My Old Android Phone Was Better Than My New iPhone

But here’s why I switched anyway

Last week, I said goodbye to my (fully functional) Samsung Galaxy A70 and unboxed the iPhone 12 Pro. I would be lying if I said I didn’t look forward to it. Even though transferring data across platforms is a painstaking process, I was positively giddy: I couldn’t wait to see what I’ve missed during the past two years of iOS upgrades.

However, it’s fair to say that the iPhone fell short in several ways.

Android’s Main Long-Term Strengths

Price Point

I shouldn’t even have to say this, but I paid a fraction of the price for my Galaxy A70 smartphone. Using a cheap phone is incredibly liberating: I didn’t even bother with a screen protector and used the same low-protection rubber case for two years straight. After setting up an automatic backup for the contents of my phone, I didn’t really care about it. It was just a vessel for accessing my data, a terminus of little consequence.

I stopped being afraid that my phone would break, or that I could lose it, or that it could get stolen. Que sera, sera, I thought, for two long, wonderful years. Even so, I didn’t get any notable wear signs and I didn’t drop the phone more than usual. It is still in pristine shape.

This all changed now with my shiny new iPhone 12. People tend to stare at it in public. I refrain from taking it out of my pocket unless absolutely necessary. Furthermore, I am careful not to damage it… it’s an expensive phone, after all. Suffice to say I don’t use it in the bathroom or near the kitchen sink anymore.

I have to give this point to Android manufacturers like Samsung: they make killer phones for £300 and below. I had every feature I needed with my old phone: a three-lens camera setup, fingerprint identification, 128 GB of storage, NFC and Dual SIM for a fraction of the taxing $1100 I paid on my iPhone 12 Pro.

Battery Life

iPhone battery life sucks. It sucks so badly it’s almost embarrassing. Before my Galaxy A70, I had the iPhone 6s: a tiny phone with a tiny battery, in retrospect. Of course, I was blown away by the two full days of charge I got out of the 4500 mAh battery in the Samsung A70.

Things are not looking much brighter for the iPhone 12 Pro than they did for the iPhone 6s. Apple is a hard sell when considering battery life. At 2815 mAh, the battery is very limiting compared with what you get outside of the Apple ecosystem. People in the Apple reviewer community love to say the battery capacity does not mean much, considering the optimization between hardware and software. This is not true at all.

In two years of use, including a pandemic where my screen time went up exponentially, the giant battery in A70 kept me going for at least a full day and a half. I was regularly getting 10 hours of screen time on one charge. Furthermore, I was never, ever worried about running out of battery. Android’s ultra-power saving mode could squeeze hours upon hours of extra battery in a pinch.

Lesson learned: the iPhone has and will probably keep having subpar battery life. If you are a heavy user, or if you’re on the go a lot, it’s abysmal. I cannot recommend it when nearly every other smartphone company can do better than this.

Dual SIM

Since the iPhone 11, Apple now supports the use of two cellular plans in the iPhone through the eSIM technology. I set up my nanoSIM and my eSIM quickly in the iPhone, and I am glad to say I found no issues so far.

However, if you want any flexibility at all, having to use an eSIM is a problem. You can’t easily switch your eSIM plan to another device like you can with a physical SIM card. Furthermore, many cellular providers don’t even offer eSIM. This is especially true with pre-paid services, which have grown in popularity over the past decade as Wi-Fi became ubiquitous.

The issue of flexibility aside, let’s have a look at what happens once set up with two cellular plans. Switching between SIM cards is much more involved than on Android. A simple swipe down to the Quick Settings panel enables instantaneous and selective switching between data plans for calls, texts, or data. With iOS, however, these settings are not at your fingertips. iOS assumes one data plan to be the default, and switching to the secondary plan requires you to navigate to the settings app. No Control Center shortcuts are available as far as I am aware, which can be frustrating. I know it is for me.

Display Size and Style

This point is perhaps both a blessing and a curse. Apple keeps everything straightforward: If you want a bigger phone, you have to pay more. Easy peasy. This year, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the largest iPhone yet, with a 6.7-inch display. You want to guess what other phone has a 6.7-inch display and does not cost a small fortune? Yes. You got that right. Nearly every other smartphone phone in this world, including my Galaxy A70.

Coming from a near bezel-less device without a chin or a camera notch, the iPhone 12 looks dated to me. And with the square edges and antenna bands on the sides, it feels dated. It feels like my first smartphone, the iPhone 4. I don’t mind this at all, as I enjoy the feel of it in my hand and I was never a bezel-loathing person. Heck, I used a mid-2012 MacBook Pro until last autumn. That thing has bezels for days.

However, others might feel differently about a thousand-dollar, brand-new phone. It should look new and feel new, one might rightfully argue. What is more, if you’ve used a device with a 120 Hz refresh rate, the iPhone 12 will feel slow. And dated. And slow. It’s not true, of course. However, user experience is king and Apple fails to deliver on this point, while premium Android phones blitz through the challenge.

Ports for Days

I’ll be honest with you: the ports do make a difference. I am in the process of convincing myself to buy the damn dongle to make up for the lack of headphone jack. I tried over the past week to get used to switching my wireless earbuds from laptop to phone to iPad and back, but I struggle. I struggle much more than I should, and it’s nearly comical. Except I have meetings to attend and places to be. Keeping track of which device the earphones are connected to at any moment is not on my priority list. I also have the nasty habit of misplacing my earbuds and/or dropping them into beverages/food/gaps/tight spaces.

The headphone jack is one story, though. We’ll have to get used to living without it sooner or later, as Samsung and OnePlus are following suit on that. But what about the long-awaited USB-C port?

The iPhone should have USB-C connectivity like the iPad Pro. Everywhere I travel, I have to have my little USB-A charging brick, as well as the Lightning to USB-A cord. Before, I could rely on my MacBook charger to take care of my Samsung A70 phone, thanks to the USB-C port (even though I needn’t worry: that beast of a battery never needed a fast-charging top-up in the middle of the day).

The iPhone thus needs accessories to make friends with the outside world. This is good news for third-party manufacturers (or is it?). But for myself, I feel like this is an unnecessary inconvenience after using USB-C for two years.

The Long-Term Wonders of iOS

Now that I am done with the iPhone slander, let’s have a look at five of the many advantages of iOS. It feels good to be home after my two-year Android holiday; iOS has definitely made progress since my iPhone 6s days.

Biometrics

Here’s the deal: FaceID absolutely rocks. This technology is a decisive win for Apple and the future of biometric identification in smartphones and beyond. There’s nothing even remotely equivalent to FaceID beyond the iPhone, and it shows.

Other smartphone manufacturers try to compensate for their subpar biometrics in several ways. One of them is dangling the illusion of “choice” in front of the users, highlighting that you can choose between fingerprint, iris scan, and facial recognition. Unlike with iPhones, where TouchID was replaced by FaceID, an Android user has a choice. But in practice, this is not strictly true: efficiency and speed fall short on Android biometrics, particularly on the cheaper devices. In the end, I ended up turning to passcode unlocking and bypassing the fingerprint scanner altogether. It never managed to function as intended.

Meanwhile, FaceID has made me forget my phone is even locked. As it did with TouchID, Apple leads the market with FaceID and it’s truly special. It saves me a lot of time and it feels a lot more secure than the passcode I was relying on until recently.

Digital Decluttering and Minimalism

I’m not a fan of minimalism in the physical world, necessarily. I believe that not everything has to spark joy to be worth owning (quite the opposite). However, I like to be as uncluttered and straightforward as possible in the digital space.

I cannot count how many features I have never tried in my two years of Android use. Countless icons were populating my Quick Settings screen, to no avail. Samsung (like Microsoft, in some ways) likes to bombard you with proprietary services like Bixby and Samsung Free, making it nearly impossible to get through the day without being reminded of them. Even the Samsung Health app has a dedicated ad space where they advertise new Samsung phones and services. It’s not very classy. With iPhone, I get a break from ads and invasive services inside the OS, which allows me to focus on what matters.

The Control Center is a digital minimalist’s dream. Unlike the Quick Settings screen on Android, the Control Center is a standardized space where essential controls are presented in a clean and compact format. Beyond that, the iOS 14 app library allows you to remove individual apps from the home screen while keeping them on the device, which further enhances your ability to focus on essentials without getting distracted.

Also, widgets are much better on iOS than on Android, in my experience. Even the simple Weather widget I had on my home screen was never up to date. It needed a manual push to show the updated weather, which defies the use of a widget in the first place. This follows the Apple custom: When they eventually launch a feature, it just works.

Privacy

Dear person reading this on an Android phone: is or isn’t your phone actually useless without Google services? It probably is. Scratch that, it absolutely is, unless you use your phone as an actual phone and not a well-rounded device. With iPhone, you get to escape Google and the data-for-profit machinery if you so wish.

I won’t get into the App Tracking Transparency discussion here, but it is nonetheless worth mentioning. After Facebook’s misguided (to say the least) ad campaign condemning Apple’s iOS update that forces them to ask user permission for cross-app tracking, I am personally convinced that Apple is doing something right here.

At the end of the day, it is safe to say that Apple has found a way to disrupt the tech market while simultaneously increasing its profits. It so happens that Apple’s renewed focus on privacy benefits the users greatly. Apple doesn’t need our data to make money: it just needs our money to make money, an arguably fairer and more transparent business model.

The AirDrop, the iCloud, and the Shared Clipboard: The Apple Ecosystem is the Tech World’s Narnia

Not to toot my own horn, but I am the kind of Apple user who has got the Ecosystem up and running. And boy does it run! My password manager, the iCloud KeyChain, has my back whether I am browsing on Mac, iPad, or iPhone. Everything from contacts to calendars to notes to reminders is available without any hassle beyond setting up the Apple ID once when buying the device.

What is more, I don’t have to share everything: my work laptop does not need to know all about my iPad browsing history or have all my personal contacts. iCloud syncing is highly controllable and predictable, ensuring no gaffes or surprises. (I am terrified of sharing my screen one day at work and having everyone see my browser search box autocompleting. Nobody needs to know about my fascination with blackhead removal videos.)

In more serious words, having this kind of seamless flow between devices can become very handy. In two years on Android, I’ve wanted to use AirDrop to send files to my computer countless times. Same story with the Keychain. Now I can and I do every day.

An extra point about the clipboard: not only is the iPhone clipboard shareable within the ecosystem, but it’s also much better in and of itself than the Android 11 clipboard. You can copy/paste pretty much anything from anywhere, including pictures, files, and videos. Good luck trying to copy a meme from the internet and paste it into a chat with your mates on Android: You’ll have to screenshot, crop, save, and attach. It might not seem like much, but once you try it, you grow to love it.

Is the Apple Ecosystem really that premium? I don’t know. Does it feel premium? Absolutely.

Shortcuts

For the uninitiated, iOS allows you to automate tasks in the form of “shortcuts.” If it sounds underwhelming, imagine this: You’re about to go to bed, tired to the bone. You are comfy and about to fall asleep in your warm sheets, when you remember: You forgot to set up your alarm. Your phone is charging at the opposite end of the room. Instead of getting up, you say: “Hey Siri, wake me up?” Siri immediately confirms. “Your alarm for 7 a.m. is on.”

That’s impressive. It doesn’t stop there, though: you get to make your own shortcuts. Anything that you do on your phone can be pretty much automated, from automatically adding rows to a spreadsheet to tracking your medication. There is endless joy in the straightforward, easy-to-use Shortcuts app. It’s something I love to play around with.

The Verdict

I can’t help but feel at home with the iPhone 12, despite the feature-packed Android 11 device I left behind. I do have to compromise on dual SIM capabilities and battery life, which is definitely a downside. However, I do not regret making the switch and getting back into the Apple ecosystem.

I will leave you with an anecdote from my father, a long-time Android user who cannot be caught using an iPhone. He would always snicker to himself when spotting fellow professionals rocking an iPhone. When I asked him, “Dad, why do dislike the iPhone so much?” he looked gravely at me and said: “Because that phone is jewelry, and I don’t care for jewelry.

In many ways, my father is right: the iPhone is a beautiful device made out of premium materials. This year, the ceramic back feels expensive in the hand. People inexplicably look at you in the street when you pull it out. These phones cost more than some of the newest Apple computers (read: a small fortune). It’s a whole situation.

Whether you are an Android or an iOS person, you’ll have to compromise when sticking with your choice. There’s always something the other camp do better. In my experience, it looks like there are quite a few compromises I could put up with to use a “jewel” like the iPhone 12.

Scientist based in London. I write about tech, science, society and mental health. For collaborations, get in touch at denisa.blackwood [at]protonmail[dot]com

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