Commentary: The debut of Android N at Google I/O has this longtime iPhone user tempted to switch. Now, Apple's job is to convince users like me to stay.
You never forget your first. For me, it happened when I was in college.
I fell in love with the iPhone.
Up until then, I'd rely on cheap, ugly, brick-like cell phones. After all, the only thing I needed my phone to do was dial and hold a battery charge. Even upgrading to a slimmed-down flip phone like Motorola's Razr felt like a waste to me.
But then came the iPhone. They started appearing around campus. You'd see a professor playing with one on their lunch break, or a fellow student checking email while strolling to a morning class. My boss bought one and let me try it out. Right away, I knew that this thing was different. It was better.
Before long, I decided it was worth it. In 2008, I bought an iPhone 3G.
I haven't looked back since. I held onto my 3G for a few years, then upgraded to the iPhone 4S. Then the 5S in 2013. Switching to Android was never on the table -- I liked my iPhone, I liked iOS and I liked my apps. None of Android's selling points were ever enough to tempt me into jumping ship. My iPhone was already giving me the user experience I wanted, and it felt more advanced than anything else on the market -- and this is coming from a lifelong PC loyalist.
But then, something happened. It started with the iPhone 6, which, from my perspective, was off-puttingly big. Friends and colleagues seemed to love the larger screen, but whenever I tried holding one, it just felt wrong to me. Pockets are only so big, you know?
So, I held back with my 5S, passing on the new generation altogether. Then came the iPhone SE. Finally -- a Ry-sized iPhone upgrade!
Except, I realized I didn't want that one either.
Somewhere along the way, I got bored. There's nothing I can do with my phone today that I couldn't do when I first bought it, back in 2013. Nothing I really care about, anyway. My user experience hasn't changed, and that's left me looking for an upgrade.
The iPhone SE looks like a great gadget, but I'm not convinced that it's the upgrade I'm looking for. It's just a faster version of a phone I'm already bored with, right down to the form factor -- and I'm reluctant to double down on a device that already feels dated.
Which brings us to this year's Google I/O developers conference, where we saw the debut of Android N. Google walked us through all of the upgrades we can expect from the platform in the coming years, and as I listened to the pitch, I felt something distantly familiar, a feeling I hadn't experienced in years.
I felt phone envy, just like back when I was in college.
These are the sorts of tangible upgrades that keep today's phones feeling fresh. Android N's focus on VR seems like a smart bet, and Instant Apps looks like the next big step for the mobile web. I was most impressed with what I saw from the new Google Assistant, with conversational intelligence that sits right at the forefront of where we're at with voice-powered AI. Those are all things I want to experience and be a part of.
I haven't felt that from Apple in ages -- not with 3D Touch, not with Apple Music and not with HomeKit (the iOS-based smart home platform Apple has done surprisingly little with).
Instead, all I have for Apple are questions. What are you doing to keep Siri on the cutting edge? What's your plan for VR? Where's your Amazon Echo competitor?
At Google I/O, it was Android that seemed to have all of the answers, as well as a clear vision for the future. That, more than anything, suddenly has me giving the latest Android phones a good, close look.
I'm not jumping ship just yet, though. Apple's own Worldwide Developers Conference is coming up next month -- I'll at least wait until then before making any decisions. I'd be smart to wait even longer, until this fall, when the rumored iPhone 7 is expected to arrive.
But I'm antsy. For the first time since jumping on board with the iPhone almost a decade ago, Android has me feeling like I might be missing out on something better. Four months is a long time to wait when you've got an itch like that.