I’m 14 days into my month-long experiment without the iPhone or Apple Watch to keep me company.
I’ve already spoken about how little I’ve missed the Apple Watch. It has been lying on my bedside table, permanently connected to its little charging puck since I bought my Casio G-Shock. I know I’ll need to wear it again once the experiment is over, but I’m confident that the Apple Watch will no longer be a regular fixture on my wrist.
But what about the iPhone? Do I miss it?
A little. Although, as I’ve explained in the past, I’m finding the iPhone increasingly dull. Granted, there isn’t much more you can do with a rectangular piece of technology that is still, to all intents and purposes, just a mobile telephone.
I’ll save my full thoughts for the end of the experiment, but in the meantime, I thought I’d update you on five things Android has delighted me with over the last two weeks.
Are you listening, Apple?
1. An easier way to arrange apps
I hate jiggle mode on the iPhone. I also hate that it was inadvertently given that name during an Apple event (I don’t for a minute believe it was dealt it from birth).
Everything about jiggle mode irritates me.
It is needlessly difficult to use. And you know exactly what I’m talking about if you’ve ever attempted to move an app from one screen to the very last position on another without completely messing up the row you’re trying to create.
Oh, and then there’s the absolute world of pain you enter when you accidentally create a folder and attempt to undo the mess that inevitably ensues. Invariably, you’ll end up with an app – whose position you had zero interest in modifying – sitting on its own in a folder while simultaneously having completely lost track of the app you were trying to move but which ended up in that same folder before you removed it.
Exhausted? Me too.
Why Apple makes this so bum-clenchingly difficult, I have no idea.
Then, you try out Android’s method for rearranging apps, and it just works. You can effortlessly move them between screens, easily create folders and encourage apps to move out of the way and into the desired slot without any finger gymnastics.
There’s no damn ‘jiggle mode’, either.
Get your act together, Apple.
2. Swipe left from the home screen
One thing I always miss after using Android for a period is what happens when you swipe left from the home screen.
Once called ‘Google Now’, this lovely, semi-hidden gem is now essentially just a list of news, blogs and articles Google thinks you might be interested in. But it works brilliantly and always serves up stuff I want to read.
By comparison, Apple forces you to go into the News app to discover stuff it thinks you’ll find interesting.
There are a couple of points to note here. Firstly, Google’s news feed, as mentioned, feels incredibly well personalised. I have no doubt that’s to do with my search history but, frankly, I don’t care; this is where ‘big brother’ can do what he likes if it results in genuinely useful content placed right in front of my eyes.
Secondly, Apple News has got progressively worse, in my view. Their relentless focus on pushing you towards a News+ subscription is tiring and user-hostile. If they were to instead give us the same swipe-left-for-stuff-you-might-like from the home screen, it would be a far more pleasurable experience.
3. More interesting widgets
I don’t really have anything against the widgets in iOS, but they are a bit dull.
That’s one of the most telling differences between the two operating systems; iOS looks like it has rocked up to a house party wearing a suit while Android sneaks over the back gate wearing shorts, flip-flops and a Che Guevara t-shirt.
The widgets are a case in point – and yes, I appreciate Android had a head start with this.
They’re just richer, more voluminous and infinitely more interesting (and, yes, you can arrange them easily, too!).
4. Better default wallpaper
I’ve always felt let down by Apple’s default wallpaper choices for the iPhone.
They’re so boring.
Apple appears to have limited interest in wallpaper. With every new iOS update that arrives, the wallpaper additions seem to be delivered with relentlessly minimal effort. It’s as though they’re saying, “look, we never wanted to give you wallpaper in the first place, so this is all you’re getting, ok?”.
It’s such a shame when you look at the competition. Android (while I appreciate this differs between manufacturers) features wonderful default wallpaper options, all categorised neatly into folders that include ‘life’, ‘cityscapes’, ‘pride’ and ‘for fun’.
Yes, Apple, you can have fun with default wallpaper.
5. A richer lock screen
Apple has made some decent improvements to the iOS lock screen over the years, but it’s still – like so many other features in the operating system – a bit uptight. It really does need to chill out, loosen up and give us more.
Android reveals why.
The lock screen on my Pixel 4a is a treasure trove of functionality. You can interact with notifications far more easily (when iOS will often chuck you straight into the app), and they’re grouped sensibly and clearly.
There’s also a lovely little animation at the bottom of the screen which reveals the app notifications that are currently out of sight. As you scroll through the list, those app icons bounce playfully into the full notification. It’s a lovely little touch.
Oh, and Android’s version of control centre is always accessible at the top of the notification screen, too. I’ve never understood why it’s separate on iOS; that’s one finger adjustment too many, in my book.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to run a couple of different phones, and, like me, you’ve been welded to the iPhone for as long as you can remember, I really do recommend dipping your toes into Android’s waters for a short while.
It’s fascinating. And not least because, when I did this several years ago, the difference was night and day; Android felt sluggish, inferior and way too customisable (you can have too much of a good thing, trust me).
Things have changed, big time. Android is as slick and fast as iOS – even on a device as low-priced as the Google Pixel 4a.
The takeaway today, however, is that it’s also far more playful than iOS, and it’s hard not to warm immediately to that.
I know this experiment won’t convert me to Android full time, but just halfway in, it’s clear that iOS needs to loosen up a bit if it’s to stop me from doing this again in the future.