If someone were to have told me that I’d be leaving Android at the start of 2019, I’d have told them they were crazy. After all, when I switched to Android from iOS in 2015, I decided that I would be staying with the platform for the foreseeable future. And the further I got into that future, the more entrenched I became in the Android ecosystem, to the point that switching would be painful on both my pocketbook, and on my daily life. But here we are: it’s September, and I’m officially leaving Android behind, and switching to an iPhone. So… why an iPhone? After all, I’m a Linux user, right? Wouldn’t it make more sense to move to another Android-based system, or a Linux phone?
First up, a bit of background: I used iPhones for a number of years, from sometime in the 2010-2011 timeframe (I don’t recall exactly when I switched from my trusty BlackBerry to an iPhone), until July of 2015. They worked fine, but I was never particularly happy with Apple’s iCloud services, and found myself using Google and its services (Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, etc) much more frequently. And when Project Fi was announced, I was one of the first to sign up on the waiting list. As soon as I got my invite to join the beta (it was still Project Fi at that point), I ordered my Nexus 6, and plunged headlong into the world of Android phones.
For the next few years, I continued to use Project Fi (which became Google Fi a few years ago), and I also continued to use Android phones, as they worked best with the service. Also, the Google/Android integration was great, as much of my life revolved around Google services. I went from the Nexus 6 to the Nexus 5x, followed by the Pixel 1, Pixel 2 XL, and finally the Pixel 3 XL. All of the phones (minus the 5x) were great devices, and I had no complaints with their performance. I did have some annoyances dealing with messaging friends and family who still had iPhones, and occasionally I ran into situations where being on Android meant I didn’t have the app selection I would have had on iOS, but by and large the experience was pretty good. Which leads to the obvious question: why change? Why shift my life from the Android ecosystem back to iOS?
I’ve been debating whether I would stay with Android phones for about 2 years now. I occasionally read blog posts from others who have “de-Googled” their lives (such as “Why I’m Ditching Android” by Kev Quirk), and found their stories and opinions both intriguing and thought-provoking. I have also been getting more and more concerned about the sheer amount of information that Google has on me, as well the lack of privacy when using their tools, especially from a Google-branded phone. Don’t get me wrong: I really like some of the perks that come from all of the data Google has collected. But it is also unnerving, from a privacy standpoint. Two things had always kept me with Google phones though: perceived-superior services, and Google Fi (since using a non-Google phone on Google Fi is not a worthwhile endeavor in my opinion based on reviews, and Google Fi is a legitimately good cell phone service). But then, around the beginning of summer, I began in earnest looking at other options.
My first reason for looking at switching to iOS is perhaps not a particularly good reason, but it is one of the top reasons for my switch: iMessage. It simply works better than SMS/MMS, in my experience, especially better than SMS/MMS between Android and iPhone. I have been annoyed at photo and video quality when sent cross-platform for years, and recently it reached the breaking point. I wish that RCS or another SMS replacement were ready, but they simply aren’t. And I can’t convince friends and family to all switch to Telegram or some other platform when iMessage is installed on most of their phones by default, and it just works. And on top of that, it’s encrypted, out of the box.
My second reason is closely tied to the first: AirDrop. A few times a year, I have found myself in a situation where someone wants to share a large number of pictures with me, and AirDrop, once again, just works. Unless, of course, the person on the receiving end doesn’t use an iPhone, in which case there are no simple solutions for sharing files, other than using Google Drive. Google Drive, or Dropbox, or another similar service all work, but invariably the person I am trying to send to or receive from doesn’t use whichever service I happen to use. And in the moment, it’s not easy to convince them to sign up for a new service, download an app, and then send me files via the app.
The third reason is a bit more philosophical: I’m getting tired of Google’s ads, and Google’s lack of privacy. I know they are claiming that they are working on improving customer privacy, but the fact is, they are predominantly an advertising company. They make money by collecting and selling my data, and by showing me ads. The newer versions of their apps seem to be even worse about this than in years past, and that, combined with my other reasons for considering an iPhone, made it a pretty easy decision to leave. Apple devices do cost substantially more than Android phones in general, but from what I can tell it’s because Apple makes their money on me buying the device, not on the data they collect from me as I use their device. I did consider either running an Android alternative on a phone, or else using a Linux phone (such as the PinePhone), but while those options look interesting, none are in a state where I am willing to rely on them in my day to day life. Therefore, switching to an iPhone was the best option for me, as far as I could see. I will continue to watch the Android alternatives and the Linux-based mobile operating systems (especially Plasma Mobile), and perhaps at some point there will be a solid, FOSS option. I hope there will be.
So, in a few short days, my new iPhone will arrive. And honestly, I can hardly wait. I picked up one of the new iPhone 11 models that was announced earlier this month by Apple, and I will be moving from my Pixel 3 XL to the iPhone this Friday, if all goes as planned. I already switched from Google Fi to Verizon at the beginning of the month, intentionally making the change pre-platform switch, in case there were any hiccups (which there were, but nothing substantial). I love playing with new gadgets, and I plan to write another blog post in the coming weeks detailing my thoughts on iOS after years away from it, along with general impressions of the new phone, and if there are things I miss from my Android days. And yes, I’m sure I’ll take a few Slofies. I may even post one.