Back to the iPhone

I suppose we all saw this coming.

After a few months with a Nexus 5 as my primary phone, I’ve switched back to iOS and moved to AT&T. I was able to sell the Nexus 5 on eBay and actually make decent money on the switch back, and while my average monthly phone bill will increase by about 20 dollars, I’ll be getting unlimited texts and calls with a shared 6gb data allowance between my wife and I. I got a 32gb 5s and it feels good to be back ‘home’.

If Ting had supported the newest iPhone, I would have paid full price for the phone and considered staying with them. The service was a great value and coverage was rarely a problem for me in the metro Atlanta area. However, with AT&T altering their family plans and offering fairly generous shared data, the time was right to make the move. The only real knock on Ting is they are a great deal so long as you stay below 2 gigs of data and a fairly small number of texts and calls. I was always paranoid about sitting on work phone calls when I knew it might bump me into another tier.

So why did I ultimately ditch the Nexus 5? Two factors sealed the deal for me, and only one of them is going to get better any time soon in the Android world.

Android is too fiddly

In general, I found myself having to constantly tweak things to work the way I thought it should, and settle for average quality applications. If you’re an iOS user, you’ve come to expect a level of polish and attention to detail that just isn’t as common in 3rd party Android apps. As I said in one of my previous posts, Android definitely is ‘good enough’ to make the switch but I’ve become spoiled by apps on the iPhone and even a few months away wasn’t enough to get me over that. I can see myself considering Android in the future, but right now the lack of polish overall drove me bonkers.

It was really death by a thousand paper cuts. I’d get odd notifications at times I couldn’t figure out or adjust. Some apps would crash every time I used them. I could never find a Twitter client worth using. I could never get into using Wunderlist instead Things or OmniFocus. The battery life was good as long as I used the phone very lightly. And on and on. I felt like I was settling, and with iOS I had a known entity with its own flaws but overall worked way more in line with the way I expected things to work.

The stock Android system is actually quite nice. If you only want it use the stock apps, it’s actually a really impressive offering. For me, it was all about the 3rd party apps, though. I now realize how much I miss some of the key apps I use on my iPhone / iPad. The attention to detail and the focus on great user experiences on iOS really started to become apparent to me while using the Nexus. I kept looking at the phone saying “how are there 5 good versions of this app on iOS and not ONE good one for Android?” It was too much settling for ‘good enough’ – I missed using apps that delight the user (Tweetbot, OmniFocus, Pushpin, Byword, Day One, and more come to mind).

Not only was I missing those key apps, I felt like I had to manage the system too much. There were a lot of times that a rogue process would kill my battery, routinely forcing me to uninstall or troubleshoot. I’m not saying that’s an Android exclusive, but it happened more to me in the past 2+ months than any similar period with iOS. Overall, the Nexus 5 feels like a tiny little computer, which is great for the most part. iPhones, on the other hand, feel like they magically work nearly all of the time. There are limitations to being in Apple’s walled garden but the tradeoff is worth it for me. In general, I didn’t think I’d miss the Apple ecosystem as much as I did. iTunes, iCloud and everything else are a confusing mess at times, by they’re my confusing mess.

I had it in my head that by using the most of the Google ecosystem, that data would make my phone smarter. I really haven’t seen much of a true tangible benefit from buying all the way into the Google ecosystem at all, to be honest. When you add in the fact that it was doing this at the expense of using apps that aren’t as polished as I’m used to, it was hard to justify using Android. What’s interesting is that I think that the best ‘Google Experience’ may very well be an iPhone 5s with Gmail pulling in your email, Google Now alerting you to important events, G+ backing up your photos, using Google Maps for navigation and Chrome for browsing, while having the best built phone out there right now and having access to the great App ecossytem that Apple has. That’s basically what I was doing before switching to the Nexus, and I now realize the iPhone + Google services route is actually the best of both worlds.

I’m sure some of it is nearly 5 years of me learning how to use iOS vs only a few months on Android, but it just never felt right. I found myself fighting the interface and never felt as in control of the system as I ever did when using iOS – nor did I feel like the experience was as seamless as I was used to.

The hardware is average at best

The thing that Android handset makers can improve on but the Nexus 5 is lacking in is overall build quality. The handset, the camera, and things like the ringer and speakers all just feel kind of cheap – which I suppose is to be expected when you’re dealing with a handset that’s half the cost of an unsubsidized iPhone (I had even mentioned that in my previous post – is the iPhone really 2x as good as the Nexus 5 / Android 4.4? No, but it is better). The quality of photos I’ve taken in the past 12 weeks compared to the now 18 month old iPhone 5 were vastly inferior, which is disappointing. I spend so much time using my phone as a camera and I’m really realizing how crucial it is during my son’s early life to have something that I can take great photos with. Apple invests a ton in their cameras and it shows. So that’s one of the major driving factors in my purchase.

Other fit and finish issues:

  • The phone itself had issues with the speaker and required an RMA. To Google’s credit, this was a seamless process.
  • The screen is nice but otherwise the phone feels very cheap and I miss the quality of the iPhone.
  • The bulging camera on the back has annoyed me to no end. I want my phone to sit flush when I set it down on a table, and have no idea why Android device makers can’t figure this out.
  • I missed a lot of calls. The ringer just isn’t very good, nor is the vibrating motor. Never happened with iPhone.
  • GPS stinks on the Nexus 5.
  • I lose data connectivity often. Is this a Ting issue, or a Nexus one?

Conclusion

Android’s greatest strength is it’s “open” nature. This lends itself to never be able to compete on the “details” that Apple does so well, just like Apple’s focus on doing a few things really well make it tough for them to open things up to have the same level of customizability. All that being said, I can absolutely recommend an Nexus 5 to anyone looking for a good, affordable unlocked handset but for me, my investment in the Apple ecosystem was too much to keep me away for long. I’m used to and like the way that Apple does things, even if I am a bit turned off by a lot of the things that Apple did in iOS 7. I look forward to iOS 8, but also to the next generation of Android hardware and software. When my contract is up, I’ll definitely be looking to see who best meets my needs.

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