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. My 3GS just crashed before travel out of the country and I had to order the iPhone 4. I'd been contemplating a change from iPhone after reading positive reviews and predictions for the Android. But, I was forced to make a lightening fast decision and ended up ordering the 4. I'm on day 10 of the back order for iPhone 4 . . of course, I am going insane, not because I am anxious to receive it and the return of my mobility, but because of buyers remorse. . . will I regret not making the jump to Android??? . . Tonight, thanks to your post, I will sleep more soundly. Thanks!

  2. Not sure why you've not had luck – on Verizon, with my 2nd gen Droid and have done voice and GPS at the same time in my car…yakking away and watching the turn by turn navigate me through traffic using Real Time Traffic (the app I downloaded in the marketplace.)

    I know…

  3. Nah, I've been on vacation for the past 10 days so have missed out on a lot. Yeah, Marco.org's rant is right on. But only a small percentage of consumers care about owning great products.

  4. Yeah, although the Facebook app on the iPhone DOES do some of that synching too. But, agreed. Of course if that really was that big a deal then we'd all be using Palm Pre's. :-)

  5. I am trying to collect a list of articles that talk about reasons to go (or stay) with iPhone over Android, and I'll be adding this to the list. Do you remember the one that came out last week sometime talking about the widgets and customization that became a negative after a while? I'm looking for that article; it was on Hacker News.

    Anyway, here's another must-read on the topic: http://www.marco.org/769340032

  6. In a similar vein, although the Facebook app for Android isn't as fab as for the iPhone, the address book integration at the system level for Facebook and Twitter is really snazzy. When the Cliq came out and I was investigating Android, I tried one in the store, put in my FB credentials and watched my whole FB address book populate in under a minute, with photos.

    Apple seems not only slow on the cloud syncing, but this kind of third-party coziness for system integration.

  7. I don't believe that's true, although if you built an app today you'd mostly build it for the modern phones like the EVO, the Incredible, the Nexus One, or the DroidX. Those will all work off a single code base.

  8. I don't think there really was much of a line for EVO phones. At least not in Silicon Valley, while for iPhones the lines went all the way around the block and people were waiting for nine hours or more to simply get into the store.

    1. Apple makes a phone only once a year, android doesnt. There is only 1 iphone and many android phones. Do the math

  9. Wow, this real time commenting is crazy cool! What I meant with the EVO is that there was a line, even if it only lasted a day or two. The iPhone lines are legendary and a major success for Apple marketing.

    If you haven't seen the Futurama episode where the Mom store sells the eyePhone, you should check it out. Totally makes fun of gadget enthusiasts, the iPhone lines, and even Twitter!

    1. If you think developer.android.com is *anywhere close* to developer.apple.com, you’re off your rocker and clearly don’t build software for a living. The tools are leaps and bounds better, the documentation is unmatched, and the entire developer portal/realm as a whole is an order of magnitude stronger.

  10. When I developed my app for the iPad, I wasn't planning on doing a phone version. But everyone tells me I should, so I'm going to make an iPhpne version. I considered Android but as a small developer, there's really no debate – iTunes is just too easy. I mean, where do you start with Androis??

  11. Right. And THAT is what I'm talking about! I often need to work COLLABORATIVELY with people who are UPDATING MY CALENDARS while I'm talking with them! That is a HUGE feature for me.

    How often do I have a phone and no other device? Very often. I do interviews mostly with only carrying my phone. I don't carry my computers everywhere. On vacation I only carried a phone, too. Today, while at a party, I only carried my phone.

  12. Just a reality checking question: how often do you have a phone and no other internet device? It seems from reading your blog and Twitter stream for years now that you almost have have three pieces of gear with you (phone1, phone2, camera, laptop, tablet, etc.).

    BTW: I don't have a Droid (Nexus One on T-Mobile for me), but any Android device should let you check your calendar and downloaded email while you're talking to people — it's the new email that Verizon and Sprint can't deal with while you're talking on the phone. And it's the email searches of the cloud on Gmail that the CDMA networks can't handle. But everything downloaded already and appointments already on your calendar that you check before picking up a call should be in your calendar.

  13. Yup, THAT is one MAJOR thing that is making Google Android very cool and hard for Apple to compete with. On getting a new Android phone I just put in my email and password and all my apps, contacts, calendar, email, all show up automatically. WITHOUT hooking up a wire like iPhone requires!

    1. There is something to be said for having a local backup of your phone on your computer. Plus the speed of transferring your data over USB still has to be faster than OTA especially if you have lots of music and videos.

    2. One thing keeping me from Android: Only HTC have one here in NZ and it a crappy old version.
      As for Google services – Activesync for Calendar, and Contacts, iMap for mailboxes, Google Reader synchs content for NetNewsWire for RSS, SimpleNote synch notes, Dropbox synchs pdf and other files.
      The only thing I have to dock with my iTunes for is music, podcasts, OS updates and backup. I really hope iPhone gets wireless synch for those real soon, but I’m not holding my breath as it has to work with the same sync conduit as the shuffle, nano and classic iPods. However, USB/Serial over ethernet? How hard would it be for Apple to actually impliment that on the iPhone/iPad? Then it would just look like it was connected to the USB port.
      (BTW when hooked up to my Ubuntu netbook, I can also just play the content right off the phone. Brilliant as I only have an 8GB SD card in my netbook, and if I have my headphones plugged in there, that where I want to get my music and podcasts from too.

    3. Same as iOS. You add mail accounts on the phone and they sync calendar, contacts, email. How about talking about the huge LACK of Exchange integration on Android? There’s mail, but no ability to sync calendar or contacts without a hodge-podge of 3rd party applications – how is this acceptable functionality for a smart phone?

  14. I bought my own Droid. But these are DEVELOPERS telling me this. They are all talking amongst themselves about what kind of business is showing up on the ecosystem. Are you hearing different? Please provide facts, sales, etc.

  15. But, Verizon is a CDMA system. It is IMPOSSIBLE to use voice on Verizon and also do data features. That has nothing to do with the phone.

  16. There is just a just a #paidapppledge for Android apps going on. Yes, we buy many and pricey apps. It's ridiculous to say that people buy less apps when they get their phones for free… And not everyone is a Robert Scoble. I paid a lot for mine. Will buy the DroidX without a contract (expect about $650), so I can choose the network I like.
    Price sensitive… I've never heard such crap… unbelievable.

  17. Well, yes, I have a first-gen Droid. But I've also had an EVO, which is a late generation Android and I also have a Nexus One, which is fairly late generation. Plus, I've had DroidX and Incredible and other Android devices in my hands.

  18. I think AppBrain.com is better than AppFire in one key respect: OTA delivery of apps!

    Robert should try this out because this is the direction that Google is taking with everything — Chrome to Phone for packing your open tabs when you hit the road, cloud delivery and syncing of functionality.

    I can't see Apple enabling the App Store to do OTA delivery of apps anytime soon.

    1. AppStore on the iPhone has been available since the creation of the AppStore. Are you unaware that you can, today and for the past 2 years, do “OTA delivery” of applications? The only syncing needed for iOS devices is large media: movies, tv shows, podcasts, and music. Although you can download new music and podcasts from the iTunes application on the phone without syncing. Everything else, including applications, applications updates, etc is all OTA.

  19. You're using an old droid then – because I have the 2nd generation Droid and I can do that exactly! I actually did it just two days ago talking to a client about an invoice and with them on the phone, went to my email, and pulled up the invoice notification.

    This returns us to our first point of comparing the same generations with one another – you are comparing a first generation droid with a 4th generation iPhone and that is not a fair comparison to make. You may as well compare OSX with Win 3.1 for workgroups! :)

  20. Well, that's exactly the reason why it doesn't make sense for App developers to target Android.

    Giving away free phones creates a market of price sensitive customers. It's difficult for App developers to create a viable business in this type of ecosystem.

  21. I can see that. I felt the same thing when I had the Sprint EVO for a few minutes. But then I started realizing I was Tweeting less due to the lower productivity. Sure enough, I went back to iPhone and my productivity went back up and my enjoyment of being online went back up. So, FOR ME the Android system just isn't ready yet. Close, but not yet.

  22. Great to see an article here about trying to leave iPhone.. I had a hell of a time doing it myself when I moved to the Google Nexus One but after about a month of so I would never look back.. There's just something about Apple and the iPhone that made me feel too tied into their roadmap and their services. It just felt like a larger more successful AOL walled garden.

    I wrote about my change from iPhone to Android Nexus One here -


  23. WHo cares? As long as they don't get into my inbox I don't care at all. You should see the ones I automatically delete that AREN'T spam, though. :-)

  24. “I’m in agreement that Google is the company I’d rather be in bed with than Apple”


    My take is that this a battle between the ad serving vampires versus the porn censoring werewolves. There is plenty of shadiness on both sides. My take is that trying to paint Android versus iPhone as a moral issue is rhetoric.

    Best product wins and the best set of checks and balances is competition.

  25. That's it? I get about 1000 a day, although GMail catches them all.

    And +1 to filters. They are the best thing ever. All my non-important e-mail skips my inbox but doesn't get marked as read.

  26. I feel your pain. There is no “perfect” device which is why those who say Android is better are correct and those who say iPhone is better are also correct. It is, indeed, a dilemma.

    1. Android has been ported over to the iPhone 2G and 3G. It’s just a matter of time when you can have it one iPhone 4.

  27. Since buying my iPhone 4 I have put 8 hours and 44 minutes on it and driven more than 1,500 miles with it while downloading 420mb from AT&T (in about three weeks). Voice is VERY important to me. You might have missed what I do for work: talk with people! But online app usage is MUCH higher than voice and is getting more and more important every day. Even voice is starting to switch over to IP-based now, so AT&T is getting to be less and less of a factor.

    Plus, on my Verizon/Droid I can't talk to someone AND use the data features of the phone at the same time! That is a MAJOR disadvantage to AT&T, especially for someone like me who has to look at calendars and emails and other things while talking with people.

  28. Well, I'll be free to buy another phone next year. So, if Android finally gets there, I'll be first in line for that. Oh, and Google has GIVEN me two free phones. Apple has not given me any. In fact, with Apple there is an additional cost of waiting in line to get the first devices. No one ever has to wait in line to get Android devices.

  29. So Robert, what do you want to do now?
    Saying Android should be trashed?
    All you said is personally preference. Other people might feel it the complete opposite way, like me.

    To number 3: I know you don't like that, but that's not true. It's what YOU feel is superior hardware. You say the display. Well, it's more in a phone besides the display. You can't call it superior hardware, when some components YOU like are better. The reception e.g. is way better on some Androids (same network). And there is no antenna which is defective by design that needs to be “corrected” by software, showing you wrong reception results. Btw, I think one problem is that there are so many different Android phones out there. There is no one Android phone. You might check a G1 and say omg what a crap. Then you see it's 4 years old (if I remember right).Then you compare the iPhone4 to it…and…well… The iPhone 4 is the newest model. So you need to compare it to the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S or the DroidX, not an old Android phone.

    But what makes me sad is that you are making such a Fuzz against it. Why don't you leave Leo and Louis alone with their decision. It looks like they hit you personally with this. You need to accept that their is choice. You like iPhone better? Cool. Buy it, use it, and have fun with it. No problem.
    But why do you try to convert people from Android to the iPhone?

    I'm an Android :). I bought it, I use it, it's the best phone in MY eyes. Don't you want me to be happy with it?

    1. Ryo: Try under two years, end of October 2008
      Android phones have moved VERY fast, The G1 was crap, but Google had nothing 4 years ago. 4 years ago the forthcoming Android phone looked like a Blackberry knockoff and no the iPhone knockoff they have become now.

  30. I have been careful to try not knock the iPhone or Apple in any of the posts I've made discussing mobile, Android, etc. I like Apple a lot, as you know. I am happy with our iPads and enjoyed 95% of the iPhone experience. The polish of Apple's product and its integration with apps is unmatched. But I think the tide is turning, and we are at a point when choosing Android or Apple is a great choice, period. 12 months ago, choosing Android would be premature. This graph is intersecting, and Android is going to pass Apple. The innovation curve is simply too fast and too many people are aligned to help Android win.

    Even if iPhone 4 is the best mobile phone today, it doesn't change the way the ecosystem is being developed, and the capability of the device to match Android phones feature for feature.

    As I've said many times in many places, that we are talking Android and Apple is great. Microsoft, Nokia, Palm and others are out to lunch, and they shouldn't be seen on this playing field again. As a result, consumers win.

    1. I fully expect Android to pass Apple… in numbers. Like Windows, Android is going to become the primary commodity OS used by the most manufacturers/

      But given that, I expect that those manufacturers are going to find it difficult to significantly differentiate their products from one another. As such — and again like Windows — I belive that most manufacturers will race to the bottom competing primarily on price. And (like Dell and HP) phone quality will suffer accordingly.

      The recently announced low-end Motorola WX445 is just the first step in that race…

  31. The fact that you only use your iPhone about 5% of the time as a phone is telling – my phone is my lifeline, and if that goes out, I am so screwed it's not even funny. Between the iPhone, the iTouch and the iPad, Apple has really split up the functionality between three different devices. What the Android has done is combine all three of these functions. Are these first and second generation of devices up to par with Apple's iPhone #4? Of course not, but they are gaining traction every day.

    Because the Android is not locked into a specific carrier, it has a wider reach, despite what Apple and AT&T want you to think – in the end, their numbers will be higher…

    1. Trying to figure out how exactly you figure apple has split up functionality between 3 devices, the iPhone does EVERYTHING an iTouch does (and more), and the iPad’s big claim to fame is a much larger screen size… just how did Android combine these three functions? Sounds like smoke to me.

  32. Well, I am not a gamer so the fact of lots of games is neither here or there. I do use the phone as a phone about half the time (so retro, I know) and the Hero is very comfortable (possibly because it is just a little bigger it fits my mitts): better than any of my last 4 Sony Ericssons (the 5th previous Ericsson was very nice to hold) on any of the older Nokias.The apps I need I have on the Android (HTC Hero in the UK on 3 mobile network). When I find I have a new need (recently a guitar tuner) the app is there. I don't want an app for most of the crap that is advertised: “there is an app for that”. So what!? I am also a contrarian so the minor UI inconsistencies (and getting around them) seems to amuse rather than frustrate me. I do pay for apps on Android and would have for the above mentioned tuner, but it is free. I can't help it if there are so many great free apps that people do not feel the need to pay. Does this depress the market – probably, and we should be concerned (come on Android users, pony up the 3 bucks instead of another latte – it will be better for you in two ways and us all in the end).

  33. Android Twitter and Facebook apps have improved quite a lot in recent versions of the better apps, so that one is a wash now. AppBrain.com is the AppFire for Android. App interface consistency is definitely an issue. Build quality does suffer on some phones and is excellent on higher end devices. The gap is narrowing and I fully appreciate that it isnt close enough for some people.

  34. Robert: I was one of the early adopters of the EVO thanks to Google IO. I loved the phone but I did not feel it was enough to leave the iPhone. I sold it two weeks ago and now I miss Android a lot.

    I really miss having voice input everywhere and being able to productively do a search in Google Maps, which is far superior than Maps in the iPhone. I also miss a lot having a FUNCTIONAL cloud-oriented system with all my Google based apps.

    Last but not least: I miss having unobtrusive notifications. Push notifications are the CANCER that kills the love I have for the iOS ecosystem. I hate very time a notification pops up and interrupts me and moreover I hate not being able to have a unified inbox of first and third party notifications as Android do in the top Notifications Bar.

    Now I am considering going back… but there is no phone that appeals me as the iPhone 4 does…

    What a dilemma.

  35. I know Robert. Don't want to go off topic with Gmail, but I receive as an average 200 spam emails per week, and the fact that I can't block some addresses or domains makes me crazy. In my case filters are not the answer unfortunately. Not to talk about the privacy theme. But that's another story ;-)

  36. I believe that Android will never by equivalent to IOS for the same reason that Windows is not equivalent to Apple's OS. Apple makes both the hardware and software thus they work together efficiently. Androind like windows is made to work with many hardware configurations which in my opinion will always be a disadvantage.

  37. Just became a new 3GS user (4 months) after 3 years of Windows Mobile 6.0, 6.1 and 6.5. iPhone 4 is still on its way here in Italy, but honestly here we are still a “province of the empire” for some kind of core Android services. For instance we don't have Google Voice and some new models of Android phones are not quite good supported by our TelCo companies so we don't have the proper flat fee.
    So for the moment I can't say I won't leave my iPhone, even because I can't stand GMail :-)

  38. No, I meant I’d have to make too many different versions with Android for all the different phones.

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