To Android and Back Again

A couple of years ago, after well over a decade of uninterrupted iPhone ownership, I decided to give Android a whirl.

My chosen ecosystem for data and communication, both personally and professionally, is Google. I’m a G Suite customer—have been for years. I’m perfectly happy there and my decision to kick Android’s tires was largely driven by a desire to have a more Google-centric mobile experience (native support for Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive, Docs, etc.).

Before taking this step, I thought about what concessions I’d need to make. Most of my computing life is spent on Apple devices (the only notable exceptions being a couple of Amazon Echo devices peppered around our house). Adding a strange new OS to the mix would certainly mean some headaches, right?

Strangely, this wasn’t the case. The only trade-offs I could come up with didn’t pose an insurmountable problem…

  • Messages/iMessage would go away
  • By extension, I’d be a bit of a green-bubble pariah among my iPhone-toting friends and family

This realization led to another interesting discovery: I don’t use many apps. At least, not that are specific to iOS. A solid 90% of my mobile computing is spent reading and sending email, messaging with SMS and Slack, or talking with people using the actual phone or Zoom, Recreationally, it’s mostly YouTube, News, and Reddit.

Upon learning this, I threw caution to the wind and clicked “Order Now.” Not long after, the Pixel 3 that sits to my left arrived in the mail. 

Fast forward to today; I woke up at 5:00 am to pre-order an iPhone 12.

(If you’re curious: Black, 128gb. I also popped for the Plum silicone case and the MagSafe charger.)

More on that in a second…

The Android Life

To be perfectly honest, my experience with Android has been relatively free of headaches. Yes, the aforementioned annoyances were annoying, but no platform is perfect and I knew what I was getting myself into.

The more I used and lived with the Pixel 3, the clearer it became how little I utilized the native Google awareness I was looking for. I search for files in Drive periodically, review a document here and there. Nothing crazy and definitely not the level of activity that wouldn’t be just as easy on iOS.

An additional annoyance began to surface as time went on: the otherness of Android.

My primary computer is a MacBook Air. I’ve been a Mac guy for about 15 years now and, if I can say, I’m pretty capable when it comes to operating an Apple computer. I know the quirks, shortcuts, and dark corners to avoid. It’s like an old pair of pants at this point.

During my many years with an iPhone, I was the same way with iOS. 

Android was different. Exciting and novel at first, but it didn’t take long for me to internalize the need to think differently when using my phone. It wasn’t a bad thing and I adapted, but computing, on the whole, became a less cohesive experience across my stable of devices.

Despite all that, I had mostly decided that I was going to stick with Android. I liked it and it served me well.

Then my most recent birthday happened and threw a wrench in all that.

The Old Flame Returns

My wife asked me what I would like for my birthday and I mentioned I’d like a pair of really nice Bluetooth headphones. As a Pixel owner, the obvious choice was the second iteration of Google’s Pixel Buds. I figured they’d offer tight integration with my phone and would be trusty companions during the workday and beyond.

Trouble is, they were… ok. The fit and finish were good, not great. What really did them in was the firmware bug that caused the audio to cut out for a split second every one minute and fifty seconds (a bug that has since been fixed). This pain in the ass issue made the Pixel Buds so distracting as to be unusable, so I set about looking for alternatives.

Long story short, I bought a set of Apple AirPods Pro (AirPod Pros?).

It was the first Apple hardware purchase I’d made in some time and, upon opening the packaging, I was immediately reminded of how frickin’ good Apple is at this stuff.

My Airpods Pro review would read thusly: they’re awesome. Head and shoulders above the Pixel Buds across every dimension of comparison: the fit, the sound quality, the microphone quality—every aspect of the experience is simply excellent.

And, naturally, they work perfectly with my MacBook Air.

No joke: I probably owned these headphones for a couple of hours tops before I decided my next phone was going to be an iPhone. Since I’m on a two-year upgrade cycle for smartphones, so the timing of the iPhone 12 launch was pretty perfect. Combine that with iOS 14’s ability to change the default browser and mail client—Chrome and Gmail for me—the time was right.

The Real Reason

As I said, the Pixel 3 is a good phone and I’ve enjoyed using it. No major complaints aside from the Play Store—which really is a bit of a bus accident—and the options for automation utilities on Android were a mishmash of awful UI and dizzying complexity. Neither of those was a showstopper for me.

Returning to the iPhone means returning to cohesion—a unified experience across all my stuff. My phone will be aware of my computer and vice versa. All of the affordances that come with a single hardware/software platform will soon be mine once again. 

And the long night of listening to my friends whine about my lack of blue bubbles will finally come to an end.