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Why I switched my iPhone for Android

Quick preface: This is not a story about why Android is better than iOS.

In the summer of 2010, I upgraded from my trusty Sony Ericsson W810i to the iPhone 4. It was my first smartphone and for two years it almost never left my side. But two years is a long time, especially in the tech world. Apple unveiled the iPhone 5 right around the time I was due for an upgrade. It was thinner, lighter, and better in almost every measurable way – the only problem was that I didn't want more of the same, only better. On top of that, I was tired of Apple's one-size-fits-all approach. Perhaps it was a bit of 21st century gadget-ADD, but I was ready for a change.

After much deliberation, I decided on the HTC One X+ to replace my venerable iPhone 4. I won't go into too much detail here, but I was drawn to the design, top-notch LCD, powerful components, ample internal storage, and the fact that it ran Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" right out of the box. No, this wasn't about marketing minutiae and the latest and greatest features like NFC or wireless charging. This was about choice, and the One X+ represented the best of what I wanted from a smartphone, rather than what Apple thought was best.

Why I switched

There are a number of reasons to choose Android over iOS or vice versa, and they're different for each individual. For me, it came down to customisability and using the phone how I liked it. I'm not talking about rooting or flashing the latest ROMs. I'm talking about things as simple as home screen and lock screen customisation, and default app associations.

With the iPhone, barring jailbreaking, it was Apple's way or bust. With Android, I could do more than just re-arrange icons and change the background image. Knock widgets all you want, but having weather forecasts and calendar updates up front and centre makes my life a little easier – and isn’t that what smartphones are all about? If you dismiss widgets as ungainly or unpolished, you probably haven't tried the numerous apps that easily let you design your own.

I could also decide that clicking URLs opens Chrome instead of the default browser, or use a third-party app for everything from sending texts down to the very keyboard you use to compose texts. Keep in mind, Android users have the option to choose Chrome, as opposed to the Chrome-like skin of Safari that's actually offered on iPhones. On top of that, different apps work better together. I can save an article from any browser on Android to a whole host of apps, provided they utilise Android's Share button.

I'm also tied to almost all of Google's services, from Gmail down to Drive. They play nice on the iPhone, but it's great to know that essentials like YouTube and Google Maps will always be on Android without delay. Privacy concerns aside, I think Google Now is pretty smart too – it's more than just a novel and creepy feature, and I use it daily.

Growing pains

One of the biggest adjustments had less to do with Android the OS, and more to do with the current trend in supersized Android smartphones. At 4.7in, the HTC One X+'s display is big – too big for one hand to reach every corner of the screen, for sure. While I don't think big-screened phones are for everyone, I think the benefits far outweigh the concerns about usability. And it's not like the 4in iPhone 5 screen never requires an adjusted grip or uncomfortably outstretched thumb to reach every part of it.

I quickly got over the quirks that come with big screens, and now even the elongated 4in iPhone 5 screen looks too small by comparison. That 0.7in makes the difference between being able to use a desktop site versus mobile, and actually wanting to watch a full-length movie on my phone during long trips. I use my phone more than ever now, and a major reason for that is the large screen.

How many of your friends and family use the iPhone? Probably a good amount – in my case, literally all but one. That made the transition a bit more complicated. More specifically, it made texting more complicated. Every iPhone user has iMessage, which smartly groups MMS messages into little group chats. It's a feature I really took for granted, and was the cause of a lot of frustration early on.

That is, until I realised Google has an answer for nearly everything. I'm not talking about Google the company, but rather a quick Google search. Have a problem with your Android phone? Google it. Chances are you'll find a workaround or app that solves your problem. In my case, it was the third-party texting app GoSMS Pro, which promptly appeased my iMessage envy. Is it as smooth or polished as iMessage? No, but I get the same group texting with little hassle.

Android is not for everyone – in fact, I'll still recommend the iPhone 5 first to almost anyone who asks. But if you're willing to put in a little more time and effort, you can have a phone that works the way you want. And if you decide that way isn't quite right for you anymore, you always have the option to radically change the look and feel of your phone any time you wish. The iPhone 5 might be the best phone for the majority of people, but it's not the best phone for everyone. That's why I made the switch, and now four months into my Android experiment, I have no regrets.