Six months with the iPhone6: A comparison with Android

Hitanshu Gandhi  
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Updated as of Jan 2016
TL;DR – Its makkhan (butter). No seriously. The awesome camera and the fluidity are worth it.

Why am I writing this blog? Because I am nauseated and fed up by silly bullshit comparisons of iOS and Android which demonstrate zero insight of how the system actually works and the nitty gritties of the user experience. The fact that most media outlets / blogs are paid off by one or the other or are outright fanboys doesn’t help. So here is a mango man’s account – a mango man who once installed 2-3 ROMs per week on his Motorola Defy five years back, and now swears by the iPhone. I am a detail oriented person so I have described the practical issues in depth – they will help any prospective buyer weigh them to come to a well considered decision.

Please direct all comments / flamethrowers to me here:

What I like:

  1. The camera – launches super quick from the lock screen and gets focus lock even in very low light. Now I have seen enough tech reviews about android cameras but they aren’t as good (as of Apr 2015). I had a simple test – my 4 year old son. He hates posing and will only make monkey poses. So I needed a camera that shot quickly. iPhone has met my expectations. Despite OIS, S6 did not work for us – we got significantly less blurry shots of my son in the same environment (Croma). I love it to the extent that on our recent SriLanka trip – we left my SLR at home and only took the iPhone! If you like your (latest) android’s camera – power to you.
  2. The fluidity – The phone is always responsive, well almost. For some weird reason, the spotlight search shows lag in iOS9. Basically you swipe left from the home screen and it just takes time for the animation to happen. Other than that, zero lag.
  3. The battery: Its a joke on paper, but in the real world, I get 15-18 hours on busy days and 24-30 hours on a regular work day (2 hours of calls, 4 hours total screen time). Good enough IMHO. Far better than my wife’s 1+1 which simply dies within 12 hours (it gave awesome backup on kitkat though). The real issue here is Android multi-tasking. For mid-range phone owners, I highly recommend installing no-root firewall. It shows you how many apps just auto-start by themselves, even without the permission being requested, and just want to consume data. No wonder Android needs quad/octa cores because of these runaway apps.
  4. The audio. Of course my comparison is S3 and 1+1 but this is clearly better than most. listen to “A new republic” podcast and the opening music is simply amazing on the iPhone’s speakers even though they aren’t in HTC territory. I got sick of using Clean Master / Battery Doctor and suchlike apps on android which never really worked properly.
  5. Better quality global apps: Indian apps are made android-first while global apps debut on iOS first. The tight control of the Apple Ecosystem means you are assured of quality apps (Play store does have a few dodgy apps at times). Indie Apps are in general more polished – e.g Amigo Pancho.
  6. Ages well – My son prefers the Jun 2011 iPad2 (100+ apps) on iOS9.2 over the Nexus7 2012 (<5 apps) because he finds the N7 slow.
  7. Resale – My friend sold his Jun 2011 Wifi only iPad2 for 7000 bucks in Nov 2015.
  8. Front fingerprint sensor – It works perfectly and is placed right. If you get a notification and your phone is on the desk, then its more natural to just tap the front of the device and unlock it, than PICK it up which means stopping whatever work you were doing.
  9. Low Battery mode – Works perfectly as advertised. It is not as effective as the Ultra Power Saving Mode on Android/Samsung but it works better IMHO. Your phone looks and feels right. You still get data, but the phone sips battery and notifications gets delayed. Far better IMHO than a complete shutdown of all data – in a smartphone? No way!
  10. iMessage – like whatsapp but on steriods. And works better – no need to discover who uses it or not. Simply compose your message and send. If they aren’t on data, you can switch to SMS. Best of both worlds I say. Of course its not like telegram but it should learn from that like it learned notifications from Android!
  11. Public WIFI – Compared to my S3, I find iOS much more reliable and cleaner in picking the right URL to log onto etc, every single time. Kudos on that. Now the latest stock ROMs may be good on that, my CM10.3 S3 surely isnt.

What Apple seriously needs to improve:

  1. 16 GB. SHAME ON YOU APPLE. No seriously. Bloody shameless you folks are. Every tom dick harry and their dog is launching $300 phones with 32 GB options and you still keep $650 as the base model. Not done for 6/6s! Esp in the light of point 2 and the updated camera in the 6s (much bigger images!). Worry no more btw – there’s an amazing hack to clear up app data which works as of iOS 9.3.1 (as of 3 May)- http://wnep.com/2016/04/08/weird-trick-frees-up-tons-of-storage-on-your-iphone-without-deleting-a-thing/ I did it and saved over a GB in two tries.
  2. App bloat. I don’t know why but Apple apps are 2-3x the size of Android apps. On my Samsung I have more apps than my iPhone and have like 4GB internal memory free. Here is a quick comparison:
    Android iOS(both in MB, rounded up)
    Facebook: 31 108
    Telegram: 19 38
    Whatsapp: 27 52
    Instagram: 10 24
    Skype: 36 99
    Amigo Pancho: 49 74
    Twitter: 21 70
    Source: androidapksfree.com, iTunes
    iOS9 and its promise of leaner apps didn’t really impact more than 10% from iOS8 levels – iOS apps for this subset are still 140% bigger than their functionally equivalent android versions. This is one BIG thing the stupid fanboy / paid media will not dwell upon, but is an experience killer. I have only 3 songs on my phone (but 250mb in podcasts) – if you like to carry your music with you, forget the 16GB version!
  3. Updates. Apple is basically a jerk company when it comes to updates. It does not give a damn what you think – it will download its latest update and keep prompting the hell out of you to upgrade. My iPad2 was upgraded to 9.2 because my son happened to click on one such prompt. Seriously – such a bunch of jerks they are. Coupled with #1 – you need to keep deleting the update on a vacation to make space for new pics! Its my money, goddamnit!
  4. Integration of 3rd party keyboards. Apple has done an extremely brilliant and an extremely shoddy implementation. The manager of that feature needs to be fired for such a half-baked feature, considering its been around since iOS8. Heck I wouldn’t have touched an iPhone if it didnt offer this feature.
    The good bits: your personal data is secure. All passwords are entered via the iOS keyboard only. Bye bye data theft via keyboards! Switching between keyboards (stock vs 3rd party, languages) is SUPER nice and quick – no need to multi-click using notifications!
    The bad bits: Swiftkey is buggy (hangs in lockscreen/sometimes the display isnt updated / ghost characters are seen in hashtag auto completiton) , has less features than Android and is less accurate. But the worst bit – imessage simply defaults back to stock keyboard everytime i open it. this is annoying.
    What is painful is that sometimes for some badly tested apps / WIFI logins – if swiftkey is the selected keyboard, then NO keyboard is displayed. None! You need to go to imessage. Cycle through the keyboards to select stock (even if it comes up 1st), then go to the page/app and the stock keyboard will be displayed.
    If swype does this better, please let me know! 
     
  5. Toggles – I miss the awesome power toggles from android. Enough said!
  6. Dialer. Must I say anything? This is simply archaic in the era of T9 dialers. Search is nice, but T9 search is better! Its not efficient. Awesome android dialers like exDialer allow you to swipe right/left to call/sms. iOS simply follows the old two-click approach.
  7. Whatsapp/Telegram. It is simply horrible because on iOS it will simply not let you “send” a message until it is connected to the server. This is patently stupid. You compose messages when you can – and leave the sending to whatsapp. Sometimes you compose a message while multi-tasking, but if you have to wait till the network is available, sometimes you may forget to send the message itself. This happens with me often when I am on the road and only 2G is available, but data connectivity is patchy. iMessage and even Skype does not suffer from this limitation. This probably has to do with the way iPhone multi-tasks – it seems that once they go into the background, most apps simply do not work, and so cannot send messages in the background, as you may have observed on Android.
  8. Notifications. Maybe this is an architecture issue but while you get your notifications super fast on iOS – your app would not have gotten the data. This is really acute for telegram/mail where you get a notification and only on opening the notification does the app fetch the data. Things are a bit better for whatsapp but the net experience is similar.
  9. Mail app. Mail is excellent except for its stupidity similar to the point above. You can have a mail sitting in your inbox for five days but the mail text will be visible only on opening the actual mail. This has another layer of stupidity. You can see a 1-line preview in the notification itself, but within the mail app, there’s no information till the email is opened/downloaded. This gave me much grief in initial days.

Other things:

  • Paid apps – Apple’s ecosystem is mostly paid apps. So i refrain from installing apps for random games etc because I’m not sure whether its worth it.
  • Network options. I live in India. Regardless of Project LEAP – our network is terrible. 3G itself is crappy – forget whatever spin any telecom operator sells on 4G. Therefore the phone keeps jumping from 3G to 2G all the time. You select 2G when there’s an important call. There are times when one would prefer if the phone would stick on 3G (for data use) even if 2G is much better. BUT – iOS does not give you that option. Android doesn’t either – but after rooting this can be toggled from notifications itself, which is super awesome.
  • Scroll bars. Weirdly, on most iOS apps, you get a very thin scroll bar on the right. This is rather unusable. On the other hand. many android apps have a slider which expands on usage – so when you touch and drag in its vicinity, it becomes like 5x the width, making scrolling far easier, especially for senior citizens. Surprised iOS doesn’t have this in most apps (Skype, Mail, Whatsapp, GMail).