I tried an iPhone for 2 weeks and I have some feelings
For those that may not know, I’ve never used an iPhone on the regular. My daily driver has consisted of BlackBerry, Palm, Android, and even Windows Phone over the last decade. But never iOS. So, I’d been toying with the idea of finally making the leap for an experiment here on the site. I wanted a firsthand experience using an iPhone from a user who had never picked one up for more than an hour. Well, thanks to our friends at Verizon, I got my wish with a loaner device for the last two weeks.
Let’s start with few positives so I don’t look like a complete Android fanboy.
Things I liked
I was ready to dismiss the iPhone X hardware as identical to any Android device you can get in the mid-range to premium market, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well it was put together. I’m still not convinced that it’s head and shoulders, or even better than some of the Android offerings from Samsung or OnePlus, but it is really good hardware. From the small design to the large screen in a small footprint, the X was a joy to use. The screen, in particular, is one of the best I’ve ever used on a phone — period.
The other big piece of the hardware equation that I found to be positive was the camera. Specifically, portrait mode. I really thought that the Boca effect from the iPhone is one of the best I’ve seen a mobile phone try to pull off. While I still prefer the overall performance and results of my Pixel 2 XL, the iPhone cameras hold their own in most situations. I saw no noticeable dropoff in my pictures from the two devices. Apple has always touted their photos and I’m happy to report this is rightfully so.
Oh, and I loved having wireless charging back! It’s not a deal breaker of course, but Qi charging is such a nice addition to a spec sheet. Whether you use it or not is totally up to you, but it’s nice to see it there for those of us that enjoy it. It also let me pull some of the wireless chargers I have lying around back out of nerd storage.
While I didn’t find most of the software more appealing than Android, I did have one takeaway worth mentioning, and that’s a feeling of cohesiveness. All the apps just feel more at home on iOS. From the 3rd party developers to default apps, the design and flow seem more inline from one to the other here. I’d say the same about the performance as well. I never felt like I had the random rogue app running rampant like I see frequently on Android.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the media controls on the lock screen. They are much different than what’s found on Android, but I did find them more pleasurable to use. The main difference for me was the ability to AirDrop or alter the volume directly from the notification. I’d love to see something like this come to Android with an option for Chromecast targets.
Things I Dislike
This is completely subjective of course, but it’s just better for me on Android. The notifications are much more advanced and dynamic. I can interact with them with ease and without the extra effort required in iOS, from anywhere. Whether it’s with the screen unlocked or locked, I have full access to delete emails, play audio, or quick reply to SMS.
Also… can we talk about the lack of an app drawer? This was a bigger deal for my workflow than I expected. Having all my apps out of the way when not in use just makes me feel more free with the home screen. Look, I get that you can get a similar effect by moving the non-essential apps to the right, but the Android app drawer just seems more natural and with them alphabetically organized it’s a nice touch.
These are all superficial and would get easier to ignore over time, the most glaring one that reared its head on day one is how hard it is to interact with local files on iOS. It’s so hard that a simple Google Search brings in multiple pages of tutorial results. The solution? Install a 3rd party app from a developer I don’t know to add a workaround into the iOS Files app. That still only kinda gives you access to local files via some weird symlink-like scenario.
It was honestly the biggest surprise for me pertaining to software. I get that the 20ish crowd and has grown up with the cloud as a normal part of computing. For them, this isn’t a huge deal. However, for the “smartphone for old people” reputation of the iPhone, I expected to be able to download my insurance information I have saved in Google docs locally to have directly on the phone. Or any other file for that matter. People are used to local storage — even Chromebooks are becoming more and more standard with more than 128GB onboard.
I missed the fingerprint scanner the most. The face unlock is a nice touch, and I found it worked more often than I expected, but I like having another way to unlock the phone. Fingerprint scanners just feel like a natural extension of how we already use the phone by touching it. Can I get to my apps and phone without it? Well, yeah, but it’s not the way I prefer. The lack of the option bothers me more than the ones that are present.
The only other hardware knock I have is the notch. I know that it technically gives you more screen, but I just don’t see a big enough result to offset the aesthetic eyesore. I don’t like it on the iPhone, or any other phones for that matter. Did I get more used to it as the two weeks went by? Yes. Did I ever not notice it? No. OEMs like Samsung have found ways to strike a compromise for lessening the bezels that don’t require the jarring hardware quirk that you get with a notch.
The One Neutral Element
I’d be a moron not to throw this one in there. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t care about it. Is it a well-done app that I wish would either come to Android or that Google would straight up copy? Hell yes! Despite that, I never found the need to really seek it out or care what color bubble I was messaging under. I also don’t care that there no desktop support outside of using a Mac. I love using Pushbullet on any device that I own and it is completely cross-compatible… except on iOS. I’m sure most of this is due to me never getting locked in early on, but I just didn’t care.
I guess you are wondering whether this cemented me as an iPhone hater? The short answer is I’ve never been a hater. I chose my ecosystem so long ago that I’ve simply never seen the reason to make the switch. Honestly, I could get used to most things about the iPhone if I absolutely had to. The hardware is solid and the OS is well done. However, I would be giving up my freedom in a lot of ways that I’m just not willing to relinquish. I like having an OS that can be tweaked to the nth degree if I want it to be. I enjoy trying apps and services on a regular basis. Android just allows that freedom on a more holistic level than iOS. From changing my icons or home screen or trying a new default email app, it’s readily available at an OS level. So, after two weeks as an iPhone user, I appreciate it for what it is and those who enjoy it, but it’s not for me.
Thanks again to Verizon for allowing me the time with this flagship from Apple.