The Big Switch
All right, I've been hinting at this for a while, but I did it. I finally did it. I switched over to Android.
Now, I'm not Android-exclusive by any means (I still have my iPad mini), and I'll never give up my precious Mac, but I've decided to go to Android for my daily driver smartphone.
Some of you who know me being a hardcore Apple guy will (jokingly) call this a betrayal. You will call me a traitor to iOS. So this is to give you my primary reasons for switching.
1) I just needed a change. I've been on iOS since before it was called iOS. I'm just bored. I needed a new experience. I love changing my tech and doing different things, and it seemed like things just hadn't changed all that much since I used the first iPhone back in 2007. It was nothing against iOS or Apple - I still love the OS and the company - I just wanted to have a different experience. And for that reason this was a very personal and not technical decision. Both Android and iOS are pretty equal now in quality. Some may argue that fact because they are biased either way, but the fact is that both operating systems are now on the same bar. They're neck and neck. One platform has advantages over the other, and vice versa. I tend to think that Android has the upper hand right now, but not by much.
2) The variety of devices. Some Apple purists would argue that this is a major downside to Android, that device fragmentation would dilute the experience, but Google has done a good job the past year of reeling in manufacturers like Samsung, HTC and the like to make Android on these devices with much less "skinning" and bloatware. I'll have a more in-depth review later, but the reason I chose the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, among other reasons, was that TouchWiz (Samsung's take on "skinning" Android) is much much better than when I used it on a Galaxy S3 two years ago and tons better than when I used it on the first Galaxy Tab three years ago. If I wanted a pure Google experience, I could have went with a Nexus device. My options were limited with Verizon though, and the more I looked at the Note the better I liked it.
3) The size. Android devices come in a variety of sizes now and I can get something even bigger that Apple's 4.7- and 5.5-inch variations. I personally wanted to get as close to a tablet as I could without going over the 6-inch mark. I wanted to replace my tablet and my phone with a big phone, and the Galaxy Note 4 lets me do that. It's big enough to preach and teach from but yet not too big to carry around.
4) Customization. This to me is huge. iOS never really allowed you to customize anything before iOS 8, and even with that it's still limited. I can change my keyboard, my lock screen, add widgets, place my icons anywhere on the screen I want them, change my pictures viewer, change my default camera, and many many more things. I am a true geek and customizing the phone to my liking is wonderful. One of the big things is being able to choose and change your own Launcher. This is a foreign concept to anyone who has never used an Android device, but basically you can change the whole look and feel by downloading a new Launcher for your device. Want a Nexus feel to your Samsung TouchWiz phone? Download the Google Now Launcher. Want a completely different "looks-like-the-movies" look? Download my personal favorite: Atom Launcher. These Launchers don't mess up your whole phone either - Settings and apps still look the same, just the look and feel of your home screen and app drawers. It's really fantastic.
5) Google's new apps and designs. I got an Android device just in time for great material design updates to apps like Gmail, Inbox, Keep, Messenger, and Calendar, among others. All these apps are fantastic and simply redesigned to get the most done in the least amount of time, which is exactly what I need. The new material design adapted for Android 5.0 Lollipop is what Steve Jobs would have called "lickable," to say the least. It is a very flat design aesthetic, but I look at it and it seems more functional than the flattening and translucency of the iOS 7 redesign a year ago. Animations are quick and subtle. The UI is bright and colorful but not offendingly so. Buttons and interactivity is easy to figure out.
6) Expansion. One of the reasons I chose to go with Samsung was the ability to expand my space. I now have a 32GB phone with a 64GB micro SD card at the back. I also have access to that card and can switch it out any time I want. When shooting 4K video with this thing (which it does beautifully) you average about 200MB for just 30 seconds of video, so if intend to shoot any of that UHD video, I'll need extra storage. Android lets you change you camera settings at will though - I can record 720P regular 'ol HD, or I can go crazy with 4K UHD. I also have four options to shoot stills: 16, 12, 8, and 6 megapixels respectively. I can switch many apps to store my photos, videos, games and other files on my SD card instead of my device. And with Android File Transfer for Mac, I can upload things like ripped movies directly onto my device, much like you would just drag and drop to an external hard drive.
I've probably stepped over my own toes by partially reviewing the Note 4 already, but look for a full review in the next week, where I intend to count in all the advantages and disadvantages of using an Android device exclusively now.
I'm not 100% sure I'll stick with it for the long term (1 year or longer), but I will stick with it for now. If you're due for an upgrade and have been looking hard at some Android devices, the lines between Apple and Android are way more blurry now. Do your homework and figure out what device is best for you, regardless of what your friends might tell you.