What I learned moving from iOS to Android, and back to iOS in 2016

Moving from iOS to Android and back to iOS in the space of two years highlights the drastically different trajectories both operating systems are heading in.

The past two years have been a crucible term for both Android and iOS, the two largest smartphone operating systems on the planet. While I’m fortunate enough to be betwixt and between some amazing (and, truthfully, less-than amazing) phones while reviewing them on Bandwidth Blog, changing my daily driver – moving from iOS to Android, and back to iOS – has yielded the most introspection of all.
Many of us will change phones over the period of our two year data contracts here in South Africa, and I imagine many Vodacom, MTN or Cell C subscribers will largely pick a device over (firstly) the size and (secondly) the feature set they require.
Read: Top 5: Reasons why Android is better
As someone who’s perspective on which smartphone to buy is largely intersectional (in the tech sense, not the political) I usually aim to buy a smartphone that needn’t break the bank, but would have a good economy between a quality camera, battery life, and processing point. The hardest quest is to juggle all three, where one ends up all too often in premium territory.
My first real foray into the modern conception of a smartphone began with a leap from BlackBerry (the days of the Curve, Bold and Torch) to an iPhone 4s. At this time, the 5 had just been released, and the 4s appealed due to its lower price and integration with the Apple ecosystem.
The period through which I owned the 4s saw a major change; the leap from iOS 6 to iOS 7, and further the link between the Jobsian era and the age of Cook. Where the nascent iPhone ended and the modern version of iOS began was somehow encapsulated in that little iPhone, which I still have today.
iOS 7 brought with it Apple’s new visual design language, an (even) greater app ecosystem, and the beginnings of HealthKit and HomeKit, two platforms which are fuelling the future of the Internet of Things.
At the end of its tenure, I retired my iPhone 4s, I moved from iOS to Android. The change was a result of my interest in LG‘s G3, which had been released to worldwide acclaim seemingly out of nowhere. As that was beyond my budget at the time, I went for the LG G3 Beat, which was, in hindsight, a mistake. I sold that, moved to a Sony Xperia Z1, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“The period through which I owned the 4s saw a major change; the leap from iOS 6 to iOS 7, and further the link between the Jobsian era and the age of Cook.”

In the same breadth of time, the Android world made just as much as leap as iOS had with the release of Lollipop. The biggest achievement Lollipop brought to market (and to my mind, there are many) was undoubtedly its visual overhaul. In the space of one update, gone where the uninspired touches of KitKat and the introduction of a unified Material Design direction from Google. If Android were a Jedi, it’d have discovered its visual Force.
Moving from iOS to Android was both a blessing and a curse. It was only after developing workarounds for many of the Apple services that I had come to love that I grew just that much more comfortable with becoming the proverbial ‘Google person’.
Lollipop saw Android mature as a platform from the OS that was slapped on every smartphone around to a unified, cohesive take on a modern mobile operating system. Permission security improved, bloatware halved over night, and the current crop of camera smartphones we’ve seen on either Lollipop or Marshmallow have been some of the most well-optimised contenders yet.
The analogy is tired, but where iOS is a walled garden with pruned bonsai trees, Android is a forest. For the former, order is in its construction. For the latter, it takes a gaze at the trees to discover how in-line they actually are.
Of course, there are the hardware benefits to the latter. In a space where verified Apple accessories need not apply, one can do nearly anything with Android. You can install Cyanogen, add a card reader, and heck, add in a mouse and keyboard if you feel like it; and this was all long before Microsoft’s Continuum arrived on the scene.
Following the end of my Android tenure, I was again faced with another choice altogether made more difficult by my work here at Bandwidth Blog. Daily, I see the best Android has to offer (and sometimes the worst), while every year I’m treated to a little hands on time with what Apple has rolled out. It’s a difficult admittance of tech privilege to sacrifice for a phone that you know is less capable, when you’ve used the top tier for a review period.

“The analogy is tired, but where iOS is a walled garden with pruned bonsai trees, Android is a forest.”

Sitting squarely in my contract brochure was a data plan for the iPhone 6s, which, surprisingly, was in reach of my personal budget. After introspection, I made my choice; after moving from iOS to Android, it’s time to go back home.
Arriving back on iOS 9 is a strange experience. It’s a little bit like you’ve arrived back at your residence after a 3 month holiday, to find that the outside of your home is perfect, but someone’s redecorated the inside.
There are some positives to this; Touch ID is better than ever, Siri talks like a human being (which is still eery) and altogether while not bearing the creme dé la creme specifications that the Android A-list brings, the iPhone is still a wonderful touchstone for a well-optimised flagship.
Read: Top 5: Reasons why Windows Phone is better
Moving from iOS to Android and back to iOS has been an illuminating journey, even more so considering the breadth of change both platforms have gone through over the past few years. Where once the Android faithful lampooned iOS for its antiquated notions, and Apple fanboys charged their iPitchforks to take to the heart of any product that dare resembled the slate brick Steve Jobs walked on stage with, it has become apparent that both operating systems – while bearing synergy – are all-together heading in different directions.
Moving from iOS to Android, one sees the change; where iOS is slick, platform focussed and an essential experience, Android lacks the same subtlety. iOS empowers its user through simplicity, and Android through complexity – and while it might sound so, neither is the wrong approach.

“It has become apparent that both operating systems – while bearing synergy – are all-together heading in different directions.”

Is Android for the savvy, and iOS for those who just want a phone that works? I don’t think so. Differences in pricing and size sees this debate often forget – as far as I’m concerned – that the flow of one system might appeal to one person over another. Both are powerful systems that have the possibility to connect humankind like never before, and as a technology journalist, few things are as exciting.
My biggest takeaway from moving from iOS to Android and back to iOS is that – as it’s said all often – things change. I’ve been able to experience one of the biggest transitions in the history of both platforms, both on a visual and technical front – and few things are more satisfying than that.
Read: Top 5: Reasons iOS is better
Now, it’s time to have your say – what platform do you favour most, and why? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to tune in to our special episode of Bandwidth Blog On Air where we took each major smartphone OS head-to-head!
For a touch of irony, I supported Windows Phone in this debate.

Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA