An Android experiment

Right. We’ve been here before. I once impulsively bought a Samsung Note phone in Heathrow Airport while on my way to New Orleans and lived with it for several months. Before swiftly moving back to iOS as soon as Apple launched a new handset.

While I loved the stylus and handwriting recognition, as well as the (then) enormous screen, the Samsung-infused Android interface just wasn’t for me.

A lot has changed since then, including the phone I use and how mature Android is as a platform. Watching the video of Google I/O last week encouraged to give the Google apps another try and I was quickly impressed.

I use Google Apps for Business to run my own firm and find it really excellent. So I took it a step further and started using a combination of my personal Gmail account, Google Calendar, Chrome and assorted extensions and other apps. They work together really, really well.

The standout element of this experiment?

Google Now. Using this on my iPhone 6s Plus was a revelation. I’m not a huge Siri user. in fact, most of my interactions involve shutting it off when it’s accidentally activated during a conversation. Speaking to Google Now was like visiting Siri at some point in the future. Detailed, spoken answers to every single questions, all responses using my physical location as context, as well as on-screen information to make the response even more useful.

I tested it with public transport questions, cinema opening times, films on show and pricing of phone handsets. I got quick and correct answers to each one from Google Now.

For example, while sitting in Canary Wharf, I asked Google Now “How far is it to Paddington?”. Those exact words. I got an instant response “At this time of day it will take you 45 minutes to drive to Paddington Station. Traffic is very heavy. Here is a map and public transport options.” (Not verbatim, but 99% of what I heard). On-screen I got a Google map from my location to Paddington Station, as well as public transport route options and a link to more information about the station itself.

On Siri, the response was the less than impressive “Here is some information about Paddington I found for you on the web”.


This was the pattern across a few days of using these services in tandem. Oh Siri. I want to like you, but you’re letting me down.

I took this further my using Chrome as my main browser for a week, including various extensions to make it more useful. It’s quick, deeply linked with all the Google services and, after some adjustment to the different interface and functionality, I quickly got used to it. I didn’t opt to make it my default browser on my Macbook, so it’s been quite the surprise when Safari opens up when I click a link in another app.


Where is all this going?

After quite a bit of research, reviewing apps and considering my own needs, I’ve ordered an Android phone.

I know!

I’ve bought a Google Nexus 6P, their premium Android handset. I’m definitely going to review it in detail at some point in the coming weeks, but the main selling point is that it has ‘pure’ Android installed, not some bastardised version ruined by Samsung. It’s also massive and I love me big handsets. And they retain their resale value if this experiment ends with me going back to my iPhone.

I always go with SIM-only deals with mobile phone networks, which means I buy my own handsets and swap them out as needed. So there’ll be no new contracts to cancel or argue my way out of.

I’ve also thoroughly reviewed what I’ll be able to do with this phone apps-wise and realised that the vast majority of my favourite apps are truly cross-platform and the data exists some where in the cloud.

Todoist. Spotify. Instagram. WordPress. Twitter. Pocket Casts. Kayak. Gmail. Slack. Dropbox. Instapaper. WhatsApp. Evernote. And I’ve been using Google Photos to back up my pics for some time now, so no change there.

You get the picture.

This won’t work. Will it?

I’m expecting a bit of friction in a couple of areas. One is in terms of Apple Messages (iMessage or whatever), which I’ll need to turn off before swapping my SIM card. I’m expecting some lost messages and the need to gently encourage more people to contact me on WhatsApp for a while.

I also know the phone won’t work with my Apple Watch. This isn’t great. I’ve enjoyed using my Apple Watch. But I’ve realised that I’ve been overwhelmingly been using it as a fitness device and notification centre. And there are alternatives out there, if I really choose to move away from iOS and watchOS.

There’s also no Android app for DayOne, one of my favourite apps. But there are IFTTT workarounds and I mostly write in it using either my iPad or my Macbook anyway. All the same, it’s slightly annoying.

But that’s why I’m not selling off my iPhone, Apple Watch or assorted accessories any time soon. I want to live with this new handset for a while, make a real comparison between Android and iOS and see if I can survive in what is our 100% Apple-based home.

You’re nuts.

This is not news to me. But I was getting…itchy. Maybe it’s just me, but Apple’s services haven’t been living up to expectations of late. Siri, I’ve covered. But Apple Music has been doing my head in. It’s slow and has only made one recommendation to me that I’ve actually liked. I’ve used Spotify instead for weeks now as its recommendations are just superb. And app crashes on my iPhone are getting annoyingly frequent.

And yes, we’re just weeks from WWDC, where no doubt Apple will announce updates to their software platforms that will impress and excite me. I’m in no way planning to abandon Apple. I can’t say that frequently enough (especially to @Frankdjs, who is more than a little perplexed at my experiment). I love my iMac, my Macbook and my iPads. They’re no going anywhere and I really can’t see myself getting a Chromebook. Not when an iPad Pro can do all that and more.

And I’ll continue to use iTunes Store for buying films and iTunes to store TV shows. We have two Apple TV units, so that makes sense. And years of film purchases, which I have no desire to re-purchase on another platform. I’ve also never watched a film on a phone, regardless of size or platform. So films and TV will continue to live on my iPads.

But the majority of our TV watching is done via either Amazon Prime or Netflix now. Both available on either platform. And I can ‘cast’ from an Android handset to our Samsung TV without going through the Apple TV at all.

So what’s actually going to happen?

The phone will be for the world of cross-platform apps, daily getting things done and, with the help of Google Now, better current information on-tap. After a few weeks, I’ll take stock and anticipate two potential outcomes.

If this experiment doesn’t work out, I’ll simply swap my SIM back into my iPhone 6s Plus, strap my Apple Watch back onto my wrist and suck up the derision and mocking from everyone who knows me. I think I’ll move back if Android simply prevents me from getting things done, if I have to create too many workarounds or if the handset itself doesn’t live up to expectations.

On the other hand, if Google, Android and this lovely Huawei phone work out for me, then there may be quite a bit of eBay action taking place this summer. Luckily, Apple phones hold their value very well, especially high-end ones in perfect condition.

I’m open to both scenarios. Honestly. I’ve been an Apple fan for many years now, but right now I’m open to alternatives when it comes to a mobile phone. There’s a crack – and it’s getting bigger – in my relationship with everything Apple makes and sells. I guess I’m more critical now. And the silos that iOS and Android used to exist in aren’t really silos anymore. It’s more like a broad landscape of online services that you can access regardless of your platform of choice.

Let’s see how it pans out.

And now, I brace myself for comments…

9 comments on “An Android experiment

  1. Have Chrome on my iPhone and Google keyboard got installed last week (or whenever it was released).

    If they had Google Now, like I get on my mbp, that’d be great.

    Siri doesn’t understand my accent so I’ve always blamed that for why it’s worthless.

    You’ve seen the Scots on an elevator? That’s me with Siri.


    • i don’t know why, but I had a real aversion to Chrome until I started using it regularly. And you can get Google Now on an iPhone by installing the Google App. It works really well. It even understands me!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ethnicolor

    “Here we are again, Happy as can be…” I fully empathise, and I admire your “this is happening” approach. It’s lack of financial muscle that prevents me from leapfrogging around like you!

    Over the past year, Google’s been impressing me with their online apps, and I also really like their app layout and design. I enjoy using Google Photos, Sheets, Drive, Inbox etc.
    I find the Apple implementation of iCloud Drive, web versions of Numbers, Pages etc, Photos to be flaky and not improving. In fact I’ve stopped using those Apple apps in favour of their Google counterparts.

    However anytime I’ve played with someone’s Android, I always think it feels like a Windows PC overstuffed with junkware. iOS exudes a certain fascist-but-perfect planned, locked-down, controlled OS brio that’s reassuring.

    For now I’m happy to keep with iOS. However I do think Apple is losing its software focus while Google are plying that game really well.
    The whole ethos of Apple is “software that’s so good we design the hardware to run it on.” That’s definitely been cracking for the past coupe of years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you! I’m not a fan of Apple’s online services and don’t use them at all. It’s Dropbox for me, not iCloud, which is very glitchy.

      The most recent version of Android (M) which I updated to on the Nexus 7 yesterday is very polished, intuitive and easy to use. Very few differences between it and iOS. Though the tablet is much slower than my iPad Pro!! But that’s understandable, I think, given its age.

      I think the ‘pure’ Android OS is so very different to what’s stuffed onto Samsung and other manufacturers’ handsets that it’s almost a different OS. The pure version is just a pleasure to use. Samsung’s interface is (for me at least) awful.

      Let’s see how this pans out. Yes, it’ll cost me a few quid, but the resale on all this stuff (high end, unlocked, perfect condition) means it won’t be too much.

      And this was an itch I just had to scratch 🙂


      • ethnicolor

        How about calendar, task and note management? I know there are Google versions online, but I rely a lot on the desktop versions of these apps, plus their integration with OmniFocus. I’m very used to Spotlighting everything and *not* using the native OSX versions of these apps would be a big gap in my setup.

        Also I’m *hugely* bought in to CarPlay (I have CarPlay with an Opel Corsa wrapped around it) and the could-do-better Apple Music with its family accounts, which I would definitely hear about if I were to switch it off.

        Still, I understand the appeal of Google apps these days (Inbox and Calendar on iOS are particularly nice) and the Nexus 6P is a gorgeous phone, no arguement there.
        I’m fully planted in Apple’s ecosystem and pretty though Google is, and in the ascendancy they are, IMHO, there’s not enough benefit to warrant uprooting my digital life to a wholy different ecosystem.

        I look forward to hearing how this works out for you over the coming months!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Good questions! I use Google Calendar, ToDoist and Evernote – all available on Android. Excellent versions of each. Slightly different, but all there.

          And I don’t have a car, so no challenge there 🙂

          I’m still getting to grips with system differences and functionality, but essentially, everything I need is there.


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