It’s not quite like learning a new language or how to ride a bike, but at times it does feel a little bit like both.
After nearly ten years of faithful Apple consumption — listening to iTunes, watching an Apple TV, reading iBooks — I did something completely unexpected this month, even to myself, I made the leap from the neatly walled garden of Apple’s smartphone, smart watch and tablet and into the wilds of the loosely-controlled world of Android gadgets.
I could blame the change on a variety of must-need wearable, quasi-smart technododas, or virtual reality or even an edge-to-edge screened smartphone that looks like you’re carrying a piece of the sky around in your pocket. But the real culprit for my leap of consumer faith isn’t one single Samsung product; it was an ecosystem of them.
It started with Samsung’s Gear S3 smartwatch, the clear leader in a quietly surging market of wearables. Then came the latest iteration of the Gear VR, a phone-powered virtual reality headset that isn’t as good as the sorts you might attach to a computer, but is a lot more convenient.
The company’s Tab S3, a relatively small keyboard-and-pen-included tablet, was the next straw. Then the company rolled out its S8 smartphone, a phone that is arguably the single best version of the technology available today.
It was at that Samsung unveiling, walking through the crowds of assembled press at Lincoln Center, looking at the phone, the VR headset, the cases, the watches, that I suddenly realized that the only thing really keeping me on my iPhone 7 was habit. Well, habit and iMessenger.
So with not a little trepidation last week, I opened up the Smart Switch app on the S8+ I’ve been using and told the phone I was ready to move over from iOS to Android. By the next day, me iPhone was tucked away in a drawer and the S8 was riding shotgun on all my trips to the city, the grocery store, the school.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
- Moving phone operating systems is a bit like moving houses: You suddenly realize there’s a whole lot of stuff filling up your old phone that you simply don’t use, don’t want or don’t need.
- The swipe is a maniacal bit of motion: Every smart phone has you pawing at the screen, but they all do it differently and overcoming ten year’s worth of Pavlovian swipe response can be equal parts confusing and enraging at times.
- Cameras can be really good, even if they only have a single lens: The iPhone 7’s two cameras were a big deal to me, but not having them and getting even better pictures is an even bigger deal.
- Yes, you really do miss the headphone jack: I was among the many owners of an iPhone 7 that would argue passionately about how little I cared that Apple did away with the jack used to plug in my earbuds or headphones. I was lying. Lying to you. Lying to my wife, my son, myself. Why in the world would you not want a headphone jack? Do you own stock in dongles?
- Talking to my phone doesn’t matter: I never used Siri. I’ll likely never use Bixby, not even when Samsung gets around to adding it to the S8. I already talk to Amazon’s glorified speakers sprinkled all over my house and to myself. I don’t need a third reason to make my wife think I’ve lost my mind.
- Bezels suck: This is one of those things that you don’t not miss until it’s gone. A phone screen that simply vanishes into your hand is so much nicer than framing everything you look at in a black rectangle.
- Third-party apps are your friends: Don’t use iTunes or Samsung Music, use Amazon or some other music app that works across platforms. Same with messaging and browsers. These days, most of your daily needs can be met with an app that doesn’t care what it’s running on.
- Switching isn’t the hardest thing: The switch was a bit of a pain in the butt, but it wasn’t that big a deal. All my contacts moved over, all of my Amazon music, most of my apps were available on Android too. Also, it cost me next to nothing because, well, see point one. Turns out I didn’t have to rebuy most of those apps after all.
If you’re like I used to be, convinced that you don’t need a headphone jack, that you do need Apple telling you what games and what apps are appropriate for you, that switching is like learning to drive in Australia, I’m here to tell you that none of that is true.
Go on, give it a try.
Besides, I noticed that Apple has a great little Android app designed for switching back. You can use it when the new iPhone comes out later this year.
Good Game is an internationally syndicated weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Brian Crecente is a founding editor and executive editor of Polygon.