Switching to Android

I started using iPhone in 2011. I was using Blackberry before that. When I moved to New York, I bought an iPhone 4s and never looked back. But in the past few years, I’ve been thinking to switch to Android. The recent three generations of iPhone were just not that exciting anymore. On the other side, I use so many Google apps: Google Photos, Google Maps, GMail, Chrome, Google Calendar, Google Voice… to the extent I think it would be nice to have these apps more “natively”.

A friend who bought a Pixel and loved it, asked on social media: why still iPhone? I commented: “Because of Apple Watch and AirPods”.

Then I lost my AirPods… again.

So I bought a Pixel 3a. Now I have used it for a week.

Pros

Google apps are indeed more native. No more Apple Map when clicking an address link. No more “additional” apps for photo, email, calendar.

Android is definitely more friendly and open to 3rd-party apps: finally can use GBoard now (it’s never stable enough on iPhone). Can finally control Spotify with voice… App can interact with each other more freely thanks to the intent system.

Home screen can be customized to be more useful. Notifications feel like being organized better. The “always on” home screen display and “flip to shhh” are nice touches.

Google Assistance (voice control) is more powerful than Siri. Could actually be used to do some voice text input… I need more time to get into the habit of using voice control beyond setting timers.

Battery is better than my 1-year-old iPhone 8. Not sure that’s a fair comparison though. And USB-C is definitely nicer than lightning. It charges faster, and can share cables with laptop and other stuff.

Cons

No more Apple Watch or AirPods. I tried to wear my Apple Watch for a few days and found it just silly without a phone to connect.

No iMessage or FaceTime. It was more annoying than I thought, because I could miss messages.

No good ad blocker in Android Chrome. This was a surprise to me… Ad blocker works fine on desktop Chrome. I know Google relies on ads, but didn’t realize Android Chrome doesn’t support native ad blocker support.

User interactions can still sometimes feel slightly sluggish, or not as smooth as iPhone. Definitely much less gap than 5 years ago, but I can still sometimes feel it. And the momentum of scrolling through list items feels weird sometimes, like it overshoots a little bit… not sure if it’s due to habit.

Unfortunately, non-google apps on Android generally have lower qualities than iPhone. Google apps are great, top-tier apps are on par with their iPhone versions, but apps that are not that high profile often feel like an afterthought compared to their iPhone version. Ironically, the general high quality of Google apps on iPhone makes iPhone more of a “best of both worlds” choice.

Camera is supposed to be very good. Lots of bragging of its “Night Vision”. But honestly I don’t feel I have that much need to do night photos. On the other side, it’s kind of a turnoff to have “face retouch” default on, and it sometimes actually makes people look weird.

Last but not least, WeChat, the Chinese super app, doesn’t use Google’s native push notification service, so it has to stay alive in background to receive messages in time… So the system sometimes prompts “WeChat is still running in background”, and I sometimes see WeChat message notifications with 10+ minutes delay… It’s a complicated issue and hard to say it’s WeChat’s “fault”, but the overall user experience is just far worse than iPhone with this particular app.

Verdict

So overall I have mixed feelings so far… I like the fresh feeling of using a new phone and a new OS. But I also miss iPhone for the reasons above.

So, I’ll likely stick with this Pixel 3a for a little longer since it’s a new phone. But if I accidentally dropped it in water tomorrow… I would happily switch back to my iPhone 8 and Apple Watch. Let’s see what Apple have for the next iPhone.

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