Since We're Sharing Android Experiences I'd Give It A "Meh"
Over the past couple of days I've seen a few articles praising Android in "Apple Core". My honest reaction was confusion. Not for the reasons I've seen ("if this were Android Army and I posted an iPhone article I'd get trolled", etc.) but because as someone who uses mostly Apple products and carries a 4.1 Galaxy Nexus (and previously owned a Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note) my Android experience has been one of frustration at worst and apathy at best. So after seeing a wonderful post here, I decided to give the counterpoint.
This will be first, because its the shorter section and I want to break up the negative. I do like the device choice with Android. If you like hardware keyboards, you can get one. If you like larger phones you can get one. Same with tablets. Thats all well and good. I do love side loading. One of my favorite apps (Snesoid) was removed from the Play Store long ago, but I have it on the device I bought 3 weeks ago. Googling _______.apk is a wonderful thing. And I love the thought of Google Now (more on that later).
Marquee devices are too big.
When I heard of the Galaxy Note I thought it was my dream device. But using a large device sucks. It didn't fit comfortably in my pants, I couldn't use it without constantly adjusting the phone in my hand, and apps like the Amazon App Store and Netflix had obnoxiously small interface elements. So instead of blaming Android w/ my frustrations I did the logical thing and ordered the Android phone, the Google Play Galaxy Nexus; after all, that is literally the most pure Android experience you can have. Well the Nexus is still too big.
It constantly slips out of my pants pockets, theres no way to hold it comfortably and reach every part of the screen without readjusting the phone, and my hand gets cramped using it for an extended period.
And I can palm a basketball, so hand size is hardly the problem. So as someone w/ big hands who hates large phones, I have no idea how anyone w/ normal sized hands can find these devices comfortable. So I can either buy a marquee phone (4.65" Nexus, 4.7" One X, or 4.8" S III) or a 2nd tier 4.3" device and get a 2nd rate experience.
What drives me absolutely insane is the falsehood that the iPhone sucks for e-mail and that Android is great for it. The only place I see this is from Verge editors and commenters. You know why? Its because they conflate e-mail with Gmail. I have Gmail accounts like everyone but those are not the ones I have to use for productivity. I have an Exchange e-mail account for school and a custom domain for work. Neither work on any Android device I've used (all 3 by Samsung, 2 with TouchWiz, 1 with ICS then Jelly Bean). I'm not alone having this problem. I've seen tutorials on how to jerry-rig it to work, but you know how these accounts work on iOS? I go to settings>mail then enter my info. No YouTube tutorials. No 3rd party hacks to get the servers working. 2 clicks, I enter my info, then I'm up and running. Not bad for an OS thats "just a grid of icons" and a "glorified app launcher". Android feels like a toy, I get work done on iOS.
I don't get widgets.
Of course the classic Android argument is "you can customize on Android, you can't on iOS", and to some extent it's true. But its also a fallacy presented by people who don't use iOS. So lets really look at customization on Android. It falls into 2 big categories: wallpapers and widgets. I guess I get the appeal of live wallpapers, but once the initial novelty wore off I just looked at it as a battery killer and used a very simple one. So fine, if you really love moving images on your home screen then Android is the superior OS. Then there's widgets. You have usable ones (ones that auto refresh and present glance-able info), then you have the remaining 97%. Yes I enjoy the e-mail widgets but I have similar functionality in Notification Center. Yes I enjoy weather widgets, but I have similar info in Notification Center. And every social widget I've downloaded refreshes every 15 mins at the earliest, and usually it only presents the most recent 1-3 items. So instead of a manual refresh I often it find it faster to use that 1 click to launch the app. Plus, your home screen is only so big, so widgets are usually only visual after at least 1 action, and if you have to do anything to see info you could just launch the app in that same timeframe/motion. And yes, you get a ton more customization when you root, but also do when you jailbreak. The only widgets that are usable and sorely missing on iOS are the switch widgets, but even those are limited in their usefulness (why do you have to switch off Bluetooth w/ 4.0 & why would you ever turn WiFi off?)
App compatibility, what app compatibility?
App shopping on Android used to be frustrating because the app selection was limited. Now that they have basically achieved parity with iOS on the phone side the problem now if the random and arbitrary compatibility of apps in the Play Store w/ certain devices. Now its murky where this problem lies, on the carriers, publishers, or manufacturers but it sucks for consumers. If something isn't available on your iOS device its always because your device is too old to run it. When I had my brand new Note incompatibility was a huge problem. And why most of it can be obviated by the aforementioned Googling of apk's, I've never been a fan of piracy so downloading software is not something I'm comfortable with, even if I don't have the option to purchase it.
Planned or unplanned, the obsolence struggle is real.
ICS was shipping November, 2011. I bought a Epic Touch 4G on Sprint in October for my fiancee. It was the best Android phone available on Sprint at the time. It just received ICS Monday, 3 weeks after I got Jelly Bean on my Nexus. It has been abysmal for her. The battery drains quickly and performance is worse than ever. She wanted the S II variant b/c she was disappointed the 4S was too similar to the 4, now she wants a new phone. You can guess which phone I'm getting her next month. I bought my Galaxy Note launch day (late February 2012), 3 months after ICS was released. It too just got Ice Cream Sandwich a couple of weeks ago. Its successor is launching next month. When you buy an iPhone, you know a new one isn't coming for roughly a year, and you know you will have the current software in some iteration before it comes to the latest device for 3+ years (judging from the 3GS).
If Siri is a gimmick, Google Now is plain useless.
I love Siri, but I still see how people can say its a gimmick (at least in iOS 5). But if you say that for Siri, you have to say something worse for Google Now. As a search feature it is faster than Siri, but more limited (doesn't open apps, can't do the movie or food features of iOS 6), but it does have the promising cards feature. Only problem with this is that It has proven completely useless in my daily life. I live in a traffic congested city (Atlanta), and it has never prompted me of adverse traffic conditions without me opening Google Now first. Again, if I have to launch it, I can launch a similar app in the same timeframe. And most of the suggestions it makes for me are flat out wrong. My brother tested it by mentioning the Braves, now I have no way of getting sports scores without getting Braves scores b/c you can't manually edit cards. So its what they suggest or just not have the type of card displayed at all. And when you Google a business on any device you are logged in on directions will pop up in Google Now. Great if you wanted to go there, but when you are planning anything it can get annoying as only 1 type of card is displayed at any time (save for nearby places). Now I don't fault Google for any of this, they are trying something incredibly ambitious with Google Now. But when people try to tout it as somehow being superior to Siri (in iOS 6), I instantly question if they've actually used it.
One more thing...
Now this may seem pretty scathing, and I honestly don't mean it to be so. I can see how Android would be great to some (particularly those who spend a lot of time on tech sites/forums), but it is absolutely not anywhere near as useable as iOS. You use an iPhone and it works and it does anything
you the average consumer would want it to do. And now that the screen is getting larger I think it will silence a lot of critics while not growing so much in size that it's unwieldy to use. I carry two phones, a 4S for business and a GNex on my personal line ( AT&T gave our business Windows Phones, the Focus, and Android phones, Galaxy S II, but my company purchased iPhones b/c the other devices simply didn't work for us). If my business phone went away and I went back to carrying one phone it would without question be an iPhone. I don't hate Android (after all I've purchased 2 android phones in the last 5 months), and I don't think its a bad OS, it just really not close to iOS in terms of polish, cohesiveness, or usefulness. Yes its more customizable, but how much do you really look at your phone outside of apps? And are you really trying to make a statement about your personality through your phone? (Actually, don't answer that last one. I don't want to know)