Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why Andy Switched to Android

Andy Ihnatko:

The microphone button is crowded right next to the spacebar, and iOS speech-to-text activates with a single careless tap instead of with a deliberate tap-and-hold. When I’m typing fast, I’m accidentally triggering speech-to-text All. The. Freaking. Time.

This affects me in every app except OmniFocus, in which the microphone button is for some reason always disabled. Since I rarely use Siri, I’m considering turning it off to avoid these accidental taps.

And if you don’t like any of the keyboards that ship with Android, you can install one of your own. My add-on keyboard of choice is SwiftKey. It’s doubleplus-brilliant and costs just four damn dollars. […] A three-slot rack of “next word” predictions appears above the keys…and SwiftKey is a very good guesser. […] I find that typing on an Android device is faster and much less annoying than typing on my iPhone. It’s not even close.

I remember liking these sorts of utilities when I was a Palm user. It’s understandable that Apple’s built-in keyboard is simpler, but unfortunately third-party developers aren’t allowed to fill this niche. If I did more mobile typing I could see this as a deal-breaker.

The screen of the iPhone 5 sometimes makes me feel like I’m reading a grocery receipt, not a book. And I never used to read from my phone in bed. Now, if my (still quite beloved) iPad is downstairs and the Galaxy S III is on the nightstand, I’ll spend an hour reading from the Samsung rather than risk cold feet.

This is interesting. I’ve never felt that the iPhone 4S was too small, and in fact I’ve wondered whether I would even like the taller iPhone 5. Yet there have been lots of times when I didn’t have my Kindle with me and would have liked to read from my phone, except that doing so isn’t very comfortable. Is the Galaxy S III just big enough?

Sidenote: It’s sad how much grief Ihnatko is getting in the Macworld comments for what is only his personal tale.

Update (2013-03-14): Part 2:

Almost anything I do that involves one app working with another app is much, much easier on an Android device than on an iPhone, thanks to a deep-rooted mechanism for interapp collaboration.


In many of my Android reader apps, I can use the volume keys to turn pages, or flip between articles. It’s not the least bit confusing. The volume keys work normally within the app until I look inside the app’s Settings page and click the checkbox to activate the feature. Again: normal behavior until the user deliberately chooses to modify it.

Part 3:

Android is less stable and reliable than iOS, but that doesn’t make it “unstable and unreliable.” I need to force-reboot my iPhone about ten times a year. On Android, it’s… mmmmaybe twenty five? So yes, it’s a higher number on Android, but no, both devices need a kick in the head so infrequently that I can never recall the last time I administered one.


Most of the time, I could find feature-equal Android versions of the same apps I had been using in iOS. When I couldn’t, I found Android substitutes that I liked just as much or even more.


The iPhone is still the only phone that has what I consider “a real camera” as opposed to “an excellent smartphone camera.” Both Nokia and HTC have made solid first steps towards bringing their cameras up to that standard. But while they're pointing to their cameras as a signature feature and an object of pride, only Apple is backing up those claims with camera that's truly great from wall to wall and floor to ceiling.

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I like reading on my iPhone 5 (I've read a couple novels that way, and lots of Instapapered magazine pieces), but I suspect I'd like it even more on a 5" screen.

"Sidenote: It’s sad how much grief Ihnatko is getting in the Macworld comments for what is only his personal tale."

Apostates never get a good reception...


So, perhaps we can analogize that Android is now up to Windows 3.1 status?

I also switched from an iPhone to an Android device a few months ago; a Note II for me. I used to read books on my iPhone, but it's definitely a whole different experience on the Note. I turn down the font size, so now I can fit more text on a Note screen than is on a typical printed paperback page.

Even better, Android isn't fussy about letting apps access hardware features, so the Kindle app on Android lets you switch pages with the volume buttons. It's fantastic; makes reading on the phone a great experience. My phone has effectively replaced my actual Kindle device.

Despite what Ihnatko says, Android isn't yet on par with iOS in terms of polish and stability. But I think we've reached a point where, for many people, the decrease in polish is a valid trade-off for all of the advantages you get with an Android device.

I didn't switch to iOS on my phone until iOS 5 came out, so I have some experience with the alternative Android keyboards. There has been support for third-party input methods on OS X, which Apple has continued to enhance, so I think it's not entirely impossible that iOS will see it eventually too. It seems like it'd share quite a lot of infrastructure with the rumored support for third-party remote UI for sharing and the like.

I've never accidentally triggered speech-to-text — I wonder what I'm doing differently. Even when I intentionally try to tap on the microphone icon in the middle of typing some text, iOS maps the tap to the space bar. (FWIW, it works fine in OmniFocus for me.) My main complaint with Siri is speed — reliability has been vastly improved since release, to the point that I'm relying on it again. And I wish I had a Bluetooth headset that provided adequate quality for voice recognition — this kind of thing is hilarious but not terribly effective: — thankfully it never happens when I'm holding the phone to my ear.

There is a definite advantage to larger-than-iPhone devices for reading. Several medical residents at the hospital where I've been for the past few months have had phablets, and they work well for viewing reference information without even being the size of an iPad mini. I haven't tried typing on such devices, which (for me, with relatively small hands) has been an issue. Even on a device the size of the original Nexus One my hands would cramp up because of the way I'd have to hold it. I was better with a thicker, smaller device than a thin, wide one.

@Lukas I recently had the chance to try a friend’s Note and am a bit jealous. It fits a comfortable amount of text on-screen, has hardware page-turning, and the keyboard has arrow keys.

@Nicholas Ihnatko thinks the microphone icon problem is related to his large hands, though mine are only average size.

I don’t know enough about the polish level, but in theory OmniFocus and the ability to write my own apps are the only things tying me to iOS. None of Apple’s built-in apps seem to be that essential. I think they will have to respond with a larger device.

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