What is it like to spend a few days with an Android smartphone for an iPhone user that’s accustomed to everything “just working” simply and elegantly?
To save time, I’ll give you a clue…confusing at first, but overall an enjoyable experience.
The author is a self-confessed Apple user, but of course it’s always good to try out other phones and operating systems to get a feel for what everyone else is talking about…
I was handed a UK model Google Nexus 5 (which incidentally, is coming to the end of its life) to borrow for a few days, so that I could have a play and see what all the fuss is about. Many people rave about the Nexus smartphones, and there are millions of people who are convinced that Android is superior to Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. On the other hand, there are millions who claim the opposite.
So in the spirit of empathy and understanding, here is a summary of what it’s like for an iPhone owner to use Android for a day. In the interest of convenience,
I couldn’t be bothered to use a SIM I decided to use the Nexus in Wi-Fi only mode, mainly being located in my murky office in Manchester (close to a steady supply of coffee) so it wasn’t really necessary to use a SIM card.
Let me preface the article here by saying that this isn’t a review per se, more a collection of observations and feelings about using an Android phone as experienced by someone that uses Apple kit every day. It also only touches briefly on some areas as my time with the device was limited (and my schedule) so it’s a very quick-and-dirty review!!
After the Nexus was shoved into my eager mitts, I have to admit I thought it looked almost identical to any other smartphone and I would say (predictably) that it’s not as attractive as, let’s say, an iPhone 6.
However, I have to concede that the rubberised matt back side is very tactile, easy to handle and seems like it would be hard-wearing. In contrast, the iPhone 6 (my smartphone of choice) is definitely slimmer and better looking, but it’s very slimness makes it pretty hard to pick up from a flat surface sometimes.
So, it’s a black slab with a touchscreen. Aside from the Nexus and LG text emblazoned on the back of the phone, the only other item that breaks up the back is the camera – a fairly huge round protrusion that has a tiny lens in the middle of it.
I’m not really sure why the lens is encircled by such a huge structure as it you look at an iPhone 6 the lens itself is larger but it’s housed in a more svelte structure.
The buttons on the Nexus all feel fairly good and it fits in my large hands very well. I’d say this phone can probably stand up to some abuse, and I’d definitely be comfortable using this without a case (something that I’d never done with an iPhone, simply because the things are so expensive it really pays to take good care of them).
Using the Nexus 5
There’s a power/unlock button on the right side of the phone, which is used to unlock the Nexus and also turn it on and off (with a long press). That’s all simple enough, and there’s also a software unlock button that appears on the the main screen which unlocks with a swipe up.
So far so good, and there wasn’t really that much to learn in terms of opening the phone and using it.
The screen itself is incredibly bright and sharp – actually the screen is one of the first things that you notice in terms of its clarity. Android Lollipop also looks great, and the design of all the various menus and screens is actually very nice.
On the main screen there’s a bunch of icons, just like iOS, and you can obviously swipe between them all onto different screens, as well as do a long press to them move an icon wherever you want.
Unlike iOS, you can actually set an icon down anywhere on the empty desktop, in contrast to an iPhone where the icon is always added to the end of the grid of icons, unless you’ve dragged it to a specific position. In other words, you can’t have a row of let’s say 4 icons followed by loads of empty space and then another icon in the bottom corner on an iPhone. While that’s not a big deal, it’s quite nice to be able to separate out your apps in order to find them more easily.
Another nice touch was also the ability to just do a long press on the screen which pops up a screen where you can choose wallpapers, widgets or access settings. On an iPhone, you have to actually open the settings app and look through various menus.
Though it’s not immediately obvious when you set a wallpaper how to confirm that selection – there’s a ‘set wallpaper’ message at the top with a checkmark, but that didn’t immediately look like a button – I’d expect an OK button to appear somewhere. As it turns out, you do need to use the Set Wallpaper ‘button’….
Everyone who uses Android knows that there are a couple of soft keys on the screen, kind of similar to Playstation controller buttons – a triangle, a circle and a square. I was already aware the triangle was the back key and the square switched to multi-tasking mode, but I couldn’t always work out what the circle button was supposed to do. Turns out it’s pretty much the Home button that takes you back to the main screen, wherever you are in the various menus.
Once I had the Nexus all setup and ready to use, and had figured out the basic navigation, I had a play with the various built-in apps – such as Google, Mail, Hangouts, etc. Turns out that there’s pretty much nothing you can actually do on the Nexus without having a Google account – almost every single app requests your Google ID before you can do anything. While that does actually make sense (and I already have several Google accounts), it just makes you feel the whole purpose of the phone is to get you to share your information with Google – and I guess that’s exactly the point!
Since I don’t use google accounts for anything other than Email, entering my credentials didn’t really benefit me in any way (i.e. in terms of synchronising between devices) except allow me to use the various apps.
I only had a brief period with the Nexus 5, but I was genuinely quite surprised at how easy it was to use, and how slick and smooth everything was. The overall feel of Android Lollipop is very fluid and fairly intuitive (once you are used to the method of navigating between the various menus, notification screens and the like).
In the end, I’m sticking with my iPhone not only because that’s the device that I’ve actually bought, but also because having several Apple devices, everything synchronises between them seamlessly and simply.
However, if I was on the lookout for a new smartphone I’d certainly give the Nexus 5 a chance, or even its larger and newer sibling the Nexus 6.
A superb device which is easy to use, even for iPhone users, as long as you've got used to using Android.