I never thought I would live to see the day.
I took a deep breath, sighing audibly to myself as I pulled the shiny white box out of the package – the familiar Apple logo emblazoned across the top.
I can’t believe I’m doing this.
My first smartphone, way back in 2008ish, was a Windows Phone. Remember those? It was lime green. I thought it was pretty cool, though it was definitely limited in what it could do.
A couple years later, my wife and I got married, and we switched together to Blackberries. It was orange. It felt like a revelation: a mobile operating system that worked well!
A couple years after that, probably around 2012, we jumped into the Samsung Galaxy arena and moved to Android.
Yes, iPhones were plentiful around this time.
But I, the same man who went out of his way to purchase and proudly use a brown Microsoft Zune to avoid buying an iPod, would not even consider getting such a restrictive and expensive device like an iPhone.
Yet there I sat last week, staring at the cellophane-wrapped box containing my first iPhone.
My wife was upset with me for making the switch.
Heck, I was upset with me for making the switch.
Was this a betrayal of everything I stood for all these years?
Before 2021, I was a Chromebook lover and proud of it! I was a flag-waving fanatic of the Pixel phones. I am on my second Wear OS watch, for crying out loud!
Depressingly, though, I reached a point where switching to an iPhone made sense to me.
This isn’t an article urging you to go buy an iPhone. And it’s not even a list of all the cool iOS features, like Face ID (even though I have to admit Face ID is really great).
This article is consumer therapy for me. It’s my way of talking through how I went from Google fanboy to Apple user in just a few short months. And shiny features had nothing to do with it.
Reason #1. App availability
Sure, most of the popular apps out there have Android and iOS versions. I’ve turned up my nose at most developers who only develop iOS apps.
But when I switched to a MacBook Air, I fell in love with Bear Notes. And Bear Notes has no Android app at the time of this writing. I had to start using a workaround where I would take quick notes in Google Keep and then transfer them over. It was not intuitive.
I’ve since left Bear Notes for Notion for reasons I’ll probably write about at some point, but there were others. Airr.io is a very interesting concept of an app, and I wanted to use it as my podcasting app of choice to see how well it works. Fantastical has become my go-to calendar app of choice. I wanted that on my phone as well.
I’m sure there are logical reasons why some developers don’t make their apps for Android. But since I had already been using Mac apps on my computer, it only made sense to have the corresponding iOS apps on my phone.
Reason #2. Form factor
This was the most compelling reason for me.
The iPhone 12 Mini is actually a tremendous phone. It’s the same phone, largely, that the standard iPhone 12 is. But it’s smaller. As I move away from consuming content on-the-go in favor of being more present with the people and places around me, I don’t need a big ol’ screen in my hand anymore.
Plus, about six months or so ago, I developed a ligament strain in one of my thumbs. Turns out, it was “texting thumb,” and it’s quite common. Using my big Google Pixel 3a phone became cumbersome. I wanted to be able to reach the whole screen with my thumb, and I couldn’t.
The iPhone 12 Mini fits perfectly in my hand and my pocket, and it’s far more comfortable to carry around than the beefy flagship phones. Combining it with a MagSafe wallet allows me to cut down on my Costanza-like pocket bulk to a fraction of what it was.
But it doesn’t compromise on performance or build quality either. It’s a solid phone with great features… it’s just smaller.
I’ve read a few reviews now on Android blogs about the iPhone 12 Mini, and they all bemoan that Android has no mini phone out there.
I agree with this sentiment. Again, it’s one of those things that apparently is only available in iOS. It’s a niche product, but niche products can be incredibly popular.
The iPhone 12 Mini was the only one, and that’s why I was interested in it so much to begin with.
Reason #3. The iPad experience
My tablet experience up to a couple months ago was limited to cheap Amazon tablets, a Nexus tablet (remember those?), and my convertible Chromebooks.
In fact, when I bought my MacBook Air, my wife urged me to hang onto my Pixelbook and use it as my tablet, since I loved the machine so much.
But in practice, the Pixelbook wasn’t a good enough tablet. Android tablets in general are very frustrating to use, and they feel like an afterthought.
The sheet music apps in particular were terrible, and I began playing guitar in a band. I wanted to switch to an iPad.
When I did, I was really surprised by the polish of it all. Literally every Android tablet I’ve ever touched has felt a little off… like not enough attention was paid to it.
But the iPad is clean, simple, light, fast, and beautiful. I really enjoy using it not only for sheet music, but for content consumption in general.
By that same token, even typing on an iPad was great. I use LastPass for password management, and LastPass integrates with the iOS keyboard directly. I don’t have to deal with opening another app or enabling dropdown boxes and notifications getting in the way. I can just tap a button on my keyboard and pull them up.
I knew that I wanted the iOS keyboard on my phone for that purpose alone.
Knowing that the iPad experience was so smooth and enjoyable, I had a feeling the iPhone experience would be as well. I was correct.
Reason #4. Pure curiosity
My Pixel 3a was starting to crap out on me.
The fingerprint scanner worked most of the time, but not always. Whenever it acted up, it was a nightmare to straighten out.
The phone became incredibly slow.
The camera, in particular, moved at a snail’s pace.
On average, I can get about 2 years of life out of an Android phone. With an Android phone, I know what I’m getting and what to expect.
With an iPhone, I have no idea. Could I use it for years on end? Would that work? I was just curious. And I think, in an age where we can buy and sell devices at will whenever we want, it’s a risk worth taking.
I was pursuing curiosity just to try this thing out.
Reason #5. Yes, the Apple ecosystem
I put this last because it’s always on everyone’s lists. I have to include it.
Google has this weird tendency to Frankenstein their operating systems. There’s Chrome OS and Android, and they kinda talk to each other but not really. If you want them to work together, you have to pair them up, install some apps, and even then, you can’t quite do everything you want.
You have to install a whole bunch of third-party apps just to get anywhere, and it becomes a mess.
Messages for Web is a great example of this. I was thrilled when they came out with Messages for Web.
But in practice, the app didn’t always work reliably (heck, it worked better on my MacBook than my Pixelbook!).
Sending images would result in frozen messages from time to time. The app would log out randomly. Or my favorite: you couldn’t use it on more than one device at a time. So if I wanted to answer texts while on my iPad, I would come back to my computer and see that it was logged out because it would only take messages in one place.
The argument that this has to do with Android hardware being so varied misses the point, I think. A lot of this is software-based. Google could do these things.
Ask anyone who uses Apple products and they will eventually tell you about the ecosystem.
I’ll tell you mine right now:
- I can text and direct message from any Apple device
- I can copy text or URLs on my MacBook and immediately paste them on my iOS devices
- I can start reading something on a web page on one device and open it up to where I left off on the other with one tap
- I can easily send files and images between my devices with ridiculous ease and impossible speed thanks to AirDrop
All the devices talk to each other, and that’s just because I’m logged into all of them. I didn’t have to install separate apps to do it. It just works.
And therein is the issue. Apple seems to prioritize usability and user experience in their products.
I don’t know what Google does. I really don’t. And this is from someone who has stood by Google for a decade-plus.
Why can’t Google’s devices talk to each other so seamlessly?
Why can’t Google keep anything running for more than a year before killing the project?
Google appears to prioritize Assistant over everything else – and that normally works well (though it has its bugs). But in exchange for all that attention, they don’t do pretty basic stuff that Apple has mastered.
And those basic things are what bring people to the Apple fold and keep them there… including me.
Will I keep the iPhone forever? Am I a fanboy now?
For the first question, who knows?
For the second question, no.
I am a huge fan of the features I’ve seen out of this phone, however. I’m impressed by the sharp difference in quality of the user experience.
But I also have learned over the years that companies make changes, or they don’t keep up.
I’ve moved from Windows Media Center to XBMC/Kodi to Plex.
I’ve moved from an XBox 360 to Stadia.
I’ve moved from a Pixelbook to a MacBook.
I could move to a different phone and tech ecosystem anytime (provided I can afford it).
But for now, I’m not regretting this decision to switch to the iPhone. It works really well, feels great, and works better than anything I’ve ever used in terms of interacting with other devices.
And ultimately, those were my priorities when I attempted the switch in the first place.