After six years as a dedicated iPhone user I have decided to try out an Android device. I'm thinking of this as taking a short holiday from Apple.
I've been testing my sites and apps on Android devices routinely over the last year or so, and became interested in what the devices and the platform had to offer.
The decision was clinched for me a few weeks ago when I ran into an old friend and colleague who was singing the praises of the Nexus 4 and the stock Android OS it runs. Since this meeting came at a time when the rumours about the new Nexus 5 were just reading fever pitch online I decided to take the plunge, buy a Nexus 5 out of contract, and bail out of the Apple ecosystem.
It's not exactly cold turkey. I still have an iPad, and I won't be abandoning my Macbooks either in the office or at home. And I know I'm only really swapping one walled garden for another, but so what? Over the next few posts I will document what I find easy and difficult, what I find fun and frustrating, as I nibble around the edges of Google's lawns.
Day 1 with a new device includes the unboxing. Google has clearly taken a lead from Apple's packaging expertise here - the box comprises a brightly coloured dust jacket and a solid white inner case. Removing the phone from the box is just as fun as with an Apple product, and it certainly has the devOps engineers at work (Android fanboys all) chattering and clamouring for a good look. It's fun as a Front End developer to be holding the latest bit of Android kit, we're renowned for being rabid Apple and Mac aficionados at work.
Once the unboxing is over and the dust has settled however, the experience becomes slightly more effort than the Apple equivalent. There's a spelling mistake on one of the very first screens as you go through the setup process - that rings a warning bell for me. I also have to download a 150MB software update and restart my phone before anything else happens - that isn't something I've had to do with a new Apple device before.
I spend the rest of the day feeling a bit disoriented. I don't have anyone's numbers on this phone, and I realise that all my Apple contacts are locked away on my (now SIM-less) old device. I haven't got any music or apps either. I have to explore dark and abandoned corners of my memory to make an unfamiliar tube journey, when ordinarily I would have consulted the Travel Planner app.
When I get home I can export everything from my Address Book app back into Google, and start exploring Google Play for the replacement apps I'll need.
I know that almost all of my app usage is within a small collection of very mainstream apps: Foursquare, IMDB, Hailo, Netfix, so I'm not worried about missing my favourite apps, but I am concerned about getting contacts and music out of iTunes and onto my new device.
This gets us to the heart of the Nexus issue really. They are amazing devices, right up there in terms of hardware and spec, and yet Google is selling them unlocked for a half or a third of the price of the nearest comparable phones. It's no secret, and no revelation, that Google does this because they subsidise the hardware costs, placing a premium on the value of the information you are required to share with the company in order to get the best out of the device. I'm not blind to this, and I've listed to Aral Balkan's impassioned and inspiring arguments against such a value exchange. But I've decided to try out Android on these terms and we shall see where it leads.