Two years ago, I went from a Motorola Droid X (Android) phone to an Apple iPhone 4S. At the time, I hated Android. It was buggy, unstable, and nowhere near as friendly as iOS.
Now, two years later, I just made the jump back to Android. I went to a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and jumped from Verizon over to AT&T. For me, AT&T had a better plan than I could get on Verizon. Having been a Verizon customer since 2007, I’ll admit I’m a little nervous. Hopefully I won’t end up regretting that decision.
As for the phone… in a word, WOW! This thing is amazing. Android has come a long way in two years. As a power user, I’m remembering just how flexible Android is compared to iOS. This phone will be truly useful now — it has a real file system, which I can access and manipulate. I can, for example, browse to a website and download a file (say, a PDF), and save it. Then I can load it up with Acrobat Reader. On iOS, not possible. All the apps are sandboxed and can only access documents within their own relative sandboxes. This has always been, in my opinion, iOS’s major drawback. There are some ways around it, but they’re not terribly convenient.
What really drove me to switch was iOS 7. I upgraded on the day it was released. Initially, I thought it was pretty slick. The new functionality is, for the most part, very nice. The one thing I really didn’t care for is the new Photo app. But what I really disliked was the new appearance.
In an attempt to look more “modern,” somebody at Apple got the bright idea to “flatten” everything out, go with a pastel color scheme, and strip all the class out of the appearance that has been a trademark of iOS since the beginning. It just looks awful. And it’s not just the icons. The apps themselves are the problem. They’ve just dreadful looking. They’re flat, all one color (usually white), and in many cases, things that used to be buttons now look like web links.
A friend in Texas got an iPhone 4S about the same time I did, and decided to switch too. He switched first — he replaced his wife’s 4S with a Galaxy S4, and then got himself a Note 3. He wrote up a very detailed email about all the new features. Having read that, I had to see it for myself, so I went over to the local Best Buy this past Saturday to have a peek.
The Samsung booth there had a great employee named, “Justine,” who was nice enough to give me a very nice demo of the phone. I was blown away! The only thing I wasn’t sure of at the time was which carrier to use — stay with Verizon and upgrade, or switch.
By the next morning, I decided to give AT&T a try, so I went over to a Corporate AT&T store to pick one up. For a brand new account, I’d rather get it started there than at a Best Buy. If I do an upgrade later, I have no problem using Best Buy or another retailer.
So, the new phone. The first thing an iPhone user will notice is the size of the Note 3. It’s HUGE. It has a 5.7″ screen with a full HD 1080×1920 display. It has a higher pixel-per-inch resolution than the iPhone’s Retina display, and looks absolutely stunning. It uses Samsung’s AMOLED technology, which has always been, IMO, better than Apple’s.
To clarify… I am neither an Apple fan or hater. I do like a lot of Apple’s stuff. I switched to a Mac almost four years ago and haven’t regretted it in the least. They’re vastly superior to Windows in every single way. So it does feel a little weird moving back to Android. I’m giving up some of the cohesiveness of the Mac/iOS setup. I’m losing PhotoStream (not a huge deal), iCloud (which allows certain apps to sync data between iOS and Mac), which is a bit annoying until I find a work-around.
Android, while a huge improvement over years past, still isn’t perfect. There are some things about it that I would like to change or improve. The auto-correct feature is pretty annoying. It flat out will not allow you to type certain “offensive” words unless you dig into settings and disable that “feature.” In some cases it still won’t. You can’t add words to its dictionary to avoid having to hit the “skip” arrow so it won’t replace it with it’s assumed corrected word. I’d like to have more than seven screens (a home screen and three to either side).
Things I love about Android — the Swype feature. Rather than typing out stuff the old-fashioned way, you “swype” over the keys and it knows what you want to say. Google the term for more info; it’s impractical to fully explain here.
I love Widgets. This is something Apple could stand to implement. These are little programs you can put on your various screens to do stuff like display the weather forecast, show the last few tweets, a snapshot of your inbox, or many other things. These widgets are great, but they can also take up a lot of space, hence why I’d like more than seven screens.
In the case of the Note 3, I absolutely love the stylus! You can handwrite on the screen and it auto-converts it on the fly to text. There’s a note-taking app that you can handwrite on, and it will sync it to Evernote. It’s pressure-sensitive too.
One of the best features, which I think is exclusive to the Samsung phones, is the ability to run two apps side by side (well, technically, veritcally)… for example, you could have a web browser open on top, and be texting somebody below it. Plus you can drag and drop content between the two windows.
I could go on and on, but there are plenty of good reviews of the Note 3′s capabilities out there. I really wanted to blast iOS 7 for sucking visually. I think Steve Jobs would strangle whoever came up with it. Remember — it wasn’t Johny Ive; it was another department within Apple.