iPhone lover “confesses” to switching to the Nexus 4

Ralf Rottmann lays out his reasons for switching from an iPhone to the newest Google Android device. I too have been interestingly eyeing a Nexus 4, for many of the same reasons he expresses. The iPhone has consistently won out with both hardware and software design, quality of user experience, and availability of compelling applications. But Android has finally improved to the point where those advantages are greatly diminished. Meanwhile Android’s advantages with regard to intra-app communication, more seamless sharing, and Google service integration have not been matched on the iPhone side, no matter what the misleading Siri advertisements claim.

My concern continues to be what it has been from the beginning — in addition to wanting a device that works reliably and well, I also want one that belongs to me. I am extremely wary of loading my entire life into Google’s digital vaults, from which it can never be fully extricated, is subject to massive amounts of collation and analysis, and is sold to their advertisers and kept for their future uses.

I do use Google’s Gmail service for my email, but I pay for it, and I wish that along with that payment would come a much more significant promise to segregate my data and not use it for evil. Until such a promise is more clearly expressed, I don’t trust Google’s Android ecosystem any more than the rest of the services they provide — the Chrome sync that I disable, the Web History that I purge, the mandatory public Google Plus profile that I strip of all useful information, etc. It’s not that I’m afraid to share information online, simply that I want to control my own information and make my own choices, and have the right to change my mind in the future. I don’t think that is too much to ask.

4 Comments

  1. There’s really nothing magical about the Google service integration on Android — Facebook status updates for contacts sync just as seamlessly as their G+ updates, and Dropbox can auto-upload photos you take the same way Google+ does, and Pocket can sync in the background like Google Currents and Reader can — but the main thing is that Google has built the *whole* ecosystem, rather than bits and pieces you get from other providers, which is very convenient.

    But even if you bought a knockoff Chinese device, or ran some custom ROM with only AOSP, you could still do a lot of good stuff — share links from the (non-chrome) browser to any Twitter client you install, regardless of the browser’s author explicitly adding support; sync and merge LinkedIn and Facebook contact info for your friends; compose text messages by default in WhatsApp, and dial phone numbers in Skype automatically.

    Of course any apps with Google Maps, push notifications, or in-app purchases would break horribly, since those rely on the non-free bits of Google’s Android. But assuming you’re willing to compromise on just the App Store and the Maps library, you can get a fairly open relatively google-less experience out of your daily life without losing the niceness of the Intents/ContentProvider pluggability Android gives you.

  2. That’s a reasonable response. I haven’t played extensively with any Android devices ever, so my knowledge is limited, but the features I’m most excited about are also the ones I’m most creeped out by. For example, Google Now looks awesome. A neutered Android phone with most of the Google stuff stripped from it probably wouldn’t be enough to make me want to leave iOS. And can I trust WhatsApp and the like more or less than Google?

    I’m not opposed to data mining and analysis that serves me. I’d rather as much of it as possible happen on the device, or be anonymized on the server, but there are reasonable compromises I’m willing to make. The most important thing to me is that I deal with a company that respects me and my personal data, rather than treating it all as theirs to do with what they please. Say what you will about Apple, so far their track record is pretty good on this.

    I am willing to pay Google for services — I already do. I’d pay more for an integrated Android experience that contained privacy protections and guarantees that are customer-focused. I don’t think I am alone on this, although it is still a pretty fringe thing.

  3. I should add: whether that’s worth sacrificing the UI consistency, performance and battery life iOS gives you is really a separate question, though, and one you will have to search your soul deeply to answer :)

  4. Interesting. I recently upgraded from my “ancient” iPhone 4 to the iPhone 5. I strongly considered the Nexus 4, but stayed with my trusted Apple hardware mostly because it supports LTE and gives me 32GB of internal storage. Maybe iMessage too (now that I think about it, almost everyone has unlimited messaging plans anyway, so maybe I shouldn’t care).

    But my feelings about Google’s services are exactly the opposite of yours. I feel like Apple strong-arms everyone into using their iCloud services (which is beyond worthless to me) and that’s far worse than anything Google offers (and I’m not talking about features, though that’s definitely a factor too). Apple doesn’t provide the same APIs/extensibility or methods of accessing your data (it’s not a filesystem and can’t even act like one if you wanted it to). Your data is siloed just like it is within iOS applications. How safe is your data? No one can answer that question. We don’t know what they really do (or plan on doing) with it. At least with Google, we *know* what they are doing with our data, though you may not like it. What will iCloud look like (will it even exist?) in a few years? After all, Apple hasn’t had a good track record with its online services (some no longer exist, and iCloud has a number of previous incarnations from whence it came).

    Apple makes amazing hardware. I’m not a fan of any Apple software (but I can see why many people are). And Apple’s online services are useless, in addition to being a big unknown. Unfortunately they are trying to tie their online services more closely to their software (which has been tied to their hardware since the dawn of the PC age) and that worries me.

    Android on the other hand is a very well designed operating systems. If you had all of the resources in the world to build a mobile operating system (hint: Google pretty much does) I think Android is very close to what you would end up with. And Google has a very good history of hosting and dealing with user data and online services in general. Again, you may not *like* what they are doing with your data, but no one should be surprised by it.

    Here’s my real theory about Android (and Google’s “open” philosophy in general): It’s a gigantic hedge against Apple (and other Mobile “unknowns” like Windows, Blackberry and various other also-rans). If Google’s competitors managed to shut them out of the mobile world, then in a few short years, Google would be no more. The power of Android (for us users) is that it doesn’t tie you to Google, although by default there are some pretty good options if you choose to use them. And anyone else can hook in and provide the same level of integration with the OS as Google’s apps. That’s a very different philosophy from Apple, Microsoft and RIM (you miss out on a lot if you don’t have RIM’s BES installed).

    People use Google services because they like the service that Google provides, not because they were forced in to it. For the most part, people use Apple, Microsoft or RIM’s respective services because they were either forced in to it, they thought they had to, or they don’t care/know any better.

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