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An android developer's first contact with iOS


Aug 20, 2010
Hi long time phandroid fellows. Just wanted to share with you some of my thoughts
Brief Intro

This is just my personal thoughts and it only may apply to me so please don't feel offended by this article. Well, I am developing android apps for a few years now, doing this for a living. Developing various project for my clients most of the time I came across projects which involved "Make it work on android as it works on iOS" and I ended up with the same thing "I need to get an iPhone for testing". I finally took the step 4 months ago and purchased a used iPhone 5 16 GB. The reason was for getting an older version were pretty obvios: I did not wanted to spent too much money on a device which will be used primarily for testing. Iphone 5s was too expensive and 5C was basically an 5 with plastic body.

I am very picky when it comes to my daily driver device. I have owned in the past many devices, my first acceptable device was Galaxy S1 (oh, the lag of android 2.3), then went for Galaxy Nexus (which was quite a good device and I still own it and runs pretty acceptable), Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 3, LG G2. Given the fact that I have small hands, I found G2 to be quite impressive: such small bezels, pretty acceptable firmware, good camera, great form factor and battery life... until I noticed the slippery back which was the main reason to get rid of it. I can't really understand why producers tend to get this shiny plastic as back-cover which offers zero grip. All the time I had the impression it will slip from my hands. I love the back material on black Nexus 5 and I hope they'll continue to use it on the next model. The Note 3 was quote a near perfect phone, contrary to many, I liked the fake leather back as it gave me good enough grip, the touchwiz isn't that bad, stylus was working very good but, after trying to get used to its form factor for 2 months I had to give up. It was simply to uncomfortable for me use, most of the time I found myself needing to use it with one hand and couldn't. Just try to put the shopping list on it and hold the note in one hand and the grocery basket in the other and then check what you buy. But this really comes to personal preference since I gave it to my wife and she says she'll never want a smaller device.

So back to main idea, I purchased a used iPhone 5 for around 350$ while iPhone 5s it is being sold in my country for around 900$. Since I got rid of Note 3, I told myself that if I paid for it, I should use it, so I started using iPhone 5 as a daily device. This means two gmail accounts, calls, skype and instagram.

First impressions:

  • Where is my notification light ? After years of getting used to it I find it a bit hard to live without. Many say it is not needed but to be frankly I prefer to look at the phone on my table to see if I missed something rather than waking the screen up. Not to mention that I recently released JeFeel app on Google Play and I receive a lot of Instagram notifications. For each of them my iPhone's screen wakes up.Not great for battery life I suppose. Let be honest, how much would a blinking led cost for production ? one cent? Not to mention the other cool things like RGB LEDs on most of the android devices which can be configured to know exactly what notification you received by the color it shows.
  • What's with this small text size ? Went to Settings to make it bigger and it seems that the Dynamic Font size only works on some of Apple's apps and the rest simply ignore it. I have good eye view and I really find it too small to comfortable read it. Might be because of only 4 inch of diagonal or something. It was a small relief to find the Bold setting which makes things a bit better. Not to mention browsing reddit funny pictures was not that fun.
  • After being spoiled for years with SwiftKey keyboard, with multiple language support, swipe, fantastic auto correct, I found to iOS keyboard horrible. The auto correct gives me more trouble than helping me so in the end I disabled it. Also to press 2-3 keys to get to things like comma "," or numbers/symbols I find it far from ergonomic. Basically these were my main three things I did not like, coming from android

After three months of usage

Well, believe it or not I got used to the small text size and now I find it acceptable. Still, the screen size is too small to do serious browsing or email answering. I find the keyboard to be still a pain to use. However, I noticed a lot of other things: * I like the notification center and how notification are shown on lock-screen. Swiping a notification opens the app to which it belongs to without the need to unlock. I like how when I read an email on my computer, the notification from lockscreen gets dismissed. Quite cool.

  • Control center is handy and I use it mostly to toggle auto rotate lock and media volume. Is great that I can access it from anywhere but sometimes I simply open it by mistake when browsing a webpage in landscape orientation
  • I like how auto brightness works and it really is pleasant for my eyes.
  • I like the fact that there is a physical button on front, I am definitely not a fan of using the Power button. On android I specially developed StandBy Touch Advanced app to deal with putting the phone to sleep without reaching the Power key. I took a look at iOS SDK and couldn't find a way to do it so I suppose this is not allowed. I have to say inhere that many Android offered quite a nice way of waking the phone from standy by: LG has KnowckOn, HTC has something similar, OnePlus one has it, if I recall well Sony too... Double tap to wake is way more convenient than searching for power key, especially on tall devices. i5 is not the case since it is easy to reach, but I use the Home key a lot to wake the device.
  • I am not a big fan of metal and I never use cases, I find it slippery and cold, however given the size of the iPhone, it is easy to hold it and never had the feeling that I drop it.
  • Battery life is not so great, I charge it every day.However it seems to be dropping constantly and I haven't noticed any battery drain (GooglePlay services drain rings a bell on android ?) I am 95% of the time in WiFi coverage and I did a test: I disabled the Cellular data, since WiFi is always on and have found that the battery life has improved a lot. So even if data is not used, I suppose that the cell module is active, most likely waiting to do a quick switch if WiFi turns to be poor. I would have preferred an option to keep it disabled until actually leaving the WiFi area. This things make me miss tools like Tasker on Android.
  • I like the screen and color reproduction. There is no back-light bleed and colors look real enough for me. Best LCD screen I had. Also the resolution is more than enough for 4" and I don't miss 1080p from android
  • iOS feel more smooth, I remember not resetting the phone for about 2 months and it was as smooth as in day one. Transitions are smoother, rotate is smoother, app switching is smoother. I like it, I feel that it's more polished than android and even the screen seems more responsive to touches.
  • some apps seem better on iOS, with more attention to details. My last app JeFeel relies a lot on instagram so I am using it quite a lot to check followers and pictures. Instagram for iOS is easier to use, easier to reload, I don't know, it just feels better. I also like TapaTalk more and some other apps like Reddit pics browser, skype, dolphin browser and so on. I sure miss FireFox since is my browser on PC and I would have loved to have bookmarks sync but since I don't to that much browsing, I'm ok with Dolphin/Safari. A special mention goes to Safari for reading mode (or how it is called) when it renders the text from the page at big size, making it easier to read. Great feature.
  • As android developer I rely on Google services: Maps, GMail, Google+, Drive and some apps are working ok, some are bad. The biggest disappointment is the Gmail app which is more ergonomic and nicer on Android. No contact pictures, no swipe to delete, I miss these features. Also the rendered text in emails is quite small, so it's good enough for email checking if you don't have many emails.
  • I haven't changed my ringtone yet because from what I saw I need iTunes for that... well that sucks.
  • Ah the camera, I don't think I made so many pictures with a phone. I know the camera is not top of the chart, but the form factor of the phone actually made it easier for me to take it out and grab a quick picture. Note 3 had a great camera but getting it out of the pocket, 2 hands needed to use it... You know where I'm going to.
  • I also like the silent toggle on the left size, very convenient but I would have preferred a visual notification on status bar, that is on, like on android.
  • As for widgets and stuff, on my android I initially did all sort of customizations and widgets but in the end I started to install more apps, drag shortcuts around and it became a mess. Basically I ended up with a grid of icons, just as the iOS launcher is. So for me, the lack of widgets is not a negative point
  • I don't like the dialer, seems so... I don't know... limited. No contacts photos on Recents/Contacts list makes it look boring. I also have like a 1-2 seconds delay between the moment I pick up and the moment the caller hears me, that is annoying and does not happen with same SIM on other phones

Unfortunately after 4 months of usage my iPhone's camera started to fail. Sometimes it worked sometimes it just shown black screen. After a few more days I have realized that the screen glass on top of the phone was raised 1-2 milliliters above the frame. I went to a service center (since no warranty) and they glued it somehow back, and now the screen is ok, but the camera still does not work. One nice addition was discovering that I can disable the whole camera feature, so I did and it disappeared from apps and Control Center. I guess that is the only customization of Control center hehe.

Since the camera is not working and I don't want to put any more money on this iPhone, I don't know how long I will be using it, probably until Nexus X or Moto X+1 is released. Or why not, IPhone 6. But overall I can say that the experience with iOS was not as bad as expected. Probably it has to do with me not using so many widgets and apps. I don't remember how many times I have flashed android phones with so many custom ROMs in order to achieve a better phone. Indeed on android you get more freedom, you install custom ROMs and kernels and you squeeze some more performance but this sometimes comes with the cost of bugs and instability. This is the beauty of android, you can customize it, want a toggle of auto rotate, you have it on a custom ROM, want different screen calibration, want to hide on screen buttons, want... you get the point. On iOS you are limited, you can't customize too much and after a while I guess you just get used to it. Unfortunately Android OEM's have started to implement various techniques that will detect rooting/bootloader unlock and will void warranty. We all know the famous Knox trigger on Samsung devices, so installing a custom ROM is starting to get harder and harder without voiding warranty.

Another point I'd like the mention is updates. On android things are starting to catch up, but still with updates through carriers and all the delays, after an android version is released you need to wait for 3-6-never months for an update. Of course this is not available for nexus line. The updates are primarily for flagship devices as previous year devices will take even longer to receive an update. This really forces me to look for a nexus when I get an android device and I sure hope they will get it right this time and not make cuts on screen quality or battery size as on previous models. Motorola seems to be doing quite a good job on updates and I hope they will continue to do so in the future. Android L seems like a really big change and I think it will start to catch up on next year's flagships, so mostly on Q2 2014 but given the skinning of frameworks like TouchWiz/Optimus/and others I somehow doubt the user will see too much material changes. I hope performance will improve since I can see small lag here and there even on latest models. As for iOS8 it seems promising, the new keyboard support will allow fixing one of my major annoyances, also battery statistics will offer more info on apps battery usage. I am curious to see how widgets on Notification center will be received but seeing Apple opening is a good thing. I am also keeping an eye on their Swift language and might start learn it since ObjectiveC was never ever on my taste. I really like the swipe on screens to go back, that is implemented on some apps and I am really curious to see how on bigger screen sizes, reaching the top left of the screen for Back option will fell file. I sometimes feel the need of a Back button. I fear that on 4.7 and 5.5" iPhone one handed usage will be hurt by having hard times to reach Back within an app.

So in the end, is iOS that bad ? It depends, for me, when I use the OS for a few seconds to launch apps that I am using, it does not matter so much what OS it is, as long as its fast and reliable. I find iphone 5 to be fast and smooth and it's a device 2 years old. I bet Iphone 5s with his TouchId and 64bits would have a bigger impact on me and to be honest I am starting to see phones with screen bigger than 4"... too big. It would be interesting to find myself buying iPhone 5S as my next phone.

Thanks for reading and sorry for the long post, hope I haven't bored you too much.
Changing your ring tone to use a custom sound file is a rather convoluted process. It does involve using iTunes and you have to modify some settings in iTunes to do it. I did it for my wife when she got an iPhone. When I got one for work, I didn't bother.

Overall, I like your review. It is quite in depth and detailed. I share a lot of what you experienced when first using the iPhone. What I found to be different from you is the battery life. I felt the battery life was better compared to my Android phone. Using a mapping app for 30 minutes causes my iPhone to drain less than 10%. It causes my Android to drain at least twice as much. I also make use of Android widgets and am disappointed in not having them. It makes certain things I do less efficient on the iPhone.
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if one is judging iOS based on iOS 7, they will never see it as it once was, when it was actually good. I refuse to even touch version 7 at all. I sold all my Apple products when it silently, without my permission installed itself and I found out the next day. with no recourse back. Apple is going to die without Jobs and Forstall.

iOS 7 is such badly received here that you see far more iPhone 3GS's and early iPhone 4's with iOS 5 on them than any newer models. the few with iOS 7 are owned by people often new to iOS, often older people or very young children.

I have been tempted to buy an iPad Air because the demo has a version if iOS 7 that seems to retain much of the skeuomorphism (especially on the icons of iBooks, the UI of it, and other apps) and has sorta brought it back in part to Notes (no notepad paper, but a leather styled texture) but I am very unsure if that's just demo mode fooling me because last I checked the wooden shelves of iBooks and green felt of Game Center were long gone, unless they brought it back to iOS 7.1.2, which is on the demo unit?

What I miss about Apple is the fact their devices have a longer lifecycle and are not obsoleted nearly as fast as a comparable Samsung device. Samsung makes excellent products but the new generation is released so fast and it's so different from the previous that any device you hold onto looks dated and old, and lacks the best features in mere months while my MacBook Pro will hardly change in 10 years or so, and probably have app support at least half as long.
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Indeed, I agree with you on Samsung. They make a bunch of models every year, and the last year's models are slowly forgotten or receive updates after 6 months. With Note 4 released now, it would have been somehow normal to announce an Note 3 update to bring it up to date with same features. New s-pen, new touchwiz and all the other things since Note 3 is just as capable of Note 4. But no... and probably it will never receive such a major update.
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Given Samsung's reputation for forgetting, I don't expect the Note 3 to get L unless through a custom ROM. if it does get an official OTA expect it to be exactly the same as it was before, old TouchWiz and all.

I am a Samdroid and will only buy Samsung since they are the closest thing to Apple in Android devices and do things I feel are more comfortable and familiar than Google without being vague or hiding things behind gestures the way Google does. I really prefer Samsung's own apps to Google's myself. But the product life cycles are horribly short. Two years with a Note 3 might as well be ten. When I have devices that 'just work' I tend to hold onto them, but the techy side of me would feel off about a device that ages so quickly, yet Apple users don't have to worry about the design and software changing that much over time. I miss that about Apple. Too bad iOS 7 is too hideous to use.
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