Why I can’t kick the Apple iPhone habit

Louis Gray just wrote an interesting post about how he kicked iPhones out of his life and went with Android. I could write that post too. After all, I agree with it in principle, even if I can’t take the step and cross over the iPhone/Android barrier.

He isn’t the first, either, to advocate giving up your iPhone and going with one running Google’s Android OS. Leo Laporte told me the same thing at FooCamp (Tim O’Reilly’s campout where he invites a few hundred geeks for a weekend campout at O’Reilly’s headquarters). Although Leo was holding an iPhone he told me he is kicking the iPhone habit and going Android.

On vacation I had dinner with Brett Schulte, who is an IT consultant for celebrities. He’s the one who got me on the set of Criminal Minds and is one of those few influencers that companies try to get to push their products onto sets and into actors’ hands. He’s kicked the iPhone to the curb for the same reasons Louis gave.

And I do try. I’ve had three Android-based phones in my hands in the past nine months: a Droid, a Nexus One, and a Sprint EVO. I’ve also tried a Verizon Incredible and a Hero.

All of these phones have some magical features, to be sure. I loved having the EVO be a wifi hotspot. I like some of the apps better on Android, in particular, Google Voice, Google Maps, and Google Buzz. All are way better than anything on the iPhone.

But still I can’t kick the iPhone habit. Why not?

1. I’m more productive on the iPhone. You might say I didn’t give Android enough of a shot. But I completely stopped using the iPhone for two weeks to see if I could get my Android skills up. I still was faster and more comfortable with using the iPhone. More on why in a second.
2. The hardware is simply superior. Even with the weird antenna issue I just like the way iPhones are built. They feel better in my hands and that’s important to me since I use these devices SO MUCH during my day. The screen on the iPhone 4 is simply superior to anything Android has today. Leo told me “wait until you see the Samsung.” Well, OK, but the Samsung isn’t out yet. When it is I’ll try it out and see if that gets me to kick my iPhone habit.
3a. Apps on iPhone are way better quality. Sorry, but the apps I count on, things like the Twitter app, the Facebook app, the camera/photography/video apps, location apps, etc are almost wholly superior on iPhone than on Android.
3b. More app choices on iPhone, especially in games. I keep finding world-class games on iPhone that haven’t been ported yet to Android. I should make a list.
4. I hate AT&T’s quality, but I don’t hate it enough to leave. I didn’t really understand that, but then I started keeping track of how often I use voice. On my phone I only use voice about 5% of the time I use my iPhone. Almost all the rest of the time I’m using it for Twitter, to read news, to interact with apps, to play games, to Facetime with my sons/wife, etc. In non-voice parts of using the iPhone AT&T’s lack of quality of service doesn’t matter at all. Most of the time I’m doing those kinds of things I’m on wifi anyway. To gain better voice quality, which I only use about 5% of the time, I’d have to give up a better experience on the web and in apps, which just isn’t acceptable to me.
5. Apple users tend to use more apps. I’ve been asking my friends who have Android apps how many apps they have. The average, so far, is about half of the apps that my iPhone-using friends have. Also, something else I noticed, when comparing experiences with SlideShare’s CTO, Jonathan Boutelle, was that we both noticed that Android users haven’t purchased many apps yet. That is something I’m hearing from app developers, too, which explains why the best developers put most of their time into the Apple platform and aren’t working as hard on the Android. But to me this is a bummer because the way I discover new apps is to talk to people. In airports you’ll see me stalking iPhone users asking them what their favorite apps are, or online you’ll see me searching through Appsfire.com for new apps. Is there an Appsfire for Android? My point exactly. There is a network effect with apps and Android hasn’t gotten there yet. Will they? I’m sure they will, Google seems to have the same advantages that Microsoft had in earlier platform battles with Apple, but TODAY Google hasn’t come close and that means I can’t kick my iPhone habit.
6. Battery life. My Android phones totally suck when compared to the iPhone 4. My son literally texted with friends all day while at Disneyland (nothing like a teenager obsessed with texting). At 11 p.m. he still had 36% battery left on his iPhone 4 and I had 50% left, even after using it a lot as a camera taking video and photos of the family and checking into Twitter after an earthquake closed down a lot of the rides there. My Android-based phones don’t come close. My Sprint EVO used 40% of its battery on ONE one-hour phone call. Louis says he gets pretty good battery life, but then I started asking him what he did with his phone to get that and he turned a lot of stuff off that came on by default. I didn’t have to do that on our iPhones.
7. Camera features and aspirational advertising. You know, I’ve had tons of Nokia phones with two cameras. I’ve never used them as much as I’ve used the one in my iPhone. Why? Affordances. My iPhone affords using these features. It is easy, and when someone calls me I can see if they can use Facetime with me. Plus, their advertising is aspirational and gets my friends to WANT to try these new features out. I’ve never had someone get a new Nokia phone, call me, and beg me to try out a new feature. I’ve gotten DOZENS of those kinds of calls in the past three weeks.

So, why am I more productive on iPhones than on Android?

It came down to small things that I’ve noticed. For one, each app works more consistently. On Seesmic on Android, for instance, I could scroll to the top of its window by clicking a red bar. On every iPhone app that happens by clicking the top bar. On EVERY app. On Android it isn’t in the same place, or with the same command.

When I want to edit text, I just click and the cursor on the iPhone enters the place where I clicked. On the Android it doesn’t work as consistently. Partly because some of the screens aren’t as sensitive as the iPhones, but partly if you click too long a dialog box asking if you’d like to copy text comes up. Grrr.

On other things, when I double-click columns of text the iPhone works how I expect it to: the text zooms to fill the maximum width of the screen. On Android it often would overzoom so now I’d have to scroll around to read. Add in the extra readability of the new screen and this is maddening, but is a little thing very few people would notice.

I’m sure lots of people will argue with me and tell me how the Android is already superior in all of these cases. They probably are correct: for them.

But I’ve tried it out and continue doing so (I keep my Verizon account and Motorola Droid and I keep playing with it just to see if I can kick the iPhone habit) and for me I’m still addicted to the iPhone.

When that addiction ends, you’ll be the first to know since I’m in agreement that Google is the company I’d rather be in bed with than Apple but for now I just can’t kick the Apple habit and I’m very happy with giving Steve Jobs more of my money because Apple definitely has built the best mobile device on the market today.

Tomorrow? We’ll see.

How about you? Have you kicked your iPhone habit?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

160 thoughts on “Why I can’t kick the Apple iPhone habit

  1. I agree, its all about the details – so many of my close friends have switched to droid but I'm not convinced.

  2. For those that haven't been following you Robert, and barring that super-short snippet in the comments, why exactly you want to “kick the iPhone habbit” ? Just curious, because from all your comments you seem to be benefitting from using this device, so it's not like a drug habit that needs to be kicked off. Unless there are deeper philosophical or socio-economic-marketing reasons…


    This is exactly why I got my 100% money back from Sprint (thanks for being a good sport, Sprint!!) and went RUNNING back to AT&T, warts and all, to be FAR more productive AND MUCH safer while driving!!

    Living in LA, the ability to get stuff done fast, in the car, with one hand (get your mind out of the gutter) is crucial for survival.. I found Android very often takes two hands and the UX/UI is inconstant like you say.I'd click one place and stuff a half inch down gets clicked instead. Perhaps when the hardware matures, which will be at least a year (but by then there will be iPhone 5 rumors) they might be more on par, but this game is not even close. I want to love Android, I really do….but just cannot. This is like Win vs. Mac all over again.. everyone knew four years ago (except for die hard stubborn Win users) that OSX was superior, even with weaker hardware, and you simply got more done with fewer distractions and problems.

    Also, with Android I found myself Googling for instructions how to work things.. I never do that with iPhone.

  4. @Scoble–Hope you enjoyed your hols mate. Don;y know if anybody else has mentioned above but there is a great App tracking App on Android called 'Appbrain' Try it out! All hail the Droid! ;-)

  5. The difference is contracts. On contracts, the highest price point for a device is 199, the lowest is free. There will be a “race to the bottom” but with the highend so easily reached, it's not going to be like the HP and Dell thing.

    (unless they somehow convince carriers that a given android phone is SO basic, it deserves feature phone data plans.. then we're in trouble)

  6. With android you can sync OTA or from your computer. The only thing you can't sync with your computer are apps, and going from a factory wipe on my android device, it typically beats my ipod touch syncing with my computer.

  7. It's not just the OTA, it's if google develops a new software release, you'll typically have to wait less than a year to get it. Look at how many people complained about how “long” it took the motorola droid to get 2.1 (coming from 2.01) it took them an “insane” what? four months? Compare that to waiting 12 months for an update.

  8. he said that developing for android was more cost effective. For something to be cost effective, it has to pay for itself. That would make me think that he's doing better with android than with iOS, even considering the “larger” market.

  9. I would be more than happy if Farmville and the other cr@p that Zynga publishes were taken off iPhone and limited to the Android platform.

  10. Follow-up: the obvious strategy for google is to simply PAY the top game studios to port their games to Android. Doing this for the top 50 games wouldn't cost that much (they don't have to pay 100% of the game costs, just enough to make it a “can't lose” proposition for the studio), and would jump-start the entire ecosystem.

    Given the recent Zynga investment, it's pretty clear that they'd be open to such a move.

  11. The reason it's hard to move from the iphone is that android just doesn't have the apps yet. This is most obvious in the games space, where almost none of the smash hits from the iphone have bothered to port to Android.

    Why is this? There's just a lot less money to be made in the android ecosystem, despite the fact that there are a lot of devices now. There's 2 reasons for this as far as I can tell:
    1) Android makes it to easy to return apps (and get your money back)
    2) Android users are less affluent and are not part of a functioning micropayments ecosystem/culture (itunes has socialized mac users around micropayments for content). So they are less likely to pay even if an equivalent quality app is offered at an equivalent price.

    This is why there are fewer quality apps for android. When in doubt, follow the money!

  12. I prefer iPhone (4.0 with its proper multitasking, music will run in the background…) and I have no reason to kick my iPhone habit. But how come they sold more Android smartphones than iPhones in the US? There's a site where I found the steps of How to Install Android on your iPhone – to get a Hybrid :) Then I read somewhere else that it only allows the modified iPhone to send text messages and make calls. It actually doesn't support Wi-Fi and your phone can get hot in only several minutes of use.
    Regarding reception or antenna problems, I’ve recently heard the news that a tech entrepreneur has created a solution to iPhone 4 antenna issue, for both local and extended coverage. It looks quite funny. Here’s the link with the two pictures:


  13. I was just wondering, have you used google gestures and swype? Those two apps are Android's killer apps in my book, and in terms of productivity they just blow apple out of the water. Oh and with text editing being fiddley, i had the same problem, until i realise, thats what the trackball is for! Everything on the iphone feels clunky and old school after gestures. I also just wanted to point out that a big difference in the take up of android apps is that you can pirate them. There are torrents floating around with thousands of android apps, personally I tried out a thousand or so before settling on the ten that were worth buying. With iphone, that is not really an issue.

  14. Yea that's a great review. The games are the important point. Google is good at managing web things I think there's not enough titles available under Android Store. We can read books using Kindle App but still I feel, if the iBook Store is improved, we will get books for cheap price.

    iPhone is more productive than anything else! Good one Scoble!

  15. 1) Yes, the battery sucks but it sucks less than than any other competing device. And I keep other things in my bag, Brett.

    2) iPhone is FAST, especially because of its processor.

    3) You got me on that one. Maybe I really should consider a device with any limits at all. Got one?

    4) You know what else Google is great at? Finding out EVERYTHING about you. In fact, that's Google's mission and lifeblood.

  16. Most Android apps are priced fairly and according to their worth, i.e. zero.

    Ironically, there are more free apps available from the App Store than there are from the Android Market (although the proportion of same is way less than half that at the Android Market). I think there are at least two messages there…

  17. Actually, Apple doesn't censor porn. Fire up your iPhone's browser and see all the naughty bits you like.

    But, no matter what, Google still scrapes every bit of information it can about you and your personal habits.

  18. Very true. During that period, Google received so much “inspiration” from its leader, Eric Schmidt, while he was serving on Apple's Board of Directors.

  19. What are you talking about? iPhone users have always been able to do over-the-air app download and installation provided the app was 10 MB in size or less. In February 2010, that size limit was increased to 20 MB.

    By the way, users have always been able to download and install apps of any size via WiFi.

  20. I don’t think the UI consistency and app quality issues (intertwined, I think) can be overstated. The sheer number of apps is a red herring on either platform. Until Android apps can get more polish, and (as much as it may be against the “open” DNA) a more top down, strict UI implementation across apps it will remain a haven for tech enthusiasts and hobbyists but never gain mass market appeal. I actually don’t think this is the developers’ fault. Google doesn’t seem to care about design or beauty so it should come as little surprise that the vast majority of apps created under that umbrella are inconsistent, unfriendly and ugly.

    Android and by extension its apps have a ways to go before it is a mature competitor to the iPhone in a market outside of tech geeks for whom emailing keyboard layouts to one another makes it a successful phone. Just being “open” isn’t enough if the quality and accessibility isn’t there for the average user.

    - iPhone 3GS and HTC Incredible user

  21. What will *I* say about app on Jan 2011 when Android has more apps?

    Probably, Dang! None of them work worth spit on my “old” Hero that isn't getting Froyo!

  22. Apple got hammered by developers in 2007 when they tried to say, “Web Apps!!!” Developers rightly pointed out the many situations when you can't get on the web, or can't run advanced features in even a much better browser than Apple had back then. (My classic example: a Chinese-English dictionary that uses a proprietary character-recognition algorithm, has multiple dictionaries with tens of thousands of entries…)

    It took Apple a whole 12 months to document their internal-only tools up to the point that anybody could use them. As soon as they met the external demand, the app market exploded.

    I have no insight as to whether Apple meant to do this all along, but they can't deny they caught the wave at the right moment by providing access to a powerful new form factor. Unlike some of their misfires (the Cube, the Newton, …) they (1) did what they thought was right, and (2) hit the mark perfectly.

  23. I hear lots of vague allusions to ease/difficulty of the “fragmented” nature of iOS or Android development, most of it ex cathedra. What I don't, but would love to see, is an open developer discussion, ideally from those who've worked on both platforms.

    What about the extent of challenges of different devices' assumptions about memory, connection speed/types, screen rez, even appearance given the dramatic difference of AMOLED (with its not-quite-what-it-says 2 sub-pixels per pixel), graphics device drivers, assumptions about keyboards, etc?

    Larva has published some assumptions about revenue per app that presents a real chicken+egg conundrum for developers. Who has developed for both, and can challenge that bleak outlook of today.. this year?

    How many machines do you have to do actual hands-on QA on? How many OS versions do you typically support? There should be a quantum jump in speed for Froyo. Can complex apps still target phones that will never get it?

    “Inquiring Minds Want to Know!” ®

  24. My office overlooks the SF Sprint store on Market. On the EVO's launch date, I counted 24 people in line when I went out for coffee around 9:30 am.

    Maybe the reception was a bit muted because there's no 4G yet in SF. Android has in general been TERRIBLE with promising features like Flash that will never come to the early (Android 1.X) adopters; why pay extra for a version 1.0 feature that you don't know if/when you'll be able to use?

    I'd say the EVO rollout was pretty much a success in that sense — Sprint/Android fans were buying a product that most won't be able to fully appreciate. A sign of how much Sprint users wanted a more powerful phone than the Pre that was their last hot item.

  25. Gee, I must've lost track of time. Was Win3.1 for Workgroups the leading OS in October 2009, when Verizon announced the “old” Droid as an iPhone killer? How often are we meant to buy new hardware to be feature-similar?

  26. Yes, OTA is fine for mail, contacts, calendars (and I use the iPhone flavor of it). But as you say, the pits for music and video, especially if you actually rotate your library. Maybe you're watching some video coursework during your free time; finish one hour and D/L the next couple, as I've recently been doing.

    OTA is a bigger plus for people who don't have another computer, which curiously, probably describes almost zero Android customers. And I doubt very many of them will dare put the jinx on Google's cloud by saying that the Kin / Danger disaster could never happen to Google.

  27. Maybe you can't see it coming because Apple already provides OTA updates via WiFi.

    And because Android users famously use far fewer apps than Apple's, provisioning apps in the least time- and cost-efficient way (over a cell carrier) is 99% a feature in search of a justification.

    Yes, better to leverage your existing Google account and have it all just happen. But for a new phone user who hasn't already bought a bunch of apps and committed all his contacts and calendars to Google (the majority of phone purchasers), these are non-features.

  28. Help me understand, Joe: do you really think that “constant Free OTA's OS Updates” is a positive?

    I know Froyo is just out as a reminder of the feature. But how important is it to get it in the afternoon versus when you set your phone in its charger base at night to auto-backup and sync everything? Or is it that you need OS updates so frequently that this is more important than it sounds to me?

    Or is it one of these, “this is just how these things ought to work” issues that doesn't actually matter very much without that attitude? That'd describe a feature in search of a benefit, capture by Android Marketing.

  29. I have an android phone (Hero) and a first generation iPhone, between the two, i still love my old iPhone. The screen is sensitive compare to the hero, but the one thing most i don't like with the android is that everybody is releasing its own ROM aside from Google…. Motorola, Sony, HTC… and way slow! unlike Apple, they're the one and the best final ROM. I'm now ditching my HTC Hero.

  30. “…why Apple will stay perpetually ahead of Google…”

    Is this important?
    Being NO.2 is not worth the existence ?
    I don't think so. My Android works and is brilliant, even if the sales numbers are behind Apple.
    That reminds me back in the days, when I was a Mac-user. I said the same. And it was. Funny how Apple-Users now trying to make people think you NEED to have the No.1 phone by sales numbers.

  31. I have been using a 3GS and a myTouch Slide for awhile now, and I must say, I find myself constantly using the iPhone more simply because it feels better. I know the Galaxy S has great screen tech backing it, I know the Slide has a physical keyboard… but those features are worthless to me unless they feel as great as an iPhone does in hand.

    Once these 4.3″ dual-core Android devices start launching, I pray that at least one of them uses high quality metal and glass. Then, I could settle on one device. Until then, I will continue using my iPhone until I get bored and want to mess around with Android some more… and then I'll get sick of using a play toy feeling device and want something more solid with better media management… and so on, and so on, and so on.

  32. Step 0: NOT TRUE. Germany works. I know that by myself, and dozens of other countries works, too. I don't know where you get this information… but yeah keep bashing Android.

  33. Robert, I didn't insult you. I was replying to Kaler.
    And “not everyone is a Robert Scoble” did not mean, you will get everything for free, but it means, that not everyone getting free phones at all, besides devs who visit Google I/O and some popular tech evangelists.
    I just wanted to point out that 99% of the people buying an Android phone. So it's completely off the track what Kaler said.

    We have a little communication problem, Robert. Must be the different language we have :)

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