Sunday, June 15, 2014

Defecting to Android - second attempt

So, it seems that I’ve finally managed to leave the gravitational pull of Apple and swapped my iPhone 5S for an HTC One M8.

I’ve been using iPhones since the original but have also tried Android phones in the past from time to time. My previous complaints have mainly been around battery life, camera quality and the quality/availability of apps - all of which are strong iPhone features in my opinion.

My last attempt to switch was to a Nexus 4 about 18 months ago, but that didn’t take: mainly because of the camera and I also had some build quality problems with the phone itself.

Reasons for moving from iOS

  • OS quality:  While I largely approve of the iOS 7 changes, and iOS 8 does also look interesting, I think the main features they’re adding now (Notifications, sharing data between apps) are quite blatantly trying to catch up with Android features.
  • More interesting hardware: Things like NFC and the ability to react to more of the phone’s sensors (e.g. mute incoming call by turning phone over) appeal to me. The iPhone has been fairly static, hardware-wise, apart from the fingerprint sensor.

Reasons for staying with iOS

  • Music: All my music is in iTunes on my Macbook (I like iTunes, and I use it regularly to manage all my music and I don’t want to change that) and I sync to the iPhone regularly.
  • Retina display: Despite the smaller size, the iPhone screen is still very sharp and great to look at.
  • iMessage: All my family have iOS devices, and contacts living abroad use to for free international texts. I obviously still have iMessage on the iPad, but it won’t be as convenient as having it on the phone.

The switch

Apple hardware is well designed, there’s no getting away from it. Android devices are, on the whole, big dull plastic slabs, which are not as appealing. A recent exception to this has been the HTC One M8 - a big, but not ludicrously big, screen and a sleek metal case made it look just as good as an Apple device to me, and so I grabbed a second hand one from Amazon marketplace and the experiment started.

3 weeks into my switch to the M8 and I have been using it as my main phone without needing to retreat to the iPhone at all. (It does help that  I have an iPad Mini, so the couple of iOS apps I still miss - more on those later - are still available on there). This time I have also managed to move my iTunes music onto the Android phone too - something I haven’t done before - which has helped make the transition more permanent.

The Good

Battery life 

I can comfortably get a couple of days of moderate usage out of the M8, which matches the iPhone 5S, and I haven’t even had to resort to the ‘Power Saver’ or ‘Extreme Power Saver’ modes yet.


I honestly don’t think the screen is as sharp as the iPhone’s, but it’s sharp enough, and the extra room makes it much better for most tasks.Android: iOS has lots of nice little features (double tap title bar to scroll to the top of the page), but so does Android. I like the Android phone dialer better than the iOS one. Notifications are much better (the hardware LED light is a great feature). Google Maps on Android is also much slicker and more useful than its iOS equivalent to the Apple Maps version. 


Micro SD card. I was running out of room on my 32GB iPhone - an upgrade would be to the much more expensive 64GB model. With the M8 I have just slotted in a 64GB card to add extra storage to the 16GB built-in. Standard micro USB for syncing/charging. Lightning connectors are a bit of a rip-off.

Notification LEDs: I like this as a subtle way of indicating you have a notification without having to turn on the phone screen to check.

The bad 


The metal case looks great - it’s bloody slippy though! Trying to use the phone one-handed means stretching the thumb up to the power button, which causes the phone to start slipping in my hand. This can be avoided by using the ‘double tap on the screen’ to wake up the phone, but the general point remains: it’s slippy! 

Speakers: I listen on headphones, so I don’t use the speakers. I’m sure they’re great, but they do seem to get clogged up with lint/fluff very easily - mine seem to be half clogged already. 

Lack of accessories: Life is easy for an iPhone user. There are millions of cases, adaptors, clamps, shells, protectors, gadgets, doodads and thingumajigs to use with your iPhone. Android devices are more fragmented, and so finding decent accessories for your phone is harder. I’m still looking for a sleeve for the M8 (I used to use a Colcasac on the iPhone). I think the solution might be for my wife to make one for me. 


Actually this is not quite *as* bad as I expected it would be. I like Nexus devices because you don’t get a lot of crap installed on top of Android, and you can’t get the M8 Play edition with stock Android in the UK, so I was apprehensive about the extra bloatware HTC would install on the phone. 

There are some bad points - I don’t like Blinkfeed, and you can’t really remove it, only hide it, but the bundled Mail app is much easier for me to set up and manage my Yahoo mail on than anything Google provide. The extra power saving modes are good, and the settings for how often to sync doe seem to help keep battery life healthy. 
I don’t need a ‘Kid mode’ though and I want to be able to get rid of it!
The HTC Gallery also offers a lot of pointless features that get in the way of me looking at my photos (I don’t want a bunch of photos set to music when I click on a gallery!) 


Ok, maybe ‘bad’ is too strong. Bottom line, as a general point + shoot camera, it is not as good as the iPhone 5S. There are more manual controls, and so it is possible that with tweaking for a situation it would be able to produce shots that are as good. The iPhone - even without HDR - seems to capture a larger dynamic range than the M8. 
However, the camera is ‘good enough’ as a general P+S, and the UFocus feature (allowing you to shift the focus point after the photo has been taken), while a bit gimmicky, can lead to some interesting results. 
The 3D feature is pretty pointless, and although HTC are going for ‘bigger pixels’ rather than ‘more megapixels (an approach I largely support), I would also appreciate more than 4MP.

An example UFocus shot that worked well:



  • Strava: Even with the iPhone’s M7 chip, there seems to be little difference in battery drain tracking my bike rides to/from work on the M8 rather than the iPhone. A 2 hour ride drains about 5-7% of the battery on both.
  • NFC: I am putting stickers everywhere to switch my phone into different settings using ‘Trigger’
  • Music: After trying doubleTwist and having problems syncing playlists (which their support very kindly did try and resolve, and when the couldn’t they refunded my purchase) I switched the iSyncer and Rocket Player, and have got my iTunes library onto my Android phone, with syncing of play counts back to iTunes. Perfect!

iOS apps that I still can’t live without

I think I’m only left with ‘Accounts Tracker’ and ‘Road Trip’ as iOS apps that I use frequently and can’t find an adequate Android replacement for. They track my money and my motorbike expenses respectively and they’re both excellent apps.

There are Android apps that do comparable things, and I have tried them, but nothing comes close to the functionality and ease of use of those apps, so I’m sticking with using those on the iPad Mini. It’s not ideal, and I suppose it means I’m not really strictly converted over from iOS, but I can live with that.