4 Months of Android

The smartphone platform wars are pretty much over, and Apple and Google won

The above line is from Benedict Evans’s article “Platform wars: the final score (July 2016)

I have been using an iPhone since the last 8 years. On late January this year I decided to give Android a go on Google Pixel. I realized that both platforms have similar features and hardware (or they will at the end of every year as each one plays catch-up). To me, the biggest kicker is the software (core apps I use daily) and that makes all the difference.

Somehow, I haven’t missed iOS on iPhone 7. All the popular apps just work on both the platforms. iOS has an edge over the UI and how buttery it feels while scrolling and switching screens. Android does not have that finesse but I am ok overlooking it for what it provides — an excellent ecosystem of Google services (which I use personally and for work) all tied together with the power of machine learning (ML)and AI. Everyone is talking about ML and AI but Google is all-in. Google Assistant knows everything about me and my travel plans — I am ok with that. I am traveling today and my flight details have already popped up on the Pixel. The Amazon package that I ordered last week shows that it is delayed and will arrive after 2 days.

Google Assistant, which I use daily is way way smarter and better than Siri.

What I have noticed in the last few years is that Google has done an amazing job with their software and keeps improving them on both platforms. The following apps that I use daily on Android are just way better than their iOS counterparts (sadly, iOS 11 isn’t going to make them better either).

Inbox for Gmail (or Gmail)
Try searching your mails in the stock mail app 🙄

Google Calendar
Beautifully designed!

Google Maps 
Seriously, don’t know anyone using Apple Maps.

Google Photos
Super smart.

I could and have used these app on iOS but then Siri would be clueless. Siri needs me to use the Apple core apps which I don’t think are feature-rich. I believe that if you are in one ecosystem (Android or iOS) use the tools of that ecosystem.

But, there are things that I don’t like with Android….
1. Apps asking for access. Paranoia sets in.
2. Scrolling is not as smooth as iOS
3. Apps crash more frequently than iOS.
4. Typing is not as smooth as iOS. I just turned off vibrate on keypress and it’s a bit better.

Both the ecosystems are converging as far as features and quality is concerned. Today, it is just a matter of knowing which one you want to give your data to which in-turn will give you back meaningful data so that you can save time and make better day to day decisions.

If I had to bet on one of these companies getting ML and AI right it is going to be Google. Crunching and making sense of data is in their DNA. To me, that is where the future is. For now, I don’t see myself coming back to iOS on the iPhone.

My very first experience with Android on Google Pixel

Let me get this out of the way — I am a huge Apple fan and own pretty much the entire product line. I love Apple because of their control over hardware and software. So, when Google announced the Pixel last year I was curious to give it a try. We are working on an app for Brightpod so I used that as an excuse to get my hands on the Google Pixel (unadulterated Android + hardware controlled by Google) and decided it was time to give Android a spin.

Towards the end of last year, I watched the launch of the Pixel and felt that Google wants to take smartphones to another level — machine learning, deep learning, AI, virual reality and all the other hardcore mathematics stuff. Bottomlime, a phone should feel good as well as be super smart — contextually aware.

The hardware on the iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel is similar, give or take a few specs. You don’t make a decision on hardware but on the software and the ecosystem. This got me thinking….Siri does not know much about me as I use mostly Google services (even on the iOS) — Gmail, Google Apps, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Docs etc. If Google already has all this data then why not see if it helps me in my everyday life. Plus, I have never been impressed with Apple’s core software (Mail, Calendar, Numbers, Pages…).

Enter Pixel.

Switching to Android was seamless. Transfer of data was smooth.

Phone has a good feel. Looks like the iPhone 6. The fingerprint scanner at the back is a nice touch. You can even swipe on the fingerprint scanner to drop down the notification bar on the screen.

The homescreen with the customization and widgets (a core feature of Android) lets your clear things up. My daughter loves it that you can actually see the wallpaper in the unlocked mode.

The ambient display notifications are great. I check this phone far less now which helps with focus.

Google Now reminds me to leave the office to pick up my daughter and tells me how much time it will take me to get to her class (map included). It even showed me a stock when it was down 2% today.

I think the best part of the Pixel is the contextually- aware Google Assistant. It beats Siri hands down. I asked Siri for my flight details this week and it asked me if it should check on Uber. Google Assistant quickly pulled it up. The assistant is contextual and answers follow-up questions very intuitively. I changed a calendar event without any trouble.

We have reached a sort of commoditization in smartphones so the future will be won by tailoring a unique personalized experience by the use of contextually aware smart software.

I do miss the sleekness of the iOS and how the iPhone feels and “it just works”. I have told myself that I am going to give Pixel a fair shot and see if it actually helps me in my day to day work.

Being curious is good :)

More on my experience in the next post. Stay tuned.