The Long Road With iOS
Ask anyone that knows me and they'll say I'm an Apple fanboy. For those of you not familiar with the term, Apple fanboy refers to an individual who thinks, most of the time, that Apple can do no wrong. That they make the best computers and devices. That their OS versions both on the Mac and iOS are the best you can get.
People that think of me as an Apple fanboy are thinking of me the wrong way. You see, I'm not a blind Apple fan. I'm a fan of the best. And up to this point, Apple has been the best. You can't argue with their hardware design. You can't argue with the customer experience that they give in their stores. You can't argue against OSX, small in marketshare but incredibly meaningful desktop operating system that surpasses Windows in design, usability, stability and performance. Not in compatibility, mind you, especially with Office, but you get the point.
So it may come as a surprise to you that I would be writing an article that's critical of Apple today.
Because, in my opinion, Apple no longer has the best mobile operating system.
It has been a long road with iOS. One that didn't have many curves and dips, but it certainly has had its detours. I had the original iPhone in 2007, sans App Store. That's right - no multitasking, no copy and paste, and no App Store. The App Store, released a year after the original iPhone with the iPhone 3G, was revolutionary and set the precedent for all impostors to follow.
While iOS (then called iPhone OS) looked revolutionary in 2007, and it certainly was, now it just looks dated. The grid of icons is old. The lack of widgets and other dynamic icons is just wrong. While I understand the reasons why Apple has stayed with the same basic design (the only redesign coming with last year's iOS 7), I don't agree with them. Apple wants the pure, simple experience for customers, and if you look at some of the Android fragmentation out there, you might say they're definitely doing the right thing. But now I'm not so sure.
I had my yearly flirt with Android a couple of weeks ago. This time I decided to take a dive off the deep end and get a mobile phone instead of just another 7-inch tablet. I wanted to know how long it would last, and if I would stick with the device in pocket being on Android or if I would crawl my way back to my iPhone in shame. I decided on the Moto X.
Let's back up before I talk about my latest Android experience and talk about my first. In early 2011, I actually won a Samsung Galaxy Tab (7-inch, 1st-gen model) in a contest. The experience was terrible. It was running Android 2.2. It was still called the Android Market back then. App purchases were clunky and had to be routed through Paypal. The UI on the device itself was abysmal. It wasn't a bad form factor though, and I sincerely hoped Apple would have a 7-inch tablet soon. I sold it only after a few months.
My second foray into Android lasted only 12 hours. My cell contract was up, it was time to upgrade from my iPhone 4 where the Home button no longer worked, and I was in love with the Galaxy S3. So I got one. The next day I took it back and ordered an iPhone 5. There wasn't anything neccessarily bad about the S3, it was just not iOS. And that bothered me severely, because I had purchased apps that were iOS-exclusive that I loved.
So back to a few weeks ago, I found out that you can, in fact, purchase any phone you wanted to provided it worked on your specific network and activate it with no charge. So I found a great price on a Moto X and met the guy and bought it. And I loved it.
I loved the active notifications on the screen. I loved the fact that all I had to do was take it out of my pocket and it would show me the timw without pushing buttons. I loved the bigger screen, even though it wasn't 1080p. I loved the curved back on the phone, so unlike the designs of the iPhone in recent years. Most of all, I loved the fact that almost every single app I used on iOS now had a Android counterpart.
There was only one problem: nearly everyone I know is on iOS.
And that causes problems. iMessage for one. iMessage never worked correctly while I was using the Moto X. It would still forward Messages sent to me to my iPhone if it was on WiFi. Even after deactivating my devices on Apple.com, disconnecting each of them in Settings, it still didn't solve the problem.
Ordinarily, I would tell people to just get over it and get used to me being off iMessage and on Android. But that's complex when you're a youth minister and all your kids are on iOS. And their parents.
And, oddly enough, I found that working with text on the Moto X (and in turn, Android) was frustrating. I work with lots of text. I transfer lots of text. I take lots of notes on everything. So being able to copy and paste and place words in sentences was really important. And it was just clunky on Android, even running 4.4 KItKat.
So the tension mounted, and I crawled back to my iPhone. And I'm not happy.
If you look at how far Android has come since its introduction in 2008 (let alone just the last few years), you'll be astounded. It's like you're not looking at the same OS. iOS, on the other hand, looks almost the same. Sure, there's under-the-hood changes, and iOS 7 introduced some useful new features, but it isn't stable. It crashes with me, on average, twice a day. The UI choices in iOS 7 (like text-borderless buttons) leave something to be desired. And some of the icons look awful.
What I would love is a fusion of the two. The cleaness of iOS (which Android has really nicely gotten clean on Nexus devices), and the flexibility and openness of Android to run things like widgets, skins, and other stuff.
Maybe this is just me lamenting a first-world problem with a mobile phone OS that I use every day. Maybe it's time for Apple to change direction and introduce some really snazzy stuff in the next iteration of iOS. Because right now, I think Android has a leg up in choice, overall usability, and customization. If those things are important to you, you might want to take a long look at Android before you stay on the road with iOS.