In my last post, I explained how I went through the procedure of getting an iPhone 5 in order to get an LTE - compatible SIM card and contract to use with my SIM free HTC One. After testing to make sure it worked, I decided in the interests of journalistic research to spend a week with the iPhone as my primary device to try and understand what the fuss is about. I spend enough time eulogising Android, so I thought it would help to know the competition a little better.
There is no disputing that the iPhone 5 is a beautiful device. It has a really premium build quality and feels great in the hand. On the other hand, the screen is absolutely tiny and I often found myself wishing it were bigger, especially when reading long articles on the Web or checking attachments from work mail. On the other hand, despite the sub-HD display, text was crisp and extremely readable.
Battery life didn't seem dramatically different from Android. When streaming music and tethering to my tablet, the battery seemed to die just as quickly as on my HTC. On the other hand, the iPhone may have a slight advantage in Web browsing, probably due to having to power a much smaller screen.
The iPhone keyboard is pretty decent. Corrections are surprisingly good, and it is really nice to be able to switch languages including Japanese with a single button, rather than having to load a totally different keyboard like on Android. On the other hand, Android offers freedom of choice to choose any keyboard you like, and I can type a whole lot quicker with SwiftKey Flow's swiping method than tapping away on the iPhone, even with its superior corrections. I also really missed being able to long press keys to access numbers and special symbols without having to navigate to a separate keypad, and it seems very counterintuitive to display capital letters on the keys at all times, even when typing in lower case.
The home screen was a real disappointment coming from Android. It was really difficult to get rid of some of the icons for Apple's pre-installed crap (what the hell do I need to have Newsstand on my home screen for?) and in some cases these couldn't be hidden away in folders even (this seems to have been improved in iOS 7). The same with the icons in the dock, although again this seems to be fixed in iOS 7.
The Notification Centre is pretty, but nowhere near as functional as Android's. For example, I can't delete unwanted mails straight from the notification shade without opening the app. Also, while notifications seem to push to the device fine, when you open the the actual app, the notification content still needs to be downloaded (except first-party apps). This is particularly annoying in IM type apps.
One of the biggest gripes for me is the file system, or lack of it, and sharing system. This whole experience feels really crippled compared to Android. For example, sharing: if I try and share a photo directly from the Photos app, I basically get a choice of Facebook and Twitter, plus a couple of other apps I will never use. What about photo editing apps? What about Google Plus, or Gmail? The whole construction of the system, which is based on a whitelist of apps, is so inflexible compared to Android's system of intents, where any app can register itself for a particular action such as handling a photo. Similarly, I can't seem to send any kind of attachment other than a photo with Gmail, and the only app that offers to send things other than photos is the built in Mail. I can't tell the system that I want to use Chrome for everything Internet related, as it will only acknowledge the existence of Safari. Files saved in one app can't easily be accessed by another app because there is no file system as such. On Android, I have a normal directory structure, can plug into a PC and view this directory structure as though it were an external hard drive, and can even browse my company network from my phone. Coming from Android, it is hard to believe that this kind of restrictiveness and inflexibility still exists in 2013,and makes it very unlikely that I would consider or recommend an iDevice for any kind of serious work purposes.
Minor quibbles: I turned off the function of notifications lighting up the screen when locked. I don't find that very private. On the other hand, doing this made it hard to tell when I did have notifications, as there is no notification LED. Can't play Ingress on iPhone (the only game I do actually play). No way to delete messages more than one at a time in Mail. In iOS 7, the PIN number input on the lock screen has a lovely fade-out glow effect that makes it super easy for anyone watching to see what your PIN was.
And a big one: there is really no quick way to access search. And I don't mean the drivel that is Spotlight (what the hell do I need to search my device for?) I mean good old Google Search. This is one of my most used functions, and on Android, a quick swipe up from the home button on any screen will open the search app. On iOS, I need to switch to the home screen, find and open the search app, and then search. It feels a lot more tedious and long-winded than it sounds. And by the way, Siri is terrible compared to Google Now.
I have managed to survive a week using my iPhone. It won't become my main device, but neither did the world end. I experienced a few frustrations, but I saw not left tearing out my hair. The core features of smartphones are becoming more and more similar across platforms, so for day to day use, it really comes down to a matter of preference. To work quickly and efficiently, however, you won't see me give up my Android any time soon.