Switching to Android, or, how I escaped my Apple brand obsession

Switchingtoandroidhero (Image credit: Android Central)

Nearly 90% of smartphone users worldwide may choose Android, but having grown up in an Apple household, my iPhone indoctrination was decades in the making. My parents had an iMac G4 with the swiveling display, while I used an eMac that I often physically carried into my sister's room so I could connect to the only ethernet port and chat with friends on AIM. While I left for college with an old flip phone, I eventually got sick of texting on a number pad and got an iPhone 4, back when AT&T still gave you free phone upgrades every couple of years as part of a family plan.

Before I could objectively compare iOS vs Android, I had to shake a twenty-year, one-sided relationship with Apple.

Then came an iPhone 6, and most recently an iPhone XR, plus various MacBooks in the same time frame. I had adopted the Apple's various operating systems as part of my technical identity, and made it plain that I knew what I liked and didn't plan on changing, thank you very much. In other words, I was in deep.

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

I did use Windows, either at office jobs or using a Boot Camp partition for Steam games, but no one ever pushed me to try any of the best Android phones out there, even as companies like Samsung and Google released phones that truly interested me. Even when I started writing for tech companies — covering virtual reality, wearables, audio, gaming, and eventually breaking tech news — I was usually surrounded by diehard Apple users that prioritized iPhone leaks and patents over news from other companies. But that recently changed.

I could spend a good chunk of this piece diving into some of my growing frustration with the Apple devices I bought, mainly due to battery problems across the board; or how my latest MacBook Pro's butterfly keyboard devolved from sticky keys to actually getting jammed at angles into their slots so I could no longer type on them. But I'm not here to make an Android > iOS or Google > Apple argument.

iOS 14 and Android 11

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

My point is that my brand loyalty to Apple made me willfully ignore any negatives with its products or any potential alternatives. I knew how to fix common Apple problems, but didn't want to explore if other devices could avoid those problems while costing a lot less. I didn't know what kind of new negatives I'd run into with Android, or if I'd want to invest the time to master the new perks it would give me. Behold the sunk cost fallacy in action.

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

It took me many years to gain some critical thinking about how my fierce devotion, to Apple and other companies and brands I'd loved as a kid/teen, was counter-productive. That these companies will often disappoint you with their products or actions, and that I don't owe it to them to find the silver lining in something subpar just because I paid for it. It's obvious to me now, but growing up online watching warring fandoms bicker in forums and comment sections, it really seemed like I had to define my identity by my tech and pop culture interests. Not anymore.

After testing my four new Android phones, I'm ready to bring a fresh, (hopefully) unbiased opinion to the smartphone wars of 2021.

I got a job at Android Central because of my experience covering Android-adjacent tech. But to do this job properly, I have to become a lot more familiar with the ins and outs of Android 11 (and soon Android 12), Samsung's One UI, OxygenOS and the rest. So I followed our own guide on switching from iOS to Android and took the plunge. This new role gave me the kick in the rear necessary to (metaphorically) tell Apple that we're no longer exclusive, and that I want an open relationship with the other mobile tech giants.

My fellow AC editors were kind enough to mail me some spare review units, including the Pixel 3a, Nokia 8.3 5G, Samsung Galaxy S9, and OnePlus 7 Pro before the holidays, and I've been rotating between them ever since. I'm a long way off from being an Android expert; but until then, I plan on treating my ignorance as an opportunity.

Android Logo

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Every week, I'll publish a new "Switching to Android" diary entry about what it's like to switch over in Android in 2021. They'll include a range of topics: the various Android app stores compared to Apple's; iCloud vs Google Drive; accessories; software updates; OS customization; app/cloud gaming; and, generally, how hard it is to divest yourself, mentally and monetarily, from a company that has owned your business for decades.

I recognize that Android Central readers are more like my colleagues: passionate Android devotees who have been invested in Google's ecosystem for as long as I've been invested in Apple's. But I'm hoping I can provide some new perspectives on the tools and features that will seem commonplace to you. Equally important, I'm hoping these will be helpful to current iOS users considering whether or not they should follow suit and try something other than an iPhone.

Here's where you all come into the story. I'm extremely curious about our readers' opinions:

  • Do any of you also have iOS-to-Android stories to share?
  • How "loyal" are you to the Android brand?
  • Are there any iOS vs Android topics you'd like to learn more about?

Feel free to leave a comment about your experiences! In the meantime, I'm excited to join the Android community and gain expertise to share with you all — without becoming too emotionally invested in it.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.

  • I switched from iOS to Android just a few weeks ago. My reason: Apple doesn't innovate. All they did between the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro was made the edges of the 12 square and added LiDAR (big whoop). I was paying another $1200 for essentially the same phone as last year. Plus, iOS's widgets are terribly implemented because there's so much wasted blank space in widgets. But the main reason I switched: the second generation ultrasonic fingerprint sensor on the S21 Ultra. FaceID is absolutely worthless while wearing a face mask. With a fingerprint sensor, I can unlock my phone without having to input a six-digit PIN or pulling down my mask (don't do that). FaceTime isn't important and neither is iMessage. Messages still get sent and they still get received.
  • Apple stuff tends to be the most cohesive, but you get what you're given. I can see why this approach works for some but it's always put me off personally.
  • That may have been true about Apple being more cohesive once upon a time ago , but there implementation of notifications, their resilience to properly do widgets, even before it was just a messy glorified notification tray.
  • Apple doesn't innovate. iOS finally got widgets with the release of version 14. Android has had it from the very beginning. This is just one, small example.
  • Im trying the same switch right now. From a 12 pro max to a 21 ultra. I like a big phone and while the 12 pro max is big, it does nothing to take advantage of the extra size. Everything is just......bigger. The ultra lets you add so much useful info to my home screen, its just much more functional. I was heavily invested in the apple eco system and my wife and son both use iphones. It started when I got sick of the battery life and lack of tracking metrics with my apple watch. I switched to a Garmin and my escape had begun. I was hoping apple would bring smart lock to the iphone. Using face ID in a pandemic stinks. When apple finally brought it, it was locked to the apple watch. That really pissed me off so I decided to give Android another shot. Imessage was tough to lose, especially with my youngest son who doesnt have a phone but does have an ipdad. He would message me throughout the day and it was a seamless way to stay in touch. I gave skype a try and works just as well, even though its a seperate app. Our family apple music subscription works on Android so no real problem there. Thats about it. Android is not as stable as IOS, I think we can all agree on that, but for the additional functionality, like split screen apps, I think its a draw. Enjoying it so far. I think I might just stick with Android.
  • "Android is not as stable as IOS, I think we can all agree on that..." I wholeheartedly disagree...
  • Lol. I figured I would be called out on that one.
  • "Android is not as stable as IOS, I think we can all agree on that" As a user of both iOS and Android I used to agree fully with that.....now-a-days.... I use a Pixel... and can honestly say I find more little bugs in iOS than I do my pixel. In terms of general system stability, things like apps suddenly losing data or freezing.... or settings going back to default after an update.... all happen more frequently on iOS than on android for me now. I think Google's dedication to monthly updates is the key driver of that. Apple updates regularly, yes, but they do not have a locked in update cycle like Google does. Obviously, mileage in this space will vary based on phone manufacturer. Apple still OWNS the integration across devices - especially when it comes to stability there..... but android is catching up in this space - even Microsoft is doing it through android with windows. Having said all that... when a family member asks for a recommendation on a device, I nearly ALWAYS tell them Apple - even though I personally prefer my androids.
  • Looking forward to reading your articles.
  • I just switched to Android. I've done it off and on for the past 6 years but never stuck with Android due to my heavy investment in the Apple ecosystem. I chose to go back with the Pixel 5 since I have learned that I like to keep things simple and I appreciate the pure Android experience with hardware that is optimized for it like Apple does with their phones. I like it as I also have a lot of Google apps already and use many of the features. I'm tired of paying to play in the Apple ecosystem since they really aren't innovating much anymore.
  • After always being on Android I added an iPhone a few months ago. The iPhone is my daily and have an Android as a backup. Better updates, security and speed on the iPhone.
  • Better updates? You mean the updates that constantly need updates because they made something worse? LOL
  • I think it's a fundamental way how updates work between the two. Apple told carriers they cannot prevent or delay updates to customers. With Android your updates are dictated by the carriers, which have no interest in giving you the latest updates, they would rather you buy a new phone. This is the same situation with why I returned the S21 I received yesterday. AT&T told Samsung to disable the eSIM, and Samsung did what they were told. Apple said no to AT&T, and left the eSIM enabled. Since I require dual SIM, I can never use an Android phone in the US.
  • True, and one of the things that every single update makes worse is battery life. I don't know what it is about the engineers over at Apple, but with each update you can see the articles and comments start flooding the web like clockwork about everyone's iPhones rapidly draining. Every. Single. Time. Then it's followed with the inevitable response that they're working on a fix that will come in an incremental update soon.
  • I have always been and android user since my original motorola droid. Even though I am pretty fluent with Apple devices as we have 2 ipad, 3 iphones, and an iMac in the house. My frustration with Apple is when you do need to change a setting even though it may be in 1 menu, I would rather have the settings for an app in their own menu like Android does. I just find it difficult to navigate through the uncommon stuff. Like Apple says to use Command + Control on the imac to for a keyboard shortcut but all they use is a weird symbol that I can't remember which one is what? Plus even though Apple devices are built good. They aren't built any better that some flagship Androids. In fact My wife has had to have 3 different iphones repaired due to small issues like a bad speaker (twice in the same phone) and the constant issue with the side button on her phone not always doing what it was supposed to do. but out of my 6 different Androids, I have had only 1 repaired and it was actually just a warranty swap. (the purple screen issue with the HTC One phone) in which I had a new phone the next day. Apple devices are great devices but are they really "a lot" better to get that much hype for? not really. Yeah their updates are faster and more up to date. But even if my android in 1 month behind in a security update, most of the time is not that critical, especially of you are not side-loading apps and rooting. I know people with older Androids that will never have the recent security updates and they have never had an issue. To me an Apple iPhone 12 or a Samsung S20/21/Note or a recent Google Pixel are all equal in quality and reliability. (they all have their issues) It is just a matter of what ecosystem you prefer. If you are a power user who likes custom ability, then go for Android, Like it simple or utilize the iPhone to iPad compatibility, then use Apple.
  • Well I just tried to escape the iPhone and got my Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra yesterday. Unfortunately, I also returned it back to the store yesterday. I was dismayed to find the #1 feature I need was blocked by US carriers. That feature is Dual SIM, something that the iPhone does have. The frustrating thing is that the S21 has it. but Samsung has rolled over to the carriers bullying their customers. It's also a bad decision on the part of carriers, as I have two lines of service with AT&T, one personal and one corporate line. Because no Android phone in the US is allowed to use Dual SIM, that means I am stuck on iPhone forever. The irony is that one of the big touted features of the SnapDragon 888 was enhanced Dual SIM functionality, which no one in the US can benefit from. Such a terrible state of affairs that carriers are allowed to have this kind of power to hurt their customers and prevent choice.
  • I feel your pain and agree Apple does a better job of forcing the carriers to do as they wish not the other way around, bloatware anyone? Regarding the dual sim problem, long ago I acquired a Google Voice number, it was actually very close to my existing cell number, it has been a lifesaver for me. After acquiring the number I alerted all my friends and family to add my new number and discard the old one. I believe in today's world you can even port an existing cell number to GV?? So my work number is the SIM in my phone and I have a GV number via the GV app and it will ring to the same phone. I can call out of the GV dialer over Wifi or cellular and the other party sees my GV caller ID. I have found this to be a much better solution as I can even access GV text messages on my computer, I can add the GV app to any phone, including an iphone, which I use from time to time and it just works.
  • Most of the latest pixel devices also have dual sim via Nano/esim. I feel your pain, I've wanted to check out a Samsung device for the last few years but they've screwed up with not releasing a dual sim phone in the States.
  • I have both an iPhone 12 Pro Max and a Samsung Note 20 5g Ultra. While the hardware of the Note is superior (it's one of the best phones I ever had), I use the iPhone as my daily phone. It's because of the environment. If you are Mac user (I am), the iPhone integrates far more seamlessly than Android does with Windows or Macs. And now with the intro of the Apple M1 processor, you can run iPhone/iPad apps on the same machine you run your desktop OS on. That may have limited use for most at first, but as app developers work on integrating, you can buy an iPhone/iPad/MacOS app all in one. But the main feature of th iPhone is backups. I upgrade yearly, and iPhones allow you to make a complete image of your iPhone for restoring to the new one. Setup times for switching phones is less than an hour and no work, other than re-entering a few passwords. All your apps, layouts, etc are there. Android's backups are only really useful (full image) if you root your phone, and you need third party software to do it.
  • Pretty much this^^ I have an iPhone 12 Mini and the Samsung S21 (and a google pixel 5) but the apple ecosystem just can't be matched no matter how hard google tries. Plus apple doesn't throw stuff at a wall to see what sticks and cancel the rest like google does.
    I love my S21. fun phone. but it really is just that. a fun phone. iPhone is my real daily. Android is great. iPhone just does a few things better ... ecosystem
  • I felt the same way until Google One and Cloud sync came around when it comes to backups. Surprisingly, with most non-Apple apps being progressive web apps these days, it feels like the entire web is Android's ecosystem. Especially when it comes to Google apps. Messages on the Web, Duo, Chrome's "Send to Device", Docs and Keep, Photos, etc... It recently dawned on me too that with the way Apple is making iOS and iPad apps availabe on macOS, it's basically what ChromeOS has done for a while now and it's working. ChromeOS + Play Store + Web Apps (see here: https://www.google.com/chromebook/apps/) makes it a lot easier to not have to cough up a lot of money for a Mac. I'm a software developer.
  • Have been with Android since the original HTC Desire in 2010. I had at various times pushed myself to use an iphone but I can't use them as daily drivers for more than a month. I like rooting my android phones, trying out different custom ROMs and just being able to tinker with the apps, apks etc it's fun.
    Lately the tech on android has been developing at an amazing speed and iPhones can hardly keep up and with that I have totally sealed the coffin on iPhones.
  • I'm in agreement, and since you mentioned HTC, I just thought I'd comment about how sad it is that they've fallen so far in the US market, to the point that they're virtually nonexistent, at least in the carrier space. They made some of my favorite devices. I loved every HTC I owned.
  • You make Apple sound like a cult.
  • Apple is a cult.
  • No, neither Apple nor Android are cults, there are just a subset of users who act like they are. Personally, I think both Android and iOS, Mac and Windows are all fine OS's, though I may prefer one over the other and am willing to criticize any of them when they do something stupid.
  • ok so i have used both android and apple but i have to say android is a lot better.
    android --- can customize it better and the audio and ringtones are a lot better .
    different designs and couluor and bloat wear you can get rid of
    iPhones are all basically the same poor audio poor ringtones. The only one thing i can say is
    great is battery life
  • I would like to see detailed app functionality comparisons between the OS's; ie android gallery vs ios gallery. Everyone keeps saying ios apps are better but not showing how they are better.
  • My biggest complaint about Android apps is that there are far too many "free" apps that are nothing mroe than ad delivery machines, even if the app function is useful. I'd rather pay for an app and not be subjected to a million ads, and Apple is better at that. I heard that Apple apps are more lucrative, so they get more of the developer pie share.
  • I have had iphones thru the iphone 5. From there I switched to an HTC and after that have had Samsung Galaxy 7, 8, Note 9 and 10 and now a Note 20 Ultra. I will never consider switching back to the iphone unless Apple gives up some control of the interface, such as not limiting the number of apps that can be in a folder until it flows to a new page (sadly this is true even on the iPad with tons of space), and instituting a back button. Also, at this point I would not give up the pen or the microsd slot either. Apple being Apple, I don't think that they will ever meet any of my criteria. In my opinion Android is a better product in most respects and Samsung's hardware is outstanding. I just wish Android could use a processor as fast as Apple's, not that my phone is slow by any stretch of the imagination. I just hate reading performance reviews that show how much faster Apple's chip is compared to the Qualcomm chips. Just as a complete aside, I find it funny that Apple sued Samsung over coping it's intellectual property when Apple has stopped innovating and has copied many features from android.
  • Hope you don't try to sell it lol Better throw it in a box or something.
  • My iOS-to-Android story isn't as long lasting as yours Michael. You can consider me a first generation brand techie in my family. So I'll be the one making the footprint in the generations to come (no pressure). Two years ago, for 4 years straight, I was deep into the Apple ecosystem. So deep, I had two HomePods, Macbook, iPad, Apple Watch, iPhone XS, Apple TV, and I even go the Apple Card when it came out. That deep. Though it was nice to iMessage and FaceTime, FaceTime isn't as good as Duo, and iMessage is only as good as the group that you're using it with. The friends and family I was using it with, was just using it as regular messaging. It still confuses me why most people turn Read Receipts off. No one used stickers like I did. At the time, barely anyone used tapbacks, location sharing, or even the games and polls in the iMessage app store like I thought they would. Oh, maybe except the pool billiards game on iMessage (whoopty-doo). When I started to realize how much money I spent all for using basic functionality on all of these apps and services, it just wasn't worth it. It's not like I was in the ecosystem because there were no other better alternatives. Surprise! There are plenty. It's just hard to see because the alternatives just don't work as well on iOS. I began to realize that Apple's services, accessories, apps, hardware only work best together. When you step out of that bubble, there's confusion. I hated that restriction. Especially when I bought a home and noticed I'd have to use third-party smart home devices which, not to my surprise, didn't work at well. That was my window of opportunity to sell/trade-in my Apple branded hardware, services, accessories, etc... to switch to Android. It's funny because my friends and family started to finally use those iMessages features in front of me when I switched, just to entice me. That only highlighted the cult following which turned me off even more. I'm looking forward to reading more of your write-ups Michael!
  • I was a loyal blackberry guy...and crackberry addict...
    Over time Android was able to pull me away as some of the apps I wanted to use just simply were not there...
    I become a hardcore Android guy until Windows Phone came out...
    I may be 1 of only 5 people in the world who feel this way, but to this day I feel Windows phone was the smoothest, smartest, easiest OSs mobile has ever seen. If MS could have marketed that better I would still be a WP user... For now I am back and am a Note fanatic. Amazing devices. I am also heavy into SmartThings, so I love the integration there with the Samsung devices.. I have had an iPad for work in the past, and simply cannot stand iOS, or all of the proprietary dongles and software restrictions... So while I may not be a super loyal Android guy...I cannot stand crApple...
  • I started with Palm Pilots, moved to Windows PocketPC (until MS abandoned it) and now fluctuate between iPhone and Android - the Note series being the only one I have ever been interested in on the Android side, a brilliant piece of hardware. And now, Samsung may ruin it if they take the internal pen holder space away. Companies are clueless sometimes.
  • I am completely in agreement with you. The Crackberry was my first smart device and I loved every one that I owned. Nothing touched it as far as security, battery life and, of course, the keyboard. I too was a Windows Phone diehard afterward and hung on as long as I could. I really wish they could've addressed the app issue. It was the one platform that was truly different from iOS and Android. Loved the live tiles and the whole interface, and as with BB, unbelievable battery life on every one I owned. I went through several Androids and then a couple years ago switched over to iOS, if for no other reason than the fact that the resale value is terrific and I could at least get some portion of my investment back. My Androids, no matter how pricey, ended up being worth at most $100 when I'd try to trade or sell. However, just a short time ago, FedEx was here delivering my new device, an LG Android. Try as I might, I just don't get the appeal of iOS. It can be something as simple as not being able to see how much power a Bluetooth device has left. Android shows you the battery level automatically when you pair it. I can't tell you how many times I've been out for a walk or jog only to find my earbuds didn't have as much charge as I estimated. First world problems, but it's one of the many ways that iOS misses the absolute basics. The customization is laughable too. With iOS 14, they've finally allowed for widgets and the ability to customize your screen, but you're still working within that same grid. Can't change the layout or add a different launcher. It's just ridiculous. I'm not one of these people that jumps into rooting my phone when I get a new one, but I do want the ability to make small customizations. Being able to try a different home screen layout should not be an issue in 2021. So now, I'm back on Team Android. On a related note, I have to stick with Apple TV as it's the only officially supported streamer for Spectrum now that they couldn't come to agreeable terms with Roku, and there's still not an app for the Fire TV or Android TV platforms. Don't get me started on the fact that Apple doesn't allow you to purchase or rent video from other vendors on that platform either. You want a movie from Vudu? Better get on your PC or Android device to order and pay for it, then come back. SO frustrating.
  • Used an iPhone and hated it. Everytime I use my wife's iphone I dislike everything about it. I've been on Android since the "Lg Droid" days and I'm not going to switch. I have zero interest in anything iPhone. Probably negative zero if I'm honest. At this point Android is 2nd nature to me, and I'm very comfortable. I just got the Fold 2, so I