This Broken iPhone Is Still Better Than Any Android Phone I've Had
The iPhone is better at messaging, generally has a better camera, and gets apps first. Why was I using Android again?
Lemmings, all of them. Image: Sam Thorogood/Flickr
Two months ago I switched to an old iPhone 5S that works only on speakerphone with a cyberpunk glitch art screen, no lock button, and a two hour battery life. Before I got it, it had been dropped in the toilet twice. It is the best phone I have ever owned.
For five years, I resisted using an iPhone, partly out of wanting to be slightly contrarian and partly because I very much did not want to live in one ecosystem for both PC and smartphone. I am also not a fan of the walled garden Apple has set up with iOS and the App Store, and in theory I very much like Android's customizability and the fact that you've got a lot of choice as far as hardware goes.
And then, on my HTC One M8, my Google Maps crashed one too many times while I was lost in the rain. When I finally got to the bar, I noticed my friend had switched her cracked iPhone 5S for an iPhone 6. I asked her if I could have the old piece of crap because I wanted to repair the screen.
Forty bucks and a couple hours later, I had a seemingly functional iPhone 5S with a working screen. I like trying to fix electronics but am no expert, and thus my phone's call speaker appears to no longer work for calls (hence the speakerphone), and my LCD inexplicably does this now:
Turns out I don't really care. I still don't want to switch back to the HTC. I am going to buy the iPhone 6S as soon as possible because I use my phone for a couple specific purposes that iOS seems to do much better than Android. Before the iPhone 5S, I owned three smartphones in my life: The Motorola Droid X, the Samsung Galaxy S3, and the HTC One M8. Each were considered the best Android phone on the market at the time I bought them, and each of them ended up having the same exact problems.
More importantly, there is a very real stigma in being an Android person texting an iPhone person
The main reason I am staying with iPhone is iMessage. As Paul Ford expertly laid out last year, it sucks to be an Android user texting an iOS user, and vice versa. There are no advantages in Android-to-Android texting. Between iPhones, however, I can easily send messages from my computer, can send videos and images without them being bastardized to 640 pixel status, it works on wifi which is more important than you'd think, and, yeah, there's something about those dots that is both nerve wracking and kind of exciting.
More importantly, there is a very real stigma in being an Android person texting an iPhone person. When the vast majority of people who I contact have an iPhone, throwing up unnecessary barriers, no matter how shallow, seems stupid.
To get the same features on Android, you have to use WhatsApp or another third party messaging app, which means I am WhatsApping some of my friends and texting others. It's dumb.
The camera on the HTC One M8 sucked, a lot. I can't get into specifics as well as my colleague Evan Rodgers did a couple months ago, but it was both slow to open and bad. The iPhone camera is fast and good. I have used the LG G4 camera, which is both fast and good, but the phone itself was just alright. I take many many pictures for both journalistic and personal purposes. The camera is so incredibly important.
"Get a Nexus." I don't want a Nexus. "Root your phone." I don't want to root my phone. I just want the phone that I want that also doesn't have an uninstallable edition of Madden and Verizon nonsense. iPhone has the same problem with some of its various Apple apps, but they seem to be generally more innocuous and I actually use at least some of them.
I usually use Google Maps while I'm driving (bad) on a bike (bad) or lost (bad)
iPhone charges fast
This iPhone I am using has a horrendous battery life. That's not good, but I am going to attribute it to its previous trips to the toilet. That said, it charges fast as hell regardless of whether it's in a computer or a wall socket or a portable battery pack, and regardless of what cord I am using. With the HTC One M8, if I didn't have a specific fast charging micro USB cable handy, it would charge excruciatingly slow, to the point that you'd actually kill battery if you used it while charging. The new Samsung Galaxy S6 apparently charges very fast as well, but only if you have the correct cable. I lose my cables, constantly. This does not seem like it'd end well.
Apps and Updates
iOS still gets the best apps first. I was sick of waiting months to use apps like Periscope or Meerkat or Fallout Shelter. Also, Bumble is a very nice dating app if you never want to meet an Android user again (which, I do, but it's still a nice, popular dating app that Android does not have yet).
Also, with any given app and/or Android update, it's totally unclear whether said app update will crash your phone or said Android update will crash your app. This is not good! One version of Google Maps refused to work on my HTC One M8, which, besides texting, tweeting and Facebooking is the only other thing I consistently use my phone for. Also, I usually use it while I'm driving (bad) on a bike (bad) or lost (bad). On the iPhone, Google Maps loads fast every single time and the iPhone appears to be able to always find the GPS, which is good and is also a problem I've had on every Android phone I've ever had.
It's also not very clear when your phone will become obsolete thanks to various disputes between Google, carriers, and phone manufacturers (as my colleague Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai laid out here). This is also not good!
Encryption / Apple is at least pretending to care about your privacy
iMessage is encrypted, which is good, and now there's concrete evidence that Apple is not going to hand over encryption keys to the feds, which is also good. Apple has the ability to push security updates near instantly; Google does not. Apple also does not operate on a totally ad-based model focused on knowing everything about you, like Google. This is probably good but Google still owns my soul via Gmail, Drive, Google Maps, etc. and I'm not sure how much I trust Apple, anyway. Can't win 'em all.
I think that's it. I am a constant user of my phone, but I am not a power user. I don't need to customize everything—in fact, I made my Android home screen just one screen wide with a couple of apps and no widgets. I am aware that there are many things Android does better than iPhone and I am aware I could create a better experience for myself if I spent many hours trying to curate said experience.
But I only use my phone to message people, call people, find my way when I am lost, take pictures, and play games. Let me make this clear: I do not want to use an iPhone. I have never wanted to use an iPhone. But this old, shitty, broken iPhone does all of those things better than every Android I've ever had. I do not care what new features or specs the iPhone 6S has, I am buying one. Why would I switch back?