Productivity Technology

So I switched to Android

Brace yourself. I somehow underestimated the impact the following news would have on people who know me well. I was virtually interrogated by work colleagues who couldn’t believe that I…have finally switched from iOS to Android.

Take a deep breath. Have a seat.

I know I’ve had more time to adjust to this technological earthquake than you. You may need a moment before we continue.

But…why?!

Let’s take a step back and consider my reasons for the move – then I’ll tell you a little bit about my experience over the last few weeks. Life sans iPhone if you will.

I’ve previously expressed my frustration at the lack of a larger screen iPhone. Several times, in fact. I was disappointed at the lack of significant upgrade between iPhone 5 and 5s. (Still bought one, though. The day it was released. Typical Apple fanboy that I am/was).

Since their launch, I’ve been pretty much lusting after some form of “Phablet”  Those strange combinations of mobile phone technology in a form factor closely resembling a tablet. What can I say? I like a big screen. And one thing that I love more than a big screen is using a stylus on a screen.

Something approaching heresy in the world of iOS.

So since about October of last year, I’ve been seriously looking at the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. At its launch, I was blown away by the screen when I got to play with it in various mobile phone stores. I loved the speed with which it ticked along, the smooth interface and the handwriting recognition.

I monopolised the demo models in my local mobile phone stores, simultaneously raising the hopes of the staff that I’d buy one, while annoying the hell out of other prospective buys queuing behind me.

It was almost a return to the PDAs of old – devices I still miss to this day. And based on Note 3 sales  I know I’m not alone in this regard.

The stumbling block? My ties to the Apple ecosystem. iTunes, various Apple apps and media… none of these play nice with Android (or so I thought). I was tied to Omnifocus for my task management and project planning. My music and movies were in iTunes format (and I have a lot of both).

Some important questions…

Rather than making a rash move, I set about doing some research. I needed answers to some important questions before making a switch from iOS to Android, namely:

  • What about my favourite iOS apps? Are there decent Android equivalents or alternatives?
  • What about my music? Would I be able to transfer my favourite tracks from iTunes to an Android phone?
  • What should I do about iCloud and my reliance on it for email, contacts, calendars etc etc?
  • With my life contained in Omnifocus, could I find another app that did what it did and not leave me bereft of structure and reminders?

Happily, I got great answers to all of the above.

As for apps, I quickly realised that my favourite and most-used apps were pretty much non-Apple and had great Android versions. Such as: Dropbox, Evernote, Spotify, Instagram and so on. True to form, I made a list and ensured I was satisfied I could find an alternative and that reviews were positive. Remember, I didn’t have my own Android phone to test any of this on.

As for music, I use a combination of Spotify and Google Play Music  It seamlessly uploaded my entire iTunes library available for online play or download to my new phone. Much easier than I originally thought.

The move from iCloud was more of a challenge, but nothing too difficult. I exported my iCloud calendars and imported them into Google Calendar. I started to use my two Gmail addresses and am slowly teaching others that these addresses are the best place to get in touch with me.

Honestly, I’m still tidying up Contacts – this seems to be something that Google haven’t paid a lot of attention to and was quite a manual task – in contrast to calendars and music.

I’d consider this more “work in progress” than something that was sorted on day one.

Yes, but what about Omnifocus?

For the last few years, I’ve been one of this productivity bores who has fetishised Omnifocus. All my work and personal projects, actions, reminders and such were contained in this iOS/Mac app. Seamless synching between my various devices, it kept me on top of my responsibilities and working towards the fabled “mind like water” status.

So…I downloaded and tested a plethora of alternatives. I’ll save all of that for another post, but suffice to say I arrived at a decision and am now using ToDoist on all my devices. It doesn’t do everything that Omnifocus does, but I’ve quickly realised I didn’t need all that functionality. It was actually serving as a bit of a distraction.

And what about the phone?

Well, I got my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in the Duty Free store in Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Probably the worst place to buy a new phone – just before boarding an 8.5 hour flight to the US!! But in the run up to departures, I used my iPhone 5s’s connection to download all my favourite apps onto it and get (very basically) up and running.

I was still ever so slightly worried. I’d done the research I could without actually taking the phone home for a weekend of work/play. So I left the shop significantly poorer but excited. I spent much of the flight playing with the phone and learning more about how Android is different to iOS. But also quite similar.

Putting the two phones next to each other on the table in front of me during the flight was quite the eye-opener! The Note 3 is significantly bigger. It’s pocketable, but only just. But the screen real estate is so worth the extra bulk.

I used both phones while in the US. I had pre-purchased a US SIM card for use during the holidays, which worked in the Note. The iPhone was used to take photos and then back them up to Dropbox and Google+ (you can’t be too careful) while we were within free wifi range or back at the hotel.

I clung to the iPhone while in New Orleans as it was familiar and I didn’t want to faff around with a new phone while trying to photograph something interesting (and potentially fast-moving). But by the time we were in Miami (great holiday, thanks) I was 100% using the Note. It just took a couple of days to fully adjust.

In the couple of weeks I’ve used the phone, I’d make the following observations, with more to follow in future posts:

  • The stylus and handwriting recognition are stellar and better than I could have hoped. I use the stylus to write texts, emails, notes in Evernote and pretty much everything else. The Note manages to interpret my scrawl 90% of the time and helpfully offers suggestions when I’m rushed or trying to write on a moving tube train.
  • The battery is much better than my iPhone. Plus, the Note has the advantage of having a removable battery. First on my shopping list of accessories was a spare battery. I now have a desk stand for the phone which simultaneously charges the spare battery. No more frantically searching for free electrical sockets while in Starbucks.
  • I’m getting used to putting such a large device up to my face to make/receive calls. I’ll be honest – I was a little self-conscious at first. But as I used headphones and a built in mike for most calls anyway, there’s not too much to adjust to.
  • The camera takes great photos. Yes, the iPhone 5 is justly lauded for the quality of its pics. But I’m very, very happy with the output from my new phone. And since most are shared on social media, not the National Gallery, arguments over mega-pixels can be a little redundant.

Mobile phones (and operating systems) are such a personal thing. If you like your iPhone or Windows Phone, then good for you. I moved because my iPhone wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I still used my Macbook Air and have no plans to move to Windows! I can see the advantages of both iOS and Android and I definitely haven’t become an Android fanboy overnight.

But on almost a daily basis, I encounter something that Android does which makes me smile. It’s just so flexible.

So…

I hope you’ve recovered from the above bombshell of news. Some of my colleagues are still perplexed and even reconsidering their planned purchases of iOS devices now that I’ve made the switch.

Especially as I’ve also bought a Nexus 7 and am selling my iPad mini. But more on that another time.

1 comment on “So I switched to Android

  1. Interesting read. I did the shift from iphone to a google nexus 5 last December. No problems, good phone but some of the functions as you described just didn’t fit as well for me so on holiday in Japan used my old iphone and it “fitted” for me. This week I’m moving back to the iphone. I never left the mac or ipad.

    Like

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