Friday, September 20, 2013 at 10:42 am.
This summer, for the first time, I thought seriously about switching to a Google phone. But — for now, at least — I’m sticking with Apple.
It’s iPhone day. For six years — mostly while I was writing tech news for a living — it was easily one of the most exciting days of the year. A few years ago, I even waited six hours in sweltering heat to claim an iPhone 4 — probably the peak of my gadget stupidity.
This year, though, iPhone day just feels like another Friday. This is the first iPhone since the 3GS that I have no plans to buy. (Actually, I’ve spent $0 on Apple hardware this year, and unless something crazy happens, it’ll be my lowest year of Apple spending since 2006.) And for a while this summer, I even considered the unimaginable: Switching to Android.
Why? Because iOS 7 — while daring and beautiful — seemed half-baked.
It felt like Apple was pushing its software design so far into needlessly trendy territory that another major facelift would be required next year, and every year. It reminded me of the neon storybooks I read in kindergarten, and American Apparel ads from a few years ago. It felt like app makers would have so much work to do to fit in that they might just not do any of it, and stick with their increasingly custom interface designs. And it felt like I was finally weaning myself enough off Apple services — to things like Rdio for music, Google Maps for navigation, Dropbox for document storage, etc. — that a switch to Android would even be logistically possible.
Meanwhile, the iPhone rumors leading up to this month’s event seemed pretty lame. I totally understand Apple’s two-year design cycles, and don’t expect the company to fast-follow trends — it’s never worked that way, and in my 20-plus years as a Mac nerd, I’ve felt that Apple has almost always made the right decisions. But the iPad mini has changed what I want in a phone: Even the 4-inch screen on my otherwise-fine iPhone 5 feels too small. I’d happily consider a 5-inch or larger iPhone, with the possibility of merging my phone and tablet into one larger device. When I hear a Samsung Galaxy Note owner rave about having a bigger screen with them all the time, I start to wonder. And to a certain degree, I just craved something really new. A few afternoons, I was ready to pop into the Verizon store and check out an HTC One or Moto X.
Then a few things happened that straightened me out, at least for now.
First, I tried to boot up a Nexus 7 tablet that we have sitting around, to get a feeling for today’s Android experience. And it just didn’t work. It wouldn’t charge or start, even after several days of trying different techniques. Piece of junk! And this seemed like a warning of what could have been my life as an Android switcher: Fighting with crappy technology when I really needed to receive a phone call, or send an email, or load a map. So far, my iPhone 5 has been mostly reliable, even running beta software this summer.
Meanwhile, iOS 7 has already been getting better and smoother. This week was big: A bunch of app makers did update their apps, and for the most part, they’re nicer. There are still some quirks, but it does feel fresh. And now as a mobile developer, Apple’s impressively high upgrade rate seems like a major advantage. Google’s ecosystem still seems too screwed up for me to want to mess around with. And while I won’t be buying an iPhone 5S, Apple still seems to be thinking the right way about what to add and what not to.
Then there’s the “moat” around my entire technology fleet. Am I really going to switch all of our tablets, video streaming gadgets, etc. to Google from Apple? My future watch or TV set? Probably not. It’s still better to keep those consistent. (A better iCloud could make Apple’s hold even stronger here — it’s a bit surprising how slowly Apple is moving there.)
This is still the company I want designing my technology, even after a bit of a competitive survey. So I’m sticking around.