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If you have ever listened to our podcasts, or if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've been a long time Android fangirl. I've always been in favor of the Google ecosystem--the openness, the flexibility, the company's primary-colored logo. Up until recently, I swore by it. At social gatherings with other techies, I'd loudly proclaim how difficult it was to navigate iOS, and how its static 16-icon screens weren't conducive to multitasking. I loved the Android's widgets, the physical back button, and the ability to hold down on an item to bring up more options. I also loved Google Maps and its totally gratis turn-by-turn navigation, as well as the Facebook and Twitter integration. The Android user interface also felt more intuitive--the fluidity between screens as you scrolled back and forth felt natural, as much as a phone could feel in the palm of your hand.
But then the extreme fragmentation happened. And poor battery life. And that NFC chip that I'd never use. And those huge, bright screens that I have absolutely no use for. I don't want to have a different mobile operating system than my friend with a smartphone that has similar specifications. I don't want to run out of battery halfway through a night out, when I'd need my phone to call a cab, nor do I want to watch movies on my smartphone. I want a phone, a personal communication device, and something that can pull up the bus schedule or the traffic flow when I need it. I just need something to stream NPR while I'm commuting out to the suburbs, or to take pictures with when my purse is too tiny to fit a point-and-shoot. And the iPhone, well, it does all of this now.
It took many iterations of iOS before I could see the iPhone as a suitable smartphone for my needs. For one, the notifications feature before iOS 5 was incredibly aggravating. All those pop ups! Who needs things popping up at you to distract you from life? Isn't that why we ditched PCs so long ago? Android's pull-down notifications panel is exceptional, and I loved having all of my information in one place, rather than all those badges and numbers screaming at me to check them.
The iPhone also lacks the flexibility of being able to just simply plug in the phone and access it. Going through iTunes for everything can be aggravating when you're in a rush, or when things aren't syncing up quite like they should. Android was also the first mobile operating system to offer over-the-air syncing, and I loved how easy it was to sync music, photos, and documents with my Mac or my PC without any software.
This morning I woke up panicky, with a little bit of buyer's remorse, because I know there are Android features I'll miss dearly. I would still suggest an Android phone to anyone who wants total control over their phone, or has already bought into Google's cloud ecosystem. I also know that as far as hardware goes there are a few handsets out there that trump the iPhone in speed tests, and I won't have access to 4G for awhile. But then I remind myself about some of the frustrations of using Android, of the apps and services I've missed out on, and how I've been waiting two years for The Next Best Thing. As far as handsets go, I'll always refer to the HTC Incredible as The Last Great Smartphone because it never let me down. But now, we're at a junction where the Android operating system is going in a direction that I'm not sure I can continue to follow.