Press "Enter" to skip to content

Why I’m ditching my Android and getting an iPhone

19 months ago I purchased my first smartphone – well, two of them, one for me and one for my wife. At the time, I already owned two iPod Touches and liked them a lot. However, the service package cost on a carrier that had an iPhone (Verizon or AT&T at the time) was significantly higher than what I could get on US Cellular. So, with boundless optimism in my heart, I marched into the US Cellular store and bought a Samsung Mesmerize (aka Samsung Galaxy S). I paid $199 for each phone, along with a 2-year contract.

The Samsung Mesmerize

19 months later I am counting down the days until my contract is up and I can switch to an iPhone. I was amused the other day when US Cellular’s twitter folks pinged me on the topic. I can’t find my original post, but here was my first reply:

So it’s clear at least that the US Cellular party line is “the new Android phones are awesome, forget about that iPhone thing”. And gotta love their optimism: “don’t let your experience with the Mesmerize scare you off”. Really? Why not? I spent a bunch of money 19 months ago to buy your top-of-the-line phone, and it’s turned out to be craptastic at best. Why should I not be scared off?

So, in the spirit of a Shawn Blanc or John Siracusa review, here are the reasons I’m dropping my Android phone like a hot potato and moving to the iPhone.

Hardware

Let’s start from the ground floor and work our way up. I’ve actually had less frustrations with the hardware than with the other parts of the device. The build quality is decent, even with a plastic back the phone feels like it’s high quality (though not up to Apple standards). The camera is middling at best, but sufficient.

My main beef with the hardware, though, is a nasty design flaw that causes the Back button to trigger in low-signal situations. So when I’m in a building where the cell signal is low, all of a sudden my phone goes crazy. I can’t keep an app open for long, because some sort of internal interference is triggering the back key. It’s apparently a known problem with the Galaxy S, but completely unacceptable as far as I’m concerned. The phone needs to just work, and in low signal conditions, it doesn’t.

Operating System

I don’t have too many beefs with the Android OS by itself – in fact, if I got a new device with ICS or Jelly Bean on it, I’d probably like it a lot. But because the OS is customized for each device and for each carrier, it takes forever to get a new version of the OS for my phone once it’s released, and then US Cellular started dropping support.

When I bought the phone in December 2010 it was running Android OS 2.2 (aka Froyo). 2.3 (Gingerbread) came out in December 2010 but wasn’t available for my phone until April 2011. Come on, folks, Honeycomb (3.0) was already out by then. And that’s the last update that US Cellular is supporting on the Galaxy S. No Honeycomb. No Ice Cream Sandwich. Certainly no Jelly Bean. So my operating system has been at least one version behind Android’s releases the entire time I’ve owned it, and is now three versions behind.

(Android’s full version history on Wikipedia.)

By comparison, if I’d bought the current iPhone at the time (the iPhone 4, or, heck, even the lower-tier iPhone 3GS), I would’ve had immediate download/upgrade of each new iOS release when it happened, including the upcoming iOS 6. Given that the big stability and feature advances come in the operating systems, always being behind is just unacceptable.

Now yeah, there are custom ROMs. I tried a bunch of them. Their stability was always tenuous at best, and complete crap at worst. In the end, I went back to using the stock US Cellular-provided ROM, though I did then root it. More about that later.

Ecosystem

I have two main gripes with the Android ecosystem – media management and backup. I’ll address both.

Media Management is an issue because it’s a pain in the rear to get music and photos on and off the phone. Sure, there are a few programs designed to help automate that, but they’re mostly a pain in the rear and don’t work well. Now, iTunes is still a flaming pile of poo when it comes to managing content on devices, but it’s still a far cry better than anything that works decently with Android.

And don’t even get me started about backups. The only way to fully backup the Android phone, apps, settings, texts, etc, is to root the phone and then buy a third-party backup program. And rooting the phone automatically voids your warranty. Let me say that again so it’s clear. The only way to fully backup your phone is to first void the warranty. Does that seem insane to anyone else but me?

US Cellular actually realized how much of a nightmare this situation is, or at least would be for them if angry customers suddenly realized their phones had crashed and they’d lost all of their contacts. So, they wrote some craptastic software “My Contacts Backup” that gets bundled with your phone and will backup your contacts to some unknown server somewhere. If you run it. Manually.

Applications

Application support for the Android has actually improved as time has gone on – more and more of the apps I liked on the iPhone have migrated over to Android, albeit in editions that were typically uglier, missing features, and running more unreliably than their iOS counterparts. I’m getting to the point now, though, where new apps that come out won’t run on the phone because I need a newer version of the OS. After only 19 months, my device is going obsolete. Grrrr.

System Stability

I don’t know whether to blame this one on the hardware, the OS, the applications, or some combination of all three, but for most of the time I’ve had it, my phone has locked up to where I had to do the three-button reboot at least once per day. Yep, once per day.

And it never locks up at a good time. Because either it locks up while it’s in my pocket, with the backlight on full brightness, and it sits in my pocket for who knows how long w/o receiving calls or texts, and running down the battery, or it locks up right when I’m trying to open an app, or take a call, or send a text – i.e. when I need to use it.

Earlier this spring it locked up unbeknownst to me while my wife had taken my daughter to the emergency room. I took it out of my pocket and realized it’d been locked up solid for 20 minutes (the clock display stops updating, so it’s easy to tell how long it’s been frozen). If my wife had needed to get ahold of me in that time, she wouldn’t have been able to, and I would’ve never known until it was too late. Unacceptable.

Earlier this week I was out shopping when my wife texted me to pick up something else at the store. I tried to send her a return text, and it appeared that it wouldn’t send the text. So I tried going into and out of airplane mode, to see if that’d reset the radio and send the text. No such luck. Then I tried gracefully rebooting the phone to see if that’d fix it. Still no dice. Then I crash rebooted it. Finally it did send the text. Actually, it sent my first text about half a dozen times. I finally gave up and just called her.

Oh, but that crash reboot – it completely hosed up my alarm clock app. I tried just deleting the data and cache for the app, but that didn’t fix it. Finally I had to uninstall the app, reboot, clear my phone’s cache, then reinstall the app to finally get it working. And then set up all my alarm settings again.

So what does it do well?

I’ll tell you what this phone does well: if I just want to use it as the Android equivalent of a 3G-enabled iPod Touch, I’m OK with it. I can check Twitter, run my weather and news apps, keep a calendar and some contacts on it, do some Facebook and a little Instagram, and it works tolerably. Especially on wifi.

It’s only when you get to these edge cases like, oh, I don’t know, making a phone call that it seems to totally go to crap.

So, I’m gonna switch.

Now, if the nice customer service person from US Cellular wants to explain to me again why I shouldn’t let this experience “scare me off”, I’d be entertained to hear about it. I’ll kinda hate to leave US Cellular – their customer service has been pretty good and their package prices are reasonable – but at this point I’m much more interested in having a device that works, even if it means I have to pay a little more for it.

If my experience with my other Apple devices (two iTouches, an iPad, a Mac Mini, and an iMac) are any indication, and if my family and friends’ reports are to be trusted, I’ll be much happier with the iPhone.

10 Comments

  1. Chris, I have to say I’ve had exactly the opposite experience with my phone. It’s 2 years old and going strong, although there’s a lot of wear and tear due to the fact that I’m pretty rough on my phones.

    I’d get another Android in a heartbeat (probably a Galaxy class device next time instead of the HTC I have now), or a Nexus device.

    My wife has an iPhone. It’s alright. It’s a 3gs, and I can tell you that as these things age they have problems too, especially with speed. You get the iOS upgrades, but without any of the cool new features, and with a huge performance hit. The phone is so slow with the latest iOS revision… it’s not a pleasure to use at all.

    But that said, the hardware and software on my HTC Desire have been fantastic, and all the other Android devices (Xoom, Nexus 7) have been solid as well.

    Now carrier problems I understand. I hate being with my current carrier and can’t wait until my contract is up so I can switch the very day it’s over.

    • Dan, interesting. I actually started out with an HTC, but it had something like only 128MB of internal memory, and on Froyo you couldn’t have apps on the memory card, so that was a total non-starter. The Galaxy S was better, and the HW may actually be OK, but the software support has just been atrocious.

      I know the iPhone isn’t the magic bullet, but I can’t wait to see what the specs are on the new one this fall.

  2. Eric Eric

    Chris, I am thinking about an iphone too, but had my HTC Evo for 25 months and works great.

  3. it’s a better way to live, my friend. you’ll enjoy it.

  4. YMMV with newer iOSes and the 3GS. My wife has a 3GS with 5.0 and it’s fine. Not slow at all. A friend who’s not me has a 4 with the iOS 6 beta on it and it’s fine, too.

    • I know several people who have up-to-date 3GS phones and they all complain about slowness. Maybe we’re just less patient here in Canada 🙂

  5. Sarah Kranz Sarah Kranz

    Mark and I both upgraded from Samsung Fascinates (top of the line 2 years ago before Verizon had iPhones…looks identical to the picture you posted of yours) – I went to an iPhone 4s, and he went to the Galaxy 3. I had an ipod and ipad, so the iphone was a logical choice for me. I was pulling the battery from mine (it was locking up) several times daily until I uninstalled the twitter app – at that point, it was only locking up once every couple of days. I’ve played with my new phone, I’ve played with his new phone. He still swears by his phone, and I’ll stand by mine. That said, I don’t love it so much more that I would call myself a die-hard apple fan. I love Siri (she is much smarter than his Galaxy 3 equivalent), I love the way the voicemail is set up, and I LOVE (love, love) that I can share my content on all of my devices. There are a few things his phone is better at – the top of the list is navigation. We have 10 phone lines (5 kids, us, and aging parents), so the new Verizon share everything plan has been fantastic for us.

  6. Roy Roy

    We likely will be leaving us cellular as well but not because of phones but with Verizon new share everything plan and her company discount it makes getting back into smart phones affordable. That being said I predict the wife will end up with an iPhone and me with android. I recently gave her my Ipad 2 and replaced it with an Android phone 7inch tablet which runs ics. We bought two these days refurbished from thee manufacturer for less than than a 16 Ipad. I have no regrets. And this is from someone who has always been a die hard apple fan. My previous android experience was also spectacular but I’m someone who wants to be able to customize my product and remove carrier bloatware so android is perfect for me

  7. Keith Keith

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the entire Android landscape is a craps shoot. I absolutely loved my HTC Incredible when I had it (and am glad Courtney has one now), but my LG Optimus is nearly useless and Courtney’s previous phone, an HTC Rhyme, was good when it was good, but had a few crazy bad days.

    I vastly prefer the UI of Android over iOS, and that alone will probably keep me away from an iPhone for the foreseeable future, but from now on I’m sticking to the Nexus line, which seems to be the one place least prone to the major bugs that seem to be introduced by manufacturer and/or carrier tweaks to the software.

  8. Marshal Marshal

    I couldn’t disagree more, but first before I start…. Uscellular might ACTUALLY be getting the new iphone. I have a buddy of mine who works at corporate who is 95% sure of this. The $30 upgrade fee is also another hint to that and also some of Us Cells comments at previous conventions. I see your gripe with the mesmerize. I really do. I bought that same phone and my wife had the htc desire which was crap. She now has my same mesmerize and it is going strong and I even went swimming with it for 5 minutes before realizing it was in my trunks pocket! Ive had the phone for over 2 years. UsCellular has come a LONG way in the past 6 months. Your wrong about the upgrade to ios 6 by the way. The iphone 4, ipad 2 will NOT be getting that update. As far as transferring music and programs blah blah it is CAKE with android. Drag and click copy whatever lots of options. Its so easy. With the galaxy s III let me put it into perspective compared to the iphone 4s. What the galaxy s III phone can do that the iphone 4s can’t. Galaxy s III has more RAM than any phone right now, bigger screen, video chat not in wifi only but in 3g (androids could do this for awhile), Google assistant on jelly bean kicks the crap out of SIRI, way more customizable, NFC technology (transfer files such as documents, videos, photos without wifi or phone service by touching phones, and programing tectiles), Better battery life even though bigger screen, Pop up play (like you would ever use it, but watch video and surf net or check email at the same time). The list goes on. Don’t get me wrong I love apple. I own the new Ipad and love it! I’m sorry but android has come a long way, and if apple doesn’t do something quick android will leave them in the dust. I have been contemplating waiting to see what the new Iphone offers these next couple months before I buy the galaxy s III though. Honestly you can’t go wrong with both. If the new iphone impresses me then I will pick it up if uscell gets it. If not i will definitely be getting the galaxy and by then it will probably be on sale.
    Cheers

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.