and Restore

One of the biggest pain points of Android is not having the ability to do a complete backup without root.  This is probably due to the diverse nature of Android (some call it fragmented).  Still, I'm surprise Google doesn't have something for their AOSP or even Nexus build of Android at least. 

With iOS, you get a complete backup (sans photos, videos, and music) every time you sync with iTunes.  You also can do it with iCloud, but you will need a lot of space (the free 5 GB may not cut it).  If you replace your lost phone, or upgrade to a new one, the replacement will look and act like your old phone once everything is synced and restored.

Android has the option to back up to the cloud when you first set up your device.  However, not everything comes back when you try to restore to a replacement phone.  If you have a phone with a different launcher (ex: Nexus vs Samsung vs LG), your icons won't come back to your home screen the way it was (if at all).  Some apps doesn't allow to be backed up.  And lastly, not all accounts are restored (usually just the Google ones).  You will have to open every app that uses their own credentials.

With Android Lollipop, the process is now better.  When you first set up your new phone, you can "Tap & Go" with NFC.  Almost everything on your old phone will transfer over Bluetooth with the same gotchas stated above.  The home screen issue isn't a problem if you use the Google Experience Launcher.  Some widgets even come back (though not all for me).

If you lost your phone or just did a factory reset, you now get a list of devices that were backed up to restore from.  Again, same caveats as stated above.

Apple still wins this round.


Camera

No contest.  iPhone cameras after the iPhone 4 have been consistently good.  None of the Nexus phones were all that great.  And while there are Android phones with great shooters, it's the consistency where Apple wins at.


Handoff

Being able to take phone calls and text using your tablet or computer is a great proposition.  Apple wins another?  Not so fast!  Believe it or not, I've already been doing that before Handoff was available.  I didn't realize it at the time, but I've been doing this with Hangouts!  If you use Google Voice as your main phone number and texting platform, you have the ability to enjoy this feature for a while now.  Also, the recent addition of MMS with all but Verizon subscribers makes it closer to perfection.

However, Apple still wins due to the fact that it allows for your carrier-based phone calls and texts to come through.  Add MMS from ALL carrier subscribers, and it's a slam dunk.

So close, Google.  Get crackin'!


Apple Pay

Apple made sure to partner up with others to make this happen.  Because of this, it will have a greater chance of mainstream acceptance compared to Google Wallet.  Even without the politics and technical security aspect (Apple doesn't actually have your credit card info, but Google does), Apple Pay is just simpler to use.

I've used Google Wallet several times whenever it's accepted.  But some of the stores that used to accept Google Wallet stopped supporting them!  And it's not a fast and easy process.  We were told we could tap the phone without unlocking it, as long as it is on.  So that's what I did.  Here are the steps as I remembered them:

1. Turn on screen.
2. Tap.
3. I was asked to unlock phone.
4. I was asked to put in Google Wallet PIN.
5. I was asked to tap the phone again to the payment terminal (again?).

Even if I turned on the phone and unlocked it before hand, that's still 5 steps!

1. Turn on phone.
2. Unlock phone.
3. Tap.
4. I was asked to put in Google Wallet PIN.
5. I was asked to tap the phone again to the payment terminal (again?).

And why the need to tap it to the terminal twice?

With Apple Pay (at least shown in the video), you don't even need to turn the phone on.  When you're ready to pay, you just put the top part of the phone to the terminal and put your thumb to the home button.  Or was it the other way around (thumb, then tap?).  Either way, that's just 2 steps!

Apple may well win this one until Google refines their process.


Interface

iOS does have its annoyances.  The biggest one is the home screen.  I find it annoying that iOS does not let me put icons exactly where I want them.  Instead, they all must flow left to right, top to bottom.  You can start a new home screen without completely filling the first one, though.

With Android, the home screen depends on the launcher, but comparing apples with apples (so to speak), we'll use the "stock-ish" Google Experience Launcher which you can finally get with all Android phones (finally available in the Google Play Store).  Even so, almost all of the various launcher home screens allow you to place icons wherever you want, much like the icons on your computer's desktop (Mac and Windows alike).  This lets you arrange them in the way that makes sense to you or not to obscure the wallpaper if you're so vain.

It may be me, but I find it hard to pin point a particular setting or feature inside of that massive Settings app in iOS.  Android's settings seem more logically arranged.  Having notification settings within the app you're interested in changing makes more sense to me than having to scroll through a list of apps inside the OS's Settings area.

Notifications seem to be better in iOS 8.  Before, you can only clear all notifications of a particular app instead of a single notification.  And being able to interact with some of the notifications finally caught up with Android.

iOS scroll responsiveness is still much better than Android, but with Jelly Bean (then Kit Kat, and now Lollipop), that gap is closing.  Even Project Butter in Jelly Bean didn't make it as responsive as iOS.  It's still too early to make a call with Lollipop since it isn't released to the public yet.  I am judging this on the current final developer preview.

Scroll physics, on the other hand, Android has iOS beat.  This is more of a preference thing, but I like the way I can flick a long list and it goes flying to the bottom.  With iOS, it feels like flicking heavy cardboard, and it takes much longer to get to the bottom.

I like tapping the status bar to go straight back to the top, but not all apps support this (or sometimes that feature mysteriously breaks).  I used to miss this with Android, but since scrolling is super fast, this feature isn't as important to me anymore.  However, it is sorely needed for iOS.  And honestly, Apple needs to find a way to get through long lists or pages faster.

Android wins this one.


Excitement

Because Android seem to make major changes every couple years (fast pace development), it's a more exciting platform to be on.  Apple changes slowly, and even with iOS 7, it was more a coat of paint than anything else.

I moved away from my iPhone 4 because I was getting bored.  After using an iPhone 5S with the newest iOS 8.1 (to get a feel for iOS again), I feel the same way.  It's really boring!

Android wins it here.


In the End...

...I'm more conflicted than ever!  It's nit picking at this point.  But looking at practical use, Apple is where I may be at.  The better camera, Apple Pay, and Handoff may be what will tip me over to the Apple camp.  And I can access almost all of Google's services on iOS (Hangouts and Google Voice is important to me).  I didn't mention battery life because I haven't experienced Lollipop's Project Volta on my Nexus 5 yet.  It needs to be stable since it's my daily driver.  I only have it on my Nexus 7 - and again, it's the final developers preview.  With Kit Kat, battery life with my Nexus 5 was good, but recently it took a turn for the worse.  I just did a factory reset, which is why the backup and restore pain point is a recent memory.

Now, what am I going to do with my Moto 360?

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