I have never used Android before, and honestly didn’t know a great deal about Android phones before joining mobilephones.com! I have an iPhone, and the majority of my friends also have iPhones. So I always saw my next upgrade as simply being whatever the new iPhone is. But after much arguing between the iOS lovers and the Android lovers in the mobilephones.com office, I decided to see for myself which I prefer. So here’s how I, a long time iOS user, got on with Android.
One of the first things I like to do as soon as I get a new phone is to see if I can rearrange the layout to suit my needs. We were off to a great start here with Android as the customisable layout is very impressive.
Sure, on iOS you can move apps around and put them into folders, but your screen will always be made up of small rounded squares, whatever app or folder it is.
|One of my categorised iOS folders|
Android, I discovered, has widgets. Widgets are essentially at-a-glance views of an app. You can resize and position them anywhere you want. This is great as you can see what’s going on in your favourite apps without having to actually open them. So now I have added the weather widget, I can always see the forecast without having to think about launching the app.
|Widgets on one of my home screens|
Customisability winner: Android.
Score so far: Android 1, iOS 0
Today I decided to download and try out some apps. The Google Play Store is very simple to use, and is pretty much the same as the Apple App Store, so had no problems there. However one initial problem I had was I couldn’t find the apps I had downloaded!
On Android all of your apps are located in a separate app screen accessed by this icon:
I didn’t realise this at first and wondered where my downloaded apps were. When I did work it out however, I still found it a slightly long winded way to access my apps.
|The Android app screen|
I suppose though, the idea is that you customise your home screens with the most regularly used apps, so this is a place to store the less frequently used apps.
On iOS I have organised my pages in a similar way, with my most regularly used apps on the first page, and other apps categorised to further away pages.
|My iOS homepage contains my most regularly used apps|
In my opinion the location of all apps isn’t much better or worse on Android, it’s just different, although I did suffer momentary confusion about where my apps actually were!
Apps winner: DRAW
Score so far: Android 2, iOS 1
One thing I didn’t like about Android is the notifications. On this day I was expecting an important email, and after setting up my email account on the phone, I was keeping an eye out for a big red notification to tell me I had a new email to read.
However, any seasoned Android user will know that this did not happen, and after waiting impatiently for the message to arrive, I launched my Gmail app to see what was going on, only to realise that the email had actually already arrived without my noticing!
On iOS I am used to having a big red button hovering over the app whenever I have a notification, making it hard to miss. When I have three unread emails, lo and behold there will be a big red number 3 floating above my email app, which is much more noticeable than the notification icons on Android.
|Notifications on iOS are very easy to see|
On Android there are only tiny notifications along the top bar, so at a glance they are hard to spot. As I said, it took me a while to realise I had an email notification, as I hadn’t even noticed the little square envelope sat alongside my battery and signal icons. Once you know to look at the top bar it’s not exactly difficult but it is harder to see them at a glance than it is with iOS.
|The top bar containing notifications on Android|
Clawing it back for Android, one thing I did like about Android’s notifications being displayed in the top bar is that they are visible in all apps. This means that whichever app you are in you can see if you have a text message, an email or even a Facebook notification. By swiping the bar downwards you can preview the notification without having to even leave the app.
Perhaps an ideal phone would combine both large icons on the apps and small ones on the top bar, although if I had to choose one option I would choose the iOS way of displaying notifications.
Notifications winner: iOS
Score so far: Android 2, iOS 2
On day three I decided it was time I did some work. I wanted to research for and write a new article. Therefore I needed to use the internet browser and check out what document creating features I could use.
Being a Windows rather than a Mac user at home and at work, I really liked the Google features on Android. I like that Google Chrome is the default browser on Android, as, while I have downloaded Chrome onto my iOS, the default is always Safari, which I am not as keen on or used to.
Android also makes use of Google Docs. I found I could use the GDocs app to create and email documents easily. They were then automatically synced with my Google Docs account, so I could access all of my previously created Google Docs files, which was really useful, and something I have not been able to do on iOS.
|Google Docs on Android|
Browser winner: Android
Score so far: Android 3, iOS 2
The handset I was trialling for the weekend was the brand new Nexus 5, which (to date) is the only phone with Android KitKat. Consequently some of the features I used are not currently available on all Android phones. However, as KitKat will soon become available on all Android phones, I thought one of these features worth a mention.
On Android KitKat, text messages are combined with Google+ hangouts in one app. I can see the thinking behind this, that in theory it would be easier to combine all of your conversations. However, in practice I much prefer them to be separate.
|Google Hangouts on Android (KitKat)|
I have a friend and colleague who I talk to on Google+ hangouts and by text message. However I would rather not have these messages grouped together as we use Google+ hangouts for work related correspondence, and text messaging for informal chats. I like that we can have two different conversations existing at once, and found it confusing and bothersome to have them grouped together. Furthermore, I rarely talk to anyone else on Google+ hangouts, so I would use hangouts just for texting anyway. Combined hangouts is designed to be simpler and easier than having both google+ and SMS separate, but if you are only using it for SMS, it actually complicates and convolutes the simple text messaging system.
|I prefer to keep my messaging platforms separate on iOS|
After some researching online I see that the new hangouts and SMS combined feature of KitKat seems to have divided opinions, some people love it and others like myself would prefer to keep each conversation platform separate. Perhaps it would be better if there was the option to integrate SMS and hangouts or not.
Hangouts/ SMS winner: iOS
Score so far: Android 3, iOS 3
This is a review of Android so I have tried to steer clear of talking about the features of the handset I am using it on. However you do not choose a phone simply because of the operating system it uses, without taking into account the handset. After trialling the Nexus 5, I’ve realised that the range of handsets an operating system is available on would certainly alter my decision.
As you will know, iOS is only available on iPhones and iPads whereas Android is not an exclusive operating system. I have tried out Android on the brand new Nexus 5, which is one of the larger smartphones. I like the size as for an operating system which does so much, it is useful to see everything slightly larger and thus clearer. It is much easier to read and write documents on this phone than on my iPhone. Therefore one advantage of Android is that it is available on a range of phones in a range of sizes.
Handset winner: Android for the range, but I still love the look of iPhone handsets!
So to conclude, I like Android! But I also like iOS… Honestly, I am completely on the fence but I did find Android more or less straightforward to use. I had a few moments of confusion at first, but that is always the case with a new phone, and it can be fun trying out all the new and different ways of doing things. So overall Android is not a difficult system to use, and especially with the help of this How To Use Android video, you should encounter minimal problems.