Switching from Android to iOS Part 3: Why the switch failed for me
Given the enormity of the iOS App Store, another struggle I never expected was in finding apps that I liked using. It's not that the selection isn't there, but apps are generally more expensive and finding what you want is more of a chore because Apple (as noted last time) is nowhere near as good at search as Google and discovery in the App Store is tough.
There is essentially no real web version of the App Store (I refuse to use the garbage fire that is iTunes) whereas Google Play on the web is a great experience. If I wanted to find iOS apps while using my laptop, I basically used Google Search anyway. And, since so many apps are paid, it is all the more annoying that getting a refund is hidden away in options labeled “report a problem”, making it difficult to try out a paid app before committing to buy.
Not all apps are expensive, obviously, but when you're setting up a new device things can add up quickly if you’re not careful. For example, there are far fewer ad-supported apps on iOS, meaning many apps you would get for free on Android (maybe having to pay $1 to remove apps later) would cost you somewhere between $1-2 on iOS. But, the worst trouble is when you get into alternative apps for popular services.
As far as I could tell, there was one app available on iOS -- Tweetbot -- that offers a good amount of features above the official Twitter app and fixes some of the mistakes of the official app (like burying Lists). You want that? It'll cost you $10 to buy. There are other Twitter alternatives, but most look as though they haven't been updated in a long time or aren't markedly different from the official app, unlike Android where Carbon, Fenix, Falcon, and Falcon Pro are all solid alternative apps, and none will cost you more than about $5.
I found it similar for alternative Feedly and Outlook apps. While most weren't terribly expensive compared to the official apps, none were designed to make using the respective services any easier or more compelling than the official app. And, in terms of Apple's built-in apps, the only ones I used were the Clock app, Apple Music, and Safari, although to be fair Safari is the only real option on iOS anyway, because of Apple's lock-down. Safari is fine, but since I don’t have a Mac it doesn’t integrate with my life as well as Chrome, and while I could get a lot of what I missed from Android on iOS, no (real) Chrome was a big hurdle to jump.
Ultimately, I found it to be a bit boring to use the iPhone (just as I did the first time around), mostly because I'm the kind of person who wants to try out all the new apps to see what developers are doing. While iOS does tend to get apps before Android (the Quartz news app was the best example of that during my time testing), the App Store felt cumbersome and like there wasn't much new coming through. Android has a similar problem of surfacing new content, but Google Play is better than the App Store in that regard.
The missing piece (for me)
I fully admit to living la vida Google. The vast majority of apps I use are Google apps, but this wasn’t much of an issue on iOS. As noted, Chrome isn’t great and I had a constant issue where Google+ links didn’t deep link into the app the way they should, but everything else -- Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts, YouTube, Maps, Search, Newsstand, etc -- worked perfectly fine for me.
There was one missing app though -- Google Voice. Obviously, the app does exist for iOS and as a Google Voice user, I could handle all my SMS through Hangouts. The trouble for me is that the phone number I’ve been giving to everyone for the past seven years is my Google Voice number and it’s annoying to have to go into the Voice app to make calls on iOS. On Android, I can just make a call and it will show up as my Voice number on Caller ID for others. On iOS, people don’t recognize my number because calling through the Phone app shows my T-Mobile number not Voice.
It seems like a small thing, but anyone who has ever changed their number knows how annoying that can be.
In the end...
When finding apps you like to use is an expensive chore, that makes the switching process a whole lot more difficult. I came into this experiment knowing that my investments in Android apps would be a big hurdle in being able to switch to iOS and I my mind was not changed. I rightly assumed that I would be able to find free apps to get me through.
I know if I really was going to make the full time switch, it would cost me more than I’m willing to spend both in apps and in time telling everyone I know personally and professionally that my number had changed.
Ultimately, Android just works better for me. I like having my choice of devices (even if I do tend to go with Nexus devices) on Android. I like the more deeply integrated Google experience and how I can avoid going into apps in many ways. And, I’ve already invested a lot of money into Android apps to put together the app roster that I like.
iOS is a great platform, it’s just not the daily driver for me.