Five years ago today the original iPhone launched. I remember it very well -- partly because it seemed like half the staff of Engadget was crashing at my place for the initial US release. The hype was totally out of control considering the first iPhone was a $600 unsubsidized 2G device on a single US carrier. Still, it felt like the future. It WAS the future. I've used every subsequent model of iPhone every day since.
A lot's happened since then, though. Most notably: Android.
As a technology critic, it's always been part of my job to keep up on what's out there (even if my daily driver doesn't necessarily change). For as much time as I spend on non-iPhone platforms (and that's increasingly less these days -- Marc Perton's been doing an awesome job heading up our reviews program), I haven't really spent what I'd consider a really meaningful amount of time on another mobile platform since the introduction of the HTC G1. For as many phones as I've tested, I've never gone iPhone cold-turkey.
It also occurs to me that Android's gotten enormously better. Ice Cream Sandwich, and now Jelly Bean, both feel like big steps forward for the platform (on phones, anyway). I also put a lot of stock in the design work that Matias Duarte, now Senior Director of Android UX, has put into the platform since coming over from Palm. In short, I think Android a hell of a lot more viable these days than ever before.
So I'm going to do something I think most iPhone users would find anathema: I'm going to take the Android challenge. That is to say, I'm going to try switching to Android.
I'm doing it because I feel it's important I know Android even better than I do -- but that's are easy, obvious justification for a switch. That'd be the same reason for just borrowing a Nexus for the afternoon and playing with it in my spare minutes.
The real reason I'm trying a switch is that while I think iOS still sets the bar for mobile interaction (and has undergone some very important iterations over the last couple of years), I don't think it's changed in many truly meaningful ways to the consumer as of late. iOS 6 is better than iOS 5, but it's still very much the same.
Which is to say, this experiment doesn't come from a place of dissatisfaction with iOS, but more that it springs from the same kind of intellectual curiosity that caused me to switch to the iPhone in the first place. It will, for example, challenge me to question my assumptions about exactly what it is I think Apple should do next that they're not doing in iOS 6.
Also, I think it's important to experience new things in technology, even if it's on devices so personal that a significant change will makes your life feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable for a while.
So, here are simple the rules I'm setting for this experiment:
- I'll use a Galaxy Nexus (gdgt Score 92, former Must-have: gdgt.com/samsung/galaxy/nexus/) with Jelly Bean as my daily driver for an indeterminate amount of time (but absolutely no less than seven days).
- I will have my iPhone 4S on me most of the time in case I need emergency (read: work-related) access to something I haven't been able to get on Android. But I will not be "double-fisting" it -- meaning only my Android device will actually have service and be in use. For all intents and purposes, I won't really have an iPhone anymore.
- Perhaps most importantly: I will do things the Android way. That means endeavoring to learn and use Android as it was intended, and not just trying to replicate iOS experiences I'm most familiar with.
- Related to doing things the Android way, I won't be rooting the device or installing any mods, ROMs, etc. I haven't jailbroken my iPhone in years, so I'm going to go for the same raw, stock consumer experience with Android.
- I'll post my findings here on gdgt every day or two (provided I actually have anything interesting to say).
But I'm also pretty stoked. My thick, clumsy thumbs are already enjoying the additional screen real estate of the Galaxy Nexus, and I'm having fun catching up on all the thoughtful details Google's implemented into Android.
My early expectations? I think I'll be back to the iPhone. I'm not expecting to fall for Android. But if there's one thing I truly love about technology, it's when products defy my expectations.
P.S. -If you're an iPhone user with access to a recent Android device, I'd love if you joined in on the experiment and shared your own experiences switching to Android for a week, a month, or forever. I'll leave comments open on this thread and any subsequent updates so folks can check in, if they're so inclined.
P.P.S. -Great app, mod, widget, etc. suggestions are welcome!
Android Challenge updates:
- Update one (days 1 - 3): gdgt.com/discuss/the-android-challenge-update-one-...
- Update two (days 4 - 7): gdgt.com/discuss/the-android-challenge-update-two-...
- Update three (week 2+): gdgt.com/discuss/the-android-challenge-update-thre...