I got an iPhone pretty soon after they hit the market in the mid-2000′s and was always pretty impressed with the sleek look, the functionality, apps, etc. But earlier this year I found myself sitting on subway trains with acute smartphone jealously. Every time I saw someone with an Android device whose screen looked like it was nearly twice the size of mine, I couldn’t help but glare at my own seemingly tiny phone in anger. Admittedly, I didn’t have the largest iPhone, I was on the iPhone 4, but I have friends and relatives who got the 5 and I never felt like there was a significant difference. Functionally I was noticing a lot of lag with the phone – apps were taking forever to load, would randomly shut down, and I felt like I was constantly updating things and it wasn’t doing anything.
So when the Samsung Galaxy S4 came out this past spring, I decided to take the gamble and jump off iOS for the first time in five years and gamble on the Android OS and the S4. And I was going to do this blog post right then, but I figured I should give it some time and see how it actually turned out. I was the type of child who liked to move my bedroom furniture around a lot, so I know I can get bored easily, and my actual feelings about the device might change after a little hands-on time.
So what’s the verdict?
So far, I’ve been really happy with the device and the OS. But there are some drawbacks, as I’m sure you can imagine.
A few of the positives:
- The screen was as amazing as I thought it was going to be, although running it at full capacity tends to drain the battery a little bit.
- Running on LTE I’ve found the device to be really fast, and really like the Play Market, for apps at least – I downloaded all the core apps I had and used everyday on the iPhone to my S4 the first day I had it (about 35 apps) and it only took 2 minutes for all of them. FAST.
- In general some of the functionality of the Android OS is better in my opinion. The app manager is a cool feature and I like being able to see how much battery each app is using, and kill things quickly. (There’s a way in iOS but I feel like I only know that because a super smart analyst at Gartner showed me once!)
- Inherent device programs (like the S Health) and Android functions (like Google Now) are pretty cool, and in my opinion more where mobile is headed as the one-stop function of people’s life-streams. I love it that Chrome remembers stuff I’ve searched for across my devices because when I’m trying desperately to find a recipe while I’m in the grocery store, it’s one tap away instead of a “Did I search for spinach or artichoke when I was looking that up before” brain-wracking session.
Some of the let downs:
- The battery dies pretty quickly. Even when my iPhone used to wonk out on me (I think that’s a technical term, right?) I could still get through a whole day without needing to refuel, and I find that’s not always the case if I’m listening to music, or playing a game while I’m on the subway. It’s a little frustrating.
- The music/music store is not entirely cohesive. I transferred some music I had on my other device over – fine, it went into music. But then when I bought new music, it went into a separate “Play Music” and there’s no seemingly easy way to create a play list, which is kind of frustrating for me because I use them a lot for my long runs or workouts.
- There’s no external silence or volume control button. Well, there is, but it doesn’t work unless the phone is unlocked. It’s kind of annoying because I think it’s important that people keep their phones locked with a code (All about light MDM!) but if my phone is ringing in a meeting I want to be able to kill the sound quickly and it’s not easy to do on the S4. Also, when a good song comes on, my instinct is to make it louder, and when you hit the volume button on the S4 it doesn’t raise the volume until you accept a notification that listening to music too loudly can damage your ears. Don’t worry Samsung, I’m sure that ship has sailed. It was cute the first time, (“Aw, my phone even cares about my well being!”) but it’s been reminding me of that since April now, and I can’t help but feel a tiny bit like it’s a nagging mother reminding me to take a sweater because it might be chilly. I’m nearly 30 – I think I can make volume choices on my own, thank you very much!
- The transferring process was not as seamless as I think it could have been. Samsung has this Smart Sync program that’s supposed to sync your contacts, messages, apps that they can, etc. It was pretty easy to get going, but I was never able to get it to complete. I let it go for a variety of hours (3 hours, then 5 hours, then 10, then 18) and nothing seemed to do the trick. And because there’s no genius bar in tow, there was very little to no support. I tried the customer support line, twitter, facebook…everything I could think of. I resorted to my last line of IT defense – my brother the IT engineer, who was befuddled as well. Needless to say I resorted to using AT&T’s sync to at least get my contacts, and transferred my music and pictures manually…meaning I only lost my messages – not horrible.
Overall I’m pretty satisfied – my boyfriend got the same phone shortly after I did (yes, apparently we’re that couple), and he likes it too. That said, I’m not 100 percent bought in because there’s not a real ecosystem of things I feel tied to, although I’m a happy camper for the most part. But suffice it to say that if Apple stepped up its game and came out with something as sleek and truly game-changing as they did with the first few versions of iPhone, I’d be willing to entertain the thought of going back. There are others out there that have also made the switch – this article in particular I found interesting, and worth a read, if you’re interested in more than just one woman’s journey.
Ultimately it was nice to cut the cord and not feel tethered to iOS, and it gave me some good perspective on the advantages of the more open Google ecosystem. I think what remains to be seen is if Apple can innovate again the way it did in 2007, and pull back some of the people – like me – who’ve jumped ship.