Tell me about switching from Android to iPhone
August 1, 2021 2:55 PM   Subscribe

Have you switched from an Android to an iPhone in the past year or two? Tell me about your experience, especially if you're pretty baked into the Google ecosystem or are otherwise a semi-power user. (If you switched to Android and loved/hated it, tell me about that, too!)

Some patchy context which you're welcome to take into account or skip!

I'm considering switching for privacy reasons and because Apple actively supports iOS for so much longer than Google does Android's OS, but really I'm also just curious. I've run Android phones for the past decade (I've been a Mac user for even longer than that, though I don't use iCloud or other Apple services). Right now I run a Pixel 2XL, which is holding up just fine aside of the no-longer-supported OS.

FWIW, if I don't switch to an iPhone, I'll probably get an older-generation Pixel 4a or 5 when Google starts clearing out their inventory in anticipation of the Pixel 6 launch in October or so. (I'm allergic to bloatware and avoid it like the plague.)

In the past I've tended to run slightly customized setups (i.e. adblocking across the web and apps using Blokada, sideloaded onto my phone, and of course I uninstall all default apps that I don't actually actively use) though I rarely do anything too fancy: I never run custom launchers, don't find many widgets particularly useful, etc. I'd call myself a lazy power user in that I typically know how to do a lot with whatever gadget I'm using but don't actually make use of those capabilities. That said, I'm a little concerned about being reminded of feeling of being hemmed in by Apple's walled garden, even if it doesn't actually affect my day-to-day use.

I use Google Assistant every so often (my phone has Active Edge so I can activate Assistant by squeezing the sides of my phone, but I never let it passively listen in on me by default). I don't have any smarthome devices and don't really use any Android-only apps I'll be sad to lose.

A few other concerns:

1) It seems super easy to switch to an iPhone, but not quite as easy to switch back once you're baked into the whole ecosystem via iCloud, etc.

2) I borrow my partner's iPad Pro every so often, and although it's really nice for watching movies and using as a drawing tablet, I find it somewhat unintuitive. (Like: there's no back button?!) It's not mine, so maybe I'm just not very familiar with it. I know I'll figure out how to use a new iPhone so I'm not concerned about the learning curve so much as the way Google phones tend to be seamlessly intuitive (caveat: for me, by now) and I appreciate that as a design feature.

I'm also tempted because I had a Fitbit for a a few months and really loved the way it allowed me to read texts as they came in without being tethered to a phone, to track my sleep however inaccurately, and to have a rough idea of how many miles I'd walked that day. The idea of having an Apple Watch and AirPods that sync seamlessly to my phone and do a lot more than the basic Fitbit is kind of compelling. (In abstract! In reality, I'm not a busy professional who'd need things like this and in general I like to avoid looking too flashy, so I probably wouldn't actually buy or use an Apple Watch, much as I like to imagine it. AirPods, maybe. Can I use AirPods to have phone conversations while I'm riding my bike without the wind interfering with the audio quality? If so, I'm sold!)

Anyway, there's no tl;dr for this since I'm full of persnickety details, but I'd love to hear what your experience switching was like, especially if you stuck with the new device for a couple of years. Tell me how it went!
posted by knucklebones to Technology (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It took about two weeks to get used to the iPhone experience again when I switched because the initial muscle memory of how my Android had worked was there. IFTTT and shortcuts help with customisation and the widgets are much better but like you I don’t bother. I moved to Android initially because it was cheaper and faster at handling complex websites and had a better camera. That’s still true but the current iPhones are way ahead of my requirements now as well and the easy syncing with my other apple devices is very pleasant. The biggest annoyance was having to pay for the iPhone versions of my must have apps all over again or find a couple of equivalent apps when it was Android only. I used it as an opportunity to spring clean my apps.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:33 PM on August 1, 2021

Best answer: I have to use an iOS-only app.
What I miss about my Android: swipe-typing is way better, auto-complete is better, Siri is not quite as good as Google assistant. IPhone really wants you to go all-in on the Apple environment, at one point sending confirmation codes to an ancient iPad I rarely use and had to find. I expected a much better user experience with navigation, which is fine, but not special. 'It just works' if you're willing to do it Apple's way. Type sizes are smaller, and it doesn't do .pdfs well so far, limiting reading options. I read books on my phone, so this is important and annoying. If I fall asleep while reading, the iPhone doesn't go to sleep, wasting battery. Volume on my Android was better, this matters because I'm hard of hearing. File management was easier. It's more annoying than it should be to transfer files. There are more affordable versions of Android phones. Androids are more customizable. The iPhone alarm clock is pretty poorly implemented, but it's easy to find a free alarm app. The lack of an audio jack is silly and limits my ability to play music on my stereo speakers. I am unlikely to use Apple Pay or Google Pay. I do not use face or fingerprint recognition.

I haven't yet successfully set it up to play music files on the phone without a data connection and I don't want to use data while walking, driving, etc. I would prefer not to use iTunes or Apple Music, but apparently I must. On my Android, music stored on my phone played easily. And I could organize the music my way. (I have music for International Folk Dance, much of it old and not categorized, iTunes ignored my folders and made a hash of it.) I just downloaded a couple apps to test for this.

Nice things about the iPhone: I can use iMessage(which I don't care about at all) and FaceTime(useful with 1 family member). Keychain for remembering passwords is quite good. Battery life is great, it charges quickly. I expect build quality to be very good and for the phone and battery to last a number of years. My last 2 Motorola phones tanked too soon; the charging port becomes unusable. The camera is quite nice, though the camera on my last Moto Android was also quite good. I got a free 1 year subscription to ApplTV, worth @ 60US. w00t! I'm enjoying Ted Lasso immensely. I trust Apple/ iPhone security more. It's a phone; reception for Visible(Verizon towers) is good. I used to use RepublicWireless; the implementation for my Android was crappy. One nice thing about Apple's monolithic approach and popularity is that phone vendors can write software once, and they seem to do a better job.
posted by theora55 at 4:29 PM on August 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I switched from iPhone to Android for a couple of years, and back to iPhone two or three years ago.

iPhone limitations I noticed after switching back:

* Third party keyboards are a little more limited, like the same keyboard had arrow keys on Android but not iOS. I think there are more limitations to stop keyboards from spying on the app you're using.
* I could migrate SMS history from iPhone -> Android but not Android -> iPhone. (Not sure what the current situation is.) Most things can be done cross-platform, but I didn't put in the effort to migrate my photos back so ended up with some random gaps in the social record.
* On iOS you can't make a third party app like Signal your SMS client. (Some default apps can be replaced, like mail; some can't.)
* It continues to annoy me that many Android phones have the same ports as my Macbook (usb-c and headphone) but an iPhone has neither.

I'm sure you'd run into other bits and pieces like that for your usecases. The flip side of the tighter security model, though, is I feel more free to use the thing. The phone is both a skeleton key to my digital identity and a surveillance device, and on Android I was more afraid to install and use random apps (or Facebook) because of all the ways they could spy on me or steal my stuff. On iOS I'm (relatively) less afraid to use it, so able to do more and enjoy it more despite the occasional limitations.

Interface-wise I agree with dorothyisunderwood that there's a two week learning curve. Every single way of poking a modern phone does two different things depending how you poke it, so it feels a little annoying until you get it all down. I don't think there's ultimately much difference in how fast you can do things, though I find the iPhone defaults a little faster for routine stuff like turning on a flashlight or setting a timer.

I like the Airpods Pro, particularly if you use a Mac as well -- they still manage to fail to connect occasionally, but waste the least time of the bluetooth devices I've tried.

Ultimately I'd definitely encourage indulging your curiosity, unless the risk of losing some or other part of your history due to a failed migration is too high. They're both experiences that are annoying in different directions and it's worth trying out to see which annoyances most get to you.
posted by john hadron collider at 4:36 PM on August 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For various reasons, I use both Android and iOS on a regular basis.

> FWIW, if I don't switch to an iPhone, I'll probably get an older-generation Pixel 4a or 5 when Google starts clearing out their inventory in anticipation of the Pixel 6 launch in October or so. (I'm allergic to bloatware and avoid it like the plague.)

It's worth pointing out that Apple's strategy is not to be the most popular or most purchased product, but the 'best'. If you are a price conscious consumer, it bears noting that Apple doesn't cater much to you. The way the strategy works is to sell phones at a high price, but design them to last for years, and support them in software for years -- iOS 15 still supports phones sold in 2015! In practice this defends high margins at launch, since there aren't a ton of cheap used iPhones on the market. What often happens is that phones get handed down from parent to child when 'free upgrades' come along from your carrier, but even those deals seem to be less frequent.

The fact that iOS users skew richer is why Google is willing to pay Apple top dollar for default search engine placement, even though Apple has its own search engine.

A few unorganized thoughts:

1. Apple devices are really heavy. The metal and glass as a design choice makes them awkwardly heavy in comparison. It also makes them more slippery, and prone to fall off say my couch arm. I think the newest models have a frosted glass texture or something that grips better though.

2. The UI is a bit crowded, and at this point, slowly converging on android. The back button is hidden in a hard to reach corner, and last year finally added desktop widgets and an app drawer. There are two different menus that can appear when you use the top down swipe gesture, depending on nuances of how you swipe. None of which is explained, and I seriously wonder how many iOS users can explain to a new user how to bring up Control Center.

3. Many of the default apps are mediocre. The calculator, for example, is underwhelming, and you can't just drop to a python shell like macOS. You can't set multiple timers in the clock app, to the chagrin of home cooks. The mail app is... not gmail. It is not prepared for people in my line of work, with many, many new emails coming into many, many folders, which I find baffling.

4. You'll end up using a lot of Google apps anyways. Gmail, Maps, and Youtube are the obvious consumer ones, and gSuite if your job is so inclined. The rest are mostly toys.

5. Apple regularly seeks more money from its customers. Apple News+, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, iCloud upgrades, etc. Premium podcast subs are this year's beg. iOS 15 is pitching Private Relay, which is a region preserving VPN. You know how the Youtube app is constantly begging you for money? Feels like every new Apple app is adopting this revenue model.

6. The free AppleTV+ sub was nice but their most anticipated series failed to materialize on time and nobody can figure out if it's a pandemic logistics issue or intentionally held back to drive paid subscriptions. Unlike Netflix, they practice a weekly drop schedule, which means you can't binge the one show you care about in a month and cancel. Again we see the kind of person who would try that is not the customer they want.

6. HomeKit doesn't interact with Nest. Which is a problem for me since the landlord provided thermostat is a Nest.

7. Lighting connectors. Mac and iPad switched over to USB C but iPhone is still on lightning, which is grating, and another small tax on switchers.

8. iMessage doesn't have a lot of value when the rest of your family is android. And it doesn't really scale up to professional community sizes the way slack does.

9. The podcasts app is not great. I much prefer AntennaPod, which is an Android exclusive.

10. Multitouch is a bit limited -- apps like Chwazi don't support 6 players, which isn't a limitation I've encountered on Android. Kind of niche, but annoying nonetheless for a platform that purports to be head and shoulders above the competition.

11. The webapp version of things are generally underwhelming. Understandable as a native first company, but also means you're quite tied to a very expensive device. God forbid you lose it or have to get it repaired. On the plus side, integration between devices is pretty good -- messages on macOS works fine, and multiple people can update a Numbers spreadsheet when shared via iCloud.

12. The hardware mute button is a mixed blessing. It will absolutely mute the device, but it's easy to forget you set it and miss an important text or page.

13. The phone app is now light years behind google pixel's. With the random pandemic increase in car warranty spam calls, being able to automatically screen unknown callers is a godsend.
posted by pwnguin at 5:39 PM on August 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: A followup: how different will my user experience be if I get a pair of AirPod Pros? (Is there a clear advantage to doing so?)

Also to address pwnguin's note about affordability, my thriftiness re Android is mostly because I already know what I'm going to get; I love new gadgets, but a top-of-the-line Android isn't going to be much different than an older-generation Pixel. That said, it's really helpful to hear more about Apple's subscription model (vs. Google's replaceability approach)!
posted by knucklebones at 6:02 PM on August 1, 2021

Best answer: I switched a while ago for the same reasons you're considering: Privacy and support lifetime. It didn't take long to acclimate to the UI differences. I don't use iCloud for anything, and I'm still hooked on Gmail, Google Photos, and Google Maps.

I still think Pixel's Android user experience is superior in many ways. It feels like Apple stubbornly refuses to copy innovations that appear on Android, but Android has no such compunctions, so what you end up with is an oddly calcified UI that feels a lot like it did in 2010. You will be annoyed and there may be things you can't do.

But I love the permission model on iOS that lets me white-list which apps have permission for GPS, camera, contacts, etc. That plus the five-year support horizon give the iPhone a clear edge to me.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:06 PM on August 1, 2021

Best answer: re: airpods

They pair much faster and more reliably on iOS (but they do pair on most* Bluetooth platforms, including Android). Basically by the time you open up the case and put them on they're paired. And they transition smoothly between apple devices, so if you're listening to music on your mac Book and take a call on your phone, it'll work without you having to press buttons. And should gracefully fall back when the call is over.

Based on this video Airpod prod wind noise appears to be to be mostly a non-issue, but I would be wary of cycling while wearing expensive and easily lost earbuds. I guess there's some straps for them that make that a lesser risk, and voice control is presumably nice in situations where raising your arm to your head might be misinterpreted though!
posted by pwnguin at 8:49 PM on August 1, 2021

Best answer: I was an Android user and app developer for the past twelve years. I just switched from a Pixel to an iPhone a few months ago, for the same reasons you gave. I had already owned an iPad for a little while and have used Macs off-and-on for a long time, so it wasn't 100% new to me.

Switching was easier than I expected. Most of the apps that I use day-to-day work basically identically. Some of the UI design still feels weird to me, but I’ve adapted to it anyways. The speed and battery life are great, even on this entry-level iPhone SE. Recent iOS versions have decent support for third-party browsers and web tracking blockers, which stopped me from switching previously.

My one major complaint is that notifications aren't as polished as they are in the latest versions of Android. They don’t seem to get auto-updated or auto-dismissed reliably, so I sometimes find the lock screen cluttered with things like calendar alerts for events in the past. Tapping a notification sometimes just opens an app to its default screen rather than directly to the relevant page or message. And iOS notifications often have fewer ways to interact without going into the app.

I also find the default keyboard slightly less useful than the default Android keyboard, especially for swiping and word suggestions.

Overall, I’m happy with my choice, though I don’t know yet whether I’ll stick with iOS for my next phone or switch back to Android.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:40 PM on August 1, 2021

Best answer: On a slight tangent, and this may not be for you... but your Pixel 2XL is a good candidate for a second life as an Ubuntu Touch device.
So whatever you decide on as a next main device, you might want to keep the Pixel, if only as an experimental/fun device. It will probably not be able to handle *all* your smartphone needs, but on the other hand, since you care about privacy, it's good to have some extra options.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:00 AM on August 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Pwnguin's helpful notes upthread contained one misleading point. The fact that Nest and Homekit don't play nicely together — i.e. Homekit compatibility — is something for Google to address, not Apple.
posted by emelenjr at 6:54 AM on August 2, 2021

I switched from Android to IPhone about a month ago. It did not go well at all. The iphone app, tech support, etc, all failed to transfer my photos, contacts, txts, bookmarks. None are in my new phone unless I have individually re-entered them.
Guy at the Verizon store: “yeah, that happens sometimes.
posted by librosegretti at 7:05 AM on August 2, 2021

Best answer: Another 12-year Android user (first phone was the original Moto Droid, installed Cyanogen, etc. etc.) who just switched. A big part was changing my perception from "my own little handheld Linux computer that is mine to control and customize" to "appliance," and admitting to myself that my actual usage was far more in tune with the latter. (Not to mention the Android experience was becoming less and less of the former.)
posted by whuppy at 10:06 AM on August 2, 2021

Best answer: If you are accustomed to Android, a power user, alllergic to bloatware, and your biggest concern is privacy, why not consider using a degoogled Android ROM?

Yes, you'll have to do without some bells and whistles but you'll have a phone that gets the job done. And if you use a relatively popular model, you'll have OS udates long after the manufacturer has abandoned you.

I've been doing this for years. It's incredibly liberating and not that hard to do. Never mind the increase in battery life and the extra years you can get out of your hardware...
posted by quarterframer at 10:20 AM on August 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm switching back from Android to iPhone primarily because of notification reliability. I've been on Android for 4 years now, and I still cannot reliably get notifications to make sounds when I want them to and be silent when I don't. Watching my family members on iPhones flip their ringer switch makes me so eager to go back.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:13 PM on August 2, 2021

Best answer: You may appreciate the Move To iOS app from Apple.
posted by churl at 6:03 PM on August 2, 2021

Best answer: The youtube algorithm rabbit hole taught me about Calyx OS.
posted by oceano at 6:41 PM on August 2, 2021

Best answer: Reading your comment about the fitbit and Apple Watch -- I was a fitbit user back in the day, and I always wondered why anyone would want a smartwatch until I ended up with a Pebble. I'm now a heavy Apple Watch user. Partly because, like you mention, it keeps me from having to constantly pull out my phone, but also because having calendar alerts, reminders, and notifications quietly buzz my wrist means I both don't disturb others and also don't miss anything. (I have ADHD, so a reliable reminder/notification system is important to me.)

It's also nice to be able to simply raise my wrist and say, "remind me in an hour to check the laundry" or "remind me in 30 minutes to turn off the pressure cooker" and have a reminder automagically created. Or saying, "add garlic to the grocery list", when I'm doing dinner prep and my hands are wet. I realize a lot of people use home assistants for that sort of thing, but this works no matter where I am.

And there are some really nice apps out there -- like "Workoutdoors" that doesn't collect your data but does track your workouts and gives you a nice map on your wrist. I can even send a gpx file to it when I'm biking somewhere new to put a route on the map.

Re: unreliable notifications, yeah. My partner's Android likes to wake us up in the middle the of the night with notifications, and he swears the notifications are off. My iPhone has never done this.

Oh.. and regarding the walled garden, if you know a little javascript, there's an app called "Scriptable" that let's you automate all sorts of stuff, with deep hooks into all the Apple apps and lots of non-Apple apps so you can have cross-app interactions.
posted by antinomia at 7:20 AM on August 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

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