I’ve been an Android user for a few years now – and a devout one at that. You know those people who are the anti-apple-fanboys, the ones who proudly refuse to buy Apple products, who gloat at every opportunity to criticize the iconic company and its fanboys? Yeah, that was me. Actually, I’m still not a big fan of Apple, but things have been different since I had to get my first iDevice – an iPod Touch – simply to be able to preview and test the apps we design for iOS at work.
Having lived extensively in a two-devices-in-my-pocket-at-all-times world, I’ve come to see reason in my arguments – both for and against Android & iOS. There are multi-platform apps that I happily use on both, my Android phone and the iPod touch. And there are those that I’ve come to love on Android, but just haven’t found replacements on iOS as yet. What follow is just that – apps I can’t live without on Android, and miss sorely on iOS.
The first shock moving from Android to iOS is clearly the home screens. Unlike Android, where your home screen and apps drawer are neatly segregated, iOS dumps all your apps right there in page after page of icon grids. I miss the ability to keep only the apps I want on the home screens, and the minimal utility of widgets that bring my most important information and controls front and center. Nova Launcher Prime is my launcher replacement of choice, but what I really miss is the whole concept of a home screen.
Second in line are obviously the widgets. Why can’t I have a nice big clock on my home screen, or controls for the most used functions on my phone? The control center in iOS 7 is nice and all, but Widgetsoid makes it so that I don’t even have to swipe up to toggle my wifi or ringer on and off. It is my one-widget-to-rule-them-all, and I miss the simple, efficient functionality every time I need to turn on the flashlight or check the current battery status.
Okay, is it just me or is everybody else annoyed that the iOS keyboard does not change the characters on the keys to caps or normal depending on what is going to be typed? Sure, I can glance at the Shift key to check, but that shouldn’t be necessary. It’s not rocket science, is it? Anyway, once you have used Android’s swipe gestures and word prediction, the iOS keyboard feels hopelessly last-century – even the iOS7 one. And SwiftKey does everything the stock Android keyboard does, but better.
I’m extremely absent-minded. Remembering to turn the ringer on every morning or at the cinemas after a movie is just too much for my lazy brain and god knows how many calls & message notifications I’ve missed just because of this. Thankfully, Silence makes it so that my phone switches to silent mode every night and back the next morning, and Shush asks me how long I want the phone to remain silent every time I manually switch modes.
Okay, I know there are a bunch of twitter clients on iOS. The official one is pretty neat and then there are the heavyweights like Twitterific & Echofon. Here’s my problem though – I am big time into using Lists on Twitter to cut down on the noise in my main timeline, and none of the clients available treat lists as first-class citizens within the app. I want to be able to quickly open a list and sift through the timeline, and also see how many new posts have been added since I was there last. Falcon Pro does this beautifully, unlike anything I’ve found on iOS so far.
Note taking apps are a dime a dozen on iOS (or on Android for that matter), but none that come close to Google’s offering in terms of simplicity. I’m personally not a fan of Google’s products in the first iteration or two, but with Keep they did a stellar job of getting things right. Although I use Evernote as my personal and collaborative knowledge management platform, for quick notes and lists, nothing comes close to the speed, minimalism and the pure, simple it-just-works quality of Keep.
Talking about Google’s apps, Gmail is not that great on iOS. For all the cross-platform work they do, I don’t see why Google decided to pretty much package the web version of Gmail and call it an iOS app! Don’t get me wrong – it is a pretty capable app in itself and probably one of the better e-mail apps on the platform, but fades considerably in polish, snappiness and features when compared to the Android version.
And coming back to things that Apple doesn’t think its users need to do – how about browsing through MY files on MY device? It completely beats me why Apple wants to hide the file system from its users so much so that I have to use Dropbox to copy a document that I want access to from my phone! (I haven’t given in to using iCloud, so please don’t go there yet). Android gets new file manager apps virtually every week, but I’ve stuck with ASTRO File Manager for some time now, so that’s the one I miss.
If any of my ranting above was a bit too much for you, I would request you to please skip over this section. Tasker, for me, is the one app that represents Android’s open nature like none other. It opens up the deepest and minutest functionalities within the operating system and lets you have a ball with them. You choose your triggers, actions and pretty much automate your phone in every imaginable way. Something like this on iOS, you ask? Yeah, keep dreaming.
Baked-in, all-inclusive sharing
Okay, I’m going to cheat a little on this one. Sharing is an intrinsic part of the Android OS and not particularly an app, but it is by far the one feature I miss most on iOS! Came across a link when browsing that you need to add to your Pocket list? On Android, you can simply hit Share and select “Add to Pocket” from pretty much anywhere. On iOS, there’s the Twitter and Facebook integration and nothing else. I need to copy the path, open the Pocket app and add it manually. Same goes for photos to WhatsApp, text to Keep, snippets to Todoist and more. How is one to live without such an intrinsic part of a mobile experience after getting used to it!?
Contrary to what you may think after reading all that, I actually don’t hate iOS all that much. There are some things it gets and does brilliantly better than Android. There are apps that I love and am dying to see on Android, but more on that later, maybe. The overall experience is much snappier, beautiful and… well… tight! It’s just that having been used to the openness of Android – and I mean that in more than one way – it just feels a bit too cramped and reserved.