Many of you already know that I'm not a one platform man. Each and every day, I leave my apartment with at least two mobile devices in my pockets. I carry at least two smartphones with me almost everywhere I go, and while I'm not crazy about the additional bulk of a second smartphone, I'm a huge fan of choice.
The ability to switch mobile platforms on the fly is one of the many advantages of dual-wielding smartphones that I've become very familiar with. I explained in the past how I use iOS and Android together to create a better experience for myself. But I'm not against switching it up every now and then. When I do, though, I generally substitute a new phone for the iPhone or my Android device.
This afternoon, Ars Technica ran a poll asking, "Which feature would entice you to ditch your iPhone for Android?" For me, this poll just doesn't cover all the bases. I already carry an Android phone and an iPhone, so it would be a bit silly to dwell on this poll for too long. But it did bring an interesting thought to mind: I rarely ever switch away from Android. When I swap phones around, I almost always do so in a way I keep an Android phone active and switch the iPhone out for something new.
Not unlike Ars Technica's poll, there are many reasons I prefer to keep Android around. There are certain features Android offers that its counterparts don't. Here are the main reasons I always keep Android around:
Displays and interface design
Had I written this piece six months ago, display size would have been a heavily weighted argument. The competition is closing in, however, and more Windows Phone devices are coming with giant, high-res displays, too. And the iPhone 5 just launched last month with a noticeably larger (only taller, really) display. So not the size vs. density argument is all but out the window.
Still, Android devices have the edge. There is more choice in size, display technology and resolution. And no other platform has a smartphone of quite the caliber I'm looking for. I may not currently own a phablet (I sold my original Galaxy Note just a few weeks ago), but I've been on standby, waiting for the Galaxy Note II to take the U.S. market by storm.
But the other half of the argument is interface design because nothing compliments a giant, beautiful and vibrant display quite like a beautiful user interface. Between Android, iOS and Windows Phone, my preference in interface is Android, hands-down. Widgets allow me to change settings directly from the home screen on the fly and the new Holo theme is gorgeous and clean.
Google Apps access
My life is largely enveloped by Google Apps. I use Google Calendar to keep track of all important dates, reminders and deadlines. I have about six different Gmail accounts and two Google Apps for business accounts, and I actively use Drive from four different accounts.
The various Google Apps can be accessed via Web from any mobile platform. And many of the services are offered via third-party apps on iOS. Still, Google has no reason to put as much effort or polish into the apps for its largest competitor's platform. Side by side, the Gmail app on Android is in an entirely different league as the iOS app. The same can be said for Drive, Calendar, Voice, Talk or YouTube.
More so than anything else, this is why I keep Android around … all the time. Google Voice, Gmail and Google Talk are my primary means of communication. I can use them on other platforms, but being Google services, you can't expect a better experience with Google services than on Android.
In-depth system and usage info
I may cling to Android for the extra large displays and how locked-in to Google services I am, but there is definitely icing on the cake. One of those little nuggets is how much information you can get on your device, usage and other stats straight out of the box.
For example, if a rogue app is causing serious battery drain, I can quickly check Battery use in the Settings App, which gives a breakdown of everything that is consuming battery. It tells how much of the battery drain is caused by each element, how long each app and service has been active in the foreground and background and how long the phone has been running on battery power. This allows the user to force stop or uninstall a repeat offender and save precious battery life.
But Battery use is only half the story. You can track data usage in real time (or closer to real time than the carrier data counters, which are on a delay). Users can set a data usage warning based on their data plan and cut off data usage once they hit their limit. But you can break down your usage between all apps and services that consume data.
This sort of information is not only useful, it's interesting and has saved me from data overages and a dead battery on several occasions.
File system and transfers over local networks
I tend to use my phones in ways I don't imagine many others do. I am constantly uploading and downloading files to and from Dropbox and transferring files between my phone and computer. A big problem with iOS and Windows Phone for me is that only a specific set of file types are accessible from the operating systems (without jailbreaking, of course). I routinely use ZIP, TAR, PDF and EPUB files. From Android, I can simply use a file explorer to use another third-party app to open any of these files and more. On iOS and Windows Phone, there are very few applications that will allow you to use and manipulate all of these file types.
For many cases, Dropbox serves all of my needs. But there are certain instances where Dropbox is too slow and cumbersome, especially when I'm moving a lot of files to and from my computer. For that, I am grateful there are applications like WiFi File Explorer Pro, which uses a local network to transfer files between and Android device and any other device with a browser.
More than once, I've relied on application backups I have made and sent to Dropbox. If I need to re-install multiple applications, I can simply download a ZIP from my Dropbox account, unzip it and install. It saves time and data. From any other mobile OS, this isn't a possibility (though using Wi-Fi will also save data).
If there is one thing I could change about the iPhone 5 in my pocket or any Windows Phone, it would be the standard keyboard. The iOS and Windows Phone keyboards are seriously lacking in functionality – long-pressing letter keys for symbols and numbers is a serous plus in a software keyboard.
On Android, there is a horde of third-party keyboards to choose from. TouchType's SwiftKey 3 keyboard has completely spoiled me with its predictive text and corrections. Using your Gmail, Facebook and Twitter accounts, SwiftKey almost instantly learns the way you type, and its extremely accurate word predictions almost totally remove the need for a space bar.
Occasionally, though, I get tired of SwiftKey. And I switch to Swype or the stock Android keyboard. In short, the point is: there are ample keyboards to choose from on Android. Other platforms leave you at the mercy of the stock keyboards.
These are only the main reasons I cannot go without Android. I've tried … more than once. While I still have my qualms with the little green guy, Android is my go-to platform. And if I absolutely had to choose one smartphone, rest assured it would be an Android device, though I'm not sure which manufacturer I would go with.
Tell me, folks. Are you tied to an operating system? Android? iOS? Windows Phone? BlackBerry? If so, share why in the comments below, and tell us what it would take for you to switch to another platform.