Posted on Fri 21 September 2018

Recent thoughts on Android vs. iOS

My last post about using Android vs. iOS was about 18 months ago. It feels like time for an update.

At the end of 2017, after having my Google Pixel for just over a year, I switched to an iPhone X. As an iOS developer, I felt my work was better when I used my own apps every day, and I'd long despised the physical iPhone home button, which the X did away with.

Around May of 2018 I dropped my iPhone X and cracked the screen. I've never done that to a phone before! It feel out of my pocket while I was jumping around the backyard with our puppy. Anyway, I'd been thinking about Android again around that time but hadn't convinced myself to switch yet. My iPhone X is still usable with its cracked screen (which I don't want to pay to fix because I already resent how much I paid Apple for the phone in the first place) but I took the opportunity to fire up my Pixel again.

One of the things holding me back from Android was the fact that I'm an iOS developer. As I mentioned already, I thought my work was better when I used my own apps regularly. It also seemed a bit weird to be an iOS developer with an Android phone. And finally, I just didn't like using a phone every day that I couldn't build apps for. I like the feeling of being able to build something new that I can use every day, if I want to.

So this time around, I took the opportunity to jump into learning Android development. I was already interested in Kotlin, because it has a lot in common with Swift, as well as some really interesting differences. So I've been exploring Android development with Kotlin, and even released an app for others to use. This has made a big difference to how comfortable I am using Android every day.

But besides development, here's how I feel about using iOS and Android.

  • I still love double-pressing the power button to open the camera on Android. I don't mind that it's a physical button because it's so handy. I do this multiple times every day. On iOS, I find stretching to the top of the iPhone X to pull down control centre so I can tap to open the camera app is way more awkward and slow.
  • Even with the iOS 12 changes, I still think Android handles notifications better.
  • I'm still not happy with the selection of third-party apps on Android. There are some good ones, but plenty of holes that are easily filled on iOS with polished, pretty apps. If I had the time, I'd make them all.
  • I still think Android has better keyboards. Apple seems happy to let third-party keyboards languish and developers don't seem to care to bring useful features like long-press for punctuation and numbers to iOS, even if they've shipped those same features on Android.
  • I prefer the swipe to change apps navigation on Android, but they're pretty similar. I prefer that Android always puts the current app as the very right-most so there's no question of where you are in the list, whereas in iOS there's a delay to doing this so if you switch too quickly, the current app might be second from the end. Android also snaps to each app, which makes it easier to get to the right one.
  • I miss how third-party devs jump on new features in iOS. There are still hardly any apps with handy long-press icon shortcuts on Android. I use 3D touch icon shortcuts extensively on iOS and really miss them on Android. Luckily I can map long-pressing on the home button to open a new tab in Firefox, because I do that so often (with a 3D touch shortcut on the Safari icon on iOS) that I'm not sure I could use Android every day without it.
  • I really like portrait mode on iOS, and use it a lot on my puppy. The Android equivalent on my Pixel is slower and more clunky to use so I just don't bother.
  • My iPhone raises to wake and taps to wake much more easily than my Pixel.

Overall, this all boils down to the same way I've felt about iOS vs. Android all along: Android is the nicer OS, but iOS has the nicer third-party apps. I haven't figured out which one I care about most, and I think that's why I keep swapping between them.

Oh, and as a bonus: I really like Google's Pixel Buds. You don't need a Pixel to use them, and they're really nice for wireless Bluetooth earbuds.

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