11 weeks ago, I migrated to an operating system I always felt was inferior, underdeveloped, and complicated. I decided to see what life was really like on the dark side and purchased a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. I had an immediate panic attack at my decision, but took a few deep breaths and waited patiently for it to arrive… well, I waited. Not sure I was actually patient.
When I unboxed the phone I looked down with excitement I hadn’t truly felt about a phone since probably the iPhone X when Apple switched to a mostly all screen design and added Face ID. Since that launch, I’ve grown bored. Apple makes some of the most well built phones on the planet with an OS that is simple, clean, and safe, but watching phones by Samsung, One Plus, and others come out with 120hz screens, better screen-to-body ratios, and limitless possibilities in the realm of customization of software, I felt like I might be missing out.
So there I was, staring at the “future”; this slab of aluminum and glass with it’s 6.9in screen, mystic bronze finish, and nearly bezel-less design looked and felt amazing. I fired it up, preparing myself for a wave of disappointment that never came. Android 10 with One UI 2.5 is beautiful. If you want the iPhone of the Android world, look no further. Samsung does a beautiful job in designing a UI that feels similar to stock Android, but also looks visually close to iOS in some areas. I began the regular tasks of making sure my contacts and calendar synced, downloaded my most used apps, and began to organize my home screen. “Holy shit!” I said to my friend Sara. “I can put the icons ANYWHERE I want!” Granted I knew this going in, but it really struck me as I dragged icons into their new homes, surrounding them with widgets, and at some point finally changing the stock wallpaper.
As the weeks went on, I was in a nearly constant state of euphoria, telling all of my iPhone friends how incredible Android had become, showing off all the cool things I could do and trying to impress them with how usable and easy Android could really be. It wasn’t all buttercups and roses though. Migrating contacts and calendars, finding cross-platform apps for things like podcasts and notes, and most importantly syncing photos was not always a straightforward task. I eventually found a new podcast app and had to re-add all my podcasts manually to it. I got my photos synced with Google Photos, which duplicated some, grabbed files like PDFs that I never intended to have in my photo library, and didn’t play well with Samsung’s stock gallery app. I was never able to find an automated way to get my Galaxy photos to the Photos app on my Mac and iPad, so once a week I had to connect my phone via cable to one of them to sync photos across. Don’t even get me started on videos… I had to utilize an even more manual process for that and eventually just gave up since the Note 20’s video quality could not match that of my iPhone 11.
By week 8 the constant dopamine drip of new features had begun to wear off. The S-Pen almost never came out of its sheath and I was growing frustrated with the inability to utilize my other devices alongside my phone. There was no continuity. No handoff. I had my phone and then I had my Mac and iPad and that’s fine if you’re not someone who uses them synchronously as I was before I switched. Finally, by week 9 I lost my shit while sitting at a park because I couldn’t access a voice memo that I had taken on my iPad which didn’t make it to the park with me. I sat there, defeated, looking down at this phone that I so desperately wanted to love but was growing more disappointed with each day.
After feeling like a failure for a couple days, I made the decision to order an iPhone 12 Pro. I needed to go back to normalcy. I needed to go back to my comfort zone. I wanted back in the ecosystem. Apple changed up the design for this generation, flattening out the sides and adding some new colors to the mix. Pacific Blue is even better in person than in photos. It’s not the futuristic design of the Galaxy, but one thing I’ve come to realize over the last 11 weeks is that hardware and design do not trump software and compatibility. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a bigger screen with higher refresh rate than the iPhone 12 Pro, more ram, more processor cores, higher megapixel cameras, and a higher optical zoom. The difference is, my iPhone, iPad, and Mac all connect to each other. My experience is seamless regardless of what device I’m on. Also even with half the ram and less processor cores, the iPhone feels speedier than my Galaxy did in everyday use.
I received the iPhone just two days ago and to be honest, it was like being reunited with your best friend. I didn’t care about the notch or the lack of a wall adapter in the box (though I am annoyed with that now). I turned it on and felt instantly at home. As a decade long iOS user, I was where I wanted to be. While Apple isn’t perfect, they make products that work the way I expect them to and offer a flow that I feel has not yet been replicated by any other device maker. Even things like apps just feel nicer and more well made on iPhone and there’s a reason for that; Apple’s ecosystem of products is much smaller than the variety of phones running Android out there. Developers don’t need to worry about devices running 4+ year old versions of Android or hardware that can’t support all of their features. It’s just simpler to code for Apple’s ecosystem and with the introduction of Apple silicon in Mac’s soon, Apple is going to tighten up that experience even more.
All of this said, I must admit that I truly did enjoy my time overall using Android. I think if I was using a Windows PC and a Samsung tablet, my experience may have been even more positive. There are even some features that I will miss. I think notifications are handled way better on Android, and obviously customizability will always be better on the dark side. I also thoroughly enjoyed the fingerprint sensor under the screen of the Note 20 Ultra as Covid has made Face ID a daily frustration when out and about. Android has become a mature operating system with so many excellent features, it’s just not the mobile OS for me. I am very glad as a tech enthusiast that I tried it though. I learned a lot and hopefully I can be a resource for folks on the fence between Android and iOS.