All the reasons I can't leave Android for iOS — again. Plus a couple of things I do miss from the iPhone.
This is a subjective list. These things are important to me; they might be for you, and they're at least worth considering. This isn't a list hating or heaping praise on any phone; it's just why I'm staying with Android (not even why I'd switch to it now).
A couple of years ago, in 2018, I switched to Android... again. (I had first tried it in 2011, but changed back to iOS in 2013.)
The main reason I switched to Android this time was because I wanted to get on the Google Fi plan (a reason which has since been made moot, since you can use iPhones on Fi). I also wanted a new phone and iPhones were getting expensive.
Even though it was initially difficult to switch from an iPhone (it always is hard to switch either way), about a year later I realised I was in so deep with Android I was unlikely to go back.
So this is what I answer when people ask me "why do you use Android?", as well as being my personal list of obstacles I'd have to overcome if I were to go back (which is possible because I've done it once before; and I like change, and look for a good reason!)
In summary... I use Android now (and probably for a long time) because:
- It's super easy to find my Android phone — I just google "Where is my phone".
- You can block ads (even in apps) with NordVPN's — or any other similar VPN's — CyberSec mode
- You can use alternative password managers like 1Password, which means you can use the same one on multiple platforms — you don't need to use the iCloud Keychain
- You can use another privacy-friendly browser like Firefox, without it just being Safari with a skin
- The home screen is cleaner. You don't have to have all the icons on the home screen or stuffed into a folder
- Google Apps work better. Gmail is the native email app, Chrome is always the native browser, so I'm always in sync, and never have to get annoyed with Safari opening in some app's internal browser.
- I can type in other languages and even dictate much more reliably in Android. I've tested this in many languages, including Chinese, Arabic, and Korean, Hebrew, and Swahili.
- File management exists on Androids and isn't a pain in the ass
- The phones often have a 3.5mm audio jack (especially cheaper ones, like the Pixel 3A and 4A) so I don't need dongles for all my headphones — I need a backup
- Leading flagship phones are always cheaper new (my $299 Google Pixel 3a is perfect!)
- There's a greater variety of phones, from cheap to expensive, which means if my phone dies or is stolen it's easy to replace in a pinch.
- You can charge them from any charger or cable with USB-C (no compatibility issues) and often charge more quickly
- You can side-load great, free apps, if they're not available in your app store
- There's an always-on display, taking advantage of the OLED
And reasons made moot since I first wrote this
- You can use widgets on the home screen to see things like weather, emails, and your calendar at a glance — iOS 14 now has widgets and they look great.
- There are lots of phones that are multi SIM-card so I can have two services at once (great for travellers) (iPhone XS etc. and later are multi-sim; I'm unlikely to buy an earlier one at this stage)
There are also a few reasons iOS is still better than Android. I will go through these too.
Super easy to find my Android phone with "Where is my Phone"
When you lose your iPhone (it happens), you can find it using
- Another iOS device with "Find my iPhone". So on my Mac, I have to open the app, wait till it loads, then control it
- iCloud. I can log in, authenticate (which might be hard without my phone), and use the same feature.
In the past, I've used this feature only when I've really lost my phone.
With Android, it's absurdly easy. I just open up Google in a window I'm logged into, and Google "where is my phone".
The below link is before it fully loaded to preserve a bit of my privacy.
Once that window pops up, you can just click on "ring" to make it sound. This is so absurdly easy, I regularly to it to find my phone in the house.
It's not much harder in iOS, but this works even if I don't have a Mac (which I might not — sometimes I use a Chromebook), and without another app.
Blocking ads with NordVPN's CyberSec mode
I always use a VPN, and my favourite is NordVPN — it's cheap, works in many countries (including China), works with Netflix, and I can use it on six devices.
A VPN is convenient for privacy when I'm on strange networks, it prevents governments from listening in (a real risk in many of the countries I visit), and generally prevents being tracked when I visit a website or download something I don't want anyone to know about.
NordVPN is one of the few VPNs recommended by the privacy community. It's are priced well, are hosted in a private country, allow P2P traffic.
But on Android, VPNs can go further: they can intercept traffic and block entire domains. This means that it's not just in one browser that ads are blocked — ads are blocked in all browsers, and in apps. The difference is amazing and I can't go back.
Note: On the other hand, I can't just install AdBlock into Safari like I can on iOS.
1Password integration in iOS isn't efficient
The Apple ecosystem demands you use the keychain. That's fine, unless you want to use devices other than Apples ones. Or if you don't trust the Apple system more than anyone else.
If you do want to use 1Password, of course you can. But to use your passwords with apps you have to go to 1Password, manually look up the one you want to use, copy it, go back to the app you want to use, and paste it.
You have Better Browser options in Android
In Android you can switch browser and actually get a new browser. So you can install Firefox or another privacy-forward browser app.
In iOS, you get Firefox (and other browsers), but neutered. You can't install add-ons, and the browser itself uses Safari's rendering engine, based on Webkit. This works fine, but it means the performance is identical to Safari and you don't get anywhere near the same benefits. Basically, alternative browsers in Android are "Safari with a skin".
On Android you get a full Firefox experience including add-ons and different rendering.
Right now I use Brave as my default browser. It shows up everywhere. Chrome barely is visible.
The Home Screen is Cleaner on Android
I don't claim to have the most beautiful home screen. But I do like it how I don't have to have everything on the home screen.
But even on stock Android on my Google Pixel, it's nice knowing I can have only what I need on the main screen, and keep the rest of the apps hidden away in the drawer.
On iOS as it stands even in 2020 in iOS 14, you have to have all your apps either on the home screen or on some other screen or in a folder.
That said, the home screen on iOS still looks better — it always has looked better. The rounded squares blend better with the phone which is also a rounded rectangle. There are a number of small things, and I'm not a design expert, but aesthetically the iOS home screen (not the whole interface) has always looked cleaner.
Widgets on the Home Screen
Since iOS 14, this is balancing out between the two operating systems. Right now, Android offers more widgets, but it's no longer exclusive.
Widgets give you information at a glance without you having to open an app.
For me, the most important ones of these are
- Seeing unread/new emails
- Calendar events
- Controlling music players like YouTube and Spotify
More reliable language dictation
I often type in other languages. More often I actually use voice dictation because it's a fast way of communicating while I'm moving around, particularly if I can't remember how to spell something in another language.
I dictate regularly to Android in:
- Arabic (Egyptian Arabic — it understands this)
- Chinese (Mandarin)
- and English
And, occasionally, Italian, but mostly for testing/curiosity purposes.
(Yes, I speak all those languages. Not great at all of them, but at minimum, basic conversation.)
Both iOS and Android have language dictation in a number of languages. But from my own use:
- Android is better at understanding me even when I'm not speaking a native language (most languages to me are not native), even Chinese
- Android understands when I speak a dialect of Arabic (e.g. Egyptian or Levantine), and transcribes it correctly — this is amazing as there are many dialects of Arabic
- Android's Swype-type keyboard works in many languages
Yes, you can access the voice dictation in a few Google apps on iPhone too. I'm not sure which ones, though. There's also the Google keyboard for iPhone but it's a bit buggy according to user reports (e.g. here).
Note — iOS actually used to have the edge here. I found their PinYin keyboard much superior to Android's back in 2011/12. But now, that's on par, and dictation on Android now far surpasses that of iOS.
Native Google Apps in Android
If you use the Google ecosystem it's really refreshing to be able to use them natively in Android.
- When I click on email links, I get GMail
- When I click on web links, I get Chrome
- When I get calendar invitations, it just goes to Google Calendar
I've tried the Apple alternatives MANY times over the years and always found them to be a generation or two behind in features. They look nice, but there's always something that Google does better.
Last time I switched what Google did better was
- Search — in both mail and calendar it was very easy to find what I needed
- Time zone support in calendar — I was easily able to create events that started and ended in different time zones
- Plug-ins for mail — like getting notification ticks or using Mailtrack
Apple iOS gives more and more options for native support, but sometimes it does something simple like opens Safari and that drives me crazy.
Cheaper hardware and more variety
One day my Android phone died (dropped one time too many, I think), and I had to go buy a new one. I picked up a "budget flagship" Google Pixel 3a for $399.
The cheapest iPhone at the time would have been $849.
Another time the previous year, I needed a spare phone and got a beautiful (if low-power) Samsung A30 for $230. I was shocked that it could run every app I needed and stand in completely for my phone, only lacking in a) processor power and b) camera quality (it was a little mushy, even though the colours were great).
Right now, in 2020, the Pixel 4a is $599 and the iPhone SE is $749. Still a significant gap.
Even though the iPhone is always one of the best phones, it's nice to have the variety in Android. One day I might hate Samsung and get a Google phone, and one day I might go cool on Google and get a Motorola. I can change.
The wonderful thing about iPhone hardware, on the other hand, is that there's always a store selling it, and it's very easy to get online. That can't be beat.
With Android, you can use any charger with USB-C
Nearly all Android phones are charge-able via USB-C.
This means you can charge Android phones using Mac hardware chargers. It means I have one less kind of charging cable to carry around.
It also means much more compatibility with chargers and cables. With an iPhone, you really often try to charge and realise that for some reason, the charger or cable don't work with your phone. They might even work with someone else's phone. It's so confusing.
This means you're forced to buy and almost exclusively use Apple chargers and cables.
USB-C chargers tend to work with any hardware device. It's incredible.
Androids have an always-on display
Android phones have had an always-on display ever since they first got OLED in the early 2010s (starting mainly with the Samsung Galaxy S in 2010).
Apple's phones have had beautiful OLED displays for less time (since the iPhone X, in 2017). They've always been very high quality.
However, iOS hasn't introduced an always-on display yet, even now, in late 2020 with iOS 14. I'm not sure why. It's not compatibility — because the fifth-and sixth-generation Apple Watches have an always-on display, and earlier watches don't. If they worked that out for watches, they could with phones.
I'm always sure this is just around the corner, unless it's a deliberate design decision.
The reasons iOS is still better than Android
There are still a few things I
- I miss being able to install AdBlock into Safari (though this is mitigated by me using Brave browser, which blocks ads)
- FaceTime and Messages were nice to have (though I'm a Signal person now)
- There are so many accessories for iPhones. Covers, protectors, holders... they're the gold standard. You can get anything online, but if you walk into a store browsing for a cover, prepare to have a hard time unless you have the latest Samsung — There are accessories for the most popular Android phones, but after that it's slim pickings.
- The stores and the easy-to-access warranty for Apple products is great. Phones break (or I break them), and when I have a problem with an Apple product, I know I can get support. Not so with my Pixel phone, especially as I have never bought one officially through Google.
- Privacy. I don't know all the ways, but I do know that privacy is more central to iOS than it is to Android. I mostly know this because privacy pundits say so. (On the other hand, I trust Google's security a lot more — I trust my Google services to not be hacked much more than my Apple ones.)
Things I don't care about in iOS vs Android conversations
Here are a bunch of generic things people say in response to any iOS vs Android discussion.
- "Google/Apple totally copied that feature." I don't care. Now they have it. Maybe they do it better, maybe not. Whatever happens, someone is either using a patent or licensing one from the other company (or from Samsung).
- "Android is messy, iOS is clean". I always hear this argument this way around, not the other way. It's kind of true, but Android can be tidied up a lot, and it varies by which version you use.
- "iPhones look better". They often do (although premium Android phones look fantastic), but I always throw a case on to any phone I have. The case gets dirty as I go through life (I don't have a desk job and am always on the road), and in the end, phones just look like a black screen to me.
Again, those things might be more important to you!