So I switched to Android…

After four years of using an iPhone I’ve finally jumped ship. iOS7 and the iPhone 5s didn’t seem like they were going to do what I needed or wanted in a phone, so I put down my rusty, trusty iPhone 4, then went out and got my hands on a beast of a thing called an
HTC One.

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So, what of this sea change? How on earth could I leave the mobile OS that has been my home since smartphones really took off for the greener grass (and greener logo) of Android? Wouldn’t I miss all the apps? What about iCloud? Can this last-ditch effort from a phone manufacturer on the rocks really best the Cupertino juggernaut?

Well, after two months on the HTC one I’m back to report.

To start with, I always thought the iPhone 4 was a pretty sizable handset, until I got my hands on the One. I have big hands (hold your jokes, please) and HTC’s handset pretty-well fills whichever hand it’s in, which is a bit liberating actually. My hands were way too big to type well on the iPhone, my fat fingers weren’t all that keyboard-friendly and my right thumb was squished right up against my palm if I wanted to type anything in the middle of the alphabet. the HTC stretches out my digits nicely. The existence of swype-style keyboards on Android has vastly sped-up my typing too.

The camera had the potential to be a bit of a bone of contention for me. I see what HTC were trying to do with fewer, larger pixels, but at the end of the day they have made a camera for taking photos at the bar in town. That might work well for me when I want to take photos at concerts or when I’m doing sound work, but in broad daylight I don’t see much of an improvement over my iPhone 4. For me, that’s not the end of the world. My first phone (I think the One is my 26th) had a camera capable of a glorious 320×240 pixel resolution and I was stoked by that. I was over the moon when I got a phone with a 2 megapixel camera and a dedicated shutter button, and getting the Qik app to work on my iPhone 3G blew my mind. Point is, I’m happy with the camera on the One. If I want to take high-quality photos I’ll borrow my dad’s DSLR. For everyday life, this phone will do very nicely.

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(Photo taken with HTC One at the Dunedin Autospectacular 2013)

The second potential bone of contention comes up with that little red ‘b’ on the back of the handset. As an audio engineer, I’ve been conditioned to believe Beats Audio is the sound enhancer the devil uses, that someone on my chosen career path would use Beats Audio would be cause to question their sonic integrity and chances of further employment. And yet again, this is a feature I haven’t turned off. Running the HTC with Beats Audio through my beloved Marley Zion earbuds doesn’t seem to have colored the sound any more or any ‘worse’ than using the ‘rock’ preset EQ on my iPhone before it. Beats audio hasn’t ruined any music that didn’t have a drum machine running the rhythm section. I expected it would, but so far it hasn’t. I’ll keep using it until it does, especially with those speakers. This thing has such nice speakers I’d actually be tempted to take part in the loathsome act of playing music in public without headphones using this device.

Oh, another speaker thing. These speakers are powered by analogue amplifiers, so I’m told. This means when the amplifiers are no longer in use, they switch off to save battery. They do so with a disconcerting pop sound. If anyone else out there is reading this and also has or wants this phone, the popping is normal, it’s ok.

The battery life is a big improvement over the iPhone, too. Even after a battery transplant in July. Even with light use the iPhone would get down to the bottom third by the end of the day. Thanks in part to the power saving features on the One I can get two days out of it with what most of you would call ‘light use.’ I can even go three days if I’m busy being lazy, a whole 72 hours! I haven’t had a phone that efficient since the RAZR2 I had in 2009!

“What about the OS itself?” I hear you ask? “What’s so much better about Android that you’ve forsaken four years of iOS apps that you’ll never find *shudder* …over there?” That’s a fair enough point, iOS is still where the majority of apps break first, not to mention all the music I’ve bought on iTunes. The thing with iOS apps is that I got lots of them thinking they would be useful to me in the future. I could have hosted an episode of Hoarders on my iPhone, whereas the apps that matter, the ones I use every day are all available on Android now. Even Seth Sandler’s brilliant tuner app Tunable is there now so I can turn my 1080p display into the flashest-looking tuner/metronome I’ve ever come across.

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I’m enjoying the OS customization, too. Although I did go a little overboard with some of the apps I installed, resulting in having to wipe my phone and start again. Once I got the hang of it, though, I’m really into the flexibility of Android and the ability to tinker around with the OS to a certain extent (no rooting or custom ROMs yet, I kinda want to keep my warranty). Widgets, when properly implemented, are so useful it’s strange that Apple haven’t tried to implement them.

So was the big switch worth doing? Yes. I’m back on a platform that meets my wants and needs, I have decent battery life, I can tinker away as much as I want to or I can just leave it as is. Is the One better than the iPhone 5? Is it better than the 5S? To me, yes. But I’m not you. You may get more apps on your iPhone, you may get better photos on your Lumia 1020, you may still be madly in love with Blackberry10. As for me, I think I’ll stick with The HTC One and the Android OS for a good while now.

…besides, for all those iOS apps I can’t find on Google Play, I still have my iPad.