After two months with Android, I'm going back to iPhone. Here's why.
While I can see the benefits of the Android platform, especially with regard to hardware, it's just not the mobile experience I want.
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
That was two months ago. Next week, I'm going back to iPhone.
Call me crazy, call me fickle, call me not smart enough to recognize the benefits of Android. I fully expect all those labels and more, to which I say "sticks and stones." However, I'm honestly not here to criticize the platform, and I'm far from what you'd call an Apple fanboy. (I won't touch a Mac, for example.)
Rather, I'm here to explain this decision and invite some discussion of what drives mobile-platform preference -- heck, what drives rabid, take-it-to-the-mattresses mobile-platform devotion. (And, anyway, we all know who the truly crazy ones are: Windows Phone users! Kidding, kidding...)
First signs of trouble
My first few weeks with the Moto X were all about learning Android. That can be tough for someone weaned on iOS, which prompted me to explore ways to ease the transition.
It's not that Android is difficult to use, though I find it maddeningly unintuitive in places (the Dialer and Play Music apps are a mess) and overly intrusive in others (make the endless notifications stop!). It's all the tweaking that's required to make it behave the way you want. The Android faithful see this as a benefit; I find it irksome.
Meanwhile, weird issues kept cropping up. Whenever I'd get into my car, the phone would buzz three times -- but only when it was in my garage. Something to do with Bluetooth pairing? Or Wi-Fi? I have no idea, but I never could solve it. And email, good heavens. I don't use push because I don't want the interruptions and don't like the battery hit, but at some point something triggered automatic mail fetching. To this day I can't make it stop.
One of my main complaints is with the way Android handles notifications (ironic!) for phone calls and especially text messages. All too often I missed a text because it was just sitting up there in the notification bar, but I'd never seen any kind of front-and-center pop-up like on my iPhone. And where's the new-message counter? This is all personal preference, sure, but it really bugged me. The third-party notification apps I tried did help somewhat, but they didn't seem to work consistently.
Similarly, Android's auto-complete feature (which I relied on heavily in iOS just for things like inserting my email address) flat-out doesn't work in most places, like when I have to register or sign in to an app.
To be fair, it wasn't just Android that I found frustrating in the beginning. I'd heard lots of great things about the Moto X, but ultimately I just didn't like it. It's light, yes, and the bigger screen is nice, but it feels like plastic (because it is) and doesn't look particularly appealing.
I'd also read reviews praising the Moto's great "feel," but I found it awkward and uncomfortable, especially when holding it to my ear during calls. I typically talk into my left hand, and so my index finger was constantly landing on the power and volume buttons. I couldn't find a grip I liked.
Also, nobody really talks about this anymore when evaluating phones, but the Moto X was really hard to see under bright sunlight, even with brightness cranked to maximum. And what's the deal with Google Chromecast? I can't even view photos from my phone? An iPhone plus Apple TV works swimmingly in this regard.
There may have been a couple Republic-specific problems as well. The company's Sprint-powered phones have special firmware that routes calls over Wi-Fi, but for whatever reason, my Moto X kept switching over to cellular, even when I was at home with a strong Wi-Fi signal. And Sprint coverage inside my house is poor, so calls frequently sounded terrible.
Republic's tech support was great, however, and helped me get this figured out. But even then, overall call quality just wasn't great, whether it was on cellular or Wi-Fi. I tried my wife's iPhone 5c (which also taps Sprint's network), and the difference was night and day. I don't know if this a Republic issue or a Moto X issue, but I quickly tired of not being able to hear callers very well.
Other things did, too. I missed my iPhone's mute switch and quick-access camera and flashlight. I missed being able to plop it onto a speaker dock for charging and listening, and I missed having a physical Home button I could find in the dark.
I especially missed the battery life: Even if I left my iPhone untouched for several days, it would keep a charge. The Moto X typically went dead overnight, even if it showed 40 percent battery remaining when I set it down. (I know there are endless ways to improve Android battery life, and I fiddled with lots of them, but I'm annoyed by its inability to idle efficiently. The OS has always sucked at power management, and any iPhone user will find it wanting.)
The bigger picture
Forget my immediate issues; in many respects I found myself swimming against the Apple tide. Everyone in my immediate and even extended family has an iPhone. Text messages that previously arrived via iMessage didn't come through unless the sender re-sent them using SMS (assuming they knew to do as much). My son couldn't text me at all anymore from his iPod Touch -- not unless we both switched to a third-party texting app.
Similarly, I could no longer use Find My Friends to keep tabs on my wife and kids. (Once you go Big Father, it's hard to go back.) Another casualty: FaceTime. So much for video chats with my folks down in Florida. I wasn't about to ask them to start using Skype just for me.
As for apps, most of the ones I prized on my iPhone were also available for Android, but some of them felt clunky in comparison (I'm looking at you, Cozi and Weather Channel). Plus, a couple of my new favorites, Buddhify 2 and Paper , currently have no Android equivalents. These were hardly deal-breakers, just contributors.
Things I'll miss
There's a fairly loud voice in my head telling me to stick it out, to at least wait and see if an iPhone 6 announcement happens this spring rather than this fall. In the meantime, maybe I'll get all my Android/Moto kinks figured out and just settle in with them.
In fact, there's one thing I'm truly loathe to give up: the gesture-powered Google Keyboard. I frickin' love that thing. It makes the iOS keyboard feel like junk. Oh, for Apple to buy/copy/steal/license this technology!
I'll also miss the Moto's bigger screen, though I have to say it wasn't the life-changer I anticipated -- and I read a lot of e-books on my phone. I lived with my iPhone 4S (and the 4 and 3GS before that) so long that I guess I'm just used to that 3.5-inch screen. Funny how everyone was fine with it -- until bigger ones came along.
There is no "better"
Some of you will no doubt take all this as an indictment of Android, and I suppose it is -- though only a personal one. Basically, I've tried both, and I've decided I prefer iOS (and, by extension, iPhone). To me, Android looks and feels clunky, like something that was engineered, not designed. I like the consistency (and security) of iOS and the apps that run on it, and I even like Apple's unified ecosystem, warts and all. To me it all feels cohesive, while Android feels like a conglomeration of disparate Google chunks.
And there you have it. This is nothing more than personal preference, but it speaks to an interesting sociology: Why do we feel so strongly about this stuff? Why do we feel so defined by our choice of smartphone and computer? And why do we get so riled up when others take differing views?
I await your slings, arrows, and, hopefully, rational discussion in the comments.