2 years with an iPhone, 2 weeks with a Lumia 800, and a month with a Galaxy Nexus: My Journey (Updated)
It was September 4th, 2010, and I was standing inside my local AT&T store admiring the new phones while my battered and falling-apart LG Xenon sat begging for my attention from inside my back pocket. My second-gen iPod Touch, while still residing in the much more favored position of my front pocket, could also sense that it's last days were approaching. Meanwhile, I took a quick walk around the store, examining each and every option I had. Each phone looked worlds better than my current one, but I didn't really have eyes for any of them except the iPhone 4. I gave every phone it's fair shot, but I knew from the moment I stepped into the store which phone I would be walking out with. Sure enough, my new iPhone 4 had taken my iPod Touch's coveted front pocket spot before I even left the store. And so continued my string of Apple purchases which began with the fourth-gen iPod Nano and would continue with an iPad and a MacBook Air.
Fast forward a year and a half and my narrow-minded, Apple-only view on technology was coming to an end. It all started with, believe it or not, Windows Phone 7. I was blown away by what Microsoft had come up with. It was so new, so refreshing. I wanted it. Then I started paying more attention to the countless Android phone reviews that I had previously only read to see if a phone had caught up to the iPhone yet. Phones like the Galaxy Nexus began to catch my eye and make me look warily at my aging iPhone, whose OS was starting to bore me. With the date of my available contract upgrade coming closer, I began to struggle with the dilemma that all technology lovers have faced at least once in the lives, "What phone should I get next?"
It was then that I realized that I hadn't gotten an iPhone 4 because it was the best phone on the market at the time. Instead, I had gotten it because it was the best Apple phone at the time; and I decided that I wasn't going to blindly upgrade to another iPhone without seriously testing the competition first. No longer would I be a fanboy. That was when I stopped looking at other phones as competition and started looking at them as devices I could potentially own if they were good enough.
Funnily enough, it all really began with a tweet. "@windowsphone @nokia I really want to try a Lumia 900, but I don't know if I'll like Windows Phone as much as I want to." Call me desperate, but it did the trick. I got a reply from @NokiaConnects, and they offered me a two-week free trial for the Lumia 800 (they had no 900's in stock).
So, I abandoned my iPhone and became a temporary Windows Phone user. How'd that go? Overall, it went very well. I still love Windows Phone, and I want it to succeed. I want it to become that third viable OS in the smartphone wars, but for me, at it's current state, it just isn't there yet. Here's why.
Once you get past the fresh new look and feel of Windows Phone, I found that it really didn't have as much to offer as I had hoped. I love live tiles and the start screen as a whole, I love how fast and clean the OS is, and I love how personal your phone can be with Windows Phone. Unfortunately, I also had many major and not-so-major complaints to go along with my praises as well. I'll start with multitasking.
With Windows Phone, Microsoft tries to cut out the feeling that you're repeatedly jumping in and out of apps. Instead, they want to make the transition from app to app as seamless and effortless as possible. Because of this, they don't organize the multitasking menu per app. Instead, there are six cards shown, and if you click through an app enough, six different levels of the same app could take up the whole multitasking menu. In a few situations, that could prove to be useful, but I found it very annoying 99% of the time. If I wanted to go back a level or two in that app, I could just use the back button. Instead, the multitasking menu is made pretty much useless if you want to go back to something you were doing in a different app and all the multitasking spaces are taken up by different levels of the same app.
So how do you get back to a different app? Well go to the start screen or the app list and click on the app, of course. Simple, right? Wrong. Regardless of whether or not the app supports running in the background (which surprisingly few apps do), the app will only resume from where it last was when opened from the multitasking menu. If you try to open an app from the start menu or the app list, it will start over completely. Again, that means that if the multitasking menu is being hogged by different levels of the same app, you will have to start over everything else you were doing in other apps. Ridiculous, right? Right.
And that brings me to the whole uncertainty of the OS. Sometimes, when I was layers deep within an app, a click on the back button would take me one level back. Other times, it would take me back to the start screen. This happened seemingly randomly, with absolutely no rhyme or reason. Little things like this can be found around the whole OS.
For example, the always-present search button should seemingly search the current app you're in at the moment, right? Wrong again. A press of the search key takes you to Bing Search, regardless of where you are in the OS. Also, I found the notification system to be completely unreliable for third party apps. Even when notifications did come through, they were almost always delayed; and it was hard to find them again after they disappeared because of sometimes unreliable (or nonexistent) live tiles. I really began to miss Notification Center, and I wondered how I had ever lived without it before iOS 5.
Also, the app situation for Windows Phone, while not a deal-breaking factor for me, was pretty serious. Not only was there a severe lack of popular apps and games, the Marketplace also lacked the same quality of apps that I had come to expect in the App Store. Core apps along with some third party apps were very solid and as clean and stable as the rest of the OS, while others suffered from terrible performance and just plain ugly design. One personal problem that I ran into was that I couldn't find a Twitter app anywhere close to the likes of Tweetbot for iOS. Not a lot of apps do come close to Tweetbot in my opinion, regardless of platform, but it was still sorely missed.
All of this along with various other problems combined to give me a consistently frustrating experience with Windows Phone. I loved a lot of it, but, as Josh said in his review of the Lumia 900, it was "death by a thousand cuts." Josh also said this in his Lumia 900 review. "The sheen has worn off of Windows Phone for me. When I put something in my pocket, it needs to be able to quickly and efficiently get things done. It needs to trump other devices in its class. It needs to be the best — and Windows Phone is far from it at this point." I couldn't agree more. In my time with Windows Phone, I wasn't 100% positive that I could quickly and efficiently do the things that I needed to do even though my iPhone had been doing those things for almost two years.
So I sent my Lumia 800 back after my two-week trial was through. I returned my SIM card to my iPhone 4 with a collective sigh of relief and regret--relief that I had this familiar and trustworthy device back in my hand, regret that Windows Phone hadn't pleased me like I had so hoped it would.
With my iPhone over the next few months, I began to appreciate the big and the little things that I may have taken for granted before trying Windows Phone. A unified and reliable Notification Center, direct control over what apps are running and easy access to those apps, and an extraordinary app selection with exceptional quality all made me miss less and less my adventure with Windows Phone. Even after the developer preview of Windows Phone 8, I was content with my iPhone. Windows Phone 8 looked exciting, and I decided to give it a try when it came out, but that wouldn't be for some months.
My iPhone had survived the Windows Phone test and had come out victorious, but I was still determined to try Android before declaring Apple my personal winner of the smartphone wars. Even though it had trumped Windows Phone, I was still getting bored of iOS. I still wanted that perfect combination of a fresh, customizable UI with the stability and smoothness I had come to expect from iOS. With WWDC come and gone and an overall underwhelming iOS 6 announcement, I waited for Google to show off Jelly Bean before deciding what to do.
Google made quite an impression on me with it's Jelly Bean announcement, and I began to seriously think that Android could survive the same test that Windows Phone had failed. Soon after, the price of the GSM Galaxy Nexus dropped to $350, and then the news came out that Apple had been granted a preliminary injunction against that very same phone.
All of a sudden, the Galaxy Nexus looked more appealing than any other Android phone ever had to me, and with the promise of a quick upgrade to Jelly Bean and any other future Android updates, I jumped. Within four days, I was once again taking the SIM card out of my beloved iPhone and inserting it into a different phone. The only difference this time was that this was no free trial. I had paid money for this device, and with my dad using my iPhone (that was part of the deal), there was no going back.
I'll spoil the ending for you. The Galaxy Nexus survived the test and became my daily driver. Even if returning to my iPhone was an option, I wouldn't do it. Pure Android (4.0 and 4.1), for me, wins against iOS at it's current state, and the Galaxy Nexus will remain my only phone at least until the next iPhone is released. Whether or not the next iPhone can lure me back remains to be seen, but as for now, I'm sticking with Google. Why? The answer is simple. I just plain prefer it to iOS. It offers more functionality, more customization, and more options. After using my iPhone and firmly believing for so long that nothing could top it only to get my hopes up and be let down by Windows Phone, I was so surprised that I could be so happy with something not made by Apple. Call my former self a fanboy if you must, but fortunately, that is no longer true.
The truth is, Android does everything that iOS does plus some, and I like the way Android does it better. I like the UI with multiple home screens where icons and widgets can be placed freely. Android's status bar icons and it's notification shade are way better than the iOS alternatives in terms of design (seriously, what's up with the linen?) and functionality, and they really make a difference in day-to-day use. I like the look and feel of Android and how polished and smooth it is, especially since Jelly Bean. I just like it in a way that I didn't think I could. Obviously, this is all subjective. People's opinions will differ, but this is ultimately the OS for me.
The transition to Android hasn't been flawless. I miss my iPhone for its iPod capabilities. My whole music library is in iTunes, and uploading it to Google Music with a 0.2 Mbps connection then downloading it to my phone with a 0.4 Mbps connection is not an option for me. It would take days and way too much effort. DoubleTwist doesn't work with the Galaxy Nexus, and I haven't bought any music since the switch because I honestly don't know what to do. Any suggestions would be welcome there. Again, I will never find a Twitter app as good as Tweetbot, but the Android options are better than Windows Phone. I especially like the upcoming Tweet Lanes, so we'll see where that goes.
Also, going to a screen more than an inch bigger is quite the change. I enjoy it overall, but with my average-sized hands, one-handed use can be difficult sometimes. I'm also not impressed with the camera or battery life on the Galaxy Nexus, but those all have to do with hardware instead of Android itself. Overall, I'm much better off with Android, especially if I can fix my music problem.
I will say this though, I'm so glad I got out of my Apple fanboy point of view. Apple makes great products, but so do other companies; and it's important to me that from now on, I examine all of my options before choosing a product to buy, whether that's phones, tablets, computers, or something else. I'm glad that I found what is, in my opinion, a better product than I was using before, and I'm glad that I'm so pleased with it. If you've always had your mind set on one ecosystem over another, give the other options a try. You might be surprised at what you find.
If you read this far, congratulations. I'm incredibly long winded, and this ended up much longer than I intended for it to be. I apologize. If you've had a similar journey trying to find the right phone/OS for you, tell me about it in the comments. Thank you Verge forums for reading!
Update: A few weeks ago, I finally gave in and uploaded all of my music to Google Music. It took almost a week of off and on uploading. Also, 164 of my songs weren't uploaded, and I had to go back and remake my playlists. After I got all of that out of the way, my music situation improved dramatically. I'm perfectly happy with the Play Music app from Google, and it just makes my entire Galaxy Nexus/Android experience even better. In addition, I now know that all my music is there for when I get a new phone in the future; and the fact that all new songs bought from iTunes auto-upload to Google just makes it so much better. My feelings about Android and the Galaxy Nexus remain the same for the most part. I still love it, and I'm still enjoying it.
I guess I'll just see what happens in mobile in the upcoming months. I'm glad I'm on Android, but I'd be lying if I said I'm not excited to see what Apple and Microsoft do during the remainder of this year.