My Short (And Not So Sweet) Experience With Android

I remember the moment I used my Lumia 710 for the first time – all the bright and vibrant tiles and the user friendly user interface made the switch from Symbian a dream experience. After six years with Windows Phone, I was expecting the same idyllic transition to Android. Alas, it was not meant to be. After a few days of fiddling with my Android and learning the ins and outs of the system, I found myself viewing it as a hub of different applications rather than a closed and integrated operating system. In other words, I thought it was a hotch-potch of an OS lazily thrown together at the last moment. I was very disappointed to say the least.

I was puzzled at first by the enormous market share that Android has, but then I realised that people don’t really have much else to turn to – Windows Phone is starting to seem like an old memory and not everybody can afford an iPhone. It makes sense then that there is such a profligacy of Android users.

Android definitely has a lot more features than Windows Phone, but that comes at the cost of system optimisation – if I didn’t clean my phone for a couple of days my memory would start getting clogged and the phone would start to stutter and lag. Another glaring problem o discovered was the inability to install many large applications on my SD card which was practically empty throughout my tenure with Android. Furthermore, companies layer stock Android with their own skins which would seem like a good idea, but more often than not, just serves to make the phone more clunky. TouchWiz UI which is Samsung’s skin was horrid – it added so many unnecessary features and apps that I’ll never need, but more importantly, can’t uninstall without jail-breaking my phone.

I constantly found myself having to download 3rd party applications because the “stock” options were near useless – the mail app is the worst I have ever used, the browser was pretty much the same and the file explorer was confusing. Compare this to Windows Phone where I never once veered away from the stock applications because honestly, I found them to the best of what was available.

A month after I got the Android phone, my father offered to get me an iPhone and I jumped at it like Gollum with the Ring. I’ve long been an admirer of Apple and Steve Jobs’ philosophy of making the perfect appliance (he preferred not to use the word “product”), even more so after I read Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. However, up until that point I’d never really used an iPhone. I did know a lot about it and was expecting the same end-to-end integration that I enjoyed with Windows Phone.

We entered the shop and found 5 different iPhones set up for demos on a white table in front of us. I knew the SE and the 5S were small by today’s standards, but when I laid eyes on them, I was very surprised by how tiny they actually were. I was then used to a 5.5 inch screen and looking at the comparatively minuscule 4 inch screen on the SE and the 5S made me recall the image of a toddler next to an adult. However, size aside, the phones looked beautiful – compact but not inexpensive, small yet powerful. I picked up the 6S Plus in my hand and it felt enormous, like I was holding a brick in my hand – I’ve always been an advocate of “pocketable” phones. The 6 and the 6S felt perfect in every way shape and size. They’re neither too big  nor too small.

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We went with the SE because it costs the same as a 6 but with the 6S’s guts, so it made sense. When the phone booted up for the first time, I got a tingly feeling in my arms and my eyes lighted up like fireworks on Diwali. I picked up the phone in my right hand and was very pleased by how my thumb could reach every point on the screen with ease and how it was never inconvenient to pull down the notification drawer. I was able to use the phone perfectly with one hand, something which one can’t do easily with a screen bigger than 5 inches.

I did find the task of having to learn an entire OS from scratch quite daunting, but after fiddling around with my phone for a while, I was very happy to find how intuitive the software was. I found the lack of a “back” button (iPhones only have a “home” button) quite annoying at first and continually made the mistake of tapping the bottom right corner of the phone’s bezel hoping to get back to the previous screen, only to realise my mistake and get frustrated. I thought it would take me forever to get used to, but the placement of different menus and on-screen “back” buttons in the apps soon made me realise that the “back” button truly is unnecessary.

Unlike my switch to Android, this transition was silky smooth and in no time I had all my contacts, accounts and applications set up, with my phone ready to be used on a daily basis.

All the preinstalled applications were great and the minimal amount of bloatware was refreshing. Steve Jobs always believed in “closed” systems like iOS and Windows Phone are and when it comes to phones, so do I. The tight integration with their own services that a “closed” system offers is invaluable even when compared to the customisation and the tinkering possible on an “open” one. I always felt secure and safe when using WP and I have that same feeling of security when using iOS.

The OS flies; it’s quick, snappy but more importantly, intelligent. It’s everything Windows Phone should have been. The phone is also an engineering masterpiece – I really don’t know how they fit so much into this dwarf of a mobile; it truly is a “pocket rocket”. One-handed use hasn’t been this easy for me in a long time, it fits snugly in my trouser pocket without rearing its head out and it can do everything a larger phone can do. The only niggle I have is that 4 inches may just be a little too small for 2016 – I find myself hitting a lot of wrong on-screen buttons,  veering off to wrong menus and typing gibberish due to how cramped everything feels on the screen. But these occur less often than not and besides all this, the phone’s perfect.

This whirlwind of the last couple months which saw me switch OSs twice opened my eyes to something – the phones manufactured by Samsung, HTC, LG and other such companies are stellar  but are let down by their OS – Android. Android phones on the higher end of the spectrum are, honestly, better phones than the iPhone – they’re more powerful, have better screens and tons of built-in  features that are very useful, but in order for a phone to truly near perfection, both the hardware and the software have to have a bond stronger than the one  Hagar the Horrible has with food. Apple oversees both  hardware and software development, so its phones are perfectly optimised with iOS and vice-versa. As long as Apple doesn’t drop the ball anytime soon, Droids will continue to be second best in the phone market because of one masterpiece – the iPhone.

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