Why I can't use just an iPhone

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| December 21, 2011

On Monday, Aaron gave us a look into exactly why he chooses to carry an iPhone 4S over the mountains of possible Android phones or a Windows Phone. He lists consistency, media ecosystem, Siri, international roaming capabilities, battery life and the nice interface, apps and Retina display as the determining factors that make Apple's iPhone the most logical – not perfect – phone for him.

Even I have written on this a couple times now. I've admitted that through all of the glitches and other aggravations (trust me, there are plenty and I, too, get called a fanboy for the opposing team when pointing out any little shortcoming of a platform), I can never fully leave Android. I have too much invested in Google's services and the platform itself (read: apps) to cut ties and leave it behind. Yet I abandoned ship a few months ago when I gave up my HTC ThunderBolt for the CDMA iPhone 4. I later upgraded to the iPhone 4S and have been mostly content since.

For the most part, I agree with everything Aaron has to say about the iPhone and why it's the most appropriate device for his needs. He and I have talked about it several times over dinner, and we tend to see eye to eye on most things. Normally, I wouldn't have anything else to add to or say about the matter. However, I recently managed to get my hands on an international version of the Galaxy Nexus. Ice Cream Sandwich and the Nexus itself are both a far cry from perfection. But together they mark the beginning of a new era for Android and have managed to knock the iPhone 4S from its primary spot on my rather long list of devices I own and regularly carry.

Until I bought the Nexus, I had spent five months carrying an iPhone without the occasional Android phone as I normally would. The only Android device I have spent any notable time with (aside from quick review units here and there) and carried with me daily has been the Galaxy Tab 10.1. While the iPhone 4S has managed to get the job done on most occasions – without any frills – there are several reasons I cannot carry an iPhone as a primary device and feel perfectly comfortable. I always feel more at home with an Android phone as my primary and having the iPhone around as my backup device. Here are a few reasons why:

A quick side-note: I do carry two phones every single day. Why? It's impossible for me to answer that because I'm not exactly sure. I got into the habit when I was a sales consultant at Best Buy Mobile and could have concession lines for next to nothing, and I guess I never broke from it. I both love and hate carrying two phones – it's difficult for myself and friends to keep up with, yet I get to enjoy the pleasures of more than one operating system from day to day.

Now, on to the important stuff …


Display size versus quality

The iPhone's beautiful display is one of the constant points of interest for owners and potential buyers to weigh against the competition. There is no denying it's one of the best displays in mobile or that it still has one of the highest pixel per inch counts around (second only to the recent HTC Rezound).

Clarity is one thing, but the more important factor to me is size. The iPhone's display is 3.5-inches. This is clearly not a problem for many; otherwise, people would have quit buying them long ago when Android bumped the standard for smartphone display size to at least four inches. For people who have enormous thumbs (yours truly), though, the tiny display is a deficiency. The Galaxy Nexus is a bit on the large size (I fumble around with it some), but I prefer to err on the size of too large versus too small.

I often relate that I'm the kind of person that would take a 52-inch 720p television over a 40-inch 1080p box. Luckily, most 52-inch televisions are 1080p and I would never have to make such an absurd decision. And since I can now have the best of both worlds in a phone, my choice is pretty clear. The limited real estate on the iPhone display is a drawback – one that cannot be overlooked. It's not something I enjoy using daily for Web browsing or even typing out a text message or two, but it gets the job done in a pinch and it's always reliable.


Functionality over simplicity or beauty

The kicker, for me (and I stress for me), when it comes to mobile operating systems is functionality. The iPhone is simple, and because of that, it's perfect for the enormous amount of people who want a capable phone but don't care to dig deep into its innards.

But plain and simple, there are several things that Android does much better than iOS. For instance, Gmail and Gtalk are two of the most important features to me. Naturally, these two things work much better on Google's own operating system. Neither setting up your Gmail account as Exchange or using the Gmail app for iOS even remotely compare to the Gmail experience you get on Android. And this is just one example. Some others are: built-in turn by turn Navigation, universal sharing of ... anything (i.e.: sharing pictures directly from Gallery or the Camera app to Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox and any other application that supports picture sharing), toggling settings straight from the home screen, etc.

It's the tiny things like these that keep me from being able to feel at home on iOS. The overall experience is nice, but it's lacking some must-have features. It's the consistency it offers that forces me to keep it nearby.


Battery life

A sore point for Android from day one has been battery life. The HTC ThunderBolt when it released could only manage to last, at most, eight hours before powering down – always at the worst time possible. While things have certainly gotten better over the last year (months even), there still isn't anything to get exorbitantly excited over. I can easily make it a full day with the Galaxy Nexus. However, in constant, heavy use, battery performance tends to fall off the map, whereas the iPhone's battery drain tends to stay consistent. When I know I will be out for a long day, I know to bring my iPhone (as if I ever leave it at home) just to ensure a full day of use.

It is worth mentioning that the battery life of the iPhone 4S has been noticeably worse than previous iPhones, even more so here recently. For the past four days or so, my iPhone 4S (while mostly on standby) has had consistently worse battery life than the Nexus (with moderate use). Since this only started a few days ago, though, I'm chalking it up to a rogue app with a bad update.


Even with cloud streaming, media is still better on the iPhone

As a former Windows user, I can say that the iTunes experience on Windows is horrendous. And as a Linux junkie, it's nonexistent on my favorite operating system. The iTunes experience on OS X, however, is great. Still, I have always preferred to manually manage my music library, or to not own one at all. Since May, I have mostly been using Google Music to listen to my own library, and since July, I have turned into a religious Spotify user. Making my playlists from my computer and them automagically appearing on my phone is a dream come true. And downloading my favorites for offline listening is pretty fantastic as well. The point being, for the first time ever, a computer is an optional tool in getting the music I want for listening – online or off – on my phone.

This is where using two devices really plays to an advantage. Google Music, which I still use a lot, obviously doesn't play well with the iPhone. However, the Spotify experience on iOS is fantastic (as opposed to it being overly mediocre on Android). Over the top? Sure. But it works for me and I like having options in the event a specific app works better on one of the platforms.


I enjoy rooting and modding from time to time

While I explained the other day that I don't plan on rooting my Galaxy Nexus anytime in the near future, I do enjoy spending some of my free time seeing what kind of hacks and mods are available for my phone. Of course, most people counter this with, "You can jailbreak the iPhone." Yes. You can. Not me. I have before and I never will again; it was simply a waste of time and a terrible experience. Faux-hacking, I like to call it.

That said, I always enjoy a nice rooting session. I love the fact that I have (near) total control over the software that is on my phone at any given time. If I want to take stock Android off of my Nexus and flash CM9 (when it's available, of course), I can. Simple as that. And if there is ever anything that I don't like about the way the phone operates – for instance, I'm dying to be able to trigger the exposure of the Galaxy Nexus camera with a volume button – chances are pretty high that a developer feels the same way and will create a mod to make it work.

I love to tinker and tweak things. This is what Android enthusiasts live for. I do take it to the extreme at times and get a little carried away. But hey, that's my own prerogative, right?

Unfortunately, this usually leads to me rendering my phone unusable for a half-hour – sometimes much longer. That's where the iPhone comes in. It is consistent and almost always works without a hitch. That's why I have it. People who need to get in touch with me in a hurry know to call that phone or to call my Google Voice number, which forwards calls to both of my lines.


Camera quality

If I narrowed it down to one reason why I still carry an iPhone, it's the camera. Simply put, 95 percent of the time, the Galaxy Nexus camera sucks, as do most other Android phones' cameras. The iPhone 4 and 4S have both had fantastic shooters, and that alone is enough for me to keep the 4S around. I'll give it to the Android team for all of the software improvements they've made in 4.0; the stock Android camera is no longer an eyesore or lacking features. I use the Nexus for taking quick photos for sharing to Twitter, Path or Facebook. But if I want to take a beautiful picture – one for my desktop background, which two of the three desktop wallpapers currently on my MacBook were taken with my 4S – I use my iPhone. It's smaller than a dedicated point and shoot and it serves more than one purpose. Double win.


I carry two phones. Call me crazy. But neither Android or iOS are perfect, and instead of dealing with the shortcomings of one, I gladly carry them both. I love both platforms and phones, and I feel they counterbalance one another quite well. I do all of my heavy lifting with the Galaxy Nexus and the 4S is my camera and fallback phone. It is a bit much, and it's not exactly ideal for most. But it's what works best for me, and that's the point. Aaron has found his comfort zone with one device, one platform, for better or for worse. I prefer lugging around the extra weight of another phone and having the best of both worlds.