I need to come clean.
I’m one of those people who carries two phones.
The iPhone 13 mini – soon to be replaced, comically, by the iPhone 14 Pro Max – is my daily iOS carry, while my current Android steed is the fascinating Samsung Galaxy Flip4.
I’m often asked which I prefer of the two mobile operating systems, and my answer remains a solid “they’re both great”. Because they are.
There was a time, in my opinion, when Android fell short of iOS and felt rather clunky. But in fairness, that was due to its cross-device compatibility and my encounters with less-than-stellar Android hardware.
These days, it’s hard to buy a bad phone – even at the budget end of the scale.
The real question is: could I ever switch completely over to Android?
The answer, at the moment, is a resolute “no”, and it’s because Apple has annoyingly baited me with the following four ecosystem hooks.
Over the last few years, Apple has been smartly tying together each of its disparate operating systems.
macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS are all aware of one another and able to interact, despite presenting vastly different user experiences on each device. The culmination of this is something called ‘Handoff’, and it is the most important thing for me on this list.
Handoff isn’t a feature that will make headlines or draw standing ovations from Apple employees and fans at launch events – it just gets the job done, quietly, and brilliantly.
If you have something on your iPhone that you’d like to review on your Mac instead, Handoff lets you do just that with a couple of taps. Web pages, files, your clipboard, and even FaceTime calls can all be wirelessly transferred from one Apple device to another.
I use two elements of Handoff every single day, throughout the day. The most common action is sharing the clipboard between my iPhone and Mac, and vice-versa. I do this mainly with web addresses and sections of text, and it has crept into some key production processes.
Handoff has also proved invaluable for moving files between my Apple devices – most notably images when I’m sharing stuff on social media.
I couldn’t live without it.
Ok, I could. I just don’t want to.
2. Polished apps
As much as I like Android, there’s no getting away from the fact that it does appear to get a bit of a rough deal when it comes to attention from app developers.
This might be entirely unfair, and there may be technical reasons for it (I’d guess developing the same app for countless potential devices is rather challenging) but apps I use on both platforms always feel more polished on iOS.
It could also be down to the developer tools that are made available by Google and Apple. Whatever it is, when I compare, say, the Medium app on my iPhone to the same app on the Flip4, the latter is clunky, features weird interface elements, and even excludes certain features.
A case in point is Google’s own YouTube Studio app, which, for me, has always been a more pleasurable experience on iOS. How is that possible?
3. The camera
You can always rely on the iPhone’s camera system. Whether you’re taking a shot in a dimly lit room, across a blisteringly sun-drenched vista, or of your fast-moving puppy, it will usually nail everything.
The exposure, the contrast, the white balance, the shutter speed; billions of calculations do their thing immediately and deliver just what you wanted – a great-looking photo.
Pixel phones might deliver more visually pleasing images for some people (me included), and Samsung’s often over-egged saturation does sometimes ‘pop’ out of the screen more readily, but they’re less reliable.
A lot of this is CPU-related. Apple silicon is just so blisteringly fast and designed specifically for the device in which it is encased that it always creates a lag-free camera experience. Tap the shutter button, and the photo is taken immediately. Review the image straight after taking it, and you won’t witness the post-processing take place.
Now that I’m a parent, I value the iPhone’s get-it-done camera system more than ever.
4. The Apple Watch
I should preface this by revealing that I’ve been wearing a Samsung Galaxy Watch5 Pro for the last few weeks and I think it’s great.
It isn’t knock-your-socks-off, this-is-the-best-wearable-ever great, but it has a traditional round face, the best battery life I’ve experienced on a smartwatch and can undertake the few tasks I ask of such a device.
But it can’t unlock my Mac.
We’re (kinda) back to the topic of Handoff here. The ability to unlock your Mac via your Apple Watch is the main thing I miss about Apple’s wearable (perhaps that’ll change when I receive my Apple Watch Ultra next week).
If you haven’t experienced this before, it’s about as simple and convenient as you can imagine. Tick a single box in the security settings of macOS, and your Apple Watch will automatically unlock the computer when you approach it and wake it from its slumber.
This feature removes the need to use Touch ID, but it’s most useful when Touch ID isn’t available – such as when my 16-inch MacBook Pro is in clamshell mode.
The Apple Watch can also be used to confirm macOS system security prompts and confirm Apple Pay transactions. When Touch ID isn’t available, that means I don’t have to continually input my system password. Which is annoying.
So, until I find myself halfway up Everest and praising the presence of the International Orange button long-press decibel siren on my Apple Watch Ultra, this simple macOS security feature remains my favourite.
Items two to four above are negotiable. If I had to give them up, I could. But when it comes to hand-off, that innocuous little feature is buried so tightly into my daily workflow that removing it would immediately have a productivity-sapping impact.
I’ve never been wedded to one particular brand because of the name or even the reputation. I was a Windows user for most of my childhood and teenage life. I used Canon cameras for a decade before switching to Sony. I don’t care what TV I buy next as long as it provides the best picture quality for the money I spend.
This is how smart Apple is. The teams behind this stuff know that they need to build these little hooks into the hardware and software which make leaving the walled garden increasingly more challenging.
What keeps you in Apple Land?
I am nodding my head in agreement as I read your points here. I am in the ecosystem and I love how it makes my life that bit easier. Although I do love other products, it is the convenience that keeps me here and I am definitely happy to be here 😇
Hey Mark, I bought Apple Watch excatly for that reason that I can unlock my Mac just wearing Apple Watch. Second one was that I was able to use FaceID with face mask during Covid restrictions. Apple Watch was last item to Apple ecosystem as I’m not big user of all smartwatch features, and stuff like notifications works mostly with any of those. But unolcking Mac and iPhone brings me in.