Sunday, March 12, 2017

My fling with iOS, or "I like my gardens unwalled"

Somewhat of a digression from the usual content of this blog (either programming or nothing), and ground that has been well-trod in many other places. But here I am, writing it anyway.


I switched to an iPhone 7 2 months ago. It was really cool, but I don't like it and am switching back.


I've never owned an iPhone. My wife has had a 4, 5, 6, and 7, and other family members have had many others.

I worked at BlackBerry back when it was called Research in Motion, starting in 2008, around the launch of the Bold 9000. Before then, I didn't even own a cellphone (I had an awesome Sanyo in 2001, but it broke and I never replaced it).

While at RIM I changed phones every 6 months or so. Luckily, I got to more or less avoid the Storm and follow-ups (though I was responsible for implementing touch support in our test automation framework), so I got very used to the BlackBerry keyboards. I still think the keyboard in the original Bold is a work of art.

From when RIM and I parted ways in 2011 until the end of last year, I used almost entirely Androids, except for a while where I enjoyed the LG Quantum on Windows. I actually really liked that phone, and Windows there worked really well. Like the commercials emphasized, you could very quickly get things done and put your phone back down. Part of this was because there was no reason to keep looking at your phone, because it couldn't do much more than essential communication functions, but at the time I found that simplicity quite charming.

But Android...

Well, my first experience with Android was a week with the Galaxy Nexus. It was pretty cool at the time, but I returned it due to the expense.

But when the Nexus 4 came-a-callin, I was smitten. It was a beautiful piece of hardware that ran all kinds of cool things, did very little to get in my way, and cost half of what my wife's phone did. Sure, the camera was mostly crap and the battery wasn't great, but I loved that thing.

The Nexus 4 was followed by the Moto X. I picked mine up on Kijiji, and loved the active display and passable camera.

I followed the Moto X with the Droid Turbo, which was nearly a perfect phone. Swiping my hand over to check notifications is still one of my favourite phone interactions, and the battery would go two days before needing a charge (which only took 90 minutes anyway). The camera, despite the resolution, was bad most of the time, and as a Verizon exclusive that I exported to Canada, I had to put up with useless apps and slooooow updates. Still, it lasted me nearly two years before the screen got damaged (which was supposed to be under warranty, but Verizon and Moto figured they could get away with screwing a Canadian).

Which brings me to my last (and near future) Android, the LG G4. Battery life was a big let down from the Droid, but the camera was very good, and it had some other neat features. I cracked the screen on it in 3 months. I ordered a replacement screen, but while I was waiting for it to arrive, an opportunity to go iPhone arose.

The iPhone

For all that my phones have rarely been top-of-the-line, I read multiple reviews of every flagship, and the pace at which Apple has pushed forward their CPU was amazing. With the 6S I was tempted to jump ship just for that reason, and seeing how far they pushed it further in the 7 made it impossible to resist.

The iPhone 7 is the most attractive piece of hardware to touch, ever. The weight is perfect, it's sleek, and it responds to you in a very physical way.

It is blazing fast at practically everything, and the screen is second-to-none.

The camera is super-fast, and generally very good, though I would argue it trades blows with the G4 in some areas.

Force touch is cool, and makes some things nicer to do.

I like being able to ask Siri to time things for me. Very cool.

I get through a day with 40% left on the battery, easily. But that's not the whole story...

My wife can't get through the day without having to recharge, with the same phone. Because she uses it for Facebook. I generally don't use mine for anything like that. In fact, I use my iPhone the way I used my Windows Phone. When I need it, it's there, and then I put it away.

But it's the only piece of Apple in my ecosystem, and that means a lot of the things I want to do are just a little bit inconvenient, so I don't do them. My life is on Google's cloud, and my work is on Microsoft's. These things are available in a pinch from my iPhone, but my Surface is substantially better for either of them, and not that much harder to tote around.

Specific examples of annoying things:
 - I must use a case, because it's $$$, which detracts substantially from the aesthetic appeal. I've never used a case before
 - Google maps navigation cuts out over bluetooth
 - Notifications are among the worst on any phone I've ever had. Better since I disabled the volume switches affecting them, but some apps just fail to notify me consistently (might be on the apps, but they worked fine on Android)
 - I've got relatively large hands, and I cannot seem to get comfortable with the keyboard. Some of this might be the case, some might be that I've developed a preference for Swype, who knows.
 - Siri is really dumb. I don't know if it's somehow related to my lack of Apple ecosystem, but other than timing things or prank questions, I've given up talking to her
 - No headphone jack is just stupid. Yes I have two dongles in the house, but mostly I just carry two sets of headphones now. Especially stupid if they're going to move to USB-C.
 - Chromecast (the only input to my TVs) control is inconsistent. Some apps I can change volume with buttons, others within the app, others I need to open Google Home to control volume. Probably an app issue, but not a problem I had before.
 - My fitbit stopped pairing with it, and one of my vehicles will only pair for a day or so before needing to removed, bluetooth toggled off and on, and re-added.
 - The UI on some of Apples apps is surprisingly bad. Sometimes when I change settings, I click "back" in the top left, other times I hit "save" in the top right. Some apps require you to do both these things to effect a change.


Subjectively, the feeling is that I need to do things Apple's way, and I'm not interested in that approach. So all that lovely power never gets called upon. A lot of my issues are little things, many of which there may be fixes for, but my experience is that unlike Android, there's not a lot you can do to fix these little things.

So it's back to the G4 for me, with its fresh screen. I won't use a case, and I'll probably break it again. But it's not getting Nougat anyway, so maybe it will be time to trade up again by then. :)