02 Nov My First Year With Apple’s iPhone

Back view of the iPhone 7+

As a long-time Android user, I spent years avoiding iOS devices—I didn’t think they could really meet my needs and preferences. A year ago though, I finally broke down and bought my first Apple iPhone (for reasons I detailed here, if interested). After using my iPhone 7+ for a year I can most certainly say that I have learned a lot—both good and bad—about the iPhone, Apple and iOS. The following are my own personal observations, and I hope they are insightful to anyone else wrestling with the iPhone vs. Android dilemma. The launch of the tempting new iPhone X has surely renewed the debate for some people.

Accessories galore

One of the first things I noticed with the iPhone was that I was spending a lot more money when it came to accessories. Surprisingly, it wasn’t on applications or music—most of my favorite apps are free and I have Spotify Premium. Rather, the bulk of my spending was on cases and cables. When it comes to cases, it’s no fault of Apple’s—it’s more a function of how strong its ecosystem is and how many accessory makers build to Apple ’s design. I spent upwards of $200 on cases that I found interesting, served a purpose, or simply looked cool. These cases included an OtterBox protective case, an etched bamboo case, a wooden painted case, a swappable camera lens case, and two leather cases.

In addition to cases, I’ve also spent a lot of money on iPhone charging/sync lightning cables in different cities around the world. All my devices are USB Type-C, and the iPhone is the only one that isn’t anymore—while this is admittedly my own user error, I have forgotten my cable at home numerous times. I’ve had to order a new one on Amazon and have it delivered to my hotel on multiple occasions. I will say that with the new iPhone 8 and 8+, Apple has partially remedied this by offering Qi wireless charging. I would still, however, like to see Apple go with USB Type-C instead of the proprietary lightning connector—everything else uses Type-C at this point, including Apple ’s own computers.

As far as Apple Pay goes, it works easier for me than Android Pay and Samsung Pay. Almost every place that offers any sort of tap-to-pay supports Apple Pay, and it works almost every time. It’s reliable and ultimately that’s what people expect from a payment method. I’ve also utilized Apple Pay on websites, which is incredibly easy, and frankly I think should be implemented more by eCommerce.

Software Updates

I’ve also noticed that Apple is very good at updating operating systems whenever there are major issues or security patches. This is contrary to Android which only gets the latest updates and patches if you own a Google  Nexus device. For Android, major updates usually need to be validated by the Android OEMs and then pushed to the carrier, who then delivers the update. While the Apple version results in faster updates, it still isn’t perfect. I noticed that Apple for the most part keeps incremental updates for the next major version of iOS, meaning that you must upgrade to the new version of iOS in order to get them. I noticed that Apple ’s focus shifts from updating the initial release and fixing bugs, to implementing new features in public beta and fixing those bugs. Anyone can download the public betas, so you can theoretically get these features whenever they become available (usually mid-year). However, there’s a bit of caveat emptor when it comes to those. Frankly, I stopped modifying my Android devices because I got tired of using unstable beta software, so it’s unlikely I’ll ever experiment with betas on Apple . Since there aren’t really any incremental upgrades, features like being able to pull stills from Live Photos are unavailable unless you get the next major OS upgrade. I do understand why Apple does this; it makes their install base more consistent and supported features easier to target.

iOS isn’t infallible, 3rd Party apps have flaws

When it comes to software, I came to iOS under the impression that applications for the iPhone were infallible and didn’t crash. Part of this came from the Android side of things, where applications used to crash a lot—back in the day, developers often focused on iOS development first, and tended to phone it in with Android applications. However, things have changed quite a bit since then, and now it seems like most Android applications are just as stable as iOS. I was certainly surprised when the first applications locked up or crashed on my iPhone, but they were some of the same applications that typically crash on Android. Social media apps tend to have the most crashes, however, they did crash less on iOS than I’ve experienced on Android. None of the Apple 1st party apps have crashed on me, which speaks to their stability and Apple’s own thorough testing. Most of the productivity apps that I use are Google , and I did experience some crashes there. However, I’ve had some of the same issues on Android as well—it seems less like an operating system issue and more like something else.

iPhone camera is a great differentiator

One thing you hear a lot about Apple is that its software and hardware integration enable better experiences. That story is without a doubt most evident in the iPhone camera experience. I underestimated how much I would use the iPhone 7+ dual camera. While some of the best features of the iPhone 7+ dual camera weren’t available until the iOS 11 update, the camera’s zoom performed beyond my expectations. The dual camera’s zoom factor (10x) allowed me to take shots that would have otherwise been impossible. This was where my decision to purchase a 32GB iPhone 7+ ended up being a mistake—with how many photos (over 4000) and 4K video I took over the past year, I ran out of space fast. Over the course of the year I had to empty my iPhone’s storage three times to make space for new photos and videos. In fact, I even had to hold back on recording videos because the 4K videos took up so much space. Apple’s new file format and the use of HEVC/H.265 helps the iPhone use significantly less storage space for photos and videos, somewhat remedying the issue. In addition, the iPhone 8 and iPhone X are only available with 64GBs and up. Obviously, expandable storage would fully solve this issue for everyone, but 64GB has always been enough for me on my Android devices.

Another thing I’ve noticed about the iPhone 7+ camera is that it is the device I grab the most whenever I want to get a good photo. There are two reasons for that: first is that the iPhone consistently produces good photos that give me ‘the shot,’ and secondly, so many of my social media apps are running on the iPhone. As we all know, in the age of social media a photo doesn’t really exist unless you share it. After all, did you really eat your ramen if you didn’t take a photo of it and post it to Instagram? Jokes aside, I used the iPhone camera a lot and that should be a testament to its quality and reliability. Initially there were some bugs with the iPhone 7+ camera, but Apple hashed them out extremely quickly—within a week or two of me noticing the issue. Apple isn’t perfect but they do try extremely hard to keep the consumer happy.

Impeccable customer service

Speaking of, when it comes to customer service, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with my experience. When I went in to get myself a new leather iPhone case (after I’d badly damaged mine) they replaced it for me and didn’t charge me for the new one. Apple’s customer service reputation proceeds them, so I already had pretty high expectations. However, this was still a very unexpected customer service move and I was really impressed—I came in ready to spend money and instead came away a very happy customer.

Hardware and software exclusivity

A commonly overlooked aspect of iOS is the hardware and software ecosystem build around the iPhone. There are some devices and applications that simply cannot be found on Android, and if they can, they’re in very limited quantities or capacity. For example, my Insta360 One 360 camera only connects to iPhone directly. As a result, I cannot use the camera for live streaming or recording 360 video direct from my Android phone without sacrificing quality. Additionally, there are many applications that only exist on ARKit (granted some of them are ports from Google Tango, while others are ARKit originals). It was hard to sell my iPhone 7+ because of this and I ended up buying an iPhone SE to hold me over until the iPhone X. Speaking of the iPhone SE, switching from one iOS 11 device to another may have been one of the least painful experiences I’ve ever had when switching devices. I can see why someone wouldn’t want to move away from iOS if the upgrade experience is thisseamless.

Not all iPhones are equal

A big pet peeve of mine when I purchased the iPhone 7+ at launch was that Apple did not allow me to choose the device I wanted. I had to buy the T-Mobile variant of the iPhone 7+, with the Intel modem inside of it. The iPhone 7 was the first time that Apple dual-sourced Intel and Qualcomm modems and there has been a lot of debate about whether Intel ’s modems as good as Qualcomm ’s. Initially, I sucked it up and accepted that I had an Intel modem—until I started to use my iPhone as my primary device on T-Mobile (I was using it on AT&T previously). At that point I noticed that I was not getting signal in areas that I should have, and was blown away when my friend (who was also on T-Mobile ) had signal with his OnePlus One in the same areas. This happened many other times when I carried my Samsung S8+ and iPhone 7+ (both on T-Mobile), and has been supported by independent 3rd party testing. Apple has remedied this issue by offering people the choice of buying an unlocked version with the Qualcomm modem inside of it. This new version was available on the iPhone 8 and 8+ at launch. Apple also offers the iPhone upgrade program, which makes it possible to trade up to the phone that you want, if you’re unhappy with your current one. However, with the iPhone X pre-orders right now the unlocked version is not available, yet.

Final thoughts

As someone who has been using Android devices since the G1, I must say that Apple’s hardware and software ecosystem have proven to me that iOS is just as crucial to my daily smartphone usage as Android. The iPhone 7+ has really pulled me into Apple’s ecosystem, so far that I’m even encouraged to explore the iPad and other Apple devices like Apple TV. I guess that makes me a convert—time to get in line for the iPhone X along with the rest of the Apple fanatics.